In the “Build A Better Website” series, we’ll dissect a website page by page and put it back together with purpose and great content so that each page of your site can build trust, earn credibility and drive revenue for your business.
Let me ask you something: how long has it been since you gave any thought to your Contact page? And when you did think about it, did you give it any more thought than simply creating a form with a few fields and a ‘submit’ button?
What if I told you that the only thing standing between you and a new customer is your Contact page?
Bet you’d want to make it a bit better, wouldn’t you? It may be overlooked and neglected, quickly constructed and just as quickly dismissed. But isn’t the whole point of having a website to get someone to contact you? If someone can’t do that then you may as well be shouting into an empty room.
The poor ol’ Contact page is usually the last thing on our minds when we update our websites. We spruce up our bios and perfect our service pages. We make our product pages shine and maybe have a gorgeous work portfolio. But it’s the Contact page that’s going to turn all that gorgeousness and effort into customers and sales. To make the most out of it, don’t simply throw a form up there and call it a day. Try these tips instead.
1. Start It Right
You know what’s boring and uninviting? Contact pages that start and end with a form. Your marketing doesn’t stop at your Contact page! Just because someone got there doesn’t mean they’re going to actually contact you. Crazy, right?
Pay attention to the opening copy on your Contact page. What if someone happened on that page without ever visiting another page of your site? It could happen. Make it friendly, inviting and give people a reason to want to get in touch with you. No need to write a novel or a long list of services or benefits. Just make it clear, friendly and tempting.
2. Ask For The Right Amount Of Information
Notice I didn’t tell you what to ask for. That depends entirely on your business and goals. But whatever you ask for, it has to meet this single criteria: it must be necessary.
Nobody wants to fill out a million form fields, so consider how easy or hard it is for someone to actually complete your form. Are you asking someone to check off 15 options, answer 9 questions and complete an entire dossier before they can get in touch with you? That’s guaranteed to turn people off… if it isn’t necessary. (Chances are it’s not.)
As you build a contact form (or scrutinize the one you have) I want you to think hard about each and every field you put there. I want you to ask yourself, “Do I absolutely, positively, 100% need this information in order to communicate with this person effectively?”
Notice I didn’t say “to do business with” effectively. Some people treat their contact forms like a mini-interview. You may want to know half a dozen things about someone but that doesn’t mean you need to know. The contact form is not there to do the vetting. It’s there to get people to contact you. Make up your mind that you’re going to have to do the screening as a separate action because when someone hits that page all you want is their “ok” to get in touch.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you should nix the “required” vs. “not required” fields altogether. If it’s not required, why is it on your form? Even not-required fields can bulk up a page and look intimidating.
Unless you have a good reason to ask for more, then asking for a name, email address, possibly a phone number and “whaddya want”? should be sufficient.
3. Use Field Validations
There are two important ways to do this.
First, make sure that required fields are actually required and that the average person cannot circumvent a required field and submit the form without it. This is just a plain good idea. If you require an email address so you can reach out to someone and your “required” field allows a blank entry, then that form is as good as useless.
Usually required fields have that little (*) beside them. That may visually tell a person it’s required but you need some programming magic to make sure it actually is. In many cases that’s not all too difficult. If you use a service like Wufoo or a WordPress plugin like Gravity Forms then setting a required field is as easy as clicking a checkbox.
Even if it is difficult, I advise contacting your developer for help because a useless form is… well, useless.
The second piece of validation is not only requiring an entry but requiring a specific format. For instance, if you ask for someone’s email address you not only want them to enter information into that field but you want it to be an actual email address… not “cl” or “[email protected]” but the whole darn thing; “[email protected] (<–That’s me, if you ever want to ask a question, share your thoughts or otherwise chat! Just don’t spam me. I’ll send a pack of angry wild monkeys after you.)
Messing up is easy to do when you’re filling out a form in a hurry. More times than not I’ll enter my email address with a .cmo. Good thing those friendly reminders pop up before I can submit. You certainly don’t want your only chance to contact someone to be thwarted by a typo.
