How to design your next website cookie notice?

Feb 12, 2021   •   3 min read

By Sylvain Reiter

Since 2018, everyone who works in digital and target European customers has heard of GDPR.  And browsing the internet has become like a game of whack-a-mole to remove all those cookie notices popping up all the time. But I feel that most businesses just have one "for the sake of it", and they did not really invest in user experience nor following best practices.

So let's explore how you should design the next cookie notice for your website.

Designing a cookie notice for your website

Welcome to this new edition of Digital Blitz, your short brief on everything UX, Tech and Compliance. I'm Sylvan Reiter and I'm here to help you deliver better experiences for your team and your customers.

Today, let's review the various options to design a user-friendly and compliant cookie notice.

2 types of cookies

Those cookies, you remember, are the small text files stored in a visitor's web browser.

Generally speaking, we can group them into two buckets.

  1. The first-party cookies that are placed by the website owners, that can be essential for a login area, or just remembering your preferences if you're not logged in.
  2. The third-party cookies such as analytics providers, AdTech tech company or social networks. They are usually the tricky ones because they're not obvious to the visitors and the main culprit of collecting personal data.

The law is still a bit confusing between the EU privacy directive and GDPR, and it's constantly evolving it. But the main point is that website owners must seek unambiguous and informed consent to use cookies and process personal data.

As a business, you need to find the balance between remaining legal, but as a commercial entity who is investing in marketing to drive customers to your site, you do need to track some level of ROI and keep your attribution models. And this is usually done via cookies.

Design-wise, it can be very ambiguous to present the right information because you need to inform your users. You need a short piece of text to explain the essential cookies and how they're being used, but the user must be able to control the non-essential and third-party cookies.

Pre-built tools

The easiest option is to use a pre-made library like CookieBot or OneTrust. They give you a lot of options, but I actually think they're detrimental to the user experience, when you overwhelm the users with four checkboxes and three buttons to "accept all" or "reject all" or "configure more", there are too many permutations and it's confusing.

I agree that you do need to give users the options to control their preferences. So that's where an ON/OFF toggle comes in handy. In the most extreme cases, you can turn off all cookies by default and block the browsing of your website until users have made their selection. This is what most of the government websites are doing, and they usually have the toggle checkboxes OFF by default.

Impact on Analytics tracking

But the challenge is that it will have an impact on your analytics tracking. You can replace Google Analytics with a privacy-first and cookieless web analytics platform, we'll explore that in an upcoming video. But you will lose a lot of this attribution model and conversion measurement from all the other AdTech companies and cookies.

So my recommended approach for that is not to load the analytics cookie until the user has approved it. But if you heavily rely on that data to run your marketing activities and track them, you can have the toggle ON by default. Just make sure you have a nicely designed "Confirm" button and clear explanation, so that the user makes an informed consent.

This will evolve a lot in the next couple of years. Between the browsers blocking third-party cookies and the AdTech companies working on better tracking and better attribution model to protect their ads revenue... I think we will see a lot of changes. So it's exciting to see where this is going.

Invest in UX

But please, if there's one thing to remember is whatever option you choose, please invest in the design of your cookie banner. It has to fit nicely with your brand, make it blend with the rest of the page, think about the experience of your end-users.

If you need help or guidance with your cookie banner or wider compliance topics on your websites or your SaaS platform, just get in touch. Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow me on Twitter to keep learning with me and grow your career in digital.

Until next time, stay safe and see you soon.

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