Module 1: Checkpoint 13—Launching new windows

Conformance: Mandatory (Desirable for non-HTML documents to open in standalone applications)


Websites and web applications must not launch new browser windows.

When linking to non-HTML files, such as Excel, Word or PDF, these documents should open in standalone applications, instead of opening within the browser.

Refer to Checkpoint 8—Metadata in Module 6: Non-HMTL documents for more information.

Benefits of conformance

  • Maintains the user experience.
  • Maintains the integrity of the 'back' button.

Risks of non-conformance

  • Many users find pop-ups disruptive, annoying and frustrating as they can feel they are not in control of navigation within the site and can also cause them to become disorientated with the site.
  • The annoyance and frustration factor is further increased when site history links are not preserved preventing going back to the previous page.
  • Pop-ups are also problematic for screen readers as the focus is suddenly removed with little or no notice.

Implementation advice

  • Unrequested popup windows make it more difficult for an experienced user to organise their web browsing session. By leaving links to open in the same window, or implementing alternative solutions (such as a lightbox) users can choose to keep all related content within the same window (even if they choose to open several tabs).
  • A newly spawned window will not allow the browser 'back' button to behave as expected, potentially adding to user confusion.
  • Users of assistive technologies (e.g. refreshable Braille displays) may find it difficult to orient themselves once a new window is opened: the old window may maintain the focus.
  • Many modern web browsers support the automated blocking of pop-up windows by default. Users who are not aware that the new window has been blocked may believe the website or web application to be broken.