I was having an interesting webby conversation with a couple of non-webby friends recently.
I don’t trust contact forms. If there’s no contact email address, I’ll probably go elsewhere
This comment surprised me so I thought I’d look at it from both sides and draw my own conclusions.
Pro contact forms
I can understand why businesses and developers like forms:
- Database storage of users, email addresses and question or query
- Potential to gather 1st and 3rd party opt-ins
- Programmable responses
- Validation of input
Against contact forms
I can also see why users might not like filling in a faceless form:
- Non personal
- Being tricked into signing up for mailing lists
- Fears of security of their personal info
- User experience is often poor
- Long forms are tedious to fill in
Pro email address
While I’m not entirely sure that all the above are always true for every user, there are definitely some positive arguments for having a contact email address:
- Potentially direct contact to a real person
- Perception that email is safer as it’s so commonly used
- No sneaky tricks of being auto subscribed to spam
- Quicker than answering lots of unnecessary questions
Against contact emails
However, email is not all roses:
- More difficult to systemise queries and response
- Email is very rarely secure
- Re-directing email to the right person is a manual process
- Direct contact email can get lost amid a flurry of other email
So there are positives and negatives to both forms and having a contact email address so which is better?
I would argue that contact forms are far more flexible and allow a business to perform a better service as they can be tied into system and process, store data, collect validated customer info and perhaps add to a mailing list; a customer query can be automatically diverted to the necessary department and the user can be given an appropriate thank you message and links to further info, content or activities to do on the website.
However, I go back to the quote from my friend at the beginning of this post: “I don’t trust contact forms”. This might be the opinion of a single person but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a common feeling among casual internet users.
So what’s the solution?
It may be difficult to decide which is better. Which is better for the user? Which is better for the business? I think the answer is probably that a business would prefer a form and some users would prefer an email address.
So my solution would be to provide both. How hard is that? It doesn’t sound difficult but I’ve visited many sites where it’s been a “one or the other” kinda thing.
The important thing to consider is that if any of your customers go elsewhere because they weren’t able to contact you in their preferred method, that’s a customer that you probably could have kept by providing the choice.
If you hate email but still want to keep in touch, follow me on Twitter.