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First I'd like to prepend my question with this note: I already understand that it's bad form to put an email address on your website because you might be inviting spam bots. That's not the nature of my question.

I'd like to know if there is any research on the differences in response, and user perception for having an explicit email address vs. forcing users to reach you through a contact form from a UX perspective.

The applications for this can span between Lead Generation, General Inquiry, Feedback, or Support. I could use both email and form on the same page, but I'm wondering:

Is one is better than the other? and why?

Here is my thinking, but it's just my opinion.

Why Email Address?

  • Users are more used to their own default email program to send messages.

  • It's perceived as more direct as users expect to hear back from someone on the other end.

  • Users are hesitant regarding slack privacy policies in contact forms.

  • Contact forms are perceived as a communication wall.

Why Contact Forms?

  • Direct response, as users don't have to leave the page to send their message.

  • Can be easier to use as it doesn't disorient the user

I did already try to Google this one but all the articles were about spam. This is also assuming that it's not a personal email address, but a generic one similar to "[email protected]".

Note: I already read a few similar questions on this site but no one mentioned any research on this. It was mostly conjecture.

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  • No research etc to back this up so opting for a comment. We offer both and by far the most come via the online form - something like 8:1 in favour of the form and, even then, a lot of the direct mails are actually from repeat customers who then save the address in their address book so most likely a lot higher than even 8:1 for first contacts.
    – bhttoan
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 15:44
  • 3
    One slight twist on the question would be the difference in response between a contact form and an apparently personal email address: I'd tend to assume that a 'feedback' email address is going nowhere in particular, whereas [email protected] I'd assume actually might have a real person on the other end of it.
    – PhillipW
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 22:27
  • 2
    One other point for "Why Email": It allows me to save a draft to finish later. When I contact someone through a form, I usually type my message in a text editor and paste it into the form, because I usually compose my messages carefully. Because whenever I need to contact someone through a contact form, it is usually a business I have a problem with, so I take some time and care. In a contact form, the message is likely gone if I am interrupted, have to close the browser window or shut down the computer.
    – user41884
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 11:09
  • And by the way... The Electron Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, Part 5.2 section (c) stipulates that "an email address" MUST be available on your website, a contact form is NOT sufficient. webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121212135622/http:/…
    – user82889
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 16:22

6 Answers 6

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Other than helping you sleep at night, I fail to see why research is going to help your situation.

Quite frankly your users are going to be different than my users and the users from the research are going to be different than both of our users.

How is research supposed to calm these valid fears that people may or may not have with the options you are presenting:

Online form

  • Gee I hope this one works because the last time I used one of these fangled things they told me they never got it
  • FFS, another one?! The last time I used one it would break upon submission

Direct Email

  • I don't want them to know my email address but I do want to leave an anonymous complaint, where the heck is that contact form?
  • [email protected] huh? I wonder how many years will pass before I get a response

These fears don't even have to be related to your website at all. If they had a bad experience elsewhere then those feelings can easily transfer when they use your site.


Unless you can give me a good argument against this then honestly this is the correct answer in terms of user-experience:

Girl: "Contact form or email address? Why don't we have both?". Party goers lift her up

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  • 9
    I down voted you for saying "I fail to see why research is going to help your situation". User research is nearly always useful to find out an answer. Secondly adding multiple ways to do the same thing tends to not be good practice. Good UX often works because of what it removes, not what it adds. Commented May 8, 2014 at 16:11
  • @StewartDean I respect your right to have an opinion but...Firstly: What are you talking about? User research is certainly useful, but it has to be administered by OP! If you carefully re-read the second sentence then it might become more evident to you that I agree...secondly is not far behind so hold tight
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 17:54
  • @StewartDean Secondly: This would not be classified as doing the same thing multiple ways. Had I said you should have a separate contact form per department then I would agree with you. The subtle difference in what I explained can be related to how a phillips-head screwdriver is the right tool for one job and a flat-head is the right tool for another job. They both merely end up screwing a screw somewhere but each tool fits a certain screw (person). You are suggesting the mind-set of "Alright folks, we have decided that flat-head is superior so if you like phillips-head well tough luck."
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 17:55
  • What the original poster was after, I believe, was what others had found. In many cases there is a lot of prior knowledge out there that means that some things in UX are true for all cases, especially for standard interactions. It's when we deal with focused audiences that user research discovers new information. Secondly in the case of email vs. form - they are essentially the same thing done in two ways, both text messages sent over the internet. Cutting down options makes things clearer. Less choices! Commented May 8, 2014 at 18:07
  • 1
    Good UX simlicity: place a contact form on the contact page and place the email address in the footer. Out of site, out of mind, but still available if the user wants it. How is the web form going down outside of UX concerns if it directly affects a visitor's UX?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 16:46
6

I realise this is an old question, and my answer is based on too little data to be definitive, but... Tracking interactions on 25 sites - email vs form vs phone. Winner is email. NB: based on click to action goals in analytics - email and phone over-report in relation to (successful) form sends. Winner is still email. Interesting thing I noticed when replaying peoples visits to sites - many people copy email addresses, presumably to paste into their email software; this action goes unreported in analytics.

