CAPTCHA: Form Usability Nemesis

Image via Geek and Poke

Image via Geek and Poke

If you’ve completed a web form in the last ten years, you would have come across a CAPTCHA system. CAPTCHA is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.  The basic role of a CAPTCHA system is to prevent bots from spamming the recipient by displaying distorted images to be entered in before the form can be submitted.

Unfortunately, just like as CAPTHCA’s lock out bots, it is likely they will lock out some prospective customers. If one of your number one goals or key performance indicators (KPI) are form conversions, don’t you want to make it as easy as possible for the conversion to take place?

I’m not saying that we ignore those evil spammers completely, but approaches that negatively impact form usability should be avoided.

Here are a couple of tips to manage spammers while keeping it easy for real conversions:

  • WP-SpamFree: If you manage a website/blog that is powered by WordPress, this is a plugin that not only prevents comment spam but also spam in your contact form as well. Since I installed Wp-SpamFree, its blocked 7,778 spam comments.
  • Disqus: Disqus is a commenting service that can be installed on various systems. There are many benefits to using this commenting system. But one in particular could reduce comment spam. People would be less likely to comment spam if they had to login with their Facebook or Twitter account.
  • Gmail:  If you don’t use Gmail already – start! Instead of penalizing potential customers for the crimes of the spammers, put the spam management back on your plate. Gmail has an amazing anti-spam system. I’ve used it for a number of years and rarely have a spam message slip by.

In summary, CAPTCHA’s provide a hurdle for real conversions. Find less intrusive ways of dealing with spammers and you will see an increase in conversions.

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  • Joshua Schroeder

    I'm partial to Mollom for spam filtering:

    There is a CAPTCHA service available, but as you've pointed out here, CAPTCHA's are obtrusive and not user friendly. I prefer something transparent to users, so I stick with the filtering only. Mollom has a pretty comprehensive set of CMS plug-ins, and I've found the Drupal one to work extremely well (as it should, since Mollom was started by Drupal founder, Dries Buytaert).

  • MikeMcCready

    Thanks for sharing the info about Mollom. It looks like a really good anti-spam program. Whenever I see a CAPTCHA service, I actually cringe, because it really putting your needs first over the needs of your customer. Very bad idea.