Captchas 101

28th December 2015

Regular web users will have seen a CAPTCHA or two in their time. Site owners will have probably come up against the reason for the CAPTCHAs invention – spam bots. Highly sophisticated and designed to wreak havoc across the web, spam bots can become a real issue for web administrators which is why tools have been created to combat them, once such tool being CAPTCHA.

CAPTCHA is an acronym which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. It usually comes in the form of wavy or distorted numbers or text which you need to decipher and enter before you visit a website, leave a blog comment or carry out some other form of action. It is designed to stop all those computer-generated spam bots from plaguing your website and it chooses images, text or numbers which are too complex for computer programmes to process.

CAPTCHA is a popular spam control method because it is very affordable and very easy to install

CAPTCHA offers a number of different benefits for your website including blocking spam emails and spam comments. If you add a CAPTCHA to your contact form on your website then you can limit all those spammy emails that come through and the same with your website or blog comments, a CAPTCHA requirements will stop those endless comments packed full of spam links.

There are some things CAPTCHA can’t do however. It is adept at defeating spam programs and bots but not individuals who want to leave spam comments and otherwise disrupt the functionality of your site. By design CAPTCHAs stop automated programmes and computer bots, not humans.

It can have a negative impact on their user experience. Research carried out by one UX data agency found that 38%  of users fail to a complete CAPTCHAs on the first occasion and this percentage increases further with multiple attempts, with most users not trying beyond the fifth attempt and leaving the site altogether. Reddit found that removing the CAPTCHA from its sign-up process that 8% more people signed up – this really does show what a difference CAPTCHA can make. CAPTCHAs can also be hard to read on devices with smaller screens.

It’s one of those things you need to think about closely – you save money on spam prevention buy may lose some genuine customers.

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