Tab Management is Hard & Everyone Hates It

Some of the key takeaways from my findings were these:

  1. Many people NEVER close tabs. Like, never. Until the browser breaks, those tabs will remain forever open in state not quite alive and not quite dead.
  2. Other folks need to keep tabs open for longer periods of time for research. For example, if you’re planning a trip and you’re pulling information from several different sites to compare experiences or prices that change daily or weekly.
  3. Many people use tabs as tasks lists. If the tab is open, it’s a task to be completed.
  4. Everyone is afraid of never being able to find the same website again.

The solutions people use… and why they find them less than ideal:

  1. Bookmarks: Great to save a link, horrible experience when trying to find that link again. The context of the link is totally lost. Also — you have to physically do it, the software is not smart or helpful.
  2. Browser history: A long dark hallway that you can probe with a dim and flickering flashlight. No context, just a timeline and some links. The search feature is nice if you remember the link or site name, useless if you don’t.
  3. Browser extensions that save links in groups: Essentially, magnificent tombs that honor all the dead links you will never return to.
  4. Burn it all to the ground: Kill all your tabs frequently and with fervor. If you really want that site, you’ll manage to find it again. (I am in this camp! Burn, baby, burn). Downsides — you definitely can lose a link and never get back to it.

The theoretical solutions I’ve come up with that actually might be helpful:

  1. A better history: How might we improve browser history to make it easier to find a link you once visited? How could we group sites together in a thoughtful way that would help users be more effective with research or task completion?
  2. Auto-kill tabs: Since the majority of us never go back to look at those crusty old tabs, why not improve our visual digital landscape by auto-killing tabs every evening (or whatever time frame works best for different people)?



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Lynn Baxter

Lynn Baxter

UX Designer, science enthusiast, relentless cynic, eternal optimist.