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Keywords:

  • human computer interaction;
  • information seeking;
  • World Wide Web

Today, people perform many types of tasks on the web, including those that require multiple web sessions. In this article, we build on research about web tasks and present an in-depth evaluation of the types of tasks people perform on the web over multiple web sessions. Multisession web tasks are goal-based tasks that often contain subtasks requiring more than one web session to complete. We will detail the results of two longitudinal studies that we conducted to explore this topic. The first study was a weeklong web-diary study where participants self-reported information on their own multisession tasks. The second study was a monthlong field study where participants used a customized version of Firefox, which logged their interactions for both their own multisession tasks and their other web activity. The results from both studies found that people perform eight different types of multisession tasks, that these tasks often consist of several subtasks, that these lasted different lengths of time, and that users have unique strategies to help continue the tasks which involved a variety of web and browser tools such as search engines and bookmarks and external applications such as Notepad or Word. Using the results from these studies, we have suggested three guidelines for developers to consider when designing browser-tool features to help people perform these types of tasks: (a) to maintain a list of current multisession tasks, (b) to support multitasking, and (c) to manage task-related information between sessions.