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I was reading this test from GoodUI when I had an idea. Rather than having someone enter a ton of information on a web form, why not let the user just write a normal email in their preferred email client?

The process would be something like this:

  1. User clicks "Contact us" and enters his or her email
  2. System automatically sends an email from a monitored email address (sales team or whatever) with a greeting message that encourages user to reply to the email (with their name and their message.)
  3. The rest of the information could be gathered as necessary later after a conversation is started.

Aside from the drawback of not having all the information (Company, Country, Phone) from the user before the conversation is started, I think that this would be a much better experience from a usability standpoint.

Another possible drawback from a technical standpoint is this could be exploited by spammers, but I believe that can be overcome with good spam filters.

So my question is, technical limitations aside, which of the following options for starting sales conversations would lead to the most conversions?

  1. Use a web based form
  2. Use the method above
  3. Just make the "Contact Us" button a "mailto" link


Note: I appreciate all of the answers so far, but for this question, please keep your answers focused on usability, not implementation. I'm only interested in the usability concerns, not the technical limitations.

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    I couldn't help but remember "madlib style" forms. One study found improvement in conversion rate. lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1007 Not sure if that's enough research to justify usage. Also need to consider whether you'll get issues with user not knowing how to phrase their requests if you present them with the option of a blank email client. Web forms are rigid, but it's been around long enough that people understand how they work. – nightning Jan 14 '15 at 20:33
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    @nightning Ah yes, the natural language forms. That's some very interesting data. I don't prefer natural language forms myself, as I'm lazy and they require more reading. However, the data disagrees with me as seen in your link and here: goodui.org/#48 – CullenJ Jan 14 '15 at 21:03
  • @CulenJ agree with you on the slower reading aspect. It does suggest a friendly tone though. Perhaps slower but it still leads to more conversions? – nightning Jan 14 '15 at 21:13
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For mobile users, the mailto can prove to be a life saver, they can type continuously on their mobile in their native email environment (natural for mobile?) and won't have to deal with "Tap- Enter detail -Tap again to hide Keyboard-Move downwards". Here's another thread on mobile mailto vs contact form: Contact form on mobile vs. mailto: link?

For desktop, it depends on the type of information that I wish to communicate. For a simple inquiry, I wouldn't want to switch UI's to do something very simple.

If the user wants to attach files, format information, and write lengthy messages, then a contact form would be a barrier.

  • @CullenJ B is really something that can prove to be a major issue in the system I believe. Because, you are asking him to contact and then you are going to send him email, where the user will refresh his email 2-3 times already if he/she's in a hurry. That gives a bad experience. And the #3 point has a big usability problem, Linux, Win 7 have no pre-installed mailto clients. – Pj_ Jan 14 '15 at 20:10
  • Thanks for your notes; I'm not trying to argue with you, just trying to keep the focus of the answers on the usability aspect, and leave the techical considerations aside for now. :) I've clarified this a bit; see my edit to the question. – CullenJ Jan 14 '15 at 20:13
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    @Pj_ I don't think pre-installed mailto clients is critical. If a user uses email, they would have gotten around to installing a client and/or are using web based email. – DA01 Jan 14 '15 at 20:15
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    @CullenJ Are we considering mobile usability here? – Pj_ Jan 14 '15 at 20:34
  • @Pj_ Good question! I think that these days, we always have to consider both mobile and desktop ux. – CullenJ Jan 14 '15 at 20:37
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If the user wants to contact you, let them in the least unobtrusive way. As such, option #3 = make it a mailto link is the one I'd push for.

If you have to have a web form, make it as simple as can be:

Email:
Subject:
Message:
[SEND]
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    It could be a silly question, but what if I don't have any mailto client in my system? I know it is there in Win 8 and above by default, but it wasn't there in earlier versions of Windows. – Pj_ Jan 14 '15 at 20:06
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    @Pj_ it's not a silly question. But isn't as relevant as it once was. More and more people have their own web-connected device and more and more people have email--be it locally as a client or (as I have) web based. To remedy the situation where people don't have a mail client at all, make sure you also offer up a phone number--namely because if they don't have access to a mail client, they probably don't use mail all that often anyways. – DA01 Jan 14 '15 at 20:12
  • A lot of people still on windows 7 and earlier, mailtos generally default to outlook which most users have never setup. They always just use their email via gmail/hotmail/whatever's web app. And less technically adept users who are unable to get they can copy-paste-delete the mailto are the ones least likely to have properly set up a climate – the other one Jan 15 '15 at 11:01
  • @theotherone hence my suggestion for a phone number. Always have an alternative for Uncle Bob and his Windows 7 machine. :) – DA01 Jan 15 '15 at 16:28

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