Contact forms are a fundamental component of websites, often overlooked in favour of flashy designs or engaging content. However, their importance cannot be overstated. The contact form is a vital component of a website, playing a multifaceted and essential role in ensuring effective communication between website owners or businesses and their visitors or customers. Of course often used on the ‘Contact Us’ page they can be so much more. However it’s worth pinning down the fundamental importance of the contact form before moving on. Why are contact forms so imortant?
Why Are Contact Forms Effective?
Reducing Spam and Promoting Engagement
Primarily contact forms can be effective tools for reducing spam on your website when designed and configured correctly. Spam is a common issue on websites, and contact forms are no exception. Contact forms are able to deal fairly effectively with spam though the use of Captchas for example as well as other validation functionality.
CAPTCHA and ReCAPTCHA: Implementing CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) or Google’s ReCAPTCHA can help prevent automated bots from submitting spam through contact forms. These tests require users to solve a challenge or verify that they are not robots.
Honeypot Fields: Honeypot fields are hidden form fields that are not visible to users but are detected by bots. If a bot fills out this field, the form submission is rejected as spam. This method is invisible to users and can be effective against automated spam.
Validation Rules: Set up validation rules for your contact form fields. For example, you can require that email addresses include the “@” symbol and a domain, ensuring that users provide valid email addresses. Invalid submissions are likely spam.
Custom Questions: Add custom questions or challenges to your contact form that only humans can answer correctly. For instance, you can ask a simple math question or a question related to your website’s content.
IP Blocking: Identify IP addresses that frequently send spam submissions and block them from accessing your contact form. Some contact form plugins or security plugins provide IP blocking features.
It’s important to note that while these methods can help reduce spam, no solution is entirely foolproof. Spammers continually adapt, so maintaining a proactive approach to spam prevention and regularly reviewing and updating your methods is essential for keeping your contact form spam-free.
User Engagement and Interaction
Many website owners use their social media links to get contacted by potential customers. That way, you can hope that visitors on your website can reach out to you via social media profiles. But what if a visitor is not an active social media user or doesn’t want to put a lot of effort to contact you? The user or potential customer knows using a contact form should send a message direct to the recipients email.
- Facilitating Direct Communication: Fundamentally contact forms provide visitors with an easy and direct way to get in touch with website owners or organizations. This initial point of contact is crucial to get the ball rolling between vendor and customer.
- Encouraging Engagement: The presence of a contact form encourages user-initiated interactions, leading to higher user engagement and a sense of community.
Feedback Collection and Improvement
If a visitor is on your website, it means they are already interested in your product or service. Feedback collection and improvement through contact forms are essential for businesses and website owners seeking to enhance user experiences, gather insights, and make future decisions based on the data recieved. Contact forms are a valuable conduit for receiving feedback directly from users.
- Insights into User Needs: Contact forms are invaluable for gathering feedback on user experiences, preferences, and pain points, enabling website owners to make data-driven improvements.
- Issue Resolution: Users can report technical issues or problems encountered on the website through contact forms, helping website owners address issues promptly.
Accessibility and Transparency
Contact form accessibility and transparency are crucial aspects of designing forms that provide an inclusive and user-friendly experience for all website visitors. Ensuring that contact forms are accessible to individuals with disabilities and transparent in their functionality is not only a best practice but, in many regions, a legal requirement.
- Openness and Accessibility: Contact forms prominently displayed on a website signal accessibility and transparency, fostering trust among users.
- Professionalism: For businesses and organizations, contact forms convey professionalism and credibility, essential for building trust with the audience.
User Support and Assistance
Providing user support and assistance through contact forms is an important aspect of ensuring a positive user experience on your website. Contact forms serve as a direct channel for users to seek help, ask questions, and receive assistance. Effectively provide user support and assistance through contact forms, fostering a positive user experience and building trust with your audience can be an importnat part of a contact form. Offering multiple channels for support, clear communication, and self-help resources can help users find solutions to their issues quickly and efficiently.
- Timely Help: Contact forms enable users to seek assistance or support when needed, a crucial feature for businesses, Ecommerce sites, and online services.
- Efficient Inquiry Management: Organizations can efficiently manage inquiries and requests through contact forms, ensuring that nothing goes unanswered.
GDPR and Contact Forms
Contact forms on websites can involve the collection of personal data, which falls under the purview of data protection regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union. To ensure compliance with GDPR when using contact forms there must be consent, content transparency with the information sent securely. Compliance with GDPR is crucial when using contact forms to collect personal data.
The Different Contact Form Fields
Apart from the typical name, tel, email and message contact form fields that people would be used to seeing a form can also include other useful fields. Contact forms can offer a wide range of form fields that can be added to a form making it highly customizable for different purposes. Dropdown and selection fields can be especially handy when a user has to make choices on the form. Here are some of the less standard form fields available:
Date/Time: Allows users to select dates and times from a calendar or dropdown.
