I asked my good friend and former colleague, Sarah Arnquist, to write a guest post for my blog based on what she’s learning from the social media/blogger/multimedia gurus at the New York Times where she works on the health desk. Sarah graduated last month with a master’s in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. She was The Tribune’s healthcare reporter until May 2008. Before starting graduate school, Sarah traveled to India for two months to volunteer in a hospital in Hyderabad. Sarah has dedicated most of her professional career as a journalist to advocating for social justice and healthcare reform.
On a different note, she has been learning about good blog practices from the new media desk at The Times. Here she talks about linking in blogs and Web sites:
Targeting your links to open in new tabs is poor web etiquette, according to the New York Times blogmaster.
When I first heard this, my initial reaction was disagreement. I prefer to open links in separate tabs. I’ve also seen people who aren’t so web-savvy, like my parents, get confused when they accidentally click out of a site. Finally, when I ran a site that benefited more the longer users stayed on the site, I didn’t want to send them away.
Jeremy Zilar said it’s rude to control your viewers Internet experience. It took me a minute to digest this, but once I heard his full argument, I came around to agree.
Your job as a Web content producer, Zilar said, is to aggregate good information for viewers but allow them stay in control over their web navigation. If you’ve bothered to add a link, it should be worth seeing. Sending viewers away to good sites is part of your job. If you do it well enough, other sites will send them back to you.
If the viewer wants to open it in a new tab, she can easily do that with a keyboard command. And let’s face it, most Internet users today are savvy enough to get back and forth between sites. I prefer to open links in new tabs as to not navigate away from my primary page or site of interest. But that’s my preference. The joy and utility of the Internet is that people determine what content they want, how they want it and when they want it based on their unique preferences. Who am I to impose my preferences on others?
Sarah poses an interesting question, especially since we’re being taught to open links in a separate page. What do you think? How much control should we have over user experience?