Remember the last time you were asked to prove you were ‘human’ by entering a CAPTCHA code that looked just 2 things on your favourite website?

  • Ugly
  • Irrelevant

And we have often found ourselves muttering about how these businesses don’t give two hoots about a good user experience. But we often tend to implement the same unpleasing things in the hope of improving our SEO, conversions and following what are competitor is doing – all mostly in vain.

While there are various ways to improve user experience, let’s talk about why you should remove the one that we all HATE to improve your conversion rates: CAPTCHAs.

(For those of you who don’t know, CAPTCHAs are Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart)

CAPTCHAs ruining conversion rate optimization efforts

Here’s why we think CAPTCHAs suck and ruin your conversion rate optimization efforts:

1. They ask the lamest of questions

Ever thought what it would be like to be asked if you were a thief right before you entered a general store? Yes, it is frustrating and you might instantly leave or swear to find an alternative for the next time. CAPTCHAs are just the same – they ask you if you’re a robot or a human, and present a ‘test’ for you to prove your answer.

Don’t believe us? Look at this one:


One – why is there a need to ask me if I am human – of course I am!
Two – look at the captcha code – ugly fonts and the phrase is just plain stupid!

2. They make you look unapproachable

A post on Moz, back in 2009, stated CAPTCHA’s effect on conversion rates and how removing them increased conversion rates by a whooping 3.2%. That was back in 2009 – what makes you think people are going to like it now?

After all, it does increase another step in reaching you. People want businesses to be easily reachable – for when they are in need or require some kind of assistance related to their products and services. CAPTCHA codes just make them feel how you want them to think twice before reaching out to you.

3. They have solutions that are problems

Seen the CAPTCHAs that ask you to copy and type in a nonsensical phrase written in a vague font? Even Ticketmaster ditched these traditional CAPTCHAs back in 2013!

Businesses today use an improved CAPTCHA that requires the users to type in a phrase that is associated with the image shown or watch a video up till a certain length to discover a phrase that they need to type into the box below.

Here’s taking a look at the ‘improved’ versions:

captcha 2

In fact, businesses today have also started asking the users to ‘solve’ a simple question for them to complete the conversion. It could be a simple math question or one that asks you to identify a certain object from the pictures given.

For example, this one here just wants me to pick which image is that of a shoe!

captcha 3

Yes, all these seem like a few second’s job. But the truth is, all these improved ‘solutions’ are the main problem behind dipping conversions. A prospect who is trying to complete a purchase or simply a subscription doesn’t want an additional step to reach the end goal.

Though you want to ensure people are not spamming your business, there are better ways of doing it. For example: You can ask the user/prospect to click on a link sent to them via email to validate their purchase. It seems a lot less difficult, saves time, doesn’t ruin the overall experience for him. (Win-win!)

4. They are advertising friendly, not user friendly

Be it typing in math solutions, selecting images from those shown or watching a video till a certain point to validate you are ‘human’, CAPTCHAs are advertising friendly more than user friendly.

The hyper informed generation of today seeks businesses that go beyond the conventional to make things easy for them and offer them solutions that are unmatched by others. But a CAPTCHA that introduces all the above stated 3 points, doesn’t fit the bill.

A generation that doesn’t want to see even the most subtle advertisement placed on a beautifully designed website, certainly wouldn’t like a jarring CAPTCHA either. It not visually hampers their experience, but also increases their conversion steps. (Of course, YouTube is an exception. Sometimes you just can’t skip the ads there!)

The end of CAPTCHA? Sadly, NO.

Despite the alarming numbers shared by the post on Moz (refer point 2), businesses using CAPTCHA have actually increased over the years. With an increasing number of people getting access to the internet, businesses and webmasters are worried of being spammed and CAPTCHA just seems the most easiest way to avoid them.

According to Drupal, they themselves have nearly 266,503 people making use of one variant or the other of CAPTCHA to avoid spams. And those are becoming more of a barrier in delivering a great user experience. But the fad just doesn’t seem to go away.

CATCHA usage statistics

image source: Drupal CAPTCHA usage statistics

Thinking of joining the bandwagon? Think again.

A study carried out by the Stanford University on the usage of CAPTCHA by businesses and individuals, states how difficult they actually are for humans. Here are a few alarming numbers that surfaced from this study:

  • Visual CAPTCHAs take about 9.8 seconds to complete.
  • Audio CAPTCHAs are harder to understand and, take as long as 28.4 seconds to hear and solve. They have a 50% give-up rate as well.
  • Only 71% people of all the times taken into account, do users agree on the translation of a CAPTCHA.

While there are many more alarming numbers stated by the study, the one that needs your attention is that around 1% of the audience choosing ‘audio’ for CAPTCHA is at the risk of being lost. And that itself is a market large enough for losses.

What’s the solution?

We’re not asking you to risk being spammed to deliver a great customer experience. All we wanted to say was that CAPTCHAs hamper your conversion rates and today, there are smarter alternatives for them.

Here are some you could give a shot:

1. Akismet

Akismet is an advanced anti-spam service that provides an effective defence without impacting the experience for your users. It efficiently process and analyzes masses of data from millions of sites and communities on a real-time basis to fight even the latest tactics used by proficient spammers.

While Akismet is definitely a popular choice for many, there are also other free alternatives like Defensio and Antispam Bee that you could try.

2. Multi-step conversion

Another effective alternative to CAPTCHAs is using a multi-step conversion process. In this technique, you can basically ask the user to confirm his purchase/subscription/any other conversion by clicking on a link sent to him via email or a confirmation call – let the user choose his way of validation.

For example: sends a short, crisp email right after you sign up on their website asking you to ‘confirm’ the subscription. This ensured they weren’t being spammed and did not spoil my experience of signing up either.

multi step conversion

3. Google reCAPTCHA

If you do want something similar to a CAPTCHA code on your website, this one is for you. Google’s reCAPTCHA is a free tool that protects your website from spam and abuse while letting ‘real people’ pass through ease – without asking stupid questions.

It lets your visitors attest they are human without having to solve or answer a CAPTCHA. Instead, it shows them a box they can check with one click to confirm they’re not a robot.

Here’s what a reCAPTCHA looks like:


Over to you

While CAPTCHAs are almost a necessity for some kind of businesses, focusing on what creates a better user experience is also important. Here are a few questions that will help you decide whether you should ditch the CAPTCHA fad or not:

  • How many spams do you receive in a month?
  • Is that number worth risking potential conversions?
  • Does the CAPTCHA you plan to use cater to all users – mobile, desktop, visually impaired, etc?
  • Are there any alternatives for avoiding spam except CAPTCHA?

According to us, CAPTCHAs end up ruining the overall website experiences for users. And are an uphill task to complete for many users – those with a bad network, in a hurry or visually impaired.

What’s your take on them?

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Vanhishikha Bhargava

Content Marketer at Exit Bee. Most of the times found trying to create compelling copies for blogs and digital campaigns, keeping a watch on what's happening on social media or ranting on Twitter. At all other times, not found.

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