Content Discovery, Navigation, and Workflow

One of the main goals of the Context Graph project is to help internet users more effectively explore the web and find relevant content.

To better understand how people currently access the web, we conducted a series of studies on content discovery. We introduced three surveys and some results in an earlier blog post. Today, we will highlight some findings from the rest of the surveys.

To recap, last time, we looked at why people visit a webpage and how often they return. Let’s dig deeper into three other topics. These topics characterize content discovery at increasing levels of scale: with a single webpage, with in a sequence of webpage visits, and within a user’s daily or weekly workflow.

  • Page Interactions: What tools, interactions, or content do people find the most and least helpful within a webpage?
  • Discovery and Navigation: How do people traverse from webpage to webpage? How do our users first learn about a page, first navigate to the page, and return to the page over time?
  • Workflow and Follow-up Actions: How does a page visit fit into the people’s larger workflow? By what criteria do internet users assess whether the page is relevant? What follow-up actions do the users take to accomplish their task?

Below is a summary of our findings. As we continue to examine content discovery on the Internet — both to obtain a better understanding of online behaviors and to examine issues that users like you face — we would love to have your continued input, feedback on, and participation in our studies. Let’s work together to make the web better!

Page Interactions

At the lowest level, how do people discover and explore content within a single web page?

Actions on the webpage

What actions did our users take on the page today? Following the same style as our last blog post, values in parenthesis come from open-ended text and coded by a Mozilla researcher.

We did not find a significant difference between expected and actual behaviors. In other words, our survey participants generally know ahead of time whether they are visiting a webpage for its content, to seek additional content, or to utilize specific apps or tools provided by the page.

Helpful page interactions

What elements of the page visit do our users find the most helpful today?

Of note, our survey participants report ease-of-use, content consumption, and the ability to communicate as the top three most helpful interactions they experienced on the page today. We are glad to see these items aligning with the page visit purposes reported in our last blog post. However, even though 40% of the users report that they’re currently seeking information on web, only 21% of the users report helpful navigational tools: 8% for search tools, 8% for page functionalities (e.g., drop-down menus, sitemaps, etc), and 5% for recommendations.

Unhelpful page interactions

What elements of the page visit do our users find the least helpful today?

The top issues reported by the users appear to fall into three categories: browser issues (22%); page interactions (11%); and a gradual set of content issues ranging from bad information and recommendations (9%) to ads and click baits (18%) that negatively impact their browsing experience.


What information or tool would have helped our users with their page visit?

We see two main categories of responses, those addressing existing issues and those seeking tools for better content discovery.

Browser issues roughly break down into speed issues (e.g., faster page loads), design (e.g., keeping the browser simple and easy to use), and to a lesser extent, crashes. Page issues are largely requests for better webpage design, but some users also wish websites would maintain more consistent design over time, so that they don’t need to repeatedly re-educate themselves on how to use the page.

Finally, for content discovery, the top two categories of requests are the ability to find information about related topics on the web, and the ability to connect with a community or other users about a topic.

Discovery and Navigation

Let’s take a step back from how users interact with a single webpage, and look at how they move from page to page.

Means of Discovery

How did our users first learn about the page they’re currently visiting?

Means of Navigation

How did our users first navigate to the page they’re currently visiting?

A somewhat unexpected finding (even to ourselves as a browser maker) is that the browser plays in a role over 50% of the visits.

We did not break down the option “other browser functionalities,” as we did not anticipate such a high level of response rate. A part of the pattern, we suspect, might be explained by the delay between learning about a page and visiting the page. In a separate question, survey participants report that poor timing and poor network connectivity are the two major reasons why they postpone visiting a page until a later time.

Delay between discovery and navigation

Did our users navigate to the page immediately after first learning about it?

Means of Revisits

How do users navigate to the page differently today, than when they first visited the page?

Some of the mechanisms by which users navigate with the aid of the browser may be glanced in this question, but we will definitely further investigate these behaviors.

Workflow and Follow-Up Actions

Finally, stepping back from a single page, let’s look at how a page visit fits into a user’s larger workflow.

By what criteria do our users assess whether a page is helpful to their task?

The list of criteria mostly correspond to page visit purposes that we had earlier reported (information, communication, transaction, entertainment, and work). Ease-of-use also maps to the top-cited criteria for helpful page interactions. Two items that stand out are monitoring of information (e.g., catching up on the latest news) and aggregation of information (e.g., comparison shopping, aggregated news).

How do our users continue a task, if they need to take a break?

We asked the survey participants six other questions about task continuation, such as whether they transfer to/fro another computer, to/fro a mobile device, and the expected time they will spend on their current task.

Over half of the users (51%) report that their current task will be interrupted, and or they’re already continuing a task that they had started earlier. Based on the above chart, over 60% of the users deploy fairly simple technologies to help with task continuation: emailing themselves, messaging themselves, remembering the details about their tasks without software aid, or taking a screenshot. The most used electronic tool is note-taking software followed by in-browser tools (e.g., Pocket, Google Keep).

What actions do our users take, if they encounter a page useful to their current task?

Nearly two thirds of users deploy one of two strategies: leaving the tab open or bookmarking the page. The remaining top strategies involved fairly simple technologies such as remembering the information without aid, emailing themselves, or taking screenshots.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.