May 28, 2022

Conference Paper: “Finding Email in a Multi-Account, Multi-Device World”

The following paper will be presented in about one week at the ACM conference CHI 2016: Human Factors in Computing Systems


Finding Email in a Multi-Account, Multi-Device World


Marta E. Cecchinato
University College, London

Abigail Sellen, Milad Shokouhi, Gavin Smyth
Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK


via Microsoft Research Website


Email is far from dead; in fact the volume of messages exchanged daily, the number of accounts per user, and the number of devices on which email is accessed have been constantly growing. Most previous studies on email have focused on management and retrieval behaviour within a single account and on a single device. In this paper, we examine how people retrieve email in today’s ecosystem through an in-depth qualitative diary study with 16 participants. We found that personal and work accounts are managed differently, resulting in diverse retrieval strategies: while work accounts are more structured and thus email is retrieved through folders, personal accounts have fewer folders and users rely primarily on the built-in search option. Moreover, retrieval occurs primarily on laptops and PCs compared to smartphones. We explore the reasons,
and uncover barriers and workarounds related to managing multiple accounts and devices. Finally, we consider new design possibilities for email clients to better support how email is used today.

Direct to Full Text Article (11 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.