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Ladies and pop up windows

Does lady web designers prefer links to open up in new windows?

Over the weekend, I’ve been browsing several web logs, mainly from A significant percentage of lady bloggers whose sites I visited, prefer their external links to open up in a new window. Here’s a sampler.
- Scripty Goddess: Including the working mom, Kristine at hopeless romantics, Lynda at so very posh.
- Robin at Ain’t too proud to blog.

I found three who don’t open up links in new windows
- Dawn at Life Uncommon
- Christine at Blah Blah Blog
- Laurie Mueller a.k.a Minnesota Gardener

All these sites are very well designed. None of them leaves any doubt as to why ladies make the best visual design.

At work, I wrote a content management system that has been in production since 2000. I still get emails and queries about using it. So far, I’ve not had any guy telling me they want to make external links open up in new windows. Every lady who had consulted me (I think 6 so far) wanted to do pop up windows. The reason? Every one of them believed that by popping up link in a new window, the visitor still remains within their site when the close the external site window. I could convince only 2 of these 6 that it is not so. The best part is, all these 6 were terribly annoyed to see other sites popping up windows! When it come to their site, it apparently becomes very cool.

I just checked with my wife about this. Hmmm... It irritates her unless that new site is a really nice one. And if it is a really nice one, she doesn’t go back to the original site, she stays with the new site!

Must be a gender thing. But I can’t quite figure out why.

  1. Maybe because the women read advice about how to keep people on their site while still providing external links. I have read quite a few articles that recommend popups for exactly the reason the women told you. Maybe the men haven't been reading about web marketing methods. No offense, but experts say women tend to do more research than men when starting new ventures. Kind of like asking for directions...

    "Every one of them believed that by popping up link in a new window, the visitor still remains within their site when the(y) close the external site window. I could convince only 2 of these 6 that it is not so."

    What they believe is true, why would you tell them it isn't? Isn't that the whole reason for pop under ads, only stated another way?

    I don't popup my external links on my weblog because it's no big deal for me if people don't come back. On the commercial sites I build, I alway pop up external links in another window so at least there's a better chance the person will return to my site at some point.

    Posted by: Lauri on May 27, 2002 12:14 PM
  2. Well, I told them it isn't true based on usability studies *and* their own experience. Like I mentioned, not a single one of them likes links opening in new windows on any site they visit! Whenever we had looked into browsing habits (you know actually looking at the way people browse), people get more annoyed at having to close a window than to use the back button. Most of the time, people click on links to just check the content - may be because we tend to associate pop-ups with ads (and I'm yet to find a single person who loves ads), we tend to associate negative feelings towards pop-ups.

    There are some situations where pop-ups are really useful - slide shows, photo zooms, on-line help etc. May be because most people keep their browser windows maximised, when a new window opens up for content, it feels like the popping up site is invading your smooth browsing experience. Personally, I hate cluttered task bar and consider sites that pop up as intrusive as finding strong perfume inserts within magazines.

    Actually your points ring another bell. In usual web meetings at work, women never worry about usability issues. They are only worried about marketing, even at the expense of usability. Men seem to think once in a while about usability.

    Am I opening a can of worms about the gender issues? I hope not because I'm seriously under qualified to comment on what ladies like and how they think - getting there *very* slowly after 3 years of marriage :-)

    Posted by: Babu on May 27, 2002 05:08 PM
  3. It is very dangerous to generalize based on gender. For one, I doubt you have a big enough sample of people to generalize an opinion from, that would takes hundreds of people. A more important question would be the backgrounds of the people you are talking with. I always keep usability in mind and balance marketing with usability. There are millions of popular e-commerce/info sites created by well-known designers that use separate windows for outside content, not to mention flash sites that create a new window for themselves from the start. So, pop-up windows, while sometimes irritating, are effective in many situations and studies show that pop-up ads are 50% more effective than regular ads despite the fact that people say they are more irritating (do people like tv commercials either?). I do hate pop-ups that come unexpectedly when I enter or leave a site but I don't mind windows that come from an action I initiated because it's info I requested. Certainly better than framing it in within a site so I can't bookmark it easily. But also consider that I'm a web professional and that my mac generates windows that are obviously secondary windows as opposed to PC Windows where you sometimes don't know it happens and suddenly the back button doesn't work. Maybe that's why the IBM site opens its new windows for external links small (on my mac at least) so you know it's there. Yes, even IBM does it. When I advise clients, I try to get them to simply minimize external links, especially on the home page, to eliminate this problem. Why would you send people away as soon as they get to your site unless it's a partner service that you still benefit from their visiting? If I were you, I would discuss the pros and cons of popups without making a broad generalization about gender that's probably just a coincidence. But, it is after all, your blog and you can say anything you like, right? Thanks for making me think about the subject!

    Posted by: Lauri on May 27, 2002 09:53 PM
  4. I totally agree that it is dangerous to generalize on any issue. Yes, I don't have enough sample to do an authoritative judgement. Like I mentioned, this observation somehow registered in my mind when I was browsing lot of blogs over the weekend.

    Personally, when I'm taken to an external site, the design change itself is cue enough that I'm not on the same site I was before. I rely heavily on my browser's (Mozilla on Linux) back button and pop-ups tend to break that. Also, with tabbed browsers (Mozilla and Opera), I tend to open links in new tabs/windows when I like to have both the sites opened up. I guess when the site determines I need two windows, I get annoyed! (Ok, another "dangerous" observation - this must be a male thing to get annoyed when things are not as one expected :-) - I really hope my wife doesn't see this; otherwise I'll be deluged by some "I told you so"'s!)

    I agree with all your points on pop-up windows can be useful - I'm inexperienced in web-ads since I work for a non-profit, and we don't use ads on our site.

    I guess my points of contention are limited to breaking my precious back button, my task bar and if a site editor finds all forms of pop-ups annoying, why do they think it is cool on their site.

    Thanks for the feedback. I'm more into database design, backend programming etc. that I'm not very familiar with graphic/page design issues - my site's design should attest to that :-)

    Posted by: Babu on May 28, 2002 06:43 AM
  5. Distinction between advert popups and useful popups.

    Yes, I'm a female and yes, I advocate using pop ups in "certain circumstances". I agree that popups can be annoying, but loosing a sense of where you are in an application is annoying also.

    When developing a thin client "application" in a browser (don't know why you would want to do this in the first place) using pop ups are affective when you want to show additional information, notification, or branch off from the basic course of a task or object without breaking the flow of the users experience (which can be another usability issue all together).

    Would be interested if anyone has had similar experience.

    Posted by: zizz on April 7, 2003 08:00 AM
  6. What is blogging?

    Could someone answer by sending me an email at

    Since I don't know if I will get back to this site.



    Posted by: Oggi on August 3, 2003 10:06 PM