1
  • As a user I also prefer email over contact form. The contact form seems impersonal to me and I hate when it fails with some HTTP "Internal server error".
    – xmedeko
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 17:52
3

Some research does exist, for example:

Sveinbjörnsdóttir B. R. (2018) Are people still using contact forms? – A UX research case study: https://uxdesign.cc/your-users-do-not-trust-contact-forms-but-what-do-they-use-instead-a89bee668e48

In short:

Most people’s preferred method is contacting via email (41,8%), either by clicking a hyperlink (16%) or copy/pasting the email address into their preferred email client (25,8%). Surprisingly the second most popular method was via chat platforms (27,5%). On the other hand, one thing that did not surprise me at all was that people tend not to trust contact forms and if the website displays both a contact form and an email address, most people will use the email address (67,3%)

2

Contact forms have always worked best in my experience and for many reasons. The biggest reasons to a user is convenience. They don't need to open up their email program or even go to their email to login and send an email. However there are significant benefits to you as the product owner including the ability to control what information you get.

User Benefits

  • Users can contact you directly from that page
  • The contact process can be part of the product experience
  • Users do not need to navigate away to contact you or open their email program
  • Users can potentially see the status of their question if you add that functionality

Your benefits

  • You can add information on the user (like attaching their account, uid, etc) if available
  • If your contact information changes, you can change it without the user noticing
  • You can enforce the information you receive, like phone number, address, or anything else you may need
  • Contact may not necessarily need to be by email and can be done through a support portal
    • Responses could be used for future questions (FAQ)

These are all the same reasons for companies to launch massive products around contacting product owners. These businesses are built on the idea that contacting shouldn't be canned and should be as convenient as possible. Email is a dying breed and people are trying to move users away from email as much as possible and controlling the entire user experience as they get support.

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  • 1
    Thanks for your response, but I'm looking for more research based facts. If you have any sources to backup your statements with raw data, I would definitely consider your answer.
    – Pdxd
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 13:52
  • The research I have is proprietary as it pertains to how users have reacted to the different contact channels. We ended up settling with a full contact suite for the reasons above. When it comes to user experience, I've always found it very difficult to find research as companies don't usually want to share that kind of information. Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:17
  • 4
    My opinion: I hate contact forms. I would prefer to write an email any time. Filling out all fields in a contact form is what is annoying me and having no possibility to format my text like using bold or color. (I know some ticket systems can throw out all formatting but anyway). Also the input box for the text is in most cases way too small. The biggest joke is that you in most times have to enter your email address to get a response. Then I can use email in the first place. Email is not a dying breed.
    – BlueM
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:19
  • I think the reason to not publish email addresses is to prevent email address crawlers for spam bots.
    – BlueM
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:52
  • 1
    re: "email as a dying form of communication", I fail to see how that is so, especially with peak mobile usage being for email nowadays. Are people bombarded with email? Yes. Are they slowing down with their usage? Not particularily. It's still a primary form of communication, just not for commercial, unsolicited use. There are also more tools available like Priority mail (Gmail) that help to filter the legit emails from noise. emailmonday.com/mobile-email-usage-statistics For support, this counts as solicited email so won't fall into that category for low open rates.
    – Pdxd
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 18:01
0

I'm going to add one thing that no one else here seems to be taking into consideration, and that is visitor technical experience. All the people commenting here in favor of using email PROBABLY have a little more technical experience than the average bear.

Your website visitors are the answer. Does your website attract more technically advanced visitors or more technically challenged visitors? If a website has an elderly audience, the visitor may not understand or know how to 1) set up the default email client so that clicking on the email address automatically opens the email client of their choice, 2) copy and paste something from a site into their email, or 3) have the dislike for contact forms.

I'm only suggesting this so that others contemplating this same dilemma can take this also into consideration.

-1

Rather than debating, I would automatically go with the online form thing. And the reasons are obvious, the convenience for the user. When filling an online form, you do not need to open your email and login, then compose the email and make sure that they have put the correct email address in the field. With contact form, all you need to do is input your data and click a button. Furthermore on the website end, you can have categories to differentiate between lets say, Sales Queries, support queries and Feedback etc. You can also trigger an automated response that the query has been received and that they will be getting a response within 24 hours or whatever your policy is.

So all in all, I would definitely go with the contact form.

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    Welcome to the site, @Fasih. You list several reasons why the contact form would appear to have better usability. Do you have any evidence that it actually leads to a larger number of people using it? (The OP asks "what produces a better response?") Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 18:02
  • I think the user who asked the question is not using contact method for conversions, rather people contacting them for support, sales queries or feedback, so user will definitely feel more comfortable filling out a contact form which is way easier than composing an email and filling in all the details. Since I never used both of them on the same site, I cannot give any statistical figures, but we used to receive around 100 queries per day with an average traffic of 5000 users.
    – Fasih
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 18:13
  • This answer suggests the need for a better email workflow... For me it's click, type, click to send. Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 6:13

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