ReCAPTCHAing the importance of UX

Recently, I had the ‘joy’ of attempting to book tickets with and, I knew exactly what I was in for — pages to trawl through, lengthy reservation queues and a security enigma that wouldn’t be out of place on ‘Mastermind’.

But, thankfully I was able to breathe a sigh of relief when I found out that they were finally ditching their unnecessarily complicated, un-user friendly ‘CAPTCHA’ – after a fifth or sixth attempt, in my quest for tickets, I often feel like I am unsuccessfully attempting the latest MENSA conundrum. Considering their high volume of traffic, it’s no wonder Ticketmaster receive so many moans and groans from their customers. With stats showing that 25% of its users get the puzzle wrong on the first attempt, it is clear that the ‘CAPTCHA’ has plagued the web for too long. After all, the system is in place to prove that the user is human, not to test the nation’s patience, eye-sight or ability at word jumbles.

Refresh! Refresh! Ah, I’ll attempt this one.

So, with frustration at the forefront of everyone’s mind Ticketmaster’s new ‘CAPTCHA’ solution generated a lot of hype. After testing it for myself I’m not really sure why. On first impressions it seems to be exactly the same concept as the previous ‘CAPTCHA’. The only slight difference appears to be that I was provided with a phrase I could actually read on the second refresh rather than the sixth. I’ll admit this is an improvement.

I have to wonder however, given that we are an industry obsessed with UX design, is having images that are “easier to read” really the best we can do to improve the quality of user experience?


My disappointments didn’t end there. When I delved deeper into the capabilities of the new ‘CAPTCHA’  I discovered that Solve Media, the ‘CAPTCHA’ s’ provider, were also incorporating advertisements into their solutions. Apparently, this is in an effort to make the user experience more ‘fun’ and ‘engaging.’  Don’t get me wrong, the solution is nicer than before but, it’s really just another superficial addition to make the “picture prettier” and an opportunity to generate revenue. The new ‘CAPTCHA’  was meant to simplify the process while maintaining security. Yet, what we now have is the potential for unnecessary user distraction.

The real worry however, is that alternative ‘CAPTCHAS’ (perhaps more suitable for the growing tablet generation) are being overlooked after years of text recognition ones. Designers and developers are becoming complacent, falling back on these as an easy option. Deal with the bigger issue please, they are extremely un-user friendly. But, it seems that customers have become so accustomed to the ‘CAPTCHA’ that, no matter how frustrating, it has inadvertently become a household sign of security and trust to users. Its absence would now unsettle users.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the best we can do. There are alternative methods of security being developed out there e.g. MotionCAPTCHA, visualCaptcha or The Puzzle CAPTCHA.

Try again Ticketmaster.

Do you see a captcha as a sign of security? Would you prefer to see alternate tests in use? Let us know in the comments.

  • JonWalmsley

    Yes, CAPTCHA / reCAPTCHA isn’t fun to use, but the alternative example you cite here are worst, for the main reason that they’re much less accessible that reCAPTCHA. You can only possibly solve the MotionCAPTCHA, PuzzleCAPTCHA or VisualCAPTCHA if you’re using a combination of your eyes, wrist, fingers and mouse. Not very accessible at all. Including such a system suggests that it’s only a certain type of person that you want using your site / application.

    At least with reCAPTCHA you’re doing something useful for the world while filling in security messages: filling in reCAPTCHAs helps to digitizing books that have yet to be digitized, while also providing an (admittedly awkward but still usable) accessibility entry option.

    • Nathan Hornby

      I agree with your initial point. But there’s still no reason to support reCAPTCHA, it may have a positive side-effect, but it’s also one of the most obscure, producing some of the most difficult challenge response tests.

      Solution: Don’t use CAPTCHA. Prevent spam/brute force properly. If you’re a ‘mom and pop’ business that can’t do it properly, then you probably don’t need it anyway.

  • Scott Downey

    Note: Still in development…

  • htmlcut

    hate CAPTCHAs

  • Taiyab Raja

    Gotta CAPTCHA all dem Pokemon?

  • Nathan Hornby

    Puzzle CAPTCHAs are just as bad FYI.

    Unless you think that your average JAWS user can solve a visual puzzle, or understand the inaudible nonsense that comes out of the majority of ‘audio’ backups (I’m looking at you ‘Areyouhuman’)

    The solution is to not use CAPTCHA full stop. There are smarter ways to handle form abuse, and it’s very contextual – each requires a different approach.

    Ultimately when someone chooses to implement CAPTCHA, they’re advertising that rather than deal with a problem properly, they’d rather inconvenience you as a user. Which is especially annoying as Mechanical Turk style spam is far more common now anyway, and will breeze straight past a CAPTCHA, puzzle or not.

  • Lexolution IT Services, India

    You are right, Captcha are generally non-user friendly but they do ensure forms not being submitted by robot or crawler scripts, which does add to security as well as fillter on Spam.

    The alternative Captcha methods are cool, from the usability perspective I found VisualCaptcha the best.

  • Matthew Dolman

    We use honeypots and get no spam. I think that this method implemented properly works well on most websites.

  • Mark also have a nice captcha solution which works well on mobile too.