cookies-gingerbread-manFrom May 26th 2012 UK websites have to comply with EU cookie law. This basically means that website owners must get the consent of users before serving them web cookies.

A cookie, simply put, is a text file that is downloaded onto your PC when you visit a website. Not all sites use cookies. If you are a small business with an information site that does not require files to be downloaded onto a user’s computer, then you will not need to worry about the cookie laws. We do not use cookies on the majority of the websites we build for our clients. However, there is one exception, and that is when we develop an ecommerce website. Let me explain why.

What cookies can be automatically downloaded on your computer and what can they do?

Text files have a variety of functions including:
  • Count visitors
  • Store shopping basket items
  • Auto-fill forms
  • Personalise content
  • Target advertising
  • Record user preferences
  • Provide security and authentication
As you can see, some of these text files are very useful and without them browsing the web would be very difficult, such as when you put items into your shopping basket,  the website needs to remember the items you have chosen and list them when you go on to view your basket.
There are two types of cookie, essential and non-essential

Essential cookies
Cookies used for the shopping basket and checkout and those used to provide security for online banking.
Essential cookies delete themselves after 20 minutes or when you close the browser and are often called session cookies.

Non-essential cookies
Tracking cookies that remember when a user returns to a website, analytic cookies that count the number of visitors to a website and cookies used by advertisers.

Have you ever wondered how an advertiser can appear to follow you around your web browsing? Let’s say you are searching for Pink Wellington boots and you have visited 2 or 3 sites and then decide to search for different product and suddenly an ad pops up for Pink wellies. That is the result of third party advertisers using the information stored on your PC to advertise their products.
It is the non-essential cookies that the EU legislation is intended to target.

Browser setting changes
The legislation has also meant that browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome have changed some of their setting to prevent sites from “setting any data”.

We are finding that some of our ecommerce clients are receiving reports from customers who are using web browsers, such as the chrome web browser, not being able to view the items they have placed in their shopping baskets.

On investigation we found that the customer had “Block sites from setting any data” ticked in their settings.
If you are experiencing these problems when shopping online and want to solve the problem in Chrome, go to:
  • Settings
  • Advanced settings (at the bottom of the page)
  • Then select the content settings tab
  • Select “Allow local data to be set (recommended)”
  • Save
We would love to know your thoughts on whether you think cookies enhance your web experience or annoy you with pop up advertising.

Is serving adverts for products you are looking for a bad thing, or does it provide more choice?
Please leave your comments below.

Mark Langston