Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Usability vs pseudo security

Today I was planning my trip to eMetrics and I learned that my employer asks us to be Aeroplan members. My point isn't about the benefits of Aeroplan, but rather about a usability problem that seems to stem from a false sentiment of security/antispam policy: the captcha concept.

In general, my opinion is there is too much lost space, which puts about a third of the content below the fold. But there are some small nuggets of mis-usability in there too! I'm sure you can find some of them on the enrollment page: check where it says "call us"... what's missing from the page? A phone number! It's nowhere to be seen... Can you find others?

But the worst comes when on the last step, it asks to type what is shown in the image. Their justification is reasonable:
Another security measure, Image Validation allows Aeroplan to be certain that a real person, you, is creating the new account, not a program seeking to achieve false enrollments. Programs and computers cannot read the characters in the validation image, so cannot pass this test.
There is just one big problem with this approach:

Can you read the picture shown below?

I tried... but I obviously made a mistake because it came back with this one:

Not much better...

I think they should read the book Don't Make Me Think.

Would you recommend using captcha?