The Email Address vs. Contact Form Debate

You’d think this a simple question: “Do you want a contact form or email address on your ‘Contact’ page?” Yet for whatever reason, that question elicits strong reactions from people.

In my experience at least half of the clients I work with seem to have an opinion, and those that do split between wanting one or the other. Thinking back on the rationales I hear, they tend to be the same for both sides:

  • “It’s just easier.”
  • “I don’t think people like the other way?”
  • “Why would anyone do that?”
  • “I like this.”
  • “I don’t like that.”

Having asked this question at least a good dozen times and hearing those answers, it’s clear to me that people have personal preferences and a “Contact” page should offer both options to cater to different audiences. Taken together, the variety of responses  clearly establishes a best practice.

Just to be sure, let me offer some positive arguments for both means of contact. A contact form…

  • Lets the user to stay on the same page.
  • Doesn’t require a user to log into their email account or have an email client setup, a common occurrence on a library or friend’s computer.
  • May take advantage of a browser’s autofill function. ((Though whether people should use this feature is up for debate.))
  • In tandem with a WordPress plugin like Gravity Forms (affiliate link), a form can send notifications to different emails addresses—i.e. “route” the notification—depending on the form’s subject (e.g. volunteer, question, website bug, etc.).

Only showing an email address…

  • Feels more personal to certain audiences.
  • Can be saved and used again later.
  • Ensures that visitors have a copy of the sent message. ((This probably suggests that a good contact form should send a copy of the message to those who fill it out.))

These advantages apply more so or less so to certain audiences but generally complement the other method. So just use both!

In a few cases, I have had organizations concerned about the privacy of their email address only use a contact form. This is a valid concern, but keeping an email private requires not exposing it to any other sites as well. Therefore, this only applies to a small segment of sites. Similarly, some organizations are concerned about spam. Again though, it’s quite challenging to never expose an email address, and, furthermore, spam filters have gotten quite good in my personal experience.

So if you have a “Contact” page—and chances are you should—make sure to provide both an email address and contact form. Too many people prefer each to only give one.

Talk Back

Disagree? [Thoughtfully] Yell at me in the comments :) I’d love to hear some more opinions.

8 thoughts on “The Email Address vs. Contact Form Debate”

  1. Hey Mark, great post, going to be sharing this one around for sure.

    And I totally agree, do both. I find when I have tested, more people tend to like the contact form. And the more I ask (yes, that is more), the more they use it. mmmmm

    But also so glad I read this as a reminder that I kept forgetting to do. I use Gravity Forms so I can customize the notification to anyone who submits. That means I can add any fields that let’s me remind them what they filled out. And as you noted, with email the great thing is they have a copy, so this notification really helps in that way. I just had forgotten to add those fields. So thanks for the reminder!

    1. Thanks, Bob! I’m glad someone even more on the front lines than I sees the same thing. I’m pretty bad about setting up a good response for Gravity Forms too, if I’m being honest. That ends today though!

      As I’ve written in my posts about donation forms, I really think those form responses are a crucial AND OVERLOOKED way to engage with site visitors. However, it’s up to me to at least make sure people know that the capability exists.

  2. Currently i use my email address as when i had a form it would get auto filled in by bots and i would get thousands of spam emails. I didn’t want to use CAPTCHA because it is so ugly and really un user friendly. I really want to use those Maths questions you get at the end of forms but can’t find them and really want Gravity Forms to include them instead of ugly CAPTCHA and the picture one.

    1. Patrick, have you tried using Gravity Forms’ Akismet integration or the spam honeypot? I’ve have good luck with both of those filtering out most spam other than human-submitted stuff.

  3. We generally recommend against a naked email address. Most of the custom WP themes we build are for B2B clients so the spam issues aren’t worth the minor inconvenience represented by a form.

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