Many postgraduate theses include as part of their front matter a List of Figures and a List of Tables, plus lists of various other special environments. Many institutions, including my own, directly require the inclusion of at least those two Lists at the front of the thesis.
However, I have never really understood why a thesis should have those two environments at all; they've mostly just been yet another page to scroll past on the way to the meat of the thesis.
On the other hand, if you have a print copy of the document, I generally find it much easier to flip through the pages, since graphics tend to stick out, and more so if you have a general idea of where the figure is (such as having a figure identifier that gives the chapter) or what it looks like (as when looking for a figure one has seen previously).
What use cases are lists of figures or tables meant to serve? In what situations are they meant to be useful? Do they still work, or are they simply an artifact of pre-pdf days?