Out of sight and out of mind: Bookmarks are created but not used

Ofer Bergman, Steve Whittaker, Joel Schooler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Users commonly report problems in refinding important websites. To address this, some create Bookmarks (also called web Favorites) to improve the refinding of these websites. Previous research notes that these Bookmarks are rarely used. However, these prior studies did not systematically observe and quantify the frequency and success of Bookmark retrievals, or compare their success with other retrieval methods. The authors address those questions in this study using the elicited personal information retrieval technique, in which they asked their 50 participants to retrieve target URLs (uniform resource locators). Each participant received 21 targets, from which five were taken from the participants’ Bookmarks, and they were presented in random order to avoid raising suspicions. Although most of the participants created Bookmarks, they rarely used them for retrieval. Across all of the participants, only 41 (16%) of these 250 bookmarked retrieval targets were actually retrieved using the Bookmark facility. Of these 41 instances when Bookmarks were used, only 9 (4%) Bookmarks were retrieved using the Bookmarks menu hierarchy, while the remaining 32 were located in the browser’s upper bar, which was in full view of the participants. The results suggest that unless the Bookmarks were highly visible, the participants did not use them. Furthermore, for websites that the users had visited, bookmarked websites were not better retrieved than those that had not been bookmarked. The authors conclude by discussing possible explanations, as well as design and theory implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-348
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Librarianship and Information Science
Issue number2
Early online date21 Aug 2020
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank their participants, Chad Tubbs, Camile Otillio, Riley Hillman and our RAs: Nicholas Santer, Ayla Reed, Mira Anand, Kelly Rogos, Jeremy Del Carpio and Catherine Vileisis. The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The authors were supported by a Google Faculty Research Award 2014_R2_79.1.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Bookmarks
  • Internet retrieval
  • personal information management
  • web favorites
  • websites refinding


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