And now that I mentioned it…
4. Make Messages Friendly
Not much is less appealing than an error message in gigantic all-caps red that says “INVALID ENTRY”. Kinda makes me feel like I’m trying to break into someone’s house or something. Much like validations this can usually be solved pretty easily by thinking about a nice way to say “hey dope, you left out your email address!”
Please is always a nice word to use.
And do let people know what they should do. Here’s another unfriendly message: “Your form contains errors.” Um, really? Which ones? If the email address is at issue, a simple “please enter a valid email address” is a lot more helpful.
5. Make It Pretty
I know, the Contact page is not your best work of art. You’ve saved all the glory for your home page and portfolio. But ugly, squashed, barely readable forms are a real turn-off. If you can get in there and have a go with the CSS, great. If not, it’s worth hiring someone who can.
For starters, make the font on the field labels large enough and align them properly with the fields.
Space the fields out so it’s visually pleasing and stack them. There’s a temptation to include multiple fields on one line. Often first and last name get grouped on one line and sometimes phone, fax and email. Resist the temptation. Stacking will make your form look much cleaner visually and easier to complete.
If you can’t or don’t want to stack, then just make sure your fields are large enough, spaced enough and distinguishable enough. And be sure that your groupings make sense. First and last name go together but address and email do not.
If your form must necessarily be long then break it up like all good content with bold subheadings so it’s less intimidating and easier for someone to track their progress as they complete it.
Make sure it’s clear that fields are fields. They should have a border or a background color (or both) to distinguish them from the rest of the page.
And let the form be the pretty girl at the party. No need to showcase your artwork, fabulous graphics, amazing photos or anything else on this page. Just a beautifully laid out stack of wonderful fields so that a person can focus on contacting you.
6. Get Rid Of Social Icons
Before you panic, let me ask you a question: when someone gets to your Contact page, would you rather have them contact you or become a Facebook fan? If you give people the option to follow you/fan you/pin you or do anything at all but contact you then there’s a pretty good chance they may do something other than contact you.
The sole focus of a contact page is… you guessed it! To get people to contact you. More than one directive and you may lose that opportunity. Here’s a good example of how too many options can completely derail a person.
Want a Facebook fan? Ask the person after they’ve submitted the form. Your “thank you” page is the perfect place for a bit of upsell or a secondary call-to-action.
And while we’re on the subject…
7. Pay Attention To Your “Thank You” Message
What happens after someone submits your form? First of all I hope the answer isn’t “nothing” although I’ve seen this happen, too. Once in a while I’ll fill out a form and… nada. Zero. Big fat empty set. Where did my form go? Was it delivered? How do I know?
A little “thank you” can go a long way. It can let people know that their submission went through (ahem… it should go through and although “test that s#^!” is outside the scope of this post, it’s worth a brief mention here). It can give you a chance to up the ante and ask for the Like or the Follow. It can give you a chance to throw in a little video that adds a bit of personality and makes you more memorable.
Whatever you do, use it at an opportunity and not a throw-away.
8. Give People Other Ways To Contact You
Some people don’t like web forms. It’s true. I have a client who even hates to email me and will call every time. When we live online it’s hard to imagine that people still actually want to talk! But they do, so make your Contact page the place they can get all your contact information.
Instead of assuming that someone who visits your Contact page wants to fill out a form, let them choose how they want to reach out to you.
Unlike other distractions that can confuse people, multiple avenues of contact will only help people. Providing your phone, fax, direct email if you choose or mailing address will give people the option to select their favorite method of communication.
Plus it will add a bit of “hey, this company is for real” because people will see that you’re available and willing to engage in whatever way is necessary.
Oh, and I guess it goes without saying that your Contact page needs a form! Probably should’ve mentioned that earlier… but why wouldn’t you want a form? It’s the web, gosh darnit! Sometimes people really don’t want to talk to you. Sometimes they’re afraid of the hard sell. A form gives (most) people what they want and makes it super easy for you to receive, track and log communications.
If you’re a local business, why not get really crazy and throw in a Google Map? (Or a Bing Map as you may be inclined.)
