Return of the contact form
Two years ago, I removed the contact form on this site and published my rationale shortly afterwards. Yesterday, I reversed that decision and restored the form, tackling it from a different angle. Here is how and why.
There were several reasons for removing the form in the first place. The lack of server code and reduced UI appealed to me and I figured most people preferred to use their own email client anyway.
The advantages of plain email:
- A copy of the message is stored in the Sent mailbox
- It's possible to save a draft while working
- People are familiar with their email client interfaces
- Attachments can be included
Turns out, it might not be that black and white. I noticed a clear drop in leads through the site after removing the form. I also struggled to find an ultimate 'call to action' for the site, because having the most prominent button on a page open an email client is a little odd.
My conclusion is now that, while some people enjoy the freedom and familiarity of email, others like a bit of hand-holding. Filling out a form is more subconscious and requires less thinking than an empty white screen. So why not offer both options? The main roadblock was that I really didn't want to write any server code.
I found a solution in one of my favourite products, Campaign Monitor, which offered all of the features I needed to make this work without a server:
- A simple database
- Email address validation
- Instant Notifications when a form is submitted
- The ability to send a copy to the user, for their records
All I had to do was write the HTML, CSS and XHR function to communicate with Campaign Monitor's service. This matched up with most of the advantages email had over my previous form, but for those it didn't, I've actually found the restrictions—250-character cap on inputs and no file attachments—to be beneficial; they force brevity, which invokes conversation.
In the end, email is still available and having several methods of contact on offer can't hurt.