Usability for Nerds/Web design/Cookies

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A cookie is a tiny piece of information that a web site can store on the user's computer and later retrieve when the user visits the same site again. The advantage of this is that the website can recognize the user so that they don't have to enter information that they have already entered previously.

However, cookies are sometimes used in a way that is not transparent to the user and may not be in the interest of the user. An organized exchange of information on users between website owners is taking place in order to keep track of user habits. This enables the web operators to target advertisements to the individual user profile.

Users may reject cookies for any of these reasons:

  • The user is unhappy of being spied upon by companies they don't trust.
  • The use of cookies is not transparent to the user, and they don't know what they are used for.
  • The user fears that the cookie mechanism can be abused by hackers for manipulating their computer.
  • The cookies fill up disk space with cryptic information that the user doesn't understand.
  • The user may not be using their own computer, hence there is no point in storing personal information.
  • When using somebody else's computer, the user may not care to ask the computer owner for permission to store cookies on the computer.
  • The user may fear that their family or colleagues can tell from the cookies on their computer which sites they have visited.

These are all good reasons that website operators should accept. Hence, the website should be designed so that operation without cookies is possible. Some websites keep trying to persuade the user to accept cookies, even after they have rejected them several times. This is very impolite!

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