Take the 2-minute tour ×
Webmasters Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for pro webmasters. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What's reason behind having a contact form on a website, when a simple e-mail link is enough? Why do so many web sites have contact forms? Is it just a habit?

share|improve this question
    
I wonder this too. –  Teo Klestrup Röijezon Jun 24 '11 at 16:09
add comment

10 Answers 10

up vote 33 down vote accepted

Top reasons that I'm aware of:

  1. To "force" customer to provide specific details which otherwise most likely be omitted by customer (like, order/invoice number, contact telephone number).

  2. To perform some basic validations on such data ensuring that the existing customer provides correct information (checking if such order does exist, validating input).

  3. Convenience to the customers -- they can type message straight away without the need to use their email program/web-based email. Very useful when customer is accessing the site from some random location (someone's PC, public place) and does not want others to see his emails (in case if he uses web-based emails) ... or simply does not have his PC with him.

  4. SPAM? Yes, but not that much -- there are quite a few good ways to stop more than average spam bots from picking up email addresses (usually requires JavaScript).

  5. If a company is a bit "dodgy" (eg. selling "grey import" software -- software that is meant to be sold in USA but they sell in in UK) they may simply do not want customers to contact them directly (their email could be just some-company@gmail.com .. which does not give much confidence to a customer these days if buying from online shops).

share|improve this answer
1  
these reasons make sense when I have a very specific website, for example, a web shop. But when my website is nothing more than a digital brochure (who we are, what we do, where you can find us), then I think a contact form is overkill. –  jao Jun 24 '11 at 14:53
    
@jao For a "business card" type of site (sorry, don't know exact term -- possibly "digital brochure" is the one) only #3 (and to some degree #4) are applicable. You can see it (form) on a lot of different kind of sites -- portfolio/blogs/"brochure". And one of the other reasons (still not mentioned in answers so far) is that it encourages visitor to actually write and contact the owners ("call for action") instead of just "bookmarking" the site/contact details for later use. –  LazyOne Jun 24 '11 at 15:03
1  
I'd wouldn't call a contact for a convenience. I like having all of my mails in my gmail, and I like being able to just get the e-mail address and then send it how I want. So IMHO, if you want to display a form, fine. Just don't use it as an excuse not to display the e-mail address. –  Teo Klestrup Röijezon Jun 24 '11 at 16:09
6  
Adding on to #3, you don't have to care whether the user has an e-mail client configured. An increasing number of people use nothing but webmail. –  Su' Jun 24 '11 at 16:52
2  
Additional data point: a company I worked for provides both a form and an email, because we found some people in our target group prefer one, and some the other. So providing both makes contacting us easier for both groups. –  liori Jun 24 '11 at 17:20
show 1 more comment

@LazyOne gives all good reasons. There are 3 additional ones that make sense.

  1. If a drop down exists in the contact form that gives a reason for the user contacting the company then the company can route the contact information to the correct group or person.
  2. The data can be entered into the companies CRM solution automatically. For instance, a company I worked for required you to enter country and if in the US your zip code as well as your email address and phone number. When the person completed the form it would send the email to the inside sales reps to review AND add the user into SalesForce so that we can send them emails, and give them a sales rep in their region right away.
  3. Some companies don't send emails they have a ticket queue created by the contact form. That way an entire team can efficiently manage communicating with customers.
share|improve this answer
    
About (3), many companies have an e-mail ticketing system and it's not particularly hard to set up. So I would hope that most companies don't avoid email for that reason :P –  Matthew Read Jun 24 '11 at 15:07
1  
@Matthew Read - Well it depends, again if you have the form you can force users to give you specific info like why they are contacting them that cannot be easily parsed out of an email. –  RandomBen Jun 24 '11 at 15:19
    
Ah, that's true. That would enable an issue-tracking system rather than purely ticket numbers. –  Matthew Read Jun 24 '11 at 15:35
add comment

Some answers that nobody has suggested:

  1. A contact form submitted over SSL is more secure than email. Customers have a terrible habit of sending you sensitive data (credit card numbers etc) even if you didn't request it.

  2. A webpage can capture more information about a user than an email. If the submitter is logged into your site, you can link the message accurately to an existing account. If they are not logged in, you may be able to detect relevant information and offer to pre-fill it for the user.

