Join Morten Rand-Hendriksen for an in-depth discussion in this video What are contact forms, and when do you use them?, part of WordPress Plugins: Contact Forms (2014).
Contact forms is a broad term used by the web industry to describe any form on a website you can fill out to submit information to the site owner or a system. So when we talk about contact forms we're not technically just talking about just a simple form where the visitor fills in her name, email, and a question. Contact forms can go way beyond this and the plug-ins we're going to look at in this course, all allow us to expand on this definition to pretty much anything we want.
Even so, contact forms are still easily recognizable and usually revolve around some form of contact component. The typical contact form has five main elements. A Name field. An Email field. A Website field. A Message field. And a Submit button. For a contact form submission to be successful, it is usually a requirement that the Email and Message fields are filled in. Which makes sense. Without a message and an email address to respond to, there isn't really much value in submitting anything to a form.
A website owner can choose to expand on the standard format of the form to include additional fields. This could be a Phone Number field, if you're looking for business leads. It can be a drop down requesting more information for example, you want to know how a visitor found your site, or it could be any number of other type of fields including text, radio button, multiple choice. And so on. Each of the fields added can be optional or mandatory, realized alert message if it was not filled out properly.
Once the visitor fills out a contact form and clicks the submit button, two main things happen. First, the visitor gets a message of success or failure, from the submission. And in some cases also an optional email copy of what they send to you. Second, the server receives the message submitted. What the server does with that message is up to you to configure. It can send the message to one of several email addresses. It can store it internally in the system or within WordPress itself.
It can send optional emails to other people, and it can also trigger an external action like signing the visitor up for a newsletter. Or it can do any combination of all of these things, and many other things. Now before we get going, let me address one common question and objection to contact forms. Many site owners feel that it would be easier to just put their email address on the page, and ask people to send them an email. The common argument is that many people don't fill out contact forms, and forcing them to do so, may lead to you losing a potential client.
Here's my answer. Listing your email address on a website in plain text is always a bad idea. Why? Because the web is full of bots. Computers set up to scour the web, looking for public email addresses that they then put on a list and sell to people who want to pepper your inbox with spam. Put your email address on your website, and there's a near 100% chance you'll be battling spam for a long time. More importantly though, providing the visitor with your email address, is not a guarantee for them contacting you.
By doing this, you're requiring the visitor to open her email application to send you an email. There is no guarantee that she can do this, when she's visiting your site. She may be on a public computer, or a mobile device, or even surfing the web from someone else's device. There are countless scenarios where the visitor can't email you and then all these scenarios, you've lost that lead. A contact form, on the other hand, can always be used. In addition, the contact form allows you to collect the data you want from the visitor without giving instructions.
By adding fields and marking them as mandatory, you get the information you need, information that would likely be missing if you requested it in email form. In short, contact forms are the right tool for this job.
- Installing and activating contact-form plugins
- Adding a basic contact form
- Creating advanced fields
- Viewing and exporting form submissions
- Receiving form submissions