As business owners, bloggers and/or search marketers, we all go through pain staking efforts to get qualified traffic to our websites from the SERPS, Paid search and our various social media outlets. However all this effort and hard work may be in vain if our users are not able to easily fill out our contact form(s). Sure the CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) or as I like to call it CPA (Complete Pain in the A**) is intended to solve a valid business problem, but at what cost? Should we really make customers/prospects work this hard to contact us? Not to mention by using a CAPTCHA you will be alienating multiple groups with disabilities i.e. blind people and people with dyslexia.

I have asked five of my friends who I consider to be authority figures in the area of search marketing, SEO, design and usability the following question:

What is your opinion regarding CAPTCHAs on contact forms as they relate to web conversions and accessibility/usability?


Ann Smarty owner of SEOSmarty.com in FL. says:

As a user, I don’t like CAPTCHAs of course as they take time and sometimes make me complete the form several times.
As a webmaster, I realize I can’t do without them.
Is the compromise possible?
I say, make them entertaining and people will enjoy them.
I’ve enclosed the example of a good captcha that I myself was very much pleased with
(from care2.com).”

Captcha Example

Jon Roland President of AudibleThinking.com in Houston says:

It is a challenge getting a good looking CAPTCHA setup properly to work in all popular browsers. I prefer a small easy to use math CAPTCHA. This version is less intrusive than a big image of a obscured word. With the math CAPTCHA it will ask a simple math question and give you a drop down with the answers to choose from. This is small, clean and easy to use.

Brian Horn owner of Horndog Search Marketing in Houston, TX. says:

I think they have become so common that they don’t deter someone from leaving a relevant comment, or filling out a contact form. It’s a good tool for weeding out people who aren’t serious about participating in the conversion.”

Yan Susanto of WordPress Blog for Beginners says:

I’m never against the use of CAPTCHAs but most CAPTCHAs are not designed to be user-friendly. In the context of using a CAPTCHA on comment form, from a user’s perspective, it can be quite an annoying experience.

Unless it’s used in large websites where user registration is required to prevent spambot registration, it’s advisable to do away with it and adopt other prevention mechanisms to prevent spam. With Akismet in the background, do we still need CAPTCHAs on comment forms? Personally, it’s deemed to be a luxury we can all live without.”

Jordan Pearce of Blogs That Make Money in Seattle says:

Blog SPAM happens but I think the Web can be overly paranoid by it. A CAPTCHA image is wonderful for filtering ‘humanness’ especially if you have tons of traffic. If a human can’t read the damn thing they may give up on it and that is – a no sale for you!

People in online industries usually know what the CAPTCHA image is all about. Do your customers know what they are, or is your CAPTCHA going to chase them away? You have to make it easy for people to convert, otherwise they simply wont.

Dennis Edell of DirectSalesWebMarketing.com and also a frequent commentator on this blog wrote a great article titled Captcha Issue: Why You WILL Lose My Comment – Possibly My Subscription

Thanks for sharing your opinions and insights guys (and gals).

My personal (Gerald Weber) opinion, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put security in the hands of the users and make them pay the price for the actions of spammers. My argument here is in favor of usability. Let me suggest that there are other ways to deal with spam, Akismet for comment spam, Boxtrapper and Spam Assassin for email, just to name a few.

Also if a user fails when attempting to fill out your form and they are unable to read the difficult CAPTCHA text, how many times do you think they will keep trying? (2 times? 3 times?) Or the first time may be when you lose them forever.
image of CAPTCHAs
Personally as a user if I fail a CAPTCHA I tend to get irritated. If I have to try a second time I may not attempt it again (this may be the deal breaker for me). I’ll get frustrated, hit the back arrow and find another site, that does not have such a difficult CAPTCHA. Please don’t make me work as if I am trying to crack a security code for the computer banks at NASA!

Please let us know your opinions regarding the use of CAPTCHAS in the comments below
.