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Optimising your UX for a Cookieless future

Sarah Edwards
User Experience Consultant

Google has announced it will block third-party cookies from the Chrome browser in the second half of 2024. As it stands, Chrome has an estimated global market share of 63.45%. The impact of this action will be felt by website owners and marketers who have not, or are unaware how to, prepare for the advent of a ‘cookieless’ web. In this article, we will unpack the implications and opportunities from a UX perspective.

Firstly, the title of this article is misleading; the future will not be entirely cookieless, as some are essential for internet browsing, e.g. security. It’s third-party cookies that are being blocked at a browser level, and they decide how cookies are being handled

When we think about the user experience around cookies, we have two things in play:

  1. What the browser allows 
  2. The legislation that governs the location where the website is being viewed, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Digital Services Act and Digital Market Act

The legislation will govern if the user needs to opt in or opt-out of websites collecting and using their personal data. Suppose the requirement is to opt-in; then that’s when we see those annoying cookie pop-ups. There is still some debate as to whether users will need to opt-in in the future; it will depend on the governing legislation, but as a rule, it’s best to be as transparent as possible about what you’re doing with a user’s data. 

 

What positives can we draw from the changes?

This is an opportunity to take a fresh view of how and why we use data. There is also an opportunity to educate your user base in a way that is easy to understand and builds trust. 

In a study conducted by Ipsos and Google, when requests for personal data were framed positively, 68% of respondents showed increased engagement. Conversely, when requests go beyond what is expected from the website, 77% of people are unlikely to engage with a brand.

Depending on your model, you may only need to put cookies on a user’s machine once they sign-up or login. In these cases, the ways cookies are using user data can be handled as part of an onboarding process and then user preferences.

 

What areas should UX designers be focusing on?

As with any challenge, there is also opportunity. The main impact will be felt by online advertising; there is an opportunity to create a more trusted relationship with your users in order to provide them with the most tailored experience. The Ipsos/Google “Data Privacy Study” found that only 21% of participants felt they had extensive knowledge of the information that was being collected about them. Improved UX could support users being better informed.

Here are some areas to consider:

Increased emphasis on first-party data

First-party data will become more valuable. Websites should implement more user-friendly ways to collect and manage this data. This could include more emphasis on sign-in, registration or subscription.

Shifting to subscription models 

With the decline in targeted advertising, websites may want to look to shift towards subscription models to compensate for lost ad revenue. This could lead to more premium content offerings.

More emphasis on contextual targeting

Contextual targeting involves placing ads on web pages that are relevant to the on-page content. By harnessing contextual targeting, you can provide ads for an audience who has already demonstrated an interest in the content of a page.

More emphasis on transparency and trust

Websites will need to be more transparent about their data collection practices. This should lead to more straightforward privacy policies and user-friendly opt-in/opt-out mechanisms. Users may need to be educated about the changes and how to manage their privacy settings in browsers. 

Understand your audience 

We love user personas at Make it Clear, and here is another reason to properly research and understand your audience. Your user personas will become a foundational tool when developing personalisation strategies. 

Harness recommendation engines

Recommendation engines are data filtering systems that use algorithms to suggest products, content, or services based on user behaviour and preferences.

 

We can't finish without mentioning AI

There are many opportunities to harness AI tools to personalise experiences for your users. For example, chatbots gather vast amounts of data; AI can harness this information to provide a personalised experience based only on user inputs. 

 

GumGum specialises in cookie-free digital advertising. It uses contextual AI intelligence to analyse content and determine what advertising works best with the page.

 

The future is a little brighter

Ultimately, the removal of third-party cookies is a good thing; it prioritises user privacy and encourages organisations to focus on users and content. Those can never be bad things.

What positives can we draw from changes to data laws and privacy? Is this an opportunity to take a fresh view of how and why we are using data?

Cookies have, to some extent, lost the trust of consumers, and that can have a dire impact on the credibility of the publishing industry. According to Ipsos/Google’s ‘Privacy by Design: Exceeding customer expectations’ report, which surveyed 20,000 Europeans, users who have bad privacy experiences view it almost as damaging as the theft of their data. That’s sobering for anyone in the industry, and it’s why we need solutions that bring revenue diversification while maintaining privacy.

 

Footnote: cookie crunching

In the context of this blog, “cookies” refer to small pieces of data that websites store on a user’s browser. In general, there are two types of cookies which collect and store data: first-party and third-party:

First-party cookies: these cookies are set by the website that the user is currently interacting with. They are typically used to remember user preferences, settings, and login information. This data is used and shared internally, not with other sites.

Third-party cookies: these cookies are set by domains other than the one the user is visiting. They are used for tracking and advertising purposes. By adding these to pages, advertisers can tailor their campaigns to their target audience across multiple sites. However, they have long been seen as an invasion of privacy. 

Cookies are typically used to enhance the internet browsing experience by using data to personalise the content or advertising, remove ‘sign in’ but also to inform advertisers, reduce time spent on There are many types of cookies that support your browsing experience; here are some examples: 

Session cookies: these cookies exist only for the duration of a user’s session on a website. They are essential for maintaining continuity during a single browsing session.

Secure cookies: these cookies are transmitted over an encrypted (HTTPS) connection, providing an additional layer of security to protect sensitive information.

Analytics cookies: these cookies are used to collect data on how users interact with a website. They help website owners understand user behaviour, traffic sources, and popular content.


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