The pros & cons of contact forms.
For some time we’ve debated whether to use a contact form on our main website, like we do at whiteproductphotography.com. Years ago, people weren’t familiar with them enough, so to use one would have seemed a bit stand-offish. Now people fill them out on a nearly daily basis, so we’re interested in the pros and cons of using a contact form versus putting text-based contact info out there for clients to use.
- A contact form can act as a screening pre-qualifier for potential clients. Someone who invests the 30 seconds to enter their contact information and reason for contacting you has already shown you they’re serious about having a dialogue with you. A contact form can screen out tire-kickers.
- Contact forms still make pretty good spam filters. Putting your email address out there either as text or a “mailto:” hyperlink can quickly turn your inbox into a spam-infested mess. Spam bots scour the net looking for uses of mailto links and text with the @ sign, hoping to get a viable address to send junk mail to. Sometimes you can curb this by typing your email address as “myname[at]domain.com”, but you’re still forcing your client to manually enter the correct version into their email client before hitting send. A contact form isn’t foolproof, as spammers have more sophisticated bots now, but it cuts down on the spam significantly. More info below.
- Contact forms can make it easier for a visitor to give you feedback about your site. Rather than hassle with an email to let you know you have a typo on your About Us page, they can simply fill out the form and go on with their day.
- Contact forms can be tracked and analyzed. A contact form can be used as a conversion goal in Google Analytics and other tracking programs, so you know how many people make it to your contact form and how many then use it. You can also use contact forms to more easily send an autoresponder to the client, letting them know you got their message. You can do this with incoming emails as well, but it usually involves creating a special email address to receive those inquiries and then autorespond. Then you use your regular email address to further communicate with the client, which can be confusing.
- Contact forms can look impersonal on an artist’s or small business site. When someone is hiring you to perform a service, they may expect you to appear available. A contact form can seem a bit corporate to some clients, and they’d really prefer to see your phone number, address, email and such on your website.
- Contact forms may not format right across all browsers. This isn’t as big of a deal now as it used to be, but depending on your contact form platform and coding, some browsers and mobile devices may not display your form as you had planned. If you’re a design snob and that one drop down menu simply has to be in a particular location, a contact form may not be for you.
- Contact forms are still a source of spam. As mentioned above, contact forms can still fall victim to spam bots. It’s a good idea to use a CAPTCHA image for clients to verify they are real humans, before submitting the form. This can prevent most spam from making it through.
In our opinion, it would seem that the benefits of a contact form outweigh the negatives, and Radiant Photography will be converting to a contact form system soon. But we’re interested in your thoughts. Did we miss a pro or con here? Do you use, or refuse to use, a contact form and why?