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We have taken legal advice and we must now show three buttons on our cookie popup with 'equal' weight and color.

We do not want to mislead anyone with dark patterns, but I do want to make sure that those users who don't care, and just want the banner to 'get out of my way', predominantly click the accept button.

This presents two questions:

  1. What layout is best for the buttons? Should I put the 'accept' button on the left or the right or in the middle? My gut is right (on LTR reading language sites).

  2. Am I better letting users read the page by placing the banner at the bottom? Or do I make a centralised modal that forces users to choose an option?

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You ask, how to make the users click the “Accept” button without reading the text. This is a dark pattern, regardless of your company’s intentions given. While this wish is understandable from the company’s point of view, it is not from the users‘ and legal perspectives (in the EU). You are on the user experience site here.

The first question should be, whether cookies and user-tracking technology are really necessary. This has advantages for both sides: users and company. From a user‘s POV, trust is part of the UX. Doing without unnecessary observation and processing gathered data responsibly increase users’ trust. The more trust, the better UX, the more conversion. Secondly, the less data your company processes, the less legal considerations, less computing power, less memory are needed => less costs. You find more thoughts on this in the Open Source Design Community. After these considerations move on to the next step:

If your users are located in the EU, then the EU GDPR and Privacy Regulation (EPR) apply, see this article. This means, the privacy protecting option has to be the default one, not the "Accept all" option. The privacy protecting options are “Accept only (technically) necessary cookies” or "Deny all". So, if your company wants you to implement it properly, my take is:

  1. Don’t use a modal. As a user, I feel annoyed twice: from the banner and from the modal.

  2. Let the banner appear immediately. No silly animations with sliding in banners etc. They eat time and therefore suck even more. Some users might jump off here and were lost for the company.

  3. Show the banner even if the user blocks scripts. This means: No JavaScript etc. for this. There are pure HTML and CSS solutions, web frameworks and CMS (e.g. Laravel and WordPress plug-in).

  4. Make the banner accessible. The WCAG are your friend.

  5. Offer three options:

    a) Accept only necessary cookies

    b) Accept all

    c) Deny all

    Option a) shall be the first, so impatient and annoyed users find the privacy protecting option quickly. This order is based on users‘ and company’s goals.

  6. In option a) use positive wording. Instead of “Deny non-necessary cookies” (bad feelings) use empowering words: “Accept necessary cookies only” (good feelings)

  7. Make option a) the default one - interaction-wise and visually. The solution depends on your site’s design directives, e.g. by highlighting it.

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What layout is best for the buttons? Should I put the 'accept' button on the left or the right or in the middle? My gut is right (on LTR reading language sites).

Most I have seen place it on the left (first item). Gut feeling plays no role here; you should test with users.

Am I better letting users read the page by placing the banner at the bottom? Or do I make a centralised modal that forces users to choose an option?

This will depend on your legal team's advice. If they recommend that access be granted only after accepting cookie consent, then you should use a modal to interrupt the interaction. Otherwise, a bottom banner (as many sites use) should be enough.

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