I’ve written and linked to other resources about this before: Despite many CMSes making it easy, it is rarely appropriate to set a link to open automatically in a new window or tab. Users have many ways they can do this on their own1 and it’s important that we as website builders and editors set a strong user expectation about the default behavior of clicking a link. This practice strikes me as probably the best example of the “Worst Practice” cycle that I described last year.
Now, one of the most important blogs to my development as a web designer and developer, CSS-Tricks, has weighed in with the same advice. Some of the more choice quotes are below.
On one of the worst reasons I’ve heard for doing this:
Branding branding branding! Eyeballs baby. Metrics. ENGAGEMENT.
Other sites should have normal-style links, but our site is special. Our site is more important and should never be left behind.
When “best practice” is really a “worst practice”:
We’ll have “internal” links (links that point to our own site) behave normally, but “external” links (links that point to other sites) open in a new window/tab…I’ve heard from a lot of people that this is “a convention.” As in the way it’s supposed to be done. It’s not. [author’s emphasis]
When you should do it:
Checkout is another case here. Of course you don’t want to lose customers during their checkout process. A link to something like “shipping information” should be openable without them losing their place in checkout.
So don’t just take my word for it, read up for yourself.