Do you hate CAPTCHA forms? Are you worried your customers hate them too and it’s putting them off or that they are unable to complete them? I must be honest, I hate them most of the time.

What is a CAPTCHA form?

In case you didn’t know CAPTCHA stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”, and for those of you who have been hiding under a rock for the last ten years they are those funny squiggly words, numbers or jumble of letters that you sometimes have to identify correctly to complete a form of some description.

Why shouldn’t I use CAPTCHA on my website?

I must admit I am not sure whether I feel this strongly because I struggle with CAPTCHAs sometimes or because I think they are genuinely not very good and outdated. See, I consider myself to be quite a young, healthy person with good eyes and computer skills and if I struggle sometimes then what does that mean for my parents, or god forbid my grandparents!

And if that doesn’t convince you a quick Google image search of “bad CAPTCHA” may just convince you. With my personal favourite being the familiar sight of the unloaded CAPTCHA:

CAPTCHA Not Loaded


When ‘Should I use CAPTCHA?’ gets serious

I hope you agree that we need some kind of alternative even just for usability let alone accessibility and to avoid losing customers! A couple of serious things I want to mention first are:
• RE-CAPTCHA – which you might identify as a CAPTCHA form but with two words, is working toward to digitisation of books and, yes, I think that is a really great cause but it is hard to ignore the accessibility issues that has come with CAPTCHAs.
• CAPTCHAs can not only lock certain people out but could seriously damage a business if you are marketing towards the old or very young consumer, mobile visitors or those with visual impairment.

So let’s consider some CAPTCHA Alternatives

There are a lot of alternatives out there but here are some of my favourites.

“Waaaait a second” – I hear you cry. “You haven’t mentioned the ability to ‘listen’ to CAPTCHAs”. I have one question. How many of us have actually listed to the audio alternatives? I have, and I can tell you that they consist of a muffled, mumbling voice over a loud, fuzzy background with sounds I cannot decipher at all! But I challenge you to give it a go and let me know the results!

So let’s get back to some alternatives.

The Honeypot
Everyone loves the Honeypot alternative, and what’s there not to love?
The Honeypot alternative is a field of a form that is hidden from users. If there is anything we know about bots it’s that they love forms, so they will always fill out every field possible. The ideas is that you create a field and use CSS to hide it from human users, then when the field is blank it is a genuine enquiry or purchase and when it is filled in – it is SPAM. It is important to call this field something a human would understand not to fill in (just in case). Screen readers, for example for the partially sighted can sometimes expose the user to the Honeypot. So a name like ‘fill this in if you’re a bot’ or ‘leave this empty if you are a human’ should do the trick! This also suits the mobile visitor, as long as you ensure the form presents itself correctly on this platform.

The Simple, Fun CAPTCHA Game
Little games have been designed as a fun alternative to boring CAPTCHA forms. I must admit, I love the idea of playing a game to finish off my form (who doesn’t?). A game like this for example, what fun!



The problem is that the audio alternative still has not changed and prompts me to type each letter or number said; unfortunately I could not identify a single character. Along with the possibility that this may not load or be possible for mobile users if not implemented correctly.

Sign Up using…
This is a great alternative. I must admit, I didn’t even know this was a CAPTCHA alternative because I just do it so easily and quickly. You might have noticed it too, when signing in or signing up to something sometimes you are asked ‘Sign Up using Facebook, Twitter, Google’ etc. This is a way of verifying that you are a real person, with a real account. The problem is that not everyone has social accounts and nor should they be forced to and let’s not forget there is probably only so long until bots us their own free, bogus accounts. This could be a good way, in the meantime to at least prevent troubling CAPTCHA forms for a percentage of your visitors, as well as suiting mobile customers who may have auto-saved social login details on their device and the ability to select just one large button.

Abandon CAPTCHAs
Don’t forget that this is an option! Consider this data from Casey Henry’s CAPTCHAs’ Effect on Conversion Rates:

BLOG Captcha data 1

BLOG Captcha data 2


Although SPAM was down after turning the CAPTCHA on, this is a minor change, while the major change is the huge rise in failed forms. These failed forms could, of course be bots and could be people that went on to try again – but they could just a easily be well intending customers who cannot decipher your codes.

These questions over CAPTCHAs and conversion rates have been around for a long time as you will see from Casey Henry’s post (above) dated from 2009 and why not learn whether CAPTCHA forms are Good or Evil from our very own Susan Hallam talking about it last year!

If you want to see if CAPTCHA forms are affecting your conversion rates, why not do your own experiment – see how you do with no CAPTCHA and is it much different from when the CAPTCHA is present? Comment with your experiences – or your worst or best CAPTCHAs!


One response to “Should I use CAPTCHA on my website?”

  1. Ron says:

    Another captcha alternative you didn’t mention is minteye Slide to fit Captcha ( – it simply asks to straighten a distorted image using your mouse or your fingers if you’re surfing from a mobile device.

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