UX for users with cookies disabled - a neat example

Sebastian Greger

A common strategy of privacy self-defence is to have the browser delete all cookies on exit or use a “private mode” that does not allow cookies. This added layer of protection comes at a price: as sites often use cookies to avoid the repeated display of announcements or notes, the absence of these cookies means more frequent “Note this new feature”-popups than the average web user.

Therefore, I truly enjoyed what I saw on DuckDuckGo’s landing page the other day: not surprising for a company built around the core value of privacy, designers at DuckDuckGo really put some thought into the experience of users facing this issue. As they just launched a new browser plugin this week, they naturally have an interest in promoting that. The solution chosen is a popup-like notification box in the upper right corner:

As is common practice with web applications, a popup not highlights a new feature (it is much less obtrusive on a bigger screen).

When closing that note, a first-party session cookie is set, so the note is displayed only once per session - after all, the landing page of a search engine is commonly accessed dozens of times a day (unless using other means to trigger a search).

What is a really nice touch is that the design takes into account privacy-conscious users with cookies disabled. When closing the notification popup, the user learns that by using an alternative URL, they can reach a version of the site without the notification:

Clicking away the notification, users with cookies disabled are given a hint how to reach the site without the notification on their next visit.

This is a tiny detail, likely not noticed or understood by many, but it is a great showcase of UX for privacy-conscious users. Just like with ensuring accessibility, this does not harm anyone (one could of course argue about the need to click away two notification windows?), but can make a clear difference to some. And I believe it is a neat way to use privacy as a branding asset.

Solutions like these make a difference, and it is great to see the idea of extending UX into the realm of privacy in the wild.


  1. A blog post with some observations is in the making!