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18 March 2013
REFEDS publishes Discovery guidelines to assist federated access
Screenshot from the REFEDS Discovery Project's online guidelines.

The REFEDS (Research and Education Federations) community has published a toolkit and guidelines to improve user experience of federated access to online services. Inconsistent login experience has long been highlighted as a problem and this has formed an obstacle to the use of federated identity. The toolkit and guidelines define standard practices for the use and presentation of logos and error messages on login pages and help Service Providers understand the business model for improving the user experience. They are to be used by Service Providers that are, or plan to be, part of an identity federation.

'Discovery' is the process in which users select their home institution from a list while trying to login to federated online services. The look and feel of the list of institutions and the technologies used to manage the list make a significant impact on each user’s experience of the process.

Several technical solutions to improve discovery are available, such as the Shibboleth Embedded Discovery Service and DiscoJuice, but the technologies in themselves do not support all the needs of Service Providers – such as understanding how best to make federated identity work with your own brand. The REFEDS Discovery Guide is based on the NISO ESPRESSO standard and provides a simple four-step approach based on proven user experience testing and feedback.

The REFEDS Discovery Guide was created for REFEDS by information marketing specialists 'Mickey and Mallory', working with members of the REFEDS community. The project was led by Nicole Harris (JISC Advance) who said: “when speaking to users, the lack of a consistent experience for login has been highlighted as the main barrier to the take-up and use of federated identity again and again. With this guide, REFEDS demonstrates the business drivers for improving the login process in a consistent way, compatible with identity federations worldwide”.

Further information

REFEDS Discovery Guide



Shibboleth Embedded Discovery Service