On the surface, a WordPress contact form seems simple. Create a contact page, add the form syntax, and click “Publish.” Done.
Unfortunately, that order of operations is a one-size-fits-all approach to a user engagement issue with no one-size-fits-all solution. Your use of web forms should align with personal or organizational goals – not to mention the needs of your users.
If you’ve never thought about contact forms this way, these five tips will help you determine whether you’re using forms effectively. And if you’re not, you’ll learn how to improve your approach.
1. Decide whether you need a contact form.
Lots of sites have contact forms, but that doesn’t always mean you need one, too. Ask yourself why you’re using a web form in the first place. Some good reasons to have one include:
- customer service outreach
- product or service questions
- signups for a list, event, or drawing
- prospective client communication
- customer or client feedback
- requests for quotes, estimates, or information
- reservations or appointments
But if you’re not soliciting these kinds of communications or aren’t in a position to manage form submissions, you probably shouldn’t publish a web form.
Consider a restaurant with a contact form on its home page. What purpose does the form serve? If the restaurant actively seeks feedback from diners and responds in kind, it might make sense to keep the form. The same goes if the restaurant uses a web form to take reservations.
These web form applications “work” because they’re tied to an objective. But what if the contact form doesn’t serve a specific purpose? What if it’s a general form that the restaurant isn’t willing or able to manage? The form would be superfluous – and a superfluous form doesn’t benefit the business or its users.
2. Use different forms for different objectives.
In the restaurant example, we considered two reasons a restaurant website might include a contact form – feedback from customers and reservation requests. In the interest of accommodating users (and in using web forms to their fullest potential), the restaurant should use separate forms to achieve each of these objectives. There are three reasons why:
- Clarity of purpose: Users deserve to know why a particular form exists. Separating the forms lets you introduce each one with specific copy indicating the form’s purpose.
- Variety of form fields: Taking reservations requires users to submit specific information like the number in their party and a time of arrival. Separating the reservation form from the feedback form lets you add specific fields to collect this information.
- Streamlined administration: Who schedules reservations? Who responds to customer feedback? Using different forms allows you to send different submissions to different individuals and accommodate users more efficiently.
Using different contact forms can help a variety of organizations and individuals improve communication with users. Consider a consulting firm that also sponsors local events. Maintaining separate contact forms for service estimates and event inquiries will help the firm organize unique submissions and ensure that the right person responds.
And what about online retailers? Maintaining separate contact forms for product questions, customer service, and information requests allows the retailer to provide relevant form fields for users with varying concerns.
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3. Collect what you need (and nothing more).
Don’t ask for information you don’t need. A field for “subject,” for example, might yield email submissions with user-generated subject lines, but how necessary is that field? If you already provide a larger field that collects the details of a contact request, there’s little reason to require a subject field, too.
The idea behind collecting only the minimum information necessary to achieve an objective is that forcing users to fill in an unnecessary field asks too much of them. And making them work too hard could send them elsewhere.
For instance, a freelance photographer may publish a contact form with fields for where a shoot will take place, whether the subject is a person or an object, and whether clients wants to pay with cash or credit. But that’s information she needs before a shoot – not to qualify a lead.
Asking for superfluous information requires too much effort from the user too soon in the process. At worst, it could make the photographer appear presumptuous.
4. Place forms in intuitive locations.
“Contact Us” pages are common across the web, but is placing a web form on its own page always best?
Long story short, web forms should be easy to locate. If giving them their own page is the best option for you and your users, go for it. Just don’t ignore the potential of alternative locations.
Service providers, for example, might add a contact form to the bottom of service description pages. Our photographer could include one below her pages for product photography and weddings. That way, users can read about a specific service and get in touch immediately – all without leaving the page that inspired them to make contact.
Of course, the only way to really know which location works best is to perform tests. Here’s one way to do it:
- Publish a web form in multiple locations. To ensure you’re making an apples-to-apples comparison, do this with at least two forms that are identical to one another and serve the same purpose.
- Record the submissions from each form. This is how you will determine whether one location yields more (or higher quality) submissions than another. Several WordPress contact form plugins associate forms with unique IDs for easier monitoring. We’ll discuss some of these at the end of the article.
- Compare results. Unless you receive hundreds of submissions per month, you can probably track the results directly through WordPress. Otherwise, setting up goals and funnels in Google Analytics might be a better way to examine your results.
What’s great is that you usually have nothing to lose by performing this test. In the end, you’ll know for certain which location(s) for web forms best serve you and your users.
5. Get creative with your “success” message.
There’s nothing more disappointing than filling out a contact form only to see a small box with the words “Request Received” (or similar) appear at the top of the screen. Not only do users have no idea when you’ll respond – there’s nothing left for them to do. You haven’t indicated that there’s a next step (hint: there often is!) or what that step might be.
That being the case, it’s time to create better “success” messages. As soon as users submit a form, the first thing they see should be a message or a page that:
- thanks them for getting in touch.
- lets them know when they will hear from you.
- invites them to engage with your content in some additional way; this might be signing up for your newsletter, reading your latest post, or connecting on social media.
A compelling “success” message continues to build affinity with users even after they’ve chosen to make contact. If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to reassure users you’re on top of their request.
Some contact forms to consider
Ok! You know what it takes to reap more rewards from your WordPress contact form. But which contact form plugins provide the flexibility needed to address all of the challenges we discussed? Here are a couple to consider:
- Gravity Forms: This plugin lets you assign unique IDs to forms, monitor submissions within WordPress, and create forms to serve virtually any imaginable purpose. In other words, it does everything you need to get great value from a contact form. It’s not free, unfortunately, but businesses with specific needs may find it a good investment. Paying for the plugin also gets you lots of extras like form scheduling, multi-page forms, and oodles of advanced fields.
- Contact Form 7: Popular among bloggers for its strong feature suite and unbeatable price tag ($0), this plugin may be all you need for simple forms. You can create multiple forms with a diverse array of field types and customize them to your heart’s content.
Ultimately, the contact form plugin you choose is far less important than how you use it. Either of these forms will deliver user submissions to your inbox. What matters is whether you’re applying practices that align contact forms with your objectives and with users’ needs.
Just don’t forget to monitor your submissions! A contact request is only as good as the quality and punctuality of your reply. If your “success” page promises you’ll be in touch soon, you had best follow through.
Photo Credit: melquiades1898.
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