I Hate Website Contact Forms: A Dent in Your Brand
I know, I’ve really avoided launching any blog posts with the words “I hate.” But this one really gets me, for some reason. In our brave new age of social media, increased transparency, and communications efficiency, those little forms that you get when you click “Contact Us” really bug me.
I recently went on a nonprofit website to find someone in the communications department I’d met at a party. I thought I’d do a simple click and send her a quick note. Instead, I got The Form of Doom. This is a great nonprofit, doing great work, helping needy children all over the world. And I was stopped in my tracks. Suddenly their brand didn’t seem as good. I know, it’s not fair, but it didn’t. Suddenly they seemed possibly elitist, or at least not friendly and not reachable. If I were a donor, would I be thinking “hey, maybe there’s another nonprofit I can contact more easily”? I don’t know, but I might.
Contact Us forms are the last vestige of Web .5 in a Web 2.0 world. Originally, they were designed to “capture user information” and help protect executives new to email. But now, they just seem like speed bumps—annoying and messing up my car. It’s not like people can’t find you these days. I located the nonprofit communications executive I’d met through Linked In, where we happily connected, conversed and exchanged email addresses. But that was, like, six steps from how I should have found her with a simple link on her organization’s website.
Brands are affected by many customer experiences. We build up our expectations of a brand, and then we expect all interactions with the brand to deliver on the “brand promise.” When a communications transaction between entity and user does not meet the brand promise expectations, we are at a fork in the road and we may choose another brand instead. Websites are no longer sign posts. They are interactive communications tools with your current or prospective donors, customers or volunteers. Check around and see if yours is welcoming them to your brand on every page, or if you still have a few of the old barriers around.
Know any other Brand Barriers or have a different view of Contact forms? Please share them!
Amy, the best reason for Contact forms’ continued existence is to avoid embedding mailto URLs in your site. Spammers love to find those URLs and add that email address to their lists. I’ve done experiments with sites I’ve built, adding a new email address via a mailto URL on a Contact page. Within a month, that email address is usually overwhelmed with spam.
True. But so many orgs now use direct email links. Surely they are not all being shut down by spammers. Is there a workaround?
There are a multitude of ways to prevent spam, that don’t rely on the web form; and that’s not even getting into the fact, that most webforms aren’t properly designed to repel all but the most casual of spam bots. A number of forms that I see still provide the email addresses in plain text in the html code. Admittedly without the mailto. But spambots can collect almost any email address. They don’t require a mailto.
There was maybe a 2 month period where forms were the primary method for preventing spam, before people came up a slew of better alternatives.
Well Said Amy. I hate them as well. There are easy work arounds to avoid web forms. The organization could list emails like this for example:
mike (at) fakemail (dot) com
99% that is enough to stop spammers.
haha, i found this post by googling “I hate contact us forms” because i get so sick of them as well. I just had another experience with one which prompted me to find out if im the only one who hates them. Glad im not.