Current user interfaces for Web search, including browsers and search engine sites, typically treat search as a transient activity. However, people often conduct complex, multi-query investigations that may span long durations and may be interrupted by other tasks. In this paper, we first present the results of a survey of users’ search habits, which show that many search tasks span long periods of time. We then introduce SearchBar, a system for proactively and persistently storing query histories, browsing histories, and users’ notes and ratings in an interrelated fashion. SearchBar supports multi-session investigations by assisting with task context resumption and information re-finding. We describe a user study comparing use of SearchBar to status-quo tools such as browser histories, and discuss our findings, which show that users find SearchBar valuable for task reacquisition. Our study also reveals the strategies employed by users of status-quo tools for handling multi-query, multi-session search tasks.
Our CHI 2008 paper: [ pdf ]