Archive for the ‘Online Media’ Category

Browsers and secure sites

Monday 3 November 2008

On the web SSL certificates are the common way to verify the owner of the identity of https based website. Compared to older generations the new generation of browsers have a far better support for the display of the amount of trust (or lack thereof) you should place in the owner of the site you are visiting.

Chrome uses a yellow address bar to indicate a valid SSL enabled site:

Firefox does in my opinion an even better job by adding a green logo at the start of the address bar:

IE uses only an yellow icon of a key lock to confirm a secure connection with a SSL enabled site.

Above that IE uses colors to indicate how secure a connection is:


  • White: The certificate has normal validation. This means that communication between your browser and the website is encrypted. The certification authority makes no assertion about the business practices of the website. Sample:
  • Green: The certificate uses extended validation. This means that communication between your browser and website is encrypted and that the certification authority has confirmed the website is owned or operated by a business that is legally organized under the jurisdiction shown in the certificate and on the Security Status bar. The certification authority makes no assertion about the business practices of the website
  • Yellow: The authenticity of the certificate or certification authority that issued it cannot be verified. This might indicate a problem with the certification authority’s website.
  • Red: The certificate is out of date, invalid, or has an error. For more information, see “About Certificate Errors” in Related Topics.


Note that for the colors to work you need the IE Phishing filter turned on, which requires you to send anonymous information to Microsoft while browsing. Mine was off by default. If you turn it on you will see while browsing an extended validated site:

Be aware the when it comes to security a valid SSL certificate only indicates how much you should trust the identity. It does not tell you anything about the amount of trust you should put in the intentions of the site. It would be perfectly possible to fund a company i steal your money Inc, get a valid certificate on get a green bar and walk away with you money if you trust me your money on that site.

Some more reflections on the validity of the greenness in the browser address bar in will firefox have a green bar.


Guided search

Wednesday 8 October 2008


Search has become -thanks to Google- the default way of finding information. At the same time search is difficult to implement and technology is immature. Web content search interfaces differentiate between searching structured and unstructured content. In this post more information on searching structured content.

Structured content is content that is classified based on metadata, such as tags, taxonomies and properties of the content. The most intuitive way to search structured content is to filter the result set based on a selection of meta information. This is called guided or facetted search.

The classic example of structured content is information about a product you can buy. For example each digital camera has more or less the same properties. Websites build to find and compare digital cameras allow you to view them side by side. Structured content also opens the way to navigation based on the properties, often called guided navigation, facetted search or browsing. Find me all cameras that 7 megapixels could be such a query.

Some data is structured by default, other can be classified automatically based on textual analysis. This is mostly relevant for text documents. Advanced techniques exist to find out the language of a document and extract some of the topics it covers. This allows you to relate content, often used in news sites as a set of related content links. Yet another category is structure that is created by user behavior. Amazon has many examples of such links, users that bought X also bought Y.

Guided search is mostly relevant for:



These days it is crucial to combine guided search with textual search. Users that know a particular model number type this in a search box, users that only have a vague idea what they want (price, vendor) will use guided navigation.

Many websites employ an in-house build system for guided search. I have build and worked on several homegrown systems myself. There are also some vendors offering solutions for guided search of structured content. The most well known are:



Some great resources on search are: Searchtools, CMS Watch and Enterprisesearchblog.

Size matters

Wednesday 31 January 2007

A little quiz. Which internet company has:

  • the best visited homepage?
  • the smallest homepage?

Right that is Google. I do not think it is a coincidence that both statements go together. Google is the internet king at delivering what their customers want most. Ah but now you say google has it easy since they only deliver one product: search. Not true, google has many services and products: search, mail, rss reader, google devices (the mini), picasa, youtube and so on. For example have you ever seen a press release from Google on their website about the acquisition of YouTube. No it is no where near the homepage of google because the majority of the visitors of Google couldn’t care less.

The internet is about delivering what your visitors are expecting from you. That is what builds a brand on the internet. To accomplish this experience for your visitors define the top things that visitors are coming to your site for. You will find you need only 3 to 5 to cover at least 90% of the visits to your site. Make these pages as easy as possible to find and execute for your visitors. You should spend 90% of your energy in these pages. What is left can be spend on less important stuff. The long tail works on the internet for books and CD’s but not for websites in general: less functionality and clutter means more succes.

A lot of internet projects I have seen trip over the vast amount of functionality and content that must be put online. These internet sites are usually a good reflection of the internals of the company that is building the website: complex. Your visitors are not interested in your company internals and all the beautifull things your company have to offer: they want to get their thing done, whatever that is, and they want to do it quickly.

Usability testing

Wednesday 15 November 2006

Recently I viewed some videos that were made of users testing one of the websites that we created. An astonishing and put-me-back-on-earth experience what actually happens when you put people who are not so computer savvy behind your application. With a good intentions but often clueless, simply because there are no clues.

Today I stumbled upon a UK company called SimpleUsability. Their website has some good material on the why and how of usability testing. They also have a video on their site that gives you an idea what I am talking about. Particularly take not of the eye movement. Proof that people do not view web pages left to right and top to bottom.

And their website is easy to navigate, at least for me.

Vignette new URLs

Tuesday 26 September 2006

I wrote earlier about the importance of human friendly URL’s. Also included the example of Vignette as a system that has bad URL’s. Vignette has upgraded their product and also upgraded their site. Unfortunately human friendly URL’s was not one of the requirements.