And just to really challenge your thinking today, you can always throw in a social icon. But wait! Didn’t I just tell you to get rid of those?? Indeed I did. Unless you want to give people the option to send you a message on Facebook, for example. Don’t ask for a Like, but if you’re so inclined, you can provide a social network as another avenue of communication. Use your judgment!
Treat Your Contact Page Like It Matters
It does! This is not a “set it and forget it” page. The same way you update, rethink and retool the rest of your site, you should do the same with your Contact page, especially if you’ve ever received negative feedback about it. Once in a while give it a test and see how much you like filling it out (this will also give you a way to be sure it’s actually working). Once in a while ask a friend to try it out. Occasionally check to be sure you haven’t forgotten to change to your new phone number. Consider whether there’s anything you can do to improve the intro copy.
Remember, if you can get someone as far as your Contact page, you want to be sure the deck is stacked in your favor so contacting you is exactly what someone will do.
Got any Contact form pet peeves? Share your worst in the comments!
More In This Series
11 Tips For Writing A Great About Page
The One Thing You Must Do On Your Services Page If You Want To Make The Sale
Top 10 Ways To Make Your Product Page A Selling Dynamo
Join the discussion 17 Comments
Okay, okay… So mine failed miserably Carol… I don’t even think I have a thank you page set up.
But I know people use it because I get a lot of questions through people accessing my contact page.
Here are my thoughts about this page. If I want to ask the owner of a blog a question that’s the first place I go. I don’t care what the page looks like or any blurb to start out with because I usually already have a specific question in mind or I’m letting them know something didn’t work on their blog.
I know I have this issue with not considering what other people are wanting to know, I just think what I want to know or how I view things. Not good, I know… I’ve been called out on it before and that’s a major issue with me.
You did get me to thinking though so I appreciate that Carol. By the way, I love your opt-in box and the one at the bottom of your page too. Cool!!!
Hey, have a great afternoon and weekend okay! I’ll be seeing you around. Great post by the way. 😉
Thanks for your input, Adrienne, and I think that depending on the purpose of the contact page it can have more or less information. People contacting a blogger for example, would most likely only need a basic form, because as you said, they are going there to ask a question or give some input. On the other hand, a business needs to make sure they capture that lead so they can begin a sales process. Plus different people have different needs, so while one person (like you!) may ignore everything else on the page and go right for the guts of the form, someone else may want to be convinced or reassured or think about how they want to get in touch.
And thanks for the compliment, I like this new optin plugin, it gives you a ton of options for customizing it so I am probably going to be playing with it a lot. It’ll probably be pink and polka dotted tomorrow 🙂
Oh Wow Carol I did not get very far into reading this post before I felt myself squirm. Eek – when did I last think about my contact page.. hm that would be when I was putting my blog together. Time to re-visit it for me. Mine is anything but pretty.
Thanks for making me think!
Happy to give you a little kick, Sue 🙂 If nothing else I’d definitely suggest giving that thing a test run every month or so just to make sure it’s still in working order. Things break for no good reason (that we can see, anyway) and the last thing we want to do is lose the opportunity to connect with someone.
Like Adrienne, I do not have a thank you page 🙁 and I’d have to test my own contact form to see what people see after they clicked on the submit button. I know I’ve tested it, but darn, can’t remember.
This post is a good reminder for me to check all the lose ends that still exist on my blogs. That and other things as well for sure.
Thanks for all those greats tips that keeps us on our toes as always 🙂
Glad I could help! Sometimes it’s the little things that we don’t think of every day that it helps to be reminded to check. It happens to everyone. I remember not too long ago my form wasn’t working and if I hadn’t accidentally stumbled on it at the time I never would have known. So I make it a point to test these things out regularly. Even if you don’t change anything, websites are fickle and things stop working from one day to the next for no obvious reason. Better start testing!
Your last point really rings true with me. It is easy to take website conventions for granted. You stand out so much more on your blog if you think about all the little details. It will reflect well on you and your brand that you have anticipated the needs of your customers.
The contact page is definitely one of those “details”. I bet most people don’t think too much about it except to put a form on there. But if you pay attention to just a few little nuances you can avoid scaring people away or putting them off. And we all want people to get in touch with us, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to the “how”!
