Cookies, in the technological rather than the culinary sense, are incredibly useful. To both the user and originator of any website, the cookie makes life simpler by remembering certain bits of information about a website visitor’s actions whilst browsing. Then, if and when the user returns to the site, the information can be recalled. This information could include sign-in details, a list of previously visited pages within the site and particular preferences applied, for example. Making the browsing experience quicker and more intuitive, cookies are an invaluable tool for any website.
There are many different types of cookie. Perhaps one of the most important is the authentication cookie, without which a website would not know which account a user was logged in under, or even if they were logged in at all. Without this authentication, a website would not know if to display pages containing sensitive information. Tracking cookies store information about such things as how a user originally came to a website and can greatly assist companies with marketing, providing an accurate picture of a user’s web habits.
Cookies were introduced to the web in 1994; a very simple device to check if users had already previously visited the Netscape site, where they were first used. The second version of Internet Explorer, released in 1995, contained full integrated cookie support. As they were not widely known about and the user was not notified of the cookie’s existence upon entering the website, a privacy issue became apparent.
There are several ways to display these options in line with regulations: model dialogue boxes, warning bars or status bars, for example. All of the options have their pros and cons and finding the best one for the particular website is essential in order to ensure that it remains clear, enticing and easy to navigate. Particularly for small businesses who can easily lose a visitor if they are not instantly engaged, it is vital to use the correct and appropriate format.