External links on FutureLearn always open within the ‘same tab’ a user is viewing. The only exception to this are 'related links' which you add by editing the step and will appear at the bottom of the step. 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.