July 7, 2009 in Web Usability

I Hate Captchas

captchaI truly hate captcha’s, they are so annoying and wildy over used, we spend so much time working on the web usability of a design and ensuring accessibility to the widest audience and then we add a captcha that wrecks the flow of the web page and adds a big ole  extra step in the way of the user completing a task.

Captchas Are Bad Usability?

Getting customers to make a conversion on a website is a tough call, whether its to make contact, buy a product or enquire about a service, a HTML form is often the call to action we are trying to get the user to complete, why oh why do we put obstacles in the users way.

Good Captcha, Bad Captcha

Good catpchas are an extra step the user has to fill in on the HTML form, any marketeer worth their weight would tell you not too; extra steps equals less conversion. Good captchas tell you to enter capital letters and are in a straight line making them almost readable.

Bad catpchas are impossible to read and make you squint at the screen trying to guess the lettering for the 3rd time and giving up the ghost on the 4th attempt. Bad captchas have wavey text and even a line through the text making it even harder to read.

I am aware a lot of captchas now have an audio button so they can play the sound of the code to you, but I dont care about making them accessible, enough’s enough, Web Usabability 101 states dont piss off your users, I’m sure thats the exact wording on Nielsons Alertbox. I even hate the word C-A-T-P-C-H-A. Lets revolt.

About Anthony

Anthony Brewitt is Design Bit, has been for years - he's an experienced WordPress Designer, and Muggle-born Marketing Philosopher. Let’s talk about your website; your marketing, blog design, and that cool new mobile web thingy. Contact Anthony

11 Responses to I Hate Captchas

  1. If we did not put obstacles in the way the fact is you WOULD be bombarded with comment spam — simple as.

    Using wordpress for example, how much crap do you get (if you don’t moderate all comments that is). Even with askimet on spam does make it through the net. *Shameless plug* some catpchas are better than others though IMO, for instance just a question (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/spam-stopper/) rather than a random string.

    Admittedly some sites take it too far though, for instance a download site i visted not so long ago asked me to count how many dogs were pictures, but it was impossible because the pictures of dogs had poorly drawn cats next to them so I could not tell the difference!

    I also do hate the word catpcha because I can never remember the spelling.

  2. This captcha functionality can surely be met with decent backend form validation, which would not interfere with the users journey.

  3. Rob

    Captcha’s are a joke. Support your forms with aggressive validation, and then back them with supporting software that detects most spam.

  4. I think the category in which you have described the good and the bad captchas is very relevant. There have been times when I just had to close the site because the captchas were so wavy that I couldn’t even read and it gave an error again and again saying wrong entry.


  5. I hate them. It costs money and time to get a visitor to your site/business, then we put this in thier way. I surveyed over 300 customers [ we were thinking of implementing] and over 85% said no.

    So balance is need to validate with customer experience. I always find them hard to read most times [ no I’m not blind]

  6. Rob, Empire, Brian, welcome to the No Captchas revolution!

  7. Hey, i came across your blog on digg and i think it’s awesome!

  8. Tom

    I saw a particularly good (slightly tongue in cheek) alternative to captcha’s that at the time I thought if you removed the p!ss take element would work and be a viable alternative…
    …it was a simple question – click on the kitten…four photo’s – three puppy’s, one kitten…

    No way a spider or other would be able to pick the kitten


  9. I’d love to rid all my sites of captcha. But over the years, no matter how versatile and aggressive I make the form validation. The spammers always find a way to circumvent it and then I have to go back through every single one of my old projects and apply an update.

    Captcha is the only thing that I can say, hand on heart, has completely removed spam.

  10. I agree they annoy the hell out of me and I avoind using them.

  11. @Tom – now thats a kitty captcha I can get behind. We may annoy a pressed for time professional trying to get a task done on his dinner break though.

    @Graham – I’d highly recommend Akismet for your clients website spam problems. But also I’d rather deal with spam than annoy my clients. I think client and server side form validation is needed.

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