As part of building a WordPress-based website, I offer the option of a website Contact Form. I’m sure you’ve seen these before and likely used one. In addition to offering an email address and phone number, the Contact Form offers a more ‘formal’ way of contacting you.
Should every website have a Contact Form? The short answer is: NO.
A contact form is not necessary. That said, Contact Forms do offer benefits—but these benefits must be weighed against the cost of maintaining them. Here are details to consider:
Contact Form BENEFITS
Structured Fields: A form provides structured fields that encourage people to submit details you want to receive—details that they may or may not voluntarily offer in a free-form email. For instance, perhaps you prefer to call people directly rather than replying to an email; in this case, you would like to ensure they provide their phone number.
Auto-Responder Email to Submitter: The form functionality allows us to automatically send the person who submitted the form an auto-responder email. This automated email:
- Reassures them that their information was submitted successfully.
- Feeds back to them the details they submitted.
- Provides them with additional contact details.
Database Storage: The form submissions can also go into the WordPress database to be stored there indefinitely. So, even if submission emails get lost in cyberspace, you can review the submissions through the WordPress Control Panel.
Contact Form COSTS
Limiting Form Fields: Some clients feel tempted to create forms with many required form fields—in order to conveniently collect as much information as they can from a potential client. However, website users are typically very reluctant to provide such detailed information at ‘first contact’—ask for too much and a visitor may choose to leave rather than submit ‘required’ information so early in the conversation. Developing a relationship with potential users, based on mutual trust, often requires offering more and requesting less.
Sending Emails from the Website Server: When someone submits a form, 2 emails are automatically generated from the website:
- An email goes to the website owner.
- An email goes to the email address that the person entered into the form.
However, sending emails directly from a website server has always been fraught with technical issues. It is technically challenging to send these emails successfully and spam filters often filter them out. Depending on your email account configurations, it sometimes requires significant time and effort to ensure these auto-responders get delivered successfully. And any changes to email account configurations may require additional website form configuration adjustments.
Controlling Spam: Contact Forms attract a large number of spam robots. To stop them from completing your form countless times, we implement a ReCAPTCHA—I always use Google ReCAPTCHA service. The latest version of this service appears as a little white and blue icon in the bottom right corner of every page of your site. This service offering changes over time and therefore requires initial implementation and then occasional maintenance.
Database Storage: Since we cannot count on successfully receiving all emails sent from the website server, I always recommend that you take the time to log into the WordPress Control Panel to review the form submissions and check them against emails received—to ensure that you did not miss any. However, this task is tedious and time-consuming and many people simply never get to it.
Privacy Laws—Privacy Statement: New privacy legislation makes it necessary to jump through new hoops when building Contact Forms. Since form submissions get collected and stored in the WordPress Database, you must publicly state how you will manage and protect this data by publishing a Privacy Statement.
Form Checkbox: Before submitting personal information through the Contact Form, the website user must proactively select a checkbox indicating that they understand and agree to the terms and conditions outlined in your Privacy Statement.
Protecting the Data: Storing people’s personal information in the WordPress database also means we have to protect that personal information through security measures like additional security plugins and secure off-site storage of backup files.
Ability to Provide Data Upon Request: In addition, you must be prepared to download and provide personal information back to anyone who asks for a log of their stored personal details.
Do the benefits of having a Contact Form outweigh the Costs for you? Only you can decide. I hope this analysis will help you to make that decision confidently.