File Upload: Lets users upload files like documents or images.
Signature: Allows users to sign their name using a touchscreen or mouse.
Captcha: Adds a CAPTCHA or reCAPTCHA field to prevent spam submissions.
Checkboxes: Allows users to select multiple options from a list.
Dropdown Menus or Selection Fields: Allows users to choose specific options or categories, such as the department they want to contact or the reason for their inquiry.
Date and Time: Fields for users to specify a preferred date and time for a callback or appointment.
Rating or Feedback: A field for users to provide feedback or rate their experience.
Payment Fields: Integration with payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe to collect payments.
A Growing New Use for the Contact Form – PAYMENT
Creating a contact form that also handles payments is a powerful way to streamline transactions, especially for businesses and service providers. This combination allows users to make payments while contacting you, simplifying the process. This is a very powerful way to quickly take online payments without setting up an expensive and time consuming Ecommerce system. This is very handy and as it turns out could potentially save a company time and money.
Taking Payments Online
Sixmile Design recently designed and built the website for a GP practice in Cork. Blackrock Medical Centre website design encompasses a handy payment form to take payments directly from on the website. The website was built in WordPress and the plugin of choice for the site was the massively popular WPForms. This is argueably the most popular Contact Form plugin for WordPress today. It is feature rich and the go-to pluin of choice to add that contact form functionality to a website.
The payment system was incorporated into the contact form and payment is made through the massively popular Stripe payment gateway. The form has a built in drop down list with pricing allowing the patient to choose what they want to pay for. Card details can then be entered securely, payment made with email receipt. From the point of view of the patient the process is very quick and seamless. Meanwhile this saves the practice time and money as the whole payment process is now automated. No need to take payments over the phone now. As mentioned payments are taken throught the Stripe payment gateway and the site is secued by an SSL cert. A must these days for any website whether they take payments or not.
Contact Form Data Collection
The same website also uses a more intricate form to allow for patient sign-ups. This is a good example of the standard contact form being customised beyond the typical name, email and comment fields. Here the user has the ability to request new prescriptions. Again this saves the admin time as the whole process is automated. The contact form arrives into the admins email address. The website is reponsive so adapts nicely to mobile.
The reponsive design of the website and contact forms means patients can pay or interact with the forms on their mobile phone as well as desktop or laptop. This is what good website design entails, making things easier for people. Whether finding information or interacting through a contact form.
The basic idea behind a contact form is to collect information through ease of use and as mentioned this information can come in many forms (no pun intended). The information collected through a contact form depends on the specific needs and the purpose of the form. It’s crucial to strike a balance between gathering necessary information and providing a user-friendly experience to encourage visitors to fill out the form. Usually the longer the form the less likely it is that someone will fill it out and send it. However, I have built forms that go against this thought. In other words very long forms with a lot of options.
A good example of this are forms for catering events appearing on Luceys Good Food Ecommerce website. Luceys Good Food, based in Mallow, Cork is a Butchers shop that also excels at catering for the surrounding Cork area and beyond. Sixmile designed and built the website. Primarily it’s an Ecommerce site selling hundreds of food products and gift boxes however there are also a number of forms on the site aimed at catering. Again, the forms make it easy for the customer to order online.
The catering forms are intentionally long giving the customer ample choice in what food they want to order for their event. They can easily scroll by sections and only order the food they need. The message box at the end allows for any further information about the event to be added. Name, contact details and number to be catered for at the top of the form. This is ideal as the form submission give the recipient a clear idea what is needed for this catering event. These forms are proving very popular and are a good automated solution for taking orders online. This saves the business time and revenue by otherwise avoiding lengthy phone calls in taking orders. Avoiding taking lengthy orders over the phone. The contact form allows for seamless automation.
The Importance of Contact Forms
Contact forms are not mere afterthoughts but important pices of functionality for websites, enabling user engagement, feedback collection, trust-building, personalization, user support, and accessibility enhancement and payments systems. In the WordPress ecosystem, WPForms and other such contact form plugins offer distinctive advantages, catering to different user preferences and requirements. With a bit of imagination contact forms can save a client time and money because of the automated process.
They serve as a direct communication link between website owners or businesses and their visitors or customers. When implemented effectively, contact forms can have a profound impact on user engagement, feedback collection, and business success. Overall, contact forms are versatile and dynamic tools that serve multiple purposes, from enhancing user engagement to providing a channel for feedback and support. When thoughtfully designed and integrated into a website’s user experience, contact forms contribute to improved user satisfaction, increased trust, and better overall website performance. Therefore, website designers and owners should prioritize the effective implementation of contact forms as part of their broader web strategy.