Posted 29th November 2012
It might seem like a straightforward thing to add to your site but a simple contact form is surprisingly complicated little thing!
A contact form transforms your website, in the loosest possible sense, into a web application. It’s no longer a static information source but becomes something your visitors can interact with!
What does a form do?
When a form is filled out the details are sent to your website. They’re then processed, stored in a database and sent on to the email address you want to receive the message at.
This means there’s a little software program that sits on your website, waiting to process and send the information your visitors send you via the form.
When someone fills in a form you may require them to enter the information in a certain format, such as an email address. Running with this example, validation picks up on anything that doesn’t fit the email@example.com pattern and lets them know to enter ‘valid’ information if they do it wrong.
You might also be keen to ensure that certain fields of the form are filled out. After all, if you’re asking your visitors to sign up for your mailing list you don’t want them to forget to fill out the all-important ‘email’ field! Validation can make sure they don’t leave the most important form fields blank.
Contact forms can be a security risk. They’re an easy way for hackers to break into your site and cause damage, which can take time to resolve.
The security that come with a robust Content Management System (CMS) gives you peace of mind that you’ve done everything you can to minimise the chances of your website being hacked.
Why a CMS is important
“I want a form but I’m not interested in managing the content on my website…”
A CMS not only provides security, fool-proof validation and the necessary software to process the information sent to you via your contact form, it also provides a platform for adding controllable paragraphs and pages to your website in the future.
Having the CMS installed adds some initial cost but this only has to be done once and opens the door to all kinds of interesting and engaging possibilities for your website!
Moving away from the technical side of things, another compelling reason to use a contact form instead of only providing your email is your visitors’ experience.
You’ve probably seen an email address on a website before, clicked it, hoping to send a message, and your default email program has opened automatically.
That’s a great idea in theory, but what if you don’t use your system’s default email program? Windows users who use Gmail or Hotmail via their internet browser will be directed to Outlook Express, for example. What’s Outlook Express? And are you going to set your email up on it, just to send an email? Of course you’re not! Your browser-based email’s the way you usually send your mail! That can be confusing and can lead to visitors throwing in the towel and leaving your site.
Contact forms represent a great way for a message to be sent directly from your website, without the need for any email programs at all – quick, simple and direct, and a great overall experience for your users!