Cookie banners and consent requests can sometimes get a bad name. But the problem isn’t really about consent.
By misinterpreting the EU’s cookie consent rules, some website operators have created intrusive, excessive, and confusing consent mechanisms that interfere with their users’ journeys across their platforms.
This article will explore how—when you request it appropriately—consent can improve your visitor’s experience, helping you earn trust and deliver content that your users really want.
We’ll be focusing on the EU, where cookie consent can get a little complicated.
1. You don’t need consent for everything
In certain jurisdictions, like California and Canada, you don’t need opt-in consent for cookies. You just have to provide a legally compliant way to enable users to opt out of cookies.
The rules are stricter in the EU, where many—but not all—cookies require consent.
To reiterate: not all cookies require consent.
You don’t have to burden your users with consent requests in respect of cookies that are “strictly necessary,” either to make your website work, or to provide a service requested by your user (e.g. media playback or shopping cart).
2. Make it easy to Accept or Reject consent requests
Unlike “strictly necessary” cookies, analytics and marketing cookies do require consent. But you don’t need to make consent burdensome.
Under the GDPR, it must be as easy to accept or reject a request for consent. This means you should be presenting your users with these two clear options and allowing them to make a free choice.
You don’t have to use the words “accept” or “reject.” You could use “just necessary cookies” for “reject” or “I’m OK with that” for “accept”—as long as the choice is clear.
It’s OK to include a third option, to provide further details or personalization, such as “cookie settings” or “more information.” But don’t hide the “reject” option behind this button.
Hiding the “reject” option in an additional settings menu would mean users have to click once for “accept,” but at least twice for “reject.” That’s not considered a free choice under EU cookie rules.
Be aware: European data protection authorities take this stuff seriously.
3. Don’t be intrusive
One reason some people find cookie banners annoying is that sometimes they can block access to website content. Users may simply close your website if you make accepting or refusing cookies mandatory.
The best cookie banners are unintrusive. They sit at the edge of the screen, inviting the user to consent, but not forcing them to do so. Good cookie banners allow your user to enjoy your website whether they provide consent or not.
If you do want to present users with a pop-up before they can reach your site, make sure it’s very easy to close it—either by accepting or rejecting cookies—and that you provide succinct and clear information about your consent request.
4. Provide clear information
Transparency around data collection is not just a legal requirement—it’s a crucial part of earning your customers’ trust.
While transparency is a legal requirement, you should use “legalese”—write your cookie information in your brand voice. This will help enhance your users’ connection with your company and make a more meaningful choice about providing their consent.