At some point or another, you’ve tried to fill out a form or make a purchase online and been forced to prove your humanity in one way or another. Maybe it’s by interpreting wavy unusual letters, or identifying the crosswalks among a series of photos. Whichever version you’ve encountered, you’ve dealt with CAPTCHA. CAPTCHAs help to prevent malicious bots from spamming a site. But, should you use it on your own website and if so, are there CAPTCHA best practices? What about CAPTCHA alternatives? Here’s a brief overview of what you should know. 


Human? Robot? Robot-Human? 

Pop quiz: What does CAPTCHA stand for? If you’re like most people, you don’t know this fun little factoid, so we’ll tell you. Originally, CAPTCHA was an acronym that stood for – wait for it – Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. Seriously. Over the years, the mechanisms have evolved and changed quite a bit, but the premise remains the same. So, if it’s all about filtering out robot activity so you don’t get stuck with spam on your site, you should use it then… right? Well, there’s still more to think about. 



Know this acronym? Our guess is no, because we just coined it. It stands for CAPTCHA Caused User Annoyance. Even if our acronym hasn’t caught on (yet), it’s real. CAPTCHAs cause an increase in friction when website visitors are trying to accomplish something. They don’t want to take the time to click on certain images or squint their eyes in order to make out which letters those wavy symbols are supposed to represent. They may, if they’re in a particular hurry, abandon what they were doing altogether and leave the site (perhaps your site). 

Google has tried its hand at fixing this UX issue, and odds are good you’ve seen its new reCaptcha v3. It’s the CAPTCHA box that simply says “I am not a robot” with a checkmark next to it. It’s faster to click, for sure, and is based more on analysis of the individual’s behavior rather than human-indicating tests. Because of this, more than 650,000 websites are already using reCaptcha v3 and 4.5 million websites are using reCAPTCHA, which was Google’s previous iteration. 


CAPTCHA Alternatives

While reCaptcha v3 sounds nice and rosy, many folks are realizing it’s another way in which Google is amassing user behavior data. It’s always a good idea to do your own due diligence to figure out what level of data collection you’re comfortable with. If you decide not to use the reCaptcha v3, the previous reCAPTCHA or any other CAPTCHA options, there are indeed alternatives. Here are a few to consider, many of which promise a better user experience and similar rates of bot detection. 

Ultimately, it’s important to prevent bot spam on your website. But it’s also important to weigh the value of a smooth user experience and your own beliefs about data collection as you consider your options. Contact us if you’d like help making other decisions around UX or reaching your ideal customers.