Tabbed browsing – hopefully the writings on the wall for pseudo-links

116972_mouse_ii.jpgNow Internet Explorer used tabs that means there isn’t a major browser on the market that doesn’t use them.Tabbed browsers work nicely when used with a mouse that has a wheel or (a third button) for the following reason.

You’re on one of those pages that has loads of content including links to things you’d like to read some more of. Wikipedia articles are a good example of this kind of page. You don’t want to stop reading but you want to open the interesting links and come back to them later.

So you just middle-click on anything interesting and it opens in a tab behind the window you are reading and doesn’t interrupt your flow. Lovely. My whole browsing style centers around this and I’m sure it’s a fairly common usage pattern amongst other internet addicts regular web users.

Then some git creative web designer comes along and for some bizarre reason decides he needs to do the links as javascript links or even more bizarrely decides that Flash is the ideal tool to create a web page. So your middle clicking doesn’t work because it’s not a normal HTML hyperlink.

Before tabbed browsing I had a similar problem as I would always use Ctrl+Click to open the link in a new window and then switch back to the window I was reading. As much as I hated it when people broke this I accepted that it probably ‘power user’ behaviour and I couldn’t refer to claims about breaking basic usability standards.

Similarly when Firefox, Safari and Opera were the only tabbed browsers in common usage then it seemed churlish to claim that breaking this behaviour was as bad as breaking – oh, I don’t know – the back button.

But now tabbed browsing is fairly universal and I feel justified in stating that middle-clicking should become a standard expected piece of web browser interaction and sites that break it are making themselves user-hostile in a small but significant way.

Plus it really gets up my nose.