You have probably noticed that most websites are throwing out cookie warnings lately, but what exactly are they and how you can use cookies to your advantage?

What Are They?

These cookies are small files that download directly to your computer while surfing the web. This usually happens when you first visit a website. Websites with cookies can remember your activities or settings and use them the next time you visit that website. The browser can use the information from those cookies and make the website perform better on your computer. The site “knows” that you have been here before and in some cases, it adjusts what you see on the screen. For example, they can remember the contents of your shopping cart in a webshop.

Cookie ContentThey can save passwords or fill out your forms (for example, when typing your name or address on web pages). Some cookies are more complex, and they may remember how much time you spent on a page of a website and which links you clicked on. Generally speaking, cookies mean well, they are not harmful and usually cannot carry viruses. Their primary purpose is to allow the user to have a better online experience on your website.

Cookies often contain at least two types of data. It has to both identify a user and retain some information about them. The most common type allows users to instantly authenticate after opening a website, to login or solve a captcha puzzle.

So Why All This Cookie-Cutter Clutter?

First and foremost because of the question of privacy. Technically, cookies are not a secret and have been around for many years, ever since the days of Netscape. They were developed in 1994 in order to make online shopping carts possible, and browsers were accepting them immediately by default. After Financial Times published an article with details about cookies and their usage, back in 1996, things started to change.

Of course, many people became skeptical about big companies using their names, email addresses and personal information to target them with products. This is why many countries have decided to regulate the usage of cookies, in order to make users aware that websites collect their personal information. As a result, cookie notifications have recently started appearing on almost every website, requiring user’s consent before they can be enabled.

What Types of Cookies are There?

Helpful Internet Cookies

Temporary Cookies

This type of cookies make you go hungry very soon, as they disappear after you close your web browser.

Permanent cookies

These are the kind of saved cookies that remain on your computer device after you close your browser. Networks or sites can store information that will be reused the next time you visit.

What if I disable cookies?

By blocking cookies, you are still able to browse the domain, with some options and settings unavailable to you.

Can I manage cookies?

Of course, and if you don’t accept their request, you can easily delete (or prevent) cookies on your computer or mobile device through your browser settings. However, because the purpose of cookies is to improve the functioning of a website, please be aware that preventing or deleting cookies can have a negative impact. The website might behave differently or load its contents more slowly.

What About the Privacy Policy?

If you in any way collect personal information and data from the users of your website, you are obligated by law to have a privacy policy. It needs to be apparent and clearly visible on your website. This also remains true if you use an online shop or any similar plug-ins and third-party services. You can use various websites to generate your privacy and cookie policies so that you can legally use cookies to your advantage. It is one thing having a website and the other is to know how to use it properly.

How to Actually Set Them Up?

The basic command you can use to declare a cookie’s purpose is the following:

"setcookie($name, $value, $expire, $path, $domain, $secure, $httponly)"
  • $name – set the name of a particular cookie (string value)
  • $value – what information do you want this cookie to store (open value)
  • $expire – how long you want the cookie to remain on the user’s computer (integer value)
  • $path – the path that the cookie should track “/” (string value)
  • $domain – the site that the cookie should track, which includes the subdomains (string value)
  • $secure – how secure of a connection the cookie requires (boolean value)
  • $httponly – should it be accessible only through HTML protocol (boolean value)

If you do make your own cookies, decide what kind of information you want them to track. Try to determine what data can help you improve the user experience on your website the most, and focus on that. Be sure to remind your users that your website is using cookies, and ask for their consent before they proceed. There are various online resources that can easily create and personalize your cookie consent messages. Websites like Create.net, that allow for the creation of the website itself, also provide these sorts of tools. There are many options available so that you can make that cookie warning as nice and as unintrusive as you want. Always remember to use cookies to your advantage and make browsing your website a more pleasant experience.

Subscribe to our blog to read more about the requirements for adding a Privacy policy to your website.

If you want to know more about using your website Computer Coach Australia will come to your office or home and work through a list of learning outcomes to fulfil your needs.  And if you still have any questions about cookies (except for which ones are edible) feel free to contact us!

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