What is a CAPTCHA?
Not many people know exactly what a CAPTCHA is, or what it stands for, but I’m almost certain that you’ve come across at least one while surfing the web. They usually come in the form of a little picture of obscured words and numbers that you are required to decipher before being allowed to submit an online form.
A CAPTCHA is used to verify that you’re a real person. And before you ask, no it’s not a method to stop highly-trained monkeys from filling out your forms. They are there to try and prevent the submission of your form by automated ‘bots’ (although highly trained monkeys does seem appropriate), which crawl the internet looking for forms that they can submit with their spammy marketing messages and links to questionable Canadian pharmacies.
CAPTCHA is a clever acronym that stands for ‘Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart’. It’s like they did it on purpose!
What do they bring to the table?
Using a CAPTCHA on your website contact forms will help reduce spam from reaching your inbox. Receiving copious amounts of junk mail can quickly overrun your email account, making it unbearable to work with. Using a CAPTCHA, the responses you get should at least come from genuine people (although we can’t guarantee that they won’t still be trying to sell you something).
How can they negatively affect your business?
We’ve all experienced frustration with CAPTCHA forms as consumers. Firstly, some of the images are barely legible. I find myself cycling through multiple images just to find a readable one. And this is coming from someone with the luxury of good eyesight – I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be for partially-sighted people to read (although versions with an audio option are becoming more common).
Mobile web browsing is the present, and the future. A lot of people find it frustrating to use a CAPTCHA on small touch-enabled devices as they often don’t load correctly, or even at all – effectively rendering your form useless.
All of this can have a massive effect on your business, as people will simply abandon your form if they can’t submit it easily enough. A case study from Moz’ Casey Henry demonstrates just how significantly conversion rates can be affected by switching on a CAPTCHA.
The CAPTCHA is now quite an outdated method of spam prevention, and there are some new codes on the block.
Here are a few alternatives to our old friend the CAPTCHA.
A method by which you hide an additional form field out of site from humans using CSS. Generally, a spam bot will fill in all the fields of the form before submitting it so as to maximise the chances of it’s message getting through. So this way, you know that if this hidden-to-humans field has been filled out then it’s most likely a spam bot that’s crawled through your site. This method is definitely preferred by those thriving to offer a better experience for their users by eliminating unwanted captcha fields that would otherwise require filling in!
Authenticating via social media
A method whereby you are prompted to sign-in with your Facebook, Twitter or Google account before being allowed to submit a form. Given that the majority of Internet users these days will have at least one of these accounts, this is a quick-and-easy method for verifying that you’re a real person.
They aren’t a huge improvement from the normal CAPTCHA, but they are clearer to use and also much more interactive and entertaining for the user. There may still be issues with display on mobile phones, however.
CAPTCHA round up
In conclusion, we can see that a CAPTCHA can have quite a negative impact on your business. Especially if your target audience is elderly people or the visually-impaired that might find it hard to see what they’re filling in. We predict that CAPTCHA will slowly disappear into history as newer and more-efficient methods of spam prevention are developed.
What are your views on CAPTCHA? Are there any other problems you have with using them? Or if you’ve seen any good or bad CAPTCHA forms, why not share them with us in the comments section?