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Blog Design Tips: More Questions and Answers

Modifying Widgets in Blogger Beta:

I get a lot of questions about proper blog design and more recently I received these questions from burekaboy:

Hi there,I hope it is okay to email you with this. I switched my template over and am SO SO confused with all this widget business. I am not a computer geek/expert but, in my defense, am not inept either.

I wanted to ask if you could either tell me, or direct me to a source for an answer about how to edit my html to allow for my links to open in another new window (or tab, but I don’t think that is possible, is it?). I was doing it before in the old “regular” template with the addition of target=”_blank”> code. Now I have absolutely no clue how to do this. I am literally stumped.

Any help you could provide would be appreciated. And thanks for providing such an informative blog. I hope you are on the mend.

That’s a great question burekaboy and thanks for asking about my health. I’m getting stronger every day and expect a full recovery.

Here is my answer to your question:

Go into your blogger beta dashboard and click on “Layout“, “Edit HTML” and you will see your code below.Just above the code on the right-hand side you will see a check box called “Expand Widget Templates“.

Click on the box and you will see all the code within the widgets that you can modify.

But please note, it is generally frowned upon to open all your links in a new window. It is considered bad design and will possibly piss off your readers.

Opening Links in a New window:

Burekaboy responded with this question:

Thanks for getting back to me with that information.I am new to this blogging “business” and have been reading up on do’s and don’ts (which is why I appreciate your site and sites like them). I don’t wish to make any faux-pas but can you tell me why it would be considered bad design and frowned upon?

I would think it to be quite the opposite, that it would make it easier as sometimes (and these days more often) clicking on those links gets you stuck in some websites which seem to trap you with adds and pop ups. Clicking on the go “back” button becomes extremely difficult. Would it not be easier just to close the new window instead and still being able to remain in that original blog?

Another good question burekaboy. Sites that trap you in their webpage are predators and will not get repeat visitors for that reason. As long as you are not doing that you have nothing to worry about.

A lot of bloggers think that by forcing their links to open in a new window they will not lose their readers. They rationalize this by saying when the reader eventually closes the other link window, their site will still be open. While that may be true, the fact is the so-called benefit from doing this is really self-defeating.

Rather than reinvent the wheel I will quote from Jakob Nielsen’s Top Ten Web Design Mistakes:

1. Breaking or Slowing Down the Back Button:

The Back button is the lifeline of the Web user and the second-most used navigation feature (after following hypertext links). Users happily know that they can try anything on the Web and always be saved by a click or two on Back to return them to familiar territory.

Except, of course, for those sites that break Back by committing one of these design sins:

  • opening a new browser window (see mistake #2)
  • using an immediate redirect: every time the user clicks Back, the browser returns to a page that bounces the user forward to the undesired location
  • prevents caching such that the Back navigation requires a fresh trip to the server; all hypertext navigation should be sub-second and this goes double for backtracking.
  • 2. Opening New Browser Windows:

    Opening up new browser windows is like a vacuum cleaner sales person who starts a visit by emptying an ash tray on the customer’s carpet. Don’t pollute my screen with any more windows, thanks (particularly since current operating systems have miserable window management). If I want a new window, I will open it myself!

    Designers open new browser windows on the theory that it keeps users on their site. But even disregarding the user-hostile message implied in taking over the user’s machine, the strategy is self-defeating since it disables the Back button which is the normal way users return to previous sites. Users often don’t notice that a new window has opened, especially if they are using a small monitor where the windows are maximized to fill up the screen. So a user who tries to return to the origin will be confused by a grayed out Back button.

    Although this was originally written for static websites, the same principles apply for blogs.

    Don’t Piss Them Off:

    Another reason for not forcing links to open in a new window is that it eats up resources on your reader’s computer. If you have ever stumbled on (by accident of course) a porn site, they use these tactics all the time. So if you want to do the same be warned that you will find yourself in questionable company.

    So my advice is to NOT do it. Don’t trick or hijack your readers to read your blog. It will backfire in the end. Generally speaking, the Bloke’s rule of good blogging says “if you want to get repeat visitors, don’t do anything that might piss them off”.

    Thanks for the great questions burekaboy. Cheers!

    Filed under: instabloke, blog, weblog, blogging, blog resources, computers and internet, web design, blogger beta, blog design

    Written September 20th, 2006 by | 4 Comments | Filed under: Blog Tips, Design Tips

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    There are 4 Comments so far to “Blog Design Tips: More Questions and Answers”

    1. … and thank you for the answers to my questions (so promptly, too). much appreciated. hope it helps others as well.

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    2. Hello blogbloke,

      This is a very good post and an “eye opener”. I firmly believed that links on my blog should open in a new window/tab. I even wrote a small tutorial to implement this in blogger beta.

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    3. Hi Vivek. A lot of newbies make this same mistake. Tabbed browsers may make the resource issue seem less, but considering how easy it is to open a link in a new browser window it is still better etiquette to not trick your readers into staying on your site. Leave that decision up to the user rather than imposing it on them. If they like your blog enough they will bookmark your site or subscribe to your newsfeed.

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    4. Thanks for your advice in this post. I’ve been guilty of using the target=”_blank” on all my links but recently have started to wonder whether this is really having the desired effect. I’m going to leave the links in the sidebar as they are (too much hassle to change:)) but I will stop using this code in my posts.
      Thanks again

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