Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WotW: The Gospel of Links, part three -- new windows!

So far, our Gospel of Links sermons have covered the basics and text v. image links -- today we enter the fire and brimstone world of HTML (but we save the true pulpit-pounding damnation of CSS for next week, so stay tuned).

What kind of HTML shall we conquer today? 

Just one very simple line:  

We talked about this lovely little line before, here in this post. There in that post, I explained that target is an attribute of the a tag, which is the tag that tells your browser that whatever is between < a > and < / a >* is a link. The target attribute tells your browser where to open the URL that is included in the src attribute of the < a > tag. If that sounds Greek to you, be sure to go check out the post in its entirety (and ask questions as needed). :)
*Please take note of the spaces that I'm adding between the carats and slashes and letters of the code and remember that those should NOT be included in the html that you are using in your posts. The spaces are just so you can see the actual carats clearly instead of having Blogger interpret them for me and make them into links and whatnot. :)
Check out that post for more of the nitty gritty of the target="_blank", but here's the gist:

To make a text or image link open in a new window (or tab)**, click Edit HTML, find the link in question and enter target="_blank" somewhere in the < a > tag.
**Whether the link opens in a new window or a tab is completely dependent on each individual reader's settings in his/her individual browser, not on anything that YOU have control over for them. I presume that most people use tabbed browsing since all the main browsers support it now, so from here on out, I'll refer to a new tab instead of a new window... but know that it really could be either for your reader.

Simple enough, no?

Now, some of you may be saying that doing that for every link is a lot of work. And you would be correct. You can use a hack (meaning a non-Blogger supported solution... hacks usually work but it aren't on the official Blogger list because... just because) like the one explained here to add a couple snippets of code to your blog's template that will make ALL links open in a new tab.

What's that? You can already hear me lecturing about how that's NOT how it should be done?

Gold star -- you are good students. :)

So, why shouldn't you use that hack (or a similar one) and have every link you create open in a new tab?

Short answer: Because it's annoying.

Longer answer: Because it's really really REALLY annoying. {insert pulpit pounding here}

The actual long nuts-and-bolts and WHY answer: Because then *every* link will open in a new tab meaning that a reader who is browsing through your blog and looking at a handful of pages in your blog will end up having an entire browser full of tabs that are only your blog. And that, stellar students, is annoying... right?

I pronounce only a few hard-and-fast rules here (although maybe I should count them...), but this is one that I ALWAYS stick to:

If you use target="_blank", the link should be a link that goes outside of your blog/site.

Now, just like nearly everything else I've ever told you during my tenure here, this is still opinion. Firmly (and perhaps stupidly) rooted opinion, but opinion nonetheless.

I believe that it's a courtesy to readers to have external links (those linking to something outside your own corner of the blogosphere) open in a new tab so that they can click to see what I'm talking about and then easily get back to my original post on my blog.

Why do I believe that? The Golden Rule tells me so. I like having separate tabs, not using the back button, so I *like* external links opening in a new tab, so that's what I do.

Except for that I don't

Because adding in all those extra target="_blank"s in Blogger is just a lot of work. And it's more important to me to get the post published than to perfect those links. (In any non-blog website I create, like my teeny tiny professional portfolio I'm working on, I follow that rule religiously... but I'm entering code by hand then anyway so a few extra targets is no big deal.)

As a reader, I've adapted. Most Blogger blogs don't use target="_blank" regularly because it IS just so much extra work -- so I am fully in the habit of just pressing ctrl when I click a link that I want to follow while maintaining the tab/window of the original post that I was reading. 

Following to my browser settings, ctrl + click opens the link in a new window but doesn't take me there right away -- so I can finish reading the current post before I go check out the thing that was linked in that post. That's my preference. It helps calm my ever-present ADD tendencies. I click a LOT of links in a day -- I think my ctrl + clicking has nearly worn out my ctrl key. :)

So now you are saying, but doofus Lorene, if that is a personal preference toward laziness in your own posts and then adapting how you read someone else's posts because of said laziness, shouldn't I be the better blogger and include the target="_blank" where appropriate?

Sure, star student. Another gold star. Class dismissed.

But for those of you who just want to pass the class and don't care about gold stars... Nah, don't worry about it.

Remember how most of your readers are probably using a feed reader anyway? Well, when they read a post and see a link in their feed reader, it automatically opens in a new tab anyway because the feed reader creators know that it would be super annoying to have to use the back button to get back to the feed reader every time you hopped out of it for a second.

So, many of your readers don't notice if you've ever used target="_blank" anywhere in your blog and those who notice and care are probably more like me (in the good ways, hopefully) and just adapt. Because I'm not going to expect you to do something that I won't do. That just ain't the way of the gospel of Lu. ;)

At least, that's my justification. Personally, I think Blogger is broken in that area. All we really need is a little checkbox in the link window that says "Open this link in a new window/tab" and then includes the target="_blank" in the html for us, just like it puts in the < a href stuff for us.

And, yes, I've told the Blogger people this about a million times, as have many other concerned and annoyed users. Maybe someday the blessed new feature will arrive and save us all from ctrl + click or other means of getting around, but until then... we work with what we have and keep the faith that someday miracles will happen again in Blogger.

(And really, many great and wonderful miracles are happening often in Blogger. Those Blogger people really do good work. They just missed one little thing, in my opinion. Consider it a mote, not a beam in anyone's eye.)

Up next week: the brimstone-CSS of personalizing how your links look. Purty!

PS - In case you just can't get enough of me and my opinions about web stuff, I'll be posting a bonus webby post over at my blog on Friday as part of Housewife MacGyver. This month is the month to get organized, so I'll be talking about organizing your blog. I'd love it if you'd stop by!

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of one squirmy boy and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.

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