Thanks for the kick in the butt Carol! My contact page stinks! I realize this now and it is my to-do this week. You have opened up my horizons on spiffing up that page. It’s ugly now that I look at it. I put it up and forgot it.
You are keeping me on my toes my friend. This is why I visit you all the time.
Donna, it happens to everyone! It’s not like we’re on that contact page all the time – we see our home page, our post pages, maybe check out our about page once in a while. But the poor old contact page does get forgotten. It doesn’t have to be a work of art but it does have to be neat and usable and of course it has to work. Glad I could help!
Hi Carol Lynn,
Boy did you give me some great stuff to think about! This was right up my alley.
At this time, my contact page leaves a bit to be desired! I have been thinking out some enhancements that I plan to roll out into my site over the next couple of months. I’m planning to adjust how things are presented…and to be quite honest, my contact page is not something that’s been on the list, but I see why it needs to be!
Thanks for the excellent tips here! I feel like this was written just for me!
You know how I love to kick a little butt, Cat! most people don’t think too hard about the contact page beyond sticking a contact form on it. Hopefully I get a few people working on theirs 🙂
Okay… Okay… I know… I’m sorry I’m late to comment here. I’ve found this is really great and informative post to recommend my readers via my contact form creation post too 🙂 Thank you very much for the information dear.
I’ve seen contact forms, that are just contact form. So sometimes I have to provide each and everything in detail assuming the person needs all of ’em ’cause I don’t know what are they expecting me to provide. But at last I get no response, ’cause may be they are not interested in what I’m suggesting. right? If it’s a guest posting, advertising or whatever opportunity, I think asking for relevant information is really matters from users. Else it’s a symptom of lack of communication.
Yeah, personally mine was like that at first, but improved gradually. So now I make sure that I’m asking for right amount of information (Hope so) and users can assure the contact reason would be valid before contacting. It’s a MUST I think as you suggest.
Field validation is obvious ’cause sometimes people may mistype email address and couldn’t make use of opportunity. That’s a great tip dear.
At last I’m happy mine is mostly agree with your tips as I don’t have total customization access on comment form 🙂 Plus, I think spam protection would be helpful too. Don’t you think so Carol? 🙂
I’ve never paid attention on “Thank you” message. Anyway mine has a thank you message 🙂
One more thing 😉 It’s about giving others opportunities to contact. Is it alright if I’ve mentioned those on abut page already? Do I need to show them on contact page to? 🙂
Awesome post dear. I mean really awesome ’cause you explains all with critical reasons. I can see many contact pages that never payed any attention on improving. This is really a best post for ’em.
Hi Mayura, I’m glad you found this post helpful. I think that people tend to forget about the contact page because it’s so common and they just put up a form and forget about it.
As for spam protection, I advise people to avoid using things like captchas because they are very annoying to people. I don’t use them on any of my web forms and I get very little spam. Most email clients are good at filtering out junk these days. besides, I’d rather sort through some spam than lose a contact because they couldn’t figure out the captcha code.
You can certainly put your contact info on other pages, like your About page, but I would also suggest putting them on the contact page because that’s where people go and expect to find that info. There’s no reason you can’t repeat the info – why not! It just makes it easy for people to get in touch with you and at the end of the day, that’s what we all want.
Really thank you for the reply 🙂 I was waiting to make changes. One thing that bugging me. Earlier I’ve used contact form without spam check but I’ve got auto generated emails (Same email, no change) over and over. Not 100s but 8 or 9 per week. Now I’m not getting such anyway. Do you think it is alright to disable spam with my situation? 🙂
I know it’s annoying but 8-9 a week isn’t a whole lot. I would rather just delete them instead of using a captcha that might turn people away. I know there are some newer technologies that are a lot better – little “games” and math problems (like 1+3=?). If you’re getting bombarded by spam I would try something like that instead.
Thanks for your explanation on it 🙂 Yeah it’s true, 8-9 would be doesn’t matter. I will disable Captcha on contact form and see how it goes.