Harry Brignull on CAPTCHAs and conversion rates:

Users were directed to the sign-up form direct from the homepage before they could interact with the product. As you can see, there was a CAPTCHA at the bottom of the form (powered by reCAPTCHA). With this design, they had a conversion rate of roughly 48%. They then removed the CAPTCHA, and it boosted the conversion rate up to 64%. In conversion rate lingo, that’s an uplift of 33.3%! They replaced the CAPTCHA with honeypot fields and timestamp analysis, which has apparently proven to be very effective at preventing spam while being completely invisible to the end user.

In order for CAPTCHAs to be useful and/or effective, they have to render text in a way that requires a human to stop and examine it closely (in order to prevent machines from reading it).

Slowing down a registration or commenting process makes it feel like more work for the user or potential user. It’s an increase in cognitive load.

It’s telling that even within the Gmail team, there is a basic, fundamental, deep-seeded inability to put things together in a contextually graceful way that makes sense to actual (non-Googler) users—in other words, to deliver a great user experience.


Understanding how users want to navigate around the application, which tasks to show as buttons versus which to hide in menus, which features should be left out completely, and so on . . . those seemingly minor decisions are often the difference between good software and great software, and the reason great product managers and interaction designers are always in demand.

This is very true. I didn’t understand how true until I began working with these things a few years ago. It’s fascinating to watch how hard my colleagues work every day to provide and continually improve excellent user experiences.

You should read the whole thing. (via TechCrunch.)

Presenter is Josh Knowles, a freelance designer who has worked on both game designs and other application design (http://auscillate.com).

Abstract: Tricks and techniques from the game design world can be applied to non-games — social apps, creative tools, etc. — to improve user experience, user enjoyment, and results. We’ll look at traditional UX in a new light: from the perspective of games and gamers (and zombies, aliens, and goombas).


  • How to get people to sign up for something or participate in something?
    • Often, approaches to UX for these things tends to be a bit dry
    • The idea is to create passion in users to get them to want to participate
  • Game design is starting to work its way into other things now
    • American Idol
    • Million’s Poet
    • Toyota Prius efficiency leaves in the dashboard
    • Target checkout terminals – grades/scores
  • Game design can be a big part of interaction design, but right now it’s often a novelty and not something core to design
  • Games take a task and apply rules to give the participants enjoyment and satisfaction
    • Classic arcade games are this boiled down to essentials – basic tasks with applied rules and risk/reward structures
    • Galaxy Zoo; Solar Stormwatch – astronomical phenomena turned into a game
    • Google Image Labeler – the timed tagging and matching tags from two random strangers
    • Faux stock markets
    • (my note) Formspring.me is kind of game-ish
    • Slashdot comment moderation and granting mod points to random users to help improve comment displays to random users (and Karma)
    • StackOverflow applies this to Q/A (10 points to rate up, 100 points to rate down, 200 points to see fewer ads on site, 1k points to delete questions)
    • thesixtyone – music filtering system
    • Foursquare, Gowalla, and MyTown (duh)
  • Basic concepts
    • Points (especially public points and high scores)
      • Number of friends
      • Percentage completion of participation (Shelfari, LinkedIn)
    • Badges and Achievements (specific defined activities)
    • Unlockables (site or application features you receive as a reward for participation)
      • Individual unlockables versus global unlockables
    • Game boards
      • Visual representations of what’s available or what you can do
  • You can learn from:
    • Classic video games
    • Board games
    • Sports
  • Basic game concepts have universal appeal and people can recognize them quickly
  • Education (games are excellent teachers)
  • Invitation (give users an explicit invitation to participate – these are ways to nudge users towards certain actions)
  • Pitfalls
    • Don’t use points in a way that will distract users from what’s most important on the site
    • Don’t put a number on a bad behavior
    • Don’t oversimplify what’s important to your service
    • Don’t let people game the system – avoid anything that can be automated to success (challenging to avoid)
    • Avoid blocking people in to the point where they can’t build on top of your service or innovate new ways to use it (Twitter)
  • Reasons to do this stuff
    • Educates your users and makes them better users
    • Creates better differentiation for users
    • Users are more willing to collaborate

Jakob Nielsen:

Usability suffers when users type in passwords and the only feedback they get is a row of bullets. Typically, masking passwords doesn’t even increase security, but it does cost you business due to login failures.

It’s time to show most passwords in clear text as users type them.

This is an interesting challenge of the status quo, and the more I think about it the more I agree with the idea.