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Are you losing sales from IE users?

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Thursday November 8, 2007 )

Are you a staunch Firefox user and have an ecommerce enabled site? There’s something you should check – it’s a very common issue I’ve struck that could be costing you sales from Internet Explorer users. The good news is it’s very easy to fix.

As much as the Firefox fans hate to hear it; Internet Explorer is still the browser of choice for many folks :).

Here’s some current stats from

November 1 – 7 2007

3,721,379 visitors
IE 6 and 7 82%
FireFox 13%

October 1 – 31 2007

73,475,506 visitors
IE 6 and 7 75%
FireFox 13%

TheCounter draws that data from thousands of sites running their stats service. My own stats for TTB show a higher proportion of Firefox users, but that’s to be expected given the nature of this site. You’ll also find Firefox usage much higher in some countries, amongst progressives, the technophiles etc. etc. etc… but the point remains; Internet Explorer is still very popular with many people and will be for the foreseeable future.

Now you’ve gotten over that shock, here’s the next one.

If you have an ecommerce enabled site, check out any secure pages (those that start with https://) such as payment and order forms in Internet Explorer. What you’ll be looking for is this:


If you see that, yet it doesn’t occur when you view the same page in FireFox, chances are the culprit is an image or images on the page that aren’t https:// referenced. By clicking “no” it should reveal the problem image by replacing it with a placeholder. If this doesn’t reveal it, you’ll need to check the source code – it could be a transparent gif or background image.

In these cases, Internet Explorer sees it an insecure object and throws up the warning; but Firefox doesn’t consider it to be. It’s a more common error where absolute referencing has been used for images instead of relative referencing.

Just to clarify absolute vs. relative:

Absolute: the URL of the object. An absolute reference is most commonly used when linking to items outside your site.


Relative : the location of an object in relation to the current page on the same site

Example: /images/image.gif

This issue also often occurs when using a 3rd party payment processing service checkout page – e.g PayPal. PayPal allows you to customize your checkout page by adding a header image, but if you don’t have SSL or Shared SSL enabled on your site, you won’t be able to reference the image via a secure connection.

While showing the image doesn’t present a security issue, your potential customer may not know that, get nervous and skedaddle without letting you know about the problem. As mentioned, this is really common – I’ve hit it three times on checkout pages in the last week; so play it safe and check – even if the thought of using Internet Explorer for just a minute makes your stomach churn :).

C’mon, IE’s not that bad :).


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2 comments for Are you losing sales from IE users?
  1. Images are not the only culprits. Any content, including imported java script such as pixel tracking and web analytics scripts, that are imported from a non-secure site will cause the same problem. This is the very reason Microsoft put this functionality in I.E. as java script is executable code that could present a security issue.

    Considering the number of Microsoft haters with nothing better to do than hack security vulnerabilities in Microsoft products in an attempt to discredit them, it is no surprise that Microsoft employs more security restrictions than Firefox. If Firefox were under the same level of hacker attacks, no doubt you would find the same level of security restrictions in it as well.

    Comment by David Bryan — November 9, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

  2. Hi David, thanks for your comment – the testing I’ve done in FireFox doesn’t seem to indicate the same issues with non-https: referenced javascripts in FireFox; just images – an alert pops up in FF when I try to load a page with an insecure javascript.

    I agree with your comment about IE being so heavily targeted and I remember having the same argument with FireFox fans even prior to the FF browser getting that name :). I like FireFox, but it’s not a panacea by any means.

    Comment by Michael Bloch — November 10, 2007 @ 3:32 am

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