How Do Users Bookmark in Firefox?



A few weeks ago, we released a survey through Test Pilot to gauge how users interact with Firefox’s bookmarking tools. We asked users to identify which bookmarking features they were familiar with, which ones they used most often, and how they accessed their bookmarks. Additionally, users supplied a self-reported experience level with Firefox, their bookmarking volume, and other metadata.

We’ve wondered for a while if the most-used bookmarking features in Firefox are utilized because they are the best ones available, or because users are just not aware of any alternatives. (To see how much different bookmarking features are used in an average week, check out the most recent heatmap.) For reference, the image below illustrates where the bookmarking features we’ll be discussing are located in the browser.

The graph below has a side-by-side comparison of the reported usage and knowledge of different ways to bookmark.

Although, for example, the “Bookmarks” menu is the most well-known feature (73% knew of it), it is not the favorite for usage. Though the star in the url bar has a similar amount of usage, when paired with the fact that far fewer users know about its existence, it appears to be more favored. Below, we map the ratio of percentage use of a feature to percentage knowing about the feature, which gives a metric we’ll call “affinity.”

While there’s no runaway favorite here, it is interesting to note that the url bar star button has the highest affinity, while the other button near the url bar (which requires one more step for bookmarking) has the lowest affinity of the features that are actively used. In fact, both methods which require a two-step process have the two lowest affinity scores. Could users possibly be so sensitive to extra steps that they reject the most traditional and well-labelled methods of bookmarking? There are many other reasons that could affect their affinity: the “Bookmarks” menu is potentially far away from the url bar or page content, and users on Windows or Linux platforms may elect to hide their menu bars (this is true of roughly half of our respondents). Additionally, the “Bookmarks button” is hidden for Windows users who have their menu bar enabled, and the button is also much farther from the url bar than the star button.

To explore why users might be using a particular method, we repeated the graphs above but segmented by the users’ self-reported expertise at using Firefox.


An interesting and intuitive takeaway from the above graphs is, once again, the usage of the star button. In all three user groups, the star button had one of the highest affinities, and the number remained fairly consistent. However, the percentage of those that know about the feature grows dramatically from group to graph. Additionally, advanced users, who have the highest percentage using the star button, also have the lowest percentage using the “Bookmarks” menu and bookmarks bar “Bookmarks button.” This trend indicates that users are actually replacing usage of the less popular features with exclusive use of the star button, instead of just supplementing them.

These statistics really drive home the idea that once users know of features, they adopt and enjoy them. Thus, in addition to innovating new features, we need to focus on finding a way to effectively communicate to users what new features are so that they can be utilized.

We’ve only just begun to examine the results of the surveys, and hope to report back with further findings. If you have any burning questions about bookmarks or interpretations of the data, please leave them below! Additionally, if you would like to do your own analysis, you can access the data at this gist.

One response

  1. Josh T. wrote on :

    It would be interesting to see where users choose to put their bookmark. I’d imagine a lot of users get confused when they click on the star button in the awesome bar and can’t find the page listed on the bookmarks menu.