Improving Web Page Revisitation: Analysis, Design, and Evaluation
In this paper, we distill several years of our research on understanding and improving how people return to their previously visited web pages. Our motivation is that web page revisitation is one of the most frequent actions in computer use, and consequently any interface improvements in this area—no matter how small—can have a very large effect. We report our findings across five categories of revisitation research: characterisations of user behaviour; system models of navigation and their impact on the user’s understanding; interface methods for increasing the efficiency of the Back button; alternative system models for navigation; and alternative methods for presenting web navigation histories. The behaviour characterisation shows that revisitation is a dominant activity, with an average of four out of five page visits being to previously seen pages. It also shows that the Back button is heavily used, but poorly understood. Three interface strategies for improving web page revisitation are described. The first, a gesture-based mechanism for issuing the frequent Back and Forward commands, addresses low-level interface issues, and is shown to be both popular and effective. The second, a ‘temporal’ behaviour for the Back and Forward buttons, aims to overcome the problems associated with poor understanding of the current behaviour of Back. Although the results do not conclusively show advantages for the temporal behaviour of Back, they strongly suggest that revisitation can be improved by providing temporally ordered lists of previously visited pages. The third interface scheme investigates how next-generation browsers could integrate the current tools for revisitation into a single utility, and how simple visualisation methods can be used to aid users in identifying target pages displayed in miniature.