Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Questions Do You Need to Ask on a Contact Form?

Every website should have at least one method of getting in touch with the owner, be it to pass comment, make suggestions or, in most cases, to enquire about the services being offered. In the continuing fight against spam an email address on your website is not always a great idea, so most people fall back on the tried-and-trusted 'contact us' form.
Forms have become such a part of web design that many people simply throw them online without giving them a second thought, but it is vital that your form gives off the right message about the type of company you are. Firstly, the form has to look good, or at least conform to the style of your website. A few simple CSS additions can transform a contact form by applying the correct fonts and adding a custom 'submit' button. It is also key that your form works in the same way across multiple browsers; rigorous testing will confirm this.
The thing that a lot of people overlook, however, is what the form is actually asking of your potential contacts. Whether you pick up a PHP form from an internet search or use a form plug-in on your blog, the majority come with five or so questions which every form seems to ask. The question you have to ask yourself is: 'Does that really apply to my customers?'.

Some fields, such as name and at least one method of contact, are obviously essential. But do you need any more than that? If the objective is simply to make contact with potential customers, then chances are that will suffice. Why do you want a phone number and an email address? Why do you need the visitor to write you a message when that message would invariably be: 'I took a look at your website and would like to speak to you'? Don't forget, the internet is fast-paced. Limiting the amount of work a visitor to your site has to do could mean the difference between them getting in touch and potentially bringing you business, and deciding against putting digital pen to digital paper.
Over and above the standard questions, some forms even ask for such things as your date of birth or more personal questions which can easily be viewed as a mild invasion of privacy and with a 'Why would you want to know that?' kind of attitude. Don't forget, the internet is faceless and people are slow to trust sites they are visiting for the first time. It is important that you don't alienate people with probing questions.
You should treat a contact form as a digital version of a face-to-face meeting or a telephone conversation. You wouldn't meet someone for the first time and suddenly start demanding information from them; not even in a business environment. So don't be so quick to demand information from visitors to your website. Make your contact form friendly.

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