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Can I have your attention please? We have a game to play

by  David Dwyer on  23/04/2014

The gamification of the CAPTCHA process - a fun approach to validation

[[demo_r_u_human]]The world of IT is full of contradictions. Sticky keyboards are bad – but sticky websites are good. Very good.
Quite simply, a ‘sticky’ website is one that holds a user’s attention well. It can do this by providing engaging, relevant content, or by being easy and enjoyable to use. The best websites do both. 
One part of the user experience that web designers have been working hard to make engaging is the ‘captcha’ test. That’s when you’re prompted to copy a slightly obscured combination of letters or numbers into a small box on your screen as part of a two-stage log-in process, or when submitting your contact details to the site’s owner. 
And why do you need to do this?  To prove that you’re human and not a ‘spambot’: an automated computer program that bombards websites with thousands of usernames and passwords in the hope of gaining access to data or generally causing mayhem. Alternatively they attempt to use SQL queries added to form fields to find and exploit coding weaknesses, this is known in the trade as an SQL injection attack – and it’s not only small businesses whose websites are vulnerable. Sony’s Playstation site was pummelled by an attack not too long ago – something I’ll be write about in more detail in a future blog.
As the same implies, ‘spambots’ also have the capacity to generate thousands of bogus contact enquiries, and cause real headaches for website owners. That’s why more and more developers are including some form of ‘captcha’ test into their clients’ sites. (The name ‘captcha’ stands for ‘Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart’, in case you’re wondering).
In order to be effective and fool the spambots, ‘captcha’ tests need to be tricky. Google ‘captcha’ tests are notoriously tough. But for people with poor eyesight or other limitations, ‘captcha’ tests can be too effective – screening out humans as well as malicious robots. 
On top of being tricky, ‘captcha’ tests can be, well, a bit dull. Many users give up when confronted with yet another ‘captcha’ test, especially if they find them difficult to complete in the first place.
So what to do? Sadly, we can’t avoid having some sort of test of being human – so the answer is to make the test itself much more engaging and accessible. Indigo Crow, a marketing agency based in Newcastle, has rejected the familiar word-and-number scramble of most ‘captcha’ tests in favour of having a little fun instead: [[demo_r_u_human]]
To prove they’re human, users of Indigo Crow’s site play a simple and engaging drag-and-drop sorting game, like planting a garden (matching seeds to their assigned rows) or putting aliens (rather than old boots or steaks) back on their planet. The game takes only seconds to complete, and doesn’t require high levels of dexterity or great vision. When successful, users are permitted to proceed to the registration stage as normal. 
With this approach to verification everyone’s a winner – from the website owner (who’s now enjoying greater site security) to the user (who’s had an unexpected bit of fun rather than three failed attempts at squinting at the screen and retyping random letters). Users have even been known to play the games more times than strictly necessary to register – a very sticky website indeed!

If you'd like this to be added to your website then please get in touch, costs vary from £60+vat.
David Dwyer is Managing Director of Inspire Web Development. He has years of experience in a range of web and IT roles plus seven years in sales and marketing in a blue-chip FMCG company. David’s academic and professional qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Business Economics (Personnel & Ergonomics) from the University of Paisley, an MSc in Information Technology (Systems) from Heriot-Watt University and PRINCE2 Practitioner-level certification. He is also an active member of the British Computer Society, Entrepreneurial Exchange and Business for Scotland.
Follow Inspire on Twitter @inspireltd and @developersos


Captcha, Cyber Security, Developer SOS, Digital Trends, Inspire Web Development, Sticky Websites, The Evolving Web, User eXperience, UX Design, Web Design
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