Links in New Windows: Websites vs. Applications [en]

[fr] En 2011, c'est toujours pas bien de forcer les liens à ouvrir dans une nouvelle fenêtre. Sauf, on peut l'admettre, quand votre site est en fait une application web.

I was surprised recently to realize that in 2011, it wasn’t obvious to everybody that forcing links to open in a new window (with target="_blank") was not a good idea.

Actually, there are quite a few high-profile sites which force links to open in new windows, and I realized I actually don’t mind it that much: Twitter is one. I like that when I click on a link in Twitter, it opens in a new tab. I’ve learned that Twitter does this, and I now rely on it.

So, maybe links in new windows aren’t always a bad thing?

Here’s what I think: if your “site” is in fact an application, then it doesn’t matter much. People will learn to use the interface of your web application, and if links open in new windows, they will discover that and (hopefully) remember it. However, if your site is a real site, meaning it contains stuff that people are going to read, and that stuff might contain links to other stuff people might want to read or see, then it remains a Bad Thing.

Why is it a Bad Thing to force links to open in a new window (in your blog, for example)? Here’s the reasoning behind this.

  • Normal behavior is that links open in the same window.
  • When you force a link to open in a new window, you’re breaking that expectation — and there is no way to know, by looking at the link, that it’s going to spawn a new window.
  • Opening new windows is a user decision, not a website design decision. Windows are part of the browser, not the site.
  • A link can easily be opened in a new tab or window by holding down a modifier key before clicking on it (Cmd/Ctrl for example).
  • A link which is set to be opened in a new window cannot be opened in the same window if that’s what the reader would prefer.
  • Opening links in new windows may confuse the user (who might not notice the new window) and breaks the back button (to go back, you have to close the current window instead of hitting the back button — adding a different way to “go back”… more confusion).

Summary:

  • if your site is actually a web application, where links open is part of the application design, and forcing links to open in a new window can make sense in certain situations;
  • if your site is a “proper website” or a blog, don’t force links to open in a new window — where they open belongs to the way your reader chooses to use his browser, and not to the website design.

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Google Alerts Trick to Monitor Website Health [fr]

[en] Un petit truc pour être alertée immédiatement si mon site recommence à servir à Google des pages truffées de mots-clés pharmaceutiques: une Alerte Google qui cherche ces mots-clés uniquement sur mon site. Fûté, non?

As you can guess, I’m now a little paranoid about getting hacked and having my blog pages stuffed with pharma keywords for the benefit of search engines. I’m keeping a close eye on my site now, but logging into Google Webmaster Central each day to “Fetch as Googlebot” gets old quickly.

So I had a bright idea I’m pretty proud of and want to share with you.

I simply set up a Google Alert for spammy pharma keywords on my site, like this:

site:climbtothestars.org keyword1 OR keyword2 OR keyword3

Given I don’t blog about those meds (or any pharma-related stuff, actually), any alert that shows up will be a sign that Googlebot has been served spammy content from my site, which should not happen as it is now supposed to be clean. And if it does, I will know about it immediately (you can easily set alert frequency for your alert in Google Alerts).

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On Being Hacked [en]

[fr] Hackée, et voilà, moi qui savais justement pas quoi faire de mon beau dimanche après-midi ensoleillé...

I’m currently battling with a hacked WordPress installation. You won’t see anything if you view source, but Google unfortunately sees a whole lot of spam right at the top of each of my pages.

Result of being hacked on CTTS

Here’s some information in the hope somebody may have a bright idea to help me root out the hack.

  • I’m running 3.0.3 and would like to find the source of the problem before upgrading to 3.04 (bad idea?)
  • I’ve tried disabling all plugins, and the problem is still there when I do that.
  • I’m using the vanilla default Twenty-Ten theme
  • I’ve looked in the theme header (header.php) for anything obvious, and also in wp-content, wp-plugins, etc. for anything that looked out of place to my eyes
  • I’ve run greps for base64 (anything here look suspicious?), spammy keywords, and other things I could think of
  • It does not seem to be this pharma hack (have failed at finding any signs of it following the instructions there — wp_option keys, backdoor files…)
  • I have searched my database for spammy keywords (also backwards) and haven’t found any aside in spam comments caught in Akismet

I will update this post as I find out more. Thanks for your suggestions.

Update: at least a partial solution… running find . -iname *.php -print0 |xargs -0 grep base64 allowed us to identify a problem in l10n.php, which was promptly replaced by a new version (evil version available on request). One of my pages as viewed by Googlebot now looks like this. So, the site is cleaner, but are there any backdoors left?

Google Webmaster Central is definitely a place to visit regularly — I would have spotted this way sooner if I had, rather than wondering what was wrong with my robots.txt file when I stopped being able to “direct Google” my posts. View more scary screenshots.

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Facebook Page Like Buttons: Quick and Dirty [en]

[fr] Comment ajouter à votre sidebar WordPress un bouton "J'aime" simple pour vos pages Facebook.

Sorting out my mess of Facebook pages and groups (part 2 coming soon!), I’ve spent way too much time struggling with the Facebook Like Box creator and a couple of WordPress plugins (Facebook Social Plugins and Facebook Like Box Widget). I just didn’t manage to get what I want, which is a simple, minimal list of my Facebook pages and a Like button next to them.

Here’s what I wanted (it’s in the CTTS footer now, so you can also scroll down and see it live… and like my pages!)

Quick and Dirty Facebook Page Like Buttons

I didn’t want a Like Box full of stuff. Just the page name, avatar, and the like button.

Here’s how I finally did it (it’s dirty, but it works — just stick the code in a text widget if you have a WordPress blog):

<iframe src="http://www.facebook.com/plugins/likebox.php?id=7812744463" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="border:none; overflow:hidden; width:220px;height:60px;" allowTransparency="true"></iframe>

Just replace the number after id= by your page’s ID (you can find it easily by going to your page, it’s the number following your page name in the URL.

If your page name is long, you might want to increase the height of your iframe to 80px or 100px (trial and error, you’ll find the right height).

There you go!

Oh, and I added like buttons to my posts, too, with the Facebook Like Button plugin. Dunno if it’s the best one out there or not, but it seems to work and I didn’t have to struggle too much setting it up.

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