It's been my experience over the past few years that the majority of contact forms on web pages of both large companies as well as governmental institutions fail to handle line breaks properly in one way or another.
Typically, such a contact form consists of several single-line text boxes for contact details of the inquirer and one multi-line text box intended for the actual message:
When using such a form, I give the message a classic business letter/e-mail look and feel. I include salutation, closing and multiple paragraphs separated by line breaks to make the message as easy to read as possible for the customer service person on the other end.
I find that line breaks in the actual message often get messed up:
- Many times I would receive a confirmation e-mail repeating all the data I've entered. Usually, there would be one field per line and the line containing the "your message" field would present the message entirely without line breaks, making it really hard to read for anyone.
- Even if I don't receive a confirmation e-mail (or the mail wouldn't include any information entered into the form) I often find out from the reply, that customer service received the message in a way described above, with all line breaks gone.
Message: Hello, my name is John and I would like to know more about UX. Please let me know if there is a way to achieve X using Y. Thanks in advance. Best wishes, John
Being involved in web development myself, I'm aware that handling line breaks can sometimes involve a little work in order to make them work correctly. On the other hand, failure to handle line breaks at all would seem like a beginner's mistake.
Thus my question(s): Why is removal of line breaks in contact form messages so common? Is there a specific reason from UX point of view to disregard line breaks in contact form fields?