Why you should visit your site in incognito mode

11th November, 2020
Ethical Pixels
5 minutes

Websites are like living, breathing entities – they change and grow over time. The more advanced ones have complex functionality built-in that allow them to get to know their users and change their behaviour and appearance accordingly. As such, it’s easy for your site to evolve over time without you knowing how your website will be perceived by first-time visitors.

Depending on how you use your website, you might visit it often. This means that your website knows you, and what you see might not be the same as what other people see. We have an idea to help – incognito UX.

What sort of things am I missing?

A great example of this is the cookie notice. When you visit a site for the first time, sites compliant with GDPR typically show a banner, popup or other control explaining the use of cookies, prompting for the user to opt-in to their use, and sometimes a series of options for users to specify cookies they will and won’t allow. Although well-meaning, these notices have become annoyances or barriers to the vast majority of people, who simply click ‘Accept all‘ without reading any of the information presented and never see the message again. You probably did it on your own site.

Now for the sake of the argument, say you want to notify people of a new offer, so you put a popup live on your site. We broadly think that popups are ultimately self-defeating, but that’s another blog post! So, you create the popup, test it and are happy that it isn’t obstructive. When you test new functionality like popups, your site remembers your previous visits and doesn’t show the cookie notice, you just see the popup.

However, a first-time visitor sees both the cookie notice and the popup and has to dismiss both before they can even read, let alone engage with the content on the site. This can lead to increased frustration, and consequently, bounce rates – where people leave your site immediately after arriving without interacting.

This is actually a real-world example from client one of our partners referred to us. Their site didn’t look bad, but the bounce rate was insanely high, and they couldn’t figure out why.

A satirical example from UX Live, but we’ve all seen this…

How does incognito UX help?

You may have heard of Private Browsing (Safari, Firefox) also known as Incognito mode (Chrome). It’s a setting that prevents the browser from using previously saved data such as cookies to personalise your experience, as well as preventing it from saving anything from a private/incognito session, including location data and browsing history. It doesn’t offer any additional security benefits such as complete anonymity, but there are many legitimate reasons to use this browsing mode.

The main one we’d like to talk about here is for checking what your website looks like to first-time visitors. If in our example above the popup was tested using private browsing, the site would have seen the browser as a first-time visitor and the overlap between the popup and the cookie notice would have been detected and changed to minimise the impact.

This is a simple example. Over time, it’s possible to end up with many conflicting and overlapping pieces of functionality and user interface that aren’t problematic in isolation but together create a website that’s difficult impossible to use. And you might not realise it right away.

Bottom line – it’s important to consider compliance, functionality and marketing tools as part of the whole ecosystem, rather than distinct individual elements. Incognito UX can help

How do I use incognito browsing?

Most modern browsers support incognito or private browsing, the example above shows Google Chrome running on MacOS. We’ve linked to some instructions from the browser developers below:

The general rule of thumb is to look wherever you open new tabs and see if there is a private option.

Special thanks to our friend Graham Baylis at Serendipity Online Marketing who mentioned this would be helpful for more people to know, and might make a good blog article 🙂

Tags:IncognitoPerspectivePrivate BrowsingTipsUX

Thanks for reading. We hope you found it useful

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