The new “no CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” in action

There’s a tradeoff to making websites secure – the necessity of blocking bots demands taking measures that can make the user’s experience rockier and even spurn real people from the site.

We run a lot of usability tests on a lot of websites at TryMyUI, and I’ve seen this happen firsthand. Once I watched the same user fail a CAPTCHA test 4 times in a row, getting increasingly frustrated each time. Since this was on the signup page, each time he failed he would have to re-input information like his chosen password (twice, for confirmation), only adding to the user’s irritation.

Eventually he gave up, saying he had tried numerous times to get onto the site and had been turned away, and that if it hadn’t been a test he would have been long gone already. Frankly, I didn’t blame him – I was getting frustrated at the process just watching him.

So the release of Google’s new reCAPTCHA is welcome news – the new “no CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” does away with transcribing distorted letters and numbers, replacing this old and frustrating hurdle with a simple checkbox.

“I’m not a robot.” Besides confirming this pretty non-controversial assertion, all the user has to do is move his mouse around like a normal human user, and the clues this provides to the new system are typically enough to determine the truth of this claim. When it isn’t, it’s back to the old CAPTCHA test, but presumably the incidence of error will only decrease over time.

It’s a big step forward for security – considering bots are actually pretty good at solving the old CAPTCHA tests – but also for usability. Not only will it reduce the incidence of mistaken rejections of actual humans, but it will make successful confirmation quicker and easier – no more puzzling over whether that one character is an r, an n, or an h. Less frustration and less time wasted at the important gateways of a site are likely to boost the success of these gateways in getting users through to the user side.

So we can expect signups and purchases to start taking less time and be a lot less annoying. That said, there’s one thing the old CAPTCHA could do that the new one can never replicate…

Looks like it’s not giving up without a fight.