Are Tabbed Browsers Bad for Business?
When tabbed browsing was introduced, life on the Internet got a whole lot easier. No more hunting around for the right browser window, and no more wasting time clicking 15 different Xs.
Tabbed browsing is a feature in modern browsers. Instead of opening new web pages in separate windows, users click tabs to toggle between web sites.
Snapshot of tabbed browsing in FireFox. Using tabs, users can toggle between sites.
Using tabs is one of the most appreciated features (and was a key selling point for people to install FireFox back when Internet Explorer hadn't yet implemented tabbed environments). Businesses, however, may be losing money when page links are coded to open in a new window, which is a common action when wanting to provide more information without having the user leave the current page.
The problem with tabs is they make it easier for people to forget what they were doing, which web pages are actually open or simply not notice that a new tab was opened after clicking on a link (sometimes the perception is that the link is broken and does nothing). On any given day, I have a dozen or more web pages tabbed, and the longer I stay away from one page (tabbed, but not displaying as the primary page), the more I either forget why it's open or get distracted, lending attention to seemingly more important things. It's also easy to open even more pages (which I often do by clicking links via tweets).
To help guide visitors without risking content getting buried, try these alternatives:
Hover boxes. These work great for quickly displaying larger images or short definitions of terms. They also work for displaying ratings and alternative pricing information. Think: Netflix.
Pop-ups. User-activated pop-ups aren't commonly blocked like auto pop-ups. Be sure to keep them smaller than the lowest screen resolution - typically no wider than 400 pixels). Pop-ups should never cover the existing page entirely. If necessary, implement scrollbars and allow for resizing of the pop-up window.
Anchor links. These let you link to another section on the same page. This is a good method to use when you want to link to more detailed descriptions, customer input boxes (like entry boxes for writing reviews) and related products. Since all content remains on the same page, users only need to scroll or click a TOP link to get back to the top of the page (where the most important information resides). Details on the A NAME link
Tabbed box within the page. This allows users to easily toggle from description boxes to customer reviews and additional specs. This can be done with CSS.
Screenshot of a Retroplanet.com product page, which keeps visitors on the page by offering image swaps and a tabbed area for product description, customer reviews, and shipping info.
This isn't to say linking to new windows is a horrible thing. But this practice should usually be saved for linking to external web sites rather than internal page content. Since the default tabbed environment (when a link is clicked from an existing page) keeps the user on the existing page and loads the tabbed page in the background, you're better off linking to purchase pages (like categories and products) in the same window.
Hi Pamela! My tabbing experience tells that I am satisfied with it. It gives me a browsing flexibility – open many web pages in single window. No doubt there are some drawbacks but after all tabbing is the best.