What’s best: email link or form?

What’s one thing that every site on the web needs? Well, there’s a couple of core requirements, but a way to contact the site owner or representative is key. Communication needs to work both ways. Whether you’re selling a product, your services, or just sharing your passion, people need to have a way to “talk back” to you.

Simple but not always great

The easiest tack to take is to just create an email link. But that can open the door to an awful lot of unwanted spammy attention. If you’re going to use a simple mailto link on your site, at least consider mangling it a bit so it’s not so easily spotted.

Contact forms can carry extra weight

A secure form (be sure your web developer creates one that can’t be easily hijacked) has two key benefits:

  • It keeps your email address securely hidden from the casual (and possibly nefarious) browser
  • It can be configured to ask an array of targeted questions that can give you a jump-start in communicating with your prospective clients

What’s a poor form to do?

The down side of forms is that the same autobots that haunt blog comments will inevitably find their way to your contact form. Forget that fact that one person in a thousand will ever click on their nonsensical emanations; those odds sound good to them. So there’s a few options.

  • You can have your form custom programmed to discard any posts with links. Of course, if your target audience might need to communicate this it’s not so helpful.
  • You can employ some variety of CAPTCHA wherein someone wanting to communicate with you must type in a word or two before the form can be submitted. Not so onerous, but consider your demographic and if their sophistication/online-experience level might be atypically low (or their impatience level might be especially high).
  • If you’re a design client, ask me about deploying what we’ve used with other sites.

Back to basics

Discarding forms altogether, you can write out your email address like “john at company dot com”. Again, you need to weigh the sophistication of your audience (will they understand?) as well as the potential annoyance (will they bother to type out the email themselves)?

Full circle

There’s no purely “right answer” here and the sand (and trends) are always shifting. Take a moment to re-read my article on how to reduce spam to see if it gives you any ideas. Some good spam filter software (or a catch-all Google Mail address) might solve some issues.

In the end you’ll need to consider your needs and your audience’s needs and reach an accommodation that strikes a happy balance.