Our approach to cookies and google analytics

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I recently blogged about cookies and the possible approaches we are hoping or looking to adopt here in Devon.  Well it has taken me sometime to actually find the time to blog about this but our approach has already started to hit the web on some of our microsites.

My personal preference was to simply adopt an implied consent approach (the far easiest and lowest cost approach), but in conversations with colleagues we agreed that this would fail to raise the awareness of the issues, so we opted in the end for an “in yer face” approach.

I personally feel the more subtle approach (adopted by some) fails to raise awareness and because it isn’t that obvious for people, it will naturally lead to some functions of the site not working or displaying correctly without them knowing why – a big #fail in my eyes. But I certainly recommend that people adopt an approach they feel works for them and their organisation – I am merely passing comment and sharing our approach.

What have we done?

We have created a piece of reusable code which applies our global header and footer as well as a process for managing google analytics code…the technical details of which i can’t start to explain here but Tim in my team has developed this approach from the bottom up.  But in short we developed an approach which basically stops the google code from being applied to the pages of the site until after they have accepted the cookie, if they decline we don’t process the google analytics code and we no longer get stats on those users.

The advantage of this approach is that we also get to apply a high level branding to most if not all of our microsites in the same process. Win Win…which was a task we set over a longer period of time, but this approach simply presented itself and allowed us to take advantage.

Check out the following sites which are the first to have the code applied  – we have a large number of sites to apply this to and we are working really hard to get this done as soon as possible.

We are applying this to all of the sites we have created ourselves and are working with some of our external suppliers to ask them to also implement the code where specific conditions are met.
We conducted a cookie audit (as was recommend by pretty much everyone) and it threw up a variety of issues and identified cookies which we are simply going to remove and delete as they should no longer exist – a very useful exercise on its own to be honest.
The audit did throw up some random stuff which wasn’t actually cookies, so it did require a bit of analysis that our colleagues in ICT did, for which I’m very grateful.
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5 thoughts on “Our approach to cookies and google analytics

  1. Interesting approach – quite brave to go with something so “in yer face”! I agree about the need to raise true awareness of the issue, though.

    Wondering if your solution could do with some accessibility tweaks, though? It looks ilke the pop-up is the last thing in the page’s tabbing order, so a keyboard user would have to tab several dozen times to get to it. Also, there’s no focus state which means it’s hard for a sighted keyboard user to spot when they have finally reached the buttons.

    • Thanks James,

      Yes we know about the accessibility aspects, the code is being tweaked and developed as we role it out to each site, so it is likely that once this is done we can then tidy up the code and address the accessibility then…

  2. Pete McClymont

    Short comment: surprised.

    We’ve sucked on this for well over a year. There is no simple solution and certainly not one size fits all. As you say, there’s probably a lot of unnecessary rubbish added by third parties. Nice to hear they’ve worked with you – not our experience. (I’d rather dump 75% of the third party rubbish we deploy on the web, but not my call.)

    On the issue of analytics, we’ve opted not to seek explicit approval. We’re going to suck on it even longer and see what others so. But, losing up to 90% of data is not an option I’d want to contemplate.

    I know is presumptuous of me to say so, I don’t expect users to understand what cookies do when most of us “professionals” don’t.

    As an example of what we’d lose if we effectively sacrificed analytics: our London 2012 pages got more hits than any other pages over the last week. That’s pretty critical data for us not just to measure campaign success, but also to plan for future work.

  3. I, of course, did an a really nice opt in/out bar that goes across the top of each page until the user has made a decision on whether to accept cookies.

    So we do have a fallback position if we need to go that way but the decision lies with Peter – after all, he’s the one that’s bothered about analytics anyway 😉

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