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Contact Us..... or not?

Initially I thought a contact us page was a good idea because visitors don't have to have an eMail client and it's a seamless operation with the rest of the site.

The other day someone here said "I hate Contact Us pages" and I never gave it much thought until now.

When you contact a site using their convenient Contact Us form, you have no record of your contact.. no date, no time, and no copy of the message you sent unless the site uses an auto-responder to confirm reception which few do.

This is a problem. Not being in their eMail client's sent history how can they refer back to it? It's fine if they don't want the boss to know they sent it but bad otherwise.

So I'm thinking:
1> Display the eMail address at the top with the classic mailto:: link
2> Include a quick form
3> Add an option on the form to confirm reception by sending an eMail to the address entered.

If you use their eMail client, you get the eMail address without having to ask for it but some people don't have one or prefer you not to know it for fear of spam.

I know most of you guys are from a technical background but try to consider it from the point of view of the user.

Shouldn't contacting you be the easiest thing to do on a site?

Kent Design4Effect
Monday, June 02, 2003

e-mail address with the option for a contact us form if needed. The contact us form produces a unique URL and replies also appear there. The user can then bookmark it.

It also CC's them on the original post (they supply their e-mail address) and you send replies to their e-mail address.

The unique URL is either shared or not shared, easy to hack (sequential numbers) or not, depending on your goals. I.e. are communications private or public.

If they're really public, just implement a forum.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

That's a good idea Mark.

That's what I think I'll do instead of a contact us form. Just send them to where they can post a private message using the regular forum and skip the auto-eMail.

It's slick and it's quick.. I like it!

Kent Design4Effect
Monday, June 02, 2003

Just so long as you don't make the register to send that post... It should be as few steps as possible... the closer to zero the better.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

The problem with that is if they don't register they can't follow the private message chain.

Unless you give them a UID, maybe a cookie?

Kent Design4Effect
Monday, June 02, 2003

URL... unique URL they can bookmark.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

Cookie works too... I'd say both. The cookie lets them not have to bookmark.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

I'll try the URL thing and see how it looks.. TNX

Kent Design4Effect
Monday, June 02, 2003

Maybe its just me, but the mailto: technique is by far the simplest and super easiest way to enable "contact" with you.  Its one click!  You can't beat that!  I personally hate to have to type my email in all the time just to get feedback. Its too much like registering (which is also a pain). Cookie's only live on single machines, and so do bookmarks.  Unless you take them with you everywhere you go.  And a forum, well, that's self explanatory.  Too much overkill to just contact someone. And most require registering also.  JOS is the exception ofcourse.

My "Contact" page includes the four basic links:

support@
sales@
comments@
www@  (website related)

Its a done deal.  Elegance sometimes overbears the simplicity of the matter.

sedwo
Monday, June 02, 2003

So how to do you somehow cloak the mailto: contact addresses so the spam robot doesn't scrape them and fill these important company inboxes with junk?

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Monday, June 02, 2003

Upon clicking text/graphic link, a tiny piece of Javascript code builds the mailto: string with the address and executes it.

sedwo
Monday, June 02, 2003

http://www.spamgourmet.com/index.cgi?printpage=downloads.html

Address Scrambler is a good one. I've switched over to it.

I agree that mailto: is the simplest solution, but mailto with a form is the ultimate in flexibility. Especially if the form is on the same page as the maito: link. One stