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I have decided to put a contact form in the footer for my portfolio site and opening the question up to include any site where the decision was to add a contact form on the desktop version...

Would it be more accessible to make the contact form responsive or to remove the contact form and add an email link for mobile users, so that they can use their devices email client?

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I would recommend using hidden/encoded emails, with mailto: links generated by javascript. Unless you use info@yourdomain.ext which is going to be spammed anyway. But I would not expose a personal email to email harvesting bots in any circumstances. –  Bry May 25 '13 at 2:45

2 Answers 2

I think the mailto: link is a better option for mobile users.

The contact form gained prominence [original research] because on a desktop computer it is quite rare for users to have a mail client installed. Instead of having a link with a mailto: address that would simply fail in the majority of users' browsers, people started adding a form which would duplicate the functionality. If Web Handlers become more widely used and supported, we may see this start to change, but the fact remains that a very large majority of users will click a mailto: link and have nothing happen.

On a mobile device, however, this is entirely the opposite: Every smartphone has a mail application pre-installed on the device, capable of handling these mailto: links with ease. This also avoids forcing the user to wrestle with their device's browser's text box controls, instead using the relatively mature controls of their e-mail application.

In short, use mailto: for mobile, because e-mail apps have better controls.

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Awesome that's what I was hoping. I'm not a fan of using or building out forms on mobile. Plus, I think a mail app on a phone gives you more space, and the ability to use something that you are used to using. A user can also save the eMail to finish later. –  Jason Feb 8 '13 at 23:50
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I think the rise of contact forms had as much to do with spam bots that scrape emails and the ability to collect specific information. I think these days spam filters have evolved to the point that the former is slightly less of a problem than it was. See also this question - factors also worth considering in your decision. –  John C Feb 9 '13 at 0:04

Native mailto: links have real strong advantages. They are obvious, and are summed up in the word native.

But the Web form has a strong advantage too. It is handy to use when I don't have a ready-to-use e-mail client at hand. Or when I don't want to launch it. I am on the Web, I stay on the Web. Quick. No hassle. On my mobile phone, the Web is set up, but not the e-mail. So I would happily fill in a Web form, but I would not send a native e-mail. And what if I am on a friend's iPad ?

Have both.

The good approach is the one chosen by Bare Bones Software, for example. A native contact e-mail link, and a contact Web form. And they tell their snail mail address too, and phone number, and fax number. This is good. And send to the user a confirmation of his/her message. So that s/he have his/her message in his/her mailbox.

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I agree entirely with Nicolas. Whilst there is good argument that every smartphone now has a native mail app, who's to the say the user has it set up? If they haven't, then that's a barrier. A barrier preventing the user from reaching you. Barriers are bad. A web form on the other hand allows anyone to mail you, regardless of whether or not they've set up their native mail application. Give users the choice, but never drop the web form. –  Daniel Meade Feb 10 '13 at 17:46

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