Contact Forms Versus Email Links

Contact Forms Versus Email Links

It's no mystery that reading & responding to user feedback is paramount in running a successful website. Visitors are the lifeblood of your website, and many of them are more then willing to communicate what they do and don't like about your website to you. How do you go about setting up the mechanism for this communication? Specifically, do you use a contact form or offer an email link to your visitors? Let's figure it out.

It’s no mystery that reading & responding to user feedback is paramount in running a successful website. Visitors are the lifeblood of your website, and many of them are more than willing to communicate what they do and don’t like about your website to you. My own website has been online for about a month, and I’ve already received a lot of valuable feedback. Specifically, I get the most valuable feedback through my contact form.

Contact forms aren’t the only way to receive feedback. Providing your email address is another way to ensure your visitors will be able to contact you. What’s the difference?

The Contact Form

While they range in sizes, shapes, colors and fields they all usually collect the same basic data. An email address, name and comment usually define the basic form. Some even have anti-spam tools like a capcha which require an additional number or letter combination to verify you’re human. I like contact forms because they are simple. You ask your visitors for a few pieces of information, and place a big button underneath.

Email Links

Email links can range from a contextual link, to a complicated javascript/PHP/DHTML function. You can either click the email link to be taken to your default mail program, or you can copy the link to compose the email yourself.

The Pros and Cons of each

User Experience: Some users prefer forms, and some prefer an email address. It’s hard to say which method your users will prefer. Giving your email address helps build trust, while offering a contact form is convenient.

Functionality: When using forms, you can tell your users exactly what you want and require certain fields. You also provide the platform required for sending the mail which simplifies the act of contacting you.

Spam: An insecure form can do a lot more damage than a contextual email link. A spammer can hijack your form and use it to send spam. If you don’t notice in time, it can get your domain blacklisted and possibly affect your hosting. Offering your email address can also lead to spam being sent directly to your inbox.

Reliability: An email link requires that the visitor has a working mailbox to send the email. The difference is that the contact form relies on a form script, and the email link relies on a user having an email address.

Credibility: I’m going to say this boils down to a user’s personal opinion. Some feel a form is more credible while other’s feel that dealing with a real email address is more credible.

Where they shine

Contact forms are great for gathering very specific information. Having full control over what fields are listed, what fields are required and what options your users have also help you stay organized. Plus, when the user submits the form, you can direct them to a thank-you page, or another part of your site. It’s pretty convenient as well.

Email links are great for giving users the ability to send whatever they want under their own terms. It also makes your site a little more personal, since they have a real address instead of a generic form.

In the end

Use what best accomplishes your goals. Like many other aspects of web development, there’s really no right and wrong way, just different ways with their own pros and cons. I personally prefer forms, but hey that’s just me. Who’s to say you can’t do both?

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