When the Tab Comes Due

Challenges in the Cost Structure of Browser Tab Usage

Joseph Chee Chang, Nathan Hahn, Yongsung Kim, Julina Coupland, Bradley Breneisen, Hannah S Kim, John Hwong, Aniket Kittur. ACM CHI 2021 (N=2844)

Tabs have become integral to Web browsing yet have changed little since their introduction nearly 20 years ago. In contrast, the internet has gone through dramatic changes and increasingly used to support complex sensemaking tasks. This paper investigates how tabs today are overloaded with a diverse set of functionalities and issues users face when managing them. We uncovered competing pressures pushing for keeping tabs open (ranging from interaction to emotional costs) versus pushing for closing them (such as limited attention and resources). We further developed rich design implications for future browser interfaces.

Abstract

Tabs have become integral to browsing the Web yet have changed little since their introduction nearly 20 years ago. In contrast, the internet has gone through dramatic changes, with users increasingly moving from navigating to websites to exploring information across many sources to support online sensemaking. This paper investigates how tabs today are overloaded with a diverse set of functionalities and issues users face when managing them. We interviewed ten information workers asking about their tab management strategies and walk through each open tab on their work computers four times over two weeks. We uncovered competing pressures pushing for keeping tabs open (ranging from interaction to emotional costs) versus pushing for closing them (such as limited attention and resources). We then surveyed 103 participants to estimate the frequencies of these pressures at scale. Finally, we developed design implications for future browser interfaces that can better support managing these pressures

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Citation

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Joseph Chee Chang, Nathan Hahn, Yongsung Kim, Julina Coupland, Bradley
Breneisen, Hannah S Kim, John Hwong, Aniket Kittur. 2021.
When the Tab Comes Due: Challenges in the Cost Structure of Browser Tab Usage.
In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '21).
ACM, New York, NY, USA, 15 pages. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/

Bibtex

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@inproceedings{Chang:tabs:2021,
 author = {Chang, Joseph Chee and Hahn, Nathan and Kim, Yongsung and Coupland,
 Julina and Breneisen, Bradley and Kim, Hannah S and Hwong, John and Kittur,
 Aniket},
 title = {When the Tab Comes Due: Challenges in the Cost Structure of Browser Tab Usage},
 booktitle = {Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems},
 series = {CHI '21},
 year = {2021},
 location = {Online},
 numpages = {15},
 url = {http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/3411764.3445585},
 doi = {10.1145/3411764.3445585},
 acmid = {3445585},
 publisher = {ACM},
 address = {New York, NY, USA},
}