If you use the Internet, the chances are that you have had to fill in a CAPTCHA at some point or the other, while trying to register with a site or perhaps post a comment. Did you like it? Well, unless you are into deciphering Hieroglyphics, you are sure to hate this illegible mess of letters and numbers.
Before we dig deeper into whether it should or shouldn’t be used, you need to have a clear idea about - what is it and why a website needs it? CAPTCHA is the acronym for ‘Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart’. Simply stated, this is a means to separate human users from computer bots.
The CAPTCHAs perform an essential function – they help to keep your site free from the spam demons, the programs that run rampant on the web. This tool uses a simple method to keep the spam bots in check.
CAPTCHAs are great in theory; the problem arises when they are applied in practice.
The first tenet of website design and development is to include anything that improves the user experience and exclude everything that doesn’t. In this context, the tool fails miserably. The incomprehensible jumbles showed on the CAPTCHA window often make even the most patient souls want to cry out loud.
Most often it looks like a toddler was given pen and paper and asked to create anything to their heart’s content. Worse still, at times, the entire text isn’t visible from the window. How do you enter the code when you cannot even see it?
How many times have you left off completing the registration form or making the comment because you couldn’t figure out what seems to be a weird squiggle of ink? The illegible text often frustrates the users to such a degree that they find it more convenient to leave off the site instead of trying to decode it.
It’s discouraging for the designer and developer too! You have created the perfect website with calls to action at the right places that gently urge the user to complete a task. And the user does go that way until the CAPTCHA blocks the road!
A high profile or high-security site may benefit from this tool; but is it for you?
It is possible to avoid spammers and bots from filling in forms with this tool. But unless you expect a targeted attack, it is way too much more than you need. The vast majority of sites created nowadays hardly need such a security measure to prevent spammers from messing things up.
Moreover, it is possible to break the security offered by CAPTCHA. In such a situation, it isn’t really the best means of keeping your site free from spam. It is important to find effective, but new, ways to separate computer generated programs from human users.
On the good side, it helps to keep your site free from spammers; on the downside, it affects the user experience in an adverse manner. You need to look for alternatives that offer a similar function minus the annoyance. The good news is that there are numerous ways to achieve the same result without the CAPTCHAs.
If the low inquiries or sales are making business, and life, difficult, the culprit may be the CAPTCHA. Is it a good idea to rip it off your site? It may be, especially if your output is an email. For example, Gmail is good for filtering out spam. So, you really don’t need to worry much about that.
Want to keep it? A reCAPTCHA is a better choice if you cannot let go of this immediately. It provides spam protection without the mind-boggling text. You can actually work it out and continue with the task.
Another easy way to tackle the problem is with a little trick. When you create the form, include a field and keep it hidden, with CSS. A human user wouldn’t see it, as he/she uses a browser to do this. The field would remain empty in such a case. The bots, on the other hand, would fill it in and give away their identity.
You can also use a simple math problem or a trivia question to achieve this. Don’t expect users to figure out nuclear physics problems though. Keep it simple – such as what does 1+3 make or what comes between ‘a’ and ‘c’.
Images also present an easy, and fun, way to achieve your purpose. A picture with multiple choices about what it is or a question about the contents of a picture can be ideal. Or, you may ask the user to complete a simple task, such as put three commas and place the last letter of the alphabet after that.
These are simple ways, simple for a human but difficult for a bot, to get rid of the CAPTCHA but get its work done.