  3. Some people's browsers will auto-complete certain fields for them which might save them some typing.

  4. If the user seems to be submitting a FAQ, you could suggest relevant answers for them (like the StackExchange sites do).

share|improve this answer
1  
On the other hand the number 2 can provide misleading information and disservice to customer.What if user is on a trip to another country but doesn't want to access companies site for that country?What if user is using some other person's computer which isn't the one which needs attention?Too many times I contacted technical support for some product and read huge list of data they need only to receive followup e-mail asking for some information I already provided in the first mail. With data automatically gathered, it would be even more difficult to explain that another computer is problematic –  AndrejaKo Jun 25 '11 at 16:07
1  
If the data item is important and you can detect it, it's often best to make it an input field with a suggested or defaulted value. A great user experience means reducing the amount of obstacles in the way of the user. With regard to your other point, large companies seem to find it possible to deliver poor service despite their apparent experience and success. The mistake they are making is not have a central place to store customer data; any basic issue-tracking system and half-competent support person will not make this mistake, regardless of the method of the inital contact. –  Colin Pickard Jun 27 '11 at 12:13
add comment

We do provide a contact form on our website for the reason that we assume that a user visiting our website might not have an e-mail client configured on his system and we want to ensure that he still can get in contact with us.

share|improve this answer
1  
Good one! What if the site is a webmail site and a user has problems logging in? –  Andrei Rinea Feb 8 '12 at 6:20
add comment

All the other answers are very good. A few more, without repeating other answers:

  1. A contact form practically guarantees the recipient will not lose your message to standard email spam filtering techniques. Those incoming messages can be automatically trusted, whereas email to the same address from random senders will generally have to follow standard spam filtering rules.

  2. It simply looks more professional. Just like having a Google Map (or Bing Map, or Whatever Map) next to your address, having a contact form gives the appearance that the company on the other end is making a real effort to receive your information. The contact form is harder to implement (properly!) than slapping a <a href="mailto:"/> tag in the markup.

  3. It is much easier for the webmaster to database the replies versus having software to collect the data from an email box.

  4. SPAM. This is a very real problem. CAPTCHAs are a helpful in reducing "noise" in the customer support process.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for number 1, my email server accepts email from our webform for darn near guaranteed reception. Bounces, misdeliveries and mispelled email addresses no longer become an issue. –  Fiasco Labs Mar 22 '13 at 20:29
add comment

I guess it is caused by security issues. They don't want to expose their email to spammers(by this form, they can check if IP doesn't send to much messages and block it eventually). But there is a solution to this: http://www.google.com/recaptcha/mailhide/

share|improve this answer
1  
There is very good anti-spam software available, so I wouldn't count that as a reason for having a contact form –  jao Jun 24 '11 at 11:27
    
@jao; You can also do quite a lot of fancy tricks, like using CSS to reverse sections, or turning some characters into HTML entities, or even going the whole way and constructing it in javascript, that will thwart the vast majority of spambots. –  Phoshi Jun 24 '11 at 16:09
add comment

I will give you my opinion why:

  1. Sometimes companies require certain information e.g. contact number, so that they can give you a call, take an insurance company for example they have a contact form that you submit e.g. request a quote, you give them relevant information and they phone you and have already your info so that they do not need to ask you the details.
  2. To hide there email address, to protection against spammers.
share|improve this answer
add comment

I'm pretty sure it is to simply ''hide their e-mail address from the public.''

Administrators have too little time these days to devote resources blocking spam, but even when you know that no spam will come, the form is a deterrent to people who would just post questions like "where are you really located" and other simple stuff. Support staff to field these questions is not readily available, and they prefer to have you either call them on their already public phone lines, or to filter out questions by putting rails on what kind of topics you can select in a web form.

share|improve this answer
1  
There are websites with both public email address and contact form, where this reason will not the real one. –  Paŭlo Ebermann Jun 24 '11 at 14:21
    
@Paulo You can setup a secret e-mail to only receive data from filled forms and reply these with the public e-mail. It's a way to make sure legit messages won't be ignored should they fall in the spam box, not to mention form e-mails usually come with a custom title such as "Message sent from Domain - John Lastname". –  Renan Jun 24 '11 at 17:42
add comment

There are several reasons, most mentioned by @LazyOne (+1). But one of the most important is for the collection of data. An e-mail from a client cannot easily be parsed and the information collected in a database. On the other-hand, data from form fields is easily entered into a company's DB. So, with a form, a company can simply and easily collect information such as name, address, phone #, email address, order #, messages, etc. AND the info will be easy to retrieve, collate, and compile stats on.

share|improve this answer
    
www.tripit.com have found a great way to read a travel confirmation email and extract data from it. So it is possible (but probably not easy). –  jao Jun 24 '11 at 12:49
add comment

All previous answers are cover many reasons.

Few additional:

  1. For tracking purpose: user IP address, location, time submitted (email may also have timestamp but it could be wrong as we rely on 3rd party application), user device etc.

  2. To differentiate customer roles: for web hosting company, after logged in shared web hosting users have different contact forms than reseller. And also the message may also sent to different departments.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.