Captcha is the thermal port on Yahoo’s Death Star

Yahoo’s captcha system is broken.  Horrendously, tragically broken.  Today, my colleague (who holds a Master’s degree) tried to sign up for a Yahoo/Flickr account.  On the last page of the registration process, he ran into a captcha.  After about five attempts to successfully enter the code, he started to laugh and called me over.  But since I’ve only got a Bachelor’s degree, I wasn’t much help.  We would both stare at the image, try listening to the horrendously garbled audio rendition, discuss the possibilities, then submit our best guess.  Unfortunately, even with both of us straining our visual cortexes to their breaking points, it took us five more tries to finally get it right…10 attempts total.  How many people would have given up before making 10 attempts at a captcha?  I’ll give you a hint: Probably the same number of people that choose Google search over Yahoo.

I decided to go back later to try again because I really believed a company like Yahoo couldn’t screw up their registration process – something that is so vitally important to their survival.  The first time must have been a fluke.  Here’s what happened:

First Attempt:

attempt1

Looking good?  No, “Please try this code instead”:

attempt2

 

Okay, this time I must have it right.  Nope!  Wrong again!

attempt3

 

What could this possibly be if not 3G46czFpy?  Nope.

attempt4

 

This one looks like a sure thing.  Right?  Wrong again.

attempt5

 

Fifth time’s a charm?  YES!!  An improvement of 50% over our first attempts.

done

If someone can tell me what I should have entered those first 4 times to have gotten it right, please leave a message in the comments.

There are a few key lessons here:

  • Test everything.
  • User registration is important.  Don’t screw it up.
  • Even big companies sometimes fall over little (but very important) things.
  • Don’t make it hard for someone to be your customer.

Hopefully Yahoo recognizes the importance of this issue and fixes it ASAP.  Their users, employees and shareholders are counting on them.

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