Making CAPTCHAs less of a hassle

12Oct10

If you’ve ever filled out a form on a website, you’re probably familiar with those annoying word verification prompts, more formally referred to as a “CAPTCHA”. I don’t even know what that crazy acronym stands for, but like most people, I find the process of trying to decipher and type in a cryptic string of characters to be a real pain.

Granted, some websites handle the CAPTCHA experience more elegantly than others. Here are some notable enhancements that I’ve seen in the wild, along with another improvement that I’ve yet to see anyone implement:

– Tell the user if the characters are case sensitive. It’s a lot easier to type in a phrase if you don’t have to worry about matching uppercase and lowercase.

– Provide an obvious way to generate a new image when the first one is unreadable. A lot of sites have a little refresh icon for this purpose, but a text link for “Can’t read these letters?” would be far better.

– Don’t show CAPTCHA prompts to users that you’ve already verified in other ways. For instance, if someone is a registered user of your e-commerce site and has made several purchases before, that’s a good sign they are a legitimate customer. You don’t need to make them keep jumping through the hurdles that you present to first-time users.

Is it more work to implement these features, compared to just using a generic word verification system? Of course. But since frustration with CAPTCHA prompts can lead to failed transactions and reduced customer loyalty, the revenue you’ll lose from ignoring the problem is probably far greater than what it would cost to get it right.



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