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In a recent question I posted that one of my favourite patterns for a contact form was to sit it in a fat footer so that it was present on every page. (Edit - This does not have to be a ploy to hide the email address which can be posted elsewhere on the site e.g. top right. It is simply a way to encourage users to contact the website owner.).

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Matt Lavoie commented that:

As an aside, contact forms like this drive me crazy. First, if something goes wrong I will never know, whereas if an email bounces that I sent from my account I will receive that error. Secondly, responses from forms like this almost always end up in my spam folder, where as if I sent the email to begin with it would just fall right into the email chain between me and whoever.

There must be ways to design around this issue.

If a contact form automatically cc'ed the user and sent a confirmation that it had arrived would that cover it?

Given that these forms suit low level users and are now becoming very easy to put into any wordpress website (via a simple point an click WYSIWIG editor) what should best practice be?

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Personally I find more trust in a site that displays a contact address rather than an embedded contact form. I don't know why really, maybe it's constrictions in how the mail can be composed. In any case I rarely get a good experience from contacting companies this way. I'm with Matt on this one. –  AndroidHustle Jun 29 '12 at 8:45
    
I guess the point is not what you prefer but the fact that companies are doing this ... and are going to be doing it more and more going forward because it is a very simple thing to do. So how do we make it a useful user experience. Anyway there is no reason you can't have the contact form and the email... if it's trust you are after. –  Lisa Tweedie Jun 29 '12 at 12:25
    
I'm just pointing out that personally I despise these contact forms. And I seem to find that it's more often than not used by companies I generally have problems with, like iffy service providers etc. I don't know, for some reason I feel like it's communicating "don't contact us, we'll contact you" from the company. Even if this interpretation seem incorrect or unfair on my part it's still the feeling I get. And I think it resides in the very nature of a company choosing not to communicate with their customers in a conventional way, but instead using a "moderated medium" that I despise. –  AndroidHustle Jun 29 '12 at 12:51
    
Ok I take on board the issue of trust... have edited the question appropriately. –  Lisa Tweedie Jun 29 '12 at 13:24
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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I use this pattern a lot myself. I almost always also provide a conventional email address for people who prefer to have a record of their enquiry in their sent items or for other reasons. Nonetheless, these forms tend to get a bunch more use than the plain email address (at least for general enquiries) in my experience.

One important thing I almost always do is store the received enquiries in the CMS database for searching and as a much more robust alternative to email. That's got me out of trouble numerous times.

One thing regarding the design of the form itself: sometimes we've seen success by giving the user the chance to either enter a message or select "Get back to me" and a tel field or an email address field.

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