28 July 2009

Colour Overload with IE8 Tab Grouping

Do people understand tab grouping in Internet Explorer version 8 (IE8)? This was a new idea introduced to collect together and identify tabs originating from the same source.

Note this isn't grouping based on the web site (domain name)—it's grouping from which other tab you clicked. The group colour is selected randomly, so yesterday's blue might be today's yellow.

My concern with tab grouping is not the concept, but the use of colour. Not because of the accessibility difficulty that some people may have distinguishing between colours, which is partially addressed by Microsoft in a tab naming convention, but because the colours can lead to confusion about SSL certificates. Take this example with four tabs open, the first tab selected and a current Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificate in use:

  1. Bank No X online banking login (domain A / SSL)
  2. Bank No X information page (domain B / non-SSL) opened using a link on page 1
  3. Bank No Y home page (domain C / non-SSL)
  4. Bank No Y business banking login (domain D / SSL) opened using a link on page 2
Partial screen capture of four browser tabs in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) where they are grouped into two tab groups, one pair highlighted in the color green and the latter two in the colour blue / the first tab which is selected is also an SSL site with a current Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificate making the address bar a green color

What does green mean? How about if we have an invalid SSL certificate and the tab group is green:

Partial screen capture of four browser tabs in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) where they are grouped into two tab groups, one pair highlighted in the color green and the latter two in the colour blue / the first tab which is selected is also an SSL site with an invalid SSL certificate making the address bar a red color

Confusing? Yes. It can lead to this type of misunderstanding:

That must be what I am seeing because it's not always the same colours. I had thought it had to do with security.

Helping people to identify and reject invalid SSL certificates is important—IE8 users are being put at a disadvantage by Microsoft. I'd like to see tab grouping turned off by default for now, and some other indicator of tab groups used instead of distracting colour-coding. Perhaps, since new tabs are always opened adjacent to their 'parent', even something as simple as this mock-up might suffice:

Mock-up of four browser tabs in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) where they are grouped into two tab groups, without any special colouring, but with a separator bar between the two groups instead / the first tab which is selected is also an SSL site with a current Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificate making the address bar a green color

Is this easier to understand? What do you think?

Posted on: 28 July 2009 at 08:21 hrs

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Hi, this is Feran with the IE Outreach Team. While I tend to like tabbed browsing as I usually have mutiple tabs open and it helps me stay visually organized, you can disable this setting if you are not a fan of the feature. Here's a great article explaining how - http://malektips.com/internet-explorer-8-disable-t....

Thanks!
1 Added by feran Posted on 29 July 2009 at 19:10 hrs
Feran, thanks for the pointer to that tip. I do like the idea of tab grouping, it's just the usage of colour that bothers me.
2 Added by Clerkendweller Posted on 30 July 2009 at 09:08 hrs
Your welcome, hope it helped. Yes, everyone has their own personal preferences so it's nice that this feature can be enables/disabled as desired.
3 Added by feran Posted on 05 August 2009 at 19:45 hrs
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Colour Overload with IE8 Tab Grouping
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