External Link Behavior Change

To improve website usability and accessibility, we’re changing how external links open. The links will no longer open in a new window or tab by default.

Right now, links to our own websites open within the same window (and tab), but external links open in a new window (or tab). (From here on out, I’ll use window but know that I mean window and/or tab.)

This behavior presents significant accessibility and usability challenges.

As it says in a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 note:

In general, it is better not to open new windows and tabs since they can be disorienting for people, especially people who have difficulty perceiving visual content.

There are other reasons to avoid this behavior.

It can surprise and confuse users. Some links open in the same window. Others open in a new window. And it may not be clear why and how to predict which behavior a particular link will have.

When a link opens in a new window, the user’s back button no longer returns the user to the page of origin.

There are many other considerations too. If interested, see this Chris Coyier article addressing the topic.

So we plan to change the behavior to the default behavior. Links will open in the same window unless the user chooses to have it open in a new window.

If you have comments or concerns, please email the Library UX team or chat in the #website channel in Slack.

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