A call-to-action is often the most important thing on a website. You want the visitor to do something and many times that something is to email you. Back in the day, web designers could just publish an email address on the site.
However, this led to problems with spam filtering and limited the visitors that used web-based email services. Most often, when a visitor did send an email, it contained very little detail. These problems can now be resolved by implementing a contact form, instead.
Contact forms allow the website visitor to fill in as much information as you require of them. Then, the user simply hits the Submit button and the form data is sent directly to your email address. Currrently, forms are a website must-have to get a response from site visitors. Many web designers, however, overlook critical issues and make common, yet costly mistakes.
The Thank You Page
There have been countless times where I have submitted a form and was taken back to either the homepage or an ugly page that showed only the form output. Be sure to create a response page that matches your website template. A Thank You page should also tell the user that the form was submitted successfully and when to expect a reply. Keeping the user informed should be a top priority.
Spam control is important when it comes to contact forms. There are numerous types of auto submission software that will post random bits of information on contact forms. Many are setup to post comments on blogs to advertise their products or to gain backlinks for search engine ranking purposes. This is where a CAPTCHA comes in handy. A CAPTCHA is a puzzle that will check to see if there is an actual human being on the other end submitting the form. These “puzzles” can range from words to simple math equations.
A majority of online contact forms can be hacked and used for evil purposes. Hackers can change the recipient, who the email is from and the message of the email. The spam sent using a hacked form can be traced back to you, which could result in your web host kicking you off their servers or even lead to a legal dispute. Make certain that your form processing has filters that will detect, prevent and notify you when a form hijacking has occurred.
Testing Out The Forms
Testing is one of the most overlooked things when it comes to contact forms. I have seen web sites with absolutely fantastic designs, but contact forms that do not work. It’s not unusual for a designer to check a form in only one web browser. More often than not, the form code may be poorly written and interpreted differently in other web browsers. Test, test, test.
Print Only Forms
Some inexperienced web designers have no clue how to make a contact form work or how to prevent hijacking and spam attacks. So, they create a form just for printing. Do you think that any online visitor will visit a site, fill out a form, print it out and send through regular mail?
Missing “Submit” Buttons
Have you ever filled out a long contact form only to find out that there are no “Send” or “Submit” buttons for it? This frustrates visitors and doesn’t give them a good reason to return. It’s shocking to know that one of the most important parts of a form can be one of the most overlooked. Prevent this by thorough testing.
In the web world, contact forms are a necessity. but common mistakes that web designers make when it comes to forms happen every day. So let’s review: make sure your forms have “Submit” buttons, don’t make your form print-only, thoroughly test forms in different browsers, make sure that your form processing has hijacking prevention, use CAPTCHAs to kill spam, provide on-page form validation and always supply the user with a “Thank You” or confirmation page.
By correcting these ever so common mistakes, you can ensure a better web site performance for you and a better experience for your visitors.