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Many people open tons of tabs. In most cases they never go back to those tabs and close them in bulk at the end of the session. Why people do this? What can we learn form this behavior? What are the UX-based solutions to this?

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My personal reason: Because I will read them later. –  sergiol Jul 18 at 10:48
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cuz we're human = we're lazy and procrastinate. –  DA01 Jul 18 at 17:52
    
I always have lots of tabs open, some pinned all the time (email, RSS, To Dos, etc), some for current work, some for near, future reading, some leftovers that get cleaned up from time to time. In essence, I use my browser as a second desktop. –  rdellara Jul 18 at 20:09

5 Answers 5

I disagree with your statement that, at the end of browser sessions, most people close previously opened tabs. I am certain that most people, who open large number of tabs in browser, keep them open across browser sessions and do that for the following perfectly valid reasons:

1) to establish multi-source and/or multi-topic context for their work activities (usually, for comparison and copying of content, as well as monitoring and managing of tasks or processes);

2) to save time and effort on finding URLs of interest in bookmarks and re-opening these URLs in new browser sessions.

We can learn from this behavior that, generally, people tend to maximize efficiency of their work.

UX-based (or, more accurately, UX-focused) solutions for managing this behavior and improving UX include various session managers and tab group managers, usually implemented in a form of browser plug-ins/add-ons or embedded as a core part of a browser. For example, I find the following software for my Mozilla Firefox environment invaluable: Session Manager (http://sessionmanager.mozdev.org) and Tab Groups (part of Firefox).

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I must say that I leave a lot of tabs open (personal record: 758, thank you Firefox lazy tab loading!), but I can't say that it was efficient by any means. I was rather too lazy to use bookmarks and organize them in a meaningful way, or believed I would need the pages the next day... –  CoDEmanX Jul 18 at 19:27
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@CoDEmanX: My average number of open tabs in Firefox is also about 750. Of course, reduced responsiveness is the price we pay for such convenience (I wish my laptop had at least 8 GB RAM instead of 4 GB :-). The "trick" I use is grouping tabs by topic or type of work/content and use Firefox Tab Groups to switch between these groups. The reason I don't use bookmarks for this is the huge number of bookmarks and their categories I've accumulated over the years. Believe me, the responsiveness and, thus, efficiency of navigating the Firefox Bookmarks is much worse than in the Tab Groups solution. –  Aleksandr Blekh Jul 18 at 23:48

Humans have a tendency (which varies from person to person) to accumulate and hold on to objects which have been useful in the past, or are perceived to be useful in the future. This is a hording behavior.

When you close a tab, the information is of course still available again, but somehow people feel that an open tab is a "collected item" that they want to keep. Perhaps they spent a long time searching for the information and, even if they have used it and no longer need it, it costs them nothing to leave the tab open "just in case".

Over time people passively accumulate many open tabs, and often avoid closing their browser to keep them. At some point it costs more effort to go through and decide which tabs you should close.

Now browsers actively support keeping these tabs open across sessions.

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Next on TLC: TAB HOARDERS. –  DA01 Jul 18 at 17:52
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@DA01 The first step is admitting you have a problem (submitted from tab number 375). –  Franchesca Jul 18 at 20:50

Tabs that user opens beyond 5 or 6 tabs are in most cases for a quick view. They had no intention to browse those tabs deeper, after they view what made them to view that.In some cases they keep those tabs open, if they find something interesting.


Multiple tabs linked from same website

Imagine you are viewing a portfolio website, while there are multiple boxes of pictures, when user clicks on 1 picture, it opens, to view another image, user need to go back and click another image. This takes extra time. So, user opens each image in new tab, and view the first; while others are loading.

Another case of such event, will be search engine . You get multiple results for a keyword search. Since user are not sure, which link will give you the information you are looking for, they open multiple links in separated tabs.


Multiple tabs of different websites.

In this case, user are not actually working on each tabs. But they keep those tabs open, to compare data or gather a collective data. For example: If user are browsing an eCommerce site, they may likely compare the price with another website.

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Why People Do this?

I guess pretty much the same answer given by the other readers. We all have been doing this but the question is that what we learn from this behaviour and how to overcome that?

Learning

I believe my biggest learning is I actually close the tab (accidentally) which I needed the most. Reason can be

  • Titles of the tabs are not visible.

  • We have hundreds of tabs open so its hard to find those tabs

Solution

The Collapse Button

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The collapse button

The collapse button will collapse all the open tabs with the group of websites. Multiple tabs of single website will be grouped in one group. Like below

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It makes the tab visibility and re-brows-ability super quick and easy.

The Search Button

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The search button will help the user to search within the open tabs. As soon as user start typing the search keyword the relevant tabs start getting filter out.

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P.S Excuse me for the ugly design.

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I'll add another to complement the other good answers: The Wikipedia/TV Tropes 'waterfall' effect: http://xkcd.com/214/

Particularly on wiki-format sites, many tabs accumulate as an effect of finding related articles the user fully intends to read later. The user sees something interesting but they don't want to go and read it right now - they want to finish reading what they're currently reading, and go read the linked page later... which will also likely contain dozens of fascinating links to follow up on. Before long, you'll find yourself (often at 4am on deadline day) with dozens of tabs.

There's also a "try-before-you-buy" mentality - opening in a new tab is safer than opening in the current tab, but with lower cost than opening a new window. What if the target site crashes the tab (most modern browsers will not allow a crashed page to crash the entire browser)? What if it's difficult to get back to the page I was on (such as a link that throws you through redirects before arriving at your target)? What if I don't want to use Back to get back to where I was at all (re-submitting data, etc)? What if I do go Back and the page I was on loses whatever I was doing?

It's just safer - and with little added cost - to open a new tab.

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