External links on FutureLearn always open within the ‘same tab’ a user is viewing. Our decision for this was based on user experience research and accessibility, which includes:
- Users rely on the browser back button, using a ‘new tab’ resets this and as the back button is the second most used navigation function (source: Nielsen Norman Group) we should avoid breaking this trusted interaction.
- Anything that takes control away from the user is a bad experience; users should be able to decide whether they want to open a link in a new tab.
- Users can become disoriented when the website opens in a new tab.
- Users who prefer external links to open in a ‘new tab’ can still do this (by using a right-click or a keyboard shortcut).
- Accessibility. Breaking the workflow for users who browse the web using assistive technologies is not recommended.
- Opening a new tab on a smartphone makes it difficult for the user to return to the original website.
For more information on this topic you can view the related blog post here.