5

I find it a wee bit obnoxious to see modern websites — even those with decent design —, still using contact links that open a user's email client without fair disclosure. Be it a lack of microcopy or just the plain use of an email address as a link.

For example, visit https://www.coach.me and select the contact link in the footer, or go to Frank Chimero's site http://ofanother.com/info/ and select "Work Inquiries" under the contact heading.

Now, I haven't conducted formal research on the topic, but when I asked half-dozen family, friends (and even an odd stranger at a coffee shop) about this issue the sentiment was unanimous: "I hate it."

What are your thoughts on why this is still a norm?

  • I will add my name to the 'hate it' list. – PhillipW May 9 '15 at 22:25
  • Stack Exchange does this, too: On stackexchange.com/mediakit, there are two identically styled calls to action: "Buy Now" and "Create a custom campaign". The first one links to a page, the second one to an email address. – unor May 11 '15 at 13:40
6

It is not a pattern - it is an error and poor usability.

You have shown a pathological examples. Both elements looks like menu item, not an e-mail address. In this two cases what should happen is opening contact page, not e-mail. Affordance tels us that - this elements are percieved as items in menu which open some pages. If they do not do that, user has bad experience and is surprised.

Mailto: should be used only on elements that looks like e-mail adress.

In first case menu should look like: Work inquires: info@somedomain.com

In second, bottome menu: Blog FAQ Privacy Terms contact@somedomain.com

Or both current links should take you to contatc page.

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1

Well, everything is almost right and wrong, and especially in www you can decide if something is right or wrong, based on user's needs and goals (although this could be a general life approach:)
By the way, keep in mind implementation complexity and time.

But let me give you an example based on your resources.
You have a "company-thing" like Frank Chimero's "Another design studio".
Now, if you can successively assume that mid-age people browsing your website, will be on their job's computer, and also have their lovely email client set up, then ok, you may go with mailto: links!
Mailto links could lead potentially customers be on their controlled environment (native email app), save message for later, continue the conversation as a thread etc. Btw don't forget implementation.

On the other hand if you have a "startup-thing", the needs and time of a user may be extremely different. He/She wants a fast and easy way to contact you, doesn't care about the address he/she contacting and in general he/she want's things done. This is a kind of user that wants his dopamine served. So mailto: links may break user's experience.

As a final thought I would totally agree with usability, consistency and affordance issues that are mentioned above. Links on footers are links to pages and mail addresses are used by the user to send emails. If we mix them up, we could end up with serious usability problems.

To end up with it's not that bad using something tried such as mailto link, if and only if there exist a thoughtful reason.
Now If I had to suggest a mailto link or contact page on a developer, I would go with:
"Think of your users and if you have the time, then create a nicely contact section somewhere, else go for a mailto link, and just use a descriptive text".

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1

mailto: links should be used if the link is an email address, and normal links in any other situation. Anything else is either an error or bad design and very likely to confuse a user. I hate links with email addresses as their link text that open contact forms as much as I hate mailto: links with normal-looking text.

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0

I don't think it should be the norm, it feels rushed or forgotten.

I've noticed users prefer simply clicking hyperlinked emails over filling out basic email forms containing first name, last name, email. This is based on usability tests I've conducted on contact pages ranging from websites with 500-100k users. This led me to believe that most users prefer email clients over basic website forms. But, I'm not trying to discredit them, they definitely still get used and from my own experiences, auto-complete can come in handy.

Perhaps these other designers have reached similar conclusions and feel a contact page is a waste of time. Unfortunately this could cause the ux to turn sour. As Maciek mentioned, I agree that mailto elements should look like email addresses. What if the link gets ignored because a default email application isn't set? I also agree that it's very unexpected, I'd be hoping for an actual contact or work inquiries page.

I hope this clarifies things a little better @part-time-pancake. I felt my initial response was too focused on the contact page itself.

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  • 1
    Can you back up the claim that most users prefer an email client to website forms? I'd like to see research supporting this statement. – Trever May 10 '15 at 4:56

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