Perhaps one of the worst user experiences I continue to run into on the web is Captcha technology.
Captcha is when a an image is generated with numbers, letters, and sometimes words tha you need to retype into another field. This is to thwart automated form posts from comment spammers. Since they can't decipher the code, they can't submit the bogus posts.
- It's an interruptive technology. I can't tell you how many times I go to submit a comment or send a message on some site and I'm interrupted by a Captcha field. It stops the flow and stops the user experience. I can't stand it. On occasion, I simply give up and stop visiting the site or using the tool.
- It's generated by a computer. The fact that it's generated by a computer tells me that someday it will be broken by a computer. It's only a matter of time.
- It's lazy. Instead of fixing the problem, it makes the user have to work around it.
A Better Approach
A couple folks have asked me why I didn't utilize Captcha when I wrote my Comment Form plugin. I didn't use it because I wanted to make the experience better, not worse, while avoiding comment spammers. With just a teeny bit of ingenuity, software companies could make these challenges fun, not an interruption.
My challenge question on my contact page is pretty simple, “last word in my blog's title”. But it makes the person look up for a second and perhaps even chuckle, that they have to enter “blog”. Nice and easy. No discolored, distended, wacky combinations of letters and numbers. Just a simple question that can't be answered by a computer – only the reader.
Facebook now using Captcha
The latest company to fall victim to Captcha style technology is Facebook. Not only is it an absolute eyesore, you can barely read the dang thing. Facebook has been pretty stellar in developing some cool tools and integrations into their site… did they really have to use this stupid technology? Bad enough that typepad and others are sold on it.
Some might argue that “it works”. It only works in the respect that it removes the problem from the website and places it on the user. This is inexcusable design and there are better ways! C'mon Facebook… take a chance, invent something! Be creative.