In this new world of web development, user experience has been given major importance. This is why the need for people with technical prowess in user engagement has become a crucial endeavor.
Web development, with its intricate web of coding languages, frameworks, and design principles, shapes the online spaces we navigate daily. Beyond this, it’s the ability to tailor these digital experiences that truly sets a website apart.
As organizations continue to expand their presence online, the need to understand and harness the power of user data tracking has taken center stage.
In this blog, we take a quick look at the use and importance of cookies and sessions and their profound impact on your website.
What are Cookies?
Let’s understand using an example. In the old days, whenever you wanted to watch a movie, the ticket checker used to give you a stub on the ticket upon entry. As you watch the film, the ticket stub serves as proof of your admission.
Later, when you decide to visit the snack or food stalls, the ticket checker recognizes you’ve already paid for entry based on your stub.
Here, the ticket stub is similar to a cookie – it holds information about your initial interaction (entry to the movie), streamlining subsequent transactions (snack purchases).
Cookies are small pieces of text sent to your browser by any website you visit. It works by remembering your past interactions with the website to enhance your overall online experience.
Types of Cookies
Cookies come in different types, each serving a specific purpose in capturing and storing information.
Here are the types of cookies:
- Session Cookie: These cookies are active only while you have opened the website on your browser. Once you close or log out, these cookies are removed.
- Persistent Cookie: These are cookies that live on your computer up till a certain set date. Whenever you open the website, you will be able to access this cookie on your system.
- HTTP-only Cookie: An HTTP-only cookie is a type of cookie that includes a special attribute, “HttpOnly,” which is designed to enhance the security of the cookie by restricting its accessibility exclusively to HTTP or HTTPS requests.
- Secure Cookie: This cookie can be accessed by only HTTPS requests and keeps its data encrypted for safety.
- Third-Party Cookie: This cookie is created, stored, and accessed by a domain other than the one the user is currently visiting. Unlike other cookies, this cookie is not set by the website directly, and it originates from a different domain.
What are Cookies Used for?
Cookies serve various purposes on the internet and play a crucial role in enhancing user experience.
Here are the top five common uses of cookies:
- Easy Authentication: Cookies are most often used to authenticate users by remembering their login credentials for websites. The users can then stay logged in as they navigate between different pages or revisit a website.
- Recognize Devices: Cookies allow websites to recognize when a user accesses the site from different devices. This information helps maintain a cohesive user experience across various devices.
- Tracking Activity: Cookies play a crucial role in website analytics and tracking user behavior. Using cookies, website owners can understand how users interact with their site, which pages are popular, and where improvements can be made.
- Streamline Online Shopping: In e-commerce, cookies are best used to manage shopping carts. They store information about the items a user has added to their cart and retrieve the cart’s contents even if the user navigates away from the page. Cookies also enable quickly filling up forms by storing information entered by users on previous forms.
What are Sessions?
When a user logs into a specific network application on their browser, a session is created. A session acts as a temporary storage solution on the server, facilitating the sharing of information across multiple pages of a website.
When a session is started, a randomly generated unique ID is created, known as the Session ID. This ID is stored on the user’s browser as a cookie for the entire duration of the session, whereas the session data is stored on the server side.
When interacting with an internet-based application, the web server lacks awareness of the user due to the HTTP protocol, which does not maintain the state. The information a user provides on one page, like the home page, will not automatically carry over to another page, like the product information page.
This limitation is dealt with by starting a session whenever a visitor initially accesses a website. They enable the persistence of user data throughout their interaction with the application, ensuring a seamless and connected experience across various pages.
Each session is unique for each user, and it is concluded either when the user logs out or shuts down the system.
How is Session Data Stored?
Even though the session data is primarily stored in a file on the server, there are still many other ways to store it, depending on the configuration.
In PHP, the session, by default, is stored in the file system. Other ways to store the session data are in a database or the cache.
The Bottom Line
In this exploration of web development’s inner workings, see how tools like cookies and sessions can help drastically track the user and personalize your website contents to gain loyal customers. Cookies not only offer benefits for user experience, but they also address website functionality.
To effectively use these digital tools to your website’s benefit, hiring a web developer is the way to go. A developer can help you craft a next-generation user-centric website, alongside helping your marketing team to understand and use the collected data to tailor branding and advertisement content.