The "are contact forms on sites worth the hassle" discussion. Again

In the last few weeks I’ve started to get support requests pertaining to forms. I’ve no evidence, but something out there has changed lately and it’s causing more and more emails from forms to get spammed, or even worse, blackholed.

For data gathering forms I’ve got a solution in the shape of a system that gathers the data, store it in a database then send the client an email telling them to log in and retrieve the info. But such a system is overkill for a regular contact form.

So, is it time to dump contact forms?

I changed everything to Doobox Mail to stack , its excellent as it generates an email which the person then sends not simply a form so its never goes into spam , it works 100% of the time and had no negative feedback or people questioning why it creates an email .

I’ve looked at that solution before, but I felt it’s too confusing for users.

Users are used to links that open their mail app. Users are used to forms that send emails. Users are not used to forms that open their email apps. By fear was that a user completes the form, clicks send, then gets confused as to why their mail app has opened, or worse, doesn’t spot the email opening and just assumes the message has been sent.

I like Doobox’s stuff, but for me, this one created more potential problems that it cures.

I also wondered and noticed many sited simply have a mailto link. So I switched and its so much simpler and removes on more problem from my site. Unless of course there is more to the mail than being just a simple contact need.

I think forms are worth the trouble. Many delivery problems still form the lack of SPF and DKIM records. Others originate from misconfiguration where the From address is set to the sender’s address. This causes receiving mail servers to treat the message as spam. The From address should always be an address at the hosted domain. The ReplyTo address should be the sender.

Using a mailto: link exposes email addresses to spammers. It can also causes weird problems on mobile. For example, if you’re not using Apple’s mail app, you won’t be able to send the email.

I look after a lot of email accounts through everything from Gsuite, to MXRoute, to basic webmail. A few things I have noticed when there are issues with forms (and email routing in general)

  • as pointed out above, always have the “from” address be the website URL, even if you don’t have any email addresses using that URL - IF you use “generic” email addresses, chances are good all the submissions will be treated as spam…
  • If you can - use the SMTP settings or “SMTP service” (or in WordPress an SMTP plugin,) for the confirmation emails that the form generates. Your chances of success then are quite high!
  • when you set your “corporate email” settings, at the very minimum, you need your spf and dkim properly configured to have any chance of emails not being treated as spam, BUT you also need a dmarc policy in place as well. Here is a great “email testing tool” https://www.mail-tester.com to see if your email settings are “spammy”
  • also - Google hates “forwarded” emails - ones sent to your “corporate” email and then forwarded to a gmail account… good chance those will get blocked
  • and never send “bulk emails” directly from your corporate email accounts, you will get “blacklisted” quickly and good luck with any emails, let alone forms getting through spam filters… use newsletter services for this

You should always obfuscate the mailto address. I have been using mailto for a couple of years instead of using RW forms without any reported incidents. You don’t need to use Apple Mail to use a mailto. I use Airmail which works perfectly well and I know that my sites have been checked on Android phones too and they work fine.

I think a smart thing to do is to make sure that an obfuscated email address is viewable to visitors should they need to copy the address in the event of an issue.

Hello Webdeersign,
How can you obfuscate an email into “mailto”?
Thank you
Dominique

A link in the website text or button that opens the users email program. In RW you would highlight the text you want to link, such as ‘contact us here’, right click ‘add link’ and in the link box you type mailto:yourcontactemailaddress.com

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There are may ways to do this, but perhaps the easiest way for RW Stacks users is to use a stack like the clever DooBox Obscure Email stack. You just add this to a page, setup the email, subject and other stuff, and then any instance of a text phrase that you setup, bit like a safe phrase:), is converted to an obfuscated mailto address, when previewed of published.

If you Google “Obfuscate email” you will find many free sites that create some code for you that you you then paste into RW.

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Obscure doesn’t hide emails in buttons. It’s good, I use it on every site, to hide email addresses, but you can’t add mailto:ObscureMyEmail to a button link, it doesn’t work like that.

I convert the text “mailto:email.com” to it’s decimal equivalent, which a browsers can then convert back to ASCII, but even this isn’t perfect as many scrapers can “read” decimal and do the same conversion.

I don’t know on any “perfect” way to hide emails in buttons.

Here is one way to add an obfuscated mailto to a button.

You can use this on page obfiscator form code (pretty cool), to generate your code on your page in R. Just run it once to build the form and build the code to copy and delete the link. Add the code to the Stacks native button and stick it into a PaddyButt to beautify.

<a href="javascript:alert('JavaScript')" onclick="this.href=atob('bWFpbHRvOmFiYyU0MGFiYy5jb20='); return true">Tap here</a>

@joeworkman has this free tool
https://www.weavers.space/answers/email-obfuscation

It’s a rehash of this
https://www.albionresearch.com/misc/obfuscator.php

Here’s what I do for buttons. A bit clunky but it works:

I’d suggest spending the money for an unlimited MachForm self-hosted solution. I have this in somewhere north of 6 dozen sites- two of which generate over 10,000 emails a month - and another that contains a 7-page job application form where users can stop and return later to pick back up where they left off. Nobody ever touches the database - ever. And, clients can be given control of a super easy dashboard where they can add/delete/modify fields (MachForm takes care of all db stuff on the backend). https://www.machform.com/self-hosted-pricing

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