How to Add a Contact Form to Your Website
One of the simplest and most cost-effective things you can do for your marketing is to add a contact form to your homepage or landing pages. It’s fully accessible, easy to set up, and will improve your credibility with your customers as well as with Google. But before we dive into the topic of how to add a contact form to your website, let’s make sure we answer some basic questions.
Why do I need a contact form?
Lots of reasons, but mostly because you can get the detailed information YOU choose to receive from your visitors, not only what THEY choose to tell you in a simple email message. Careful not to ask for too much information, though. Nobody likes filling in rows and rows of personal data for no apparent reason.
Stick to the usual name, email address, phone and message box, if you want to play it safe. You can also ask them to select the topic of the message from a preset lit of categories, to make it easier for your customer service team to manage all queries.
A less obvious reason why you should add a contact form to your website is to show that you know what you’re doing. Visitors consider it a safer and more professional way to get in touch.
Why is a mailto link not enough for my visitors to contact me?
The answer to this question is twofold: because it is the non-professional way to display contact information, and your email address will be exposed publicly (meaning you will, by your own fault, become the target of SOOO MUCH SPAM).
How does a contact form work?
A contact form, like any other form, comprises two parts: the code embedded in the page of your website (which the user sees and fills out) and a backend code, usually residing on a server, which keeps watch for anything your form code sends its way. When it receives information, it sends it on to a pre-programmed email address, as a standard email message. The two parts must exist simultaneously and must be configured to properly communicate with each other in order for the form to work correctly.
You can think about the two parts as a letter and the postal system. If there is no post distribution (backend code), even if someone (the visitor of your website) writes a letter (the content in the contact form), there is no way it will reach its intended recipient (you).
How do you set up a contact form?
Creating a contact form to embed on your website can be done in multiple ways. It all depends on your abilities and knowledge. Some of the options are:
1. Write the form yourself and design it to your liking, using a simple text editor to write the code and embed it into the appropriate page on the website. Maybe add in a java script form field checker to make sure the visitor is filling out the proper information in every field of the form. This is a somewhat advanced option and will probably not appeal to most of you reading this post. Get help here, by asking for a quote.
2. Use a more advanced HTML/CSS editor (like Adobe Dreamweaver) to build the form. In this case you will not write the whole code, but you are still supposed to have at least a basic understanding of HTML/CSS. Less advanced than the first option, but still not for everybody. In this case, like with the first option, you can customize your form to your heart’s content.
3. Use an online service to generate the code for the form. Just write “contact form generator” in the search field of your favorite search engine, and have your pick of free and paid services. These services usually offer either customizable pre-built templates for your form, or allow you to visually build your form from scratch, then save the resulting code when you are done.
4. If your website is WordPress-based, you can use one of the numerous plug-ins to create your contact form.
5. Ask a NerdPilots developer to build the form you need. It’s easier and sooooo much faster.
Anything else I should know?
Unfortunately, yes. Regarding the backend code required to set up the contact form, there are a few things you need to know:
1. If your website is using a “free” webhosting option, chances are you will not be able to use your own server to send out the email once you fill in the form and click send. Free hosting providers usually block this option to protect their services from being used by spammers.
In this case you will probably have to use one of the many form-building services, some of which also offer the option sending out the email after form completion. A drawback here is that you are not completely in control of the information your visitor sends you, and that can lead to unwanted consequences for both you and your visitor (think identity theft and hacking).
2. Paid hosting options usually give you the backend code necessary to activate your form. You may need a bit of help from your hosting provider or your developer to add the contact form to your website, but it should not be very difficult. Normally, even if you are totally clueless about what needs to be done, the support of your hosting provider should be able to help you solve the configuration problem without any issues.
3. If you feel adventurous, you can write your own backend code to listen to https requests, and send out the corresponding email after receiving data from the contact form on your website. Warning – this is more advanced and, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can cripple and or endanger the security of your website. Handle with care, or rely on professional help.
Your website needs a contact form. The good news is that there are a lot of options for you to get one: set it up yourself, ask for help from a developer, rely on your hosting provider, or use the free services available on the internet. Whatever you choose, make sure you stay in control of your data at all times.
Questions? Drop them in the comments, and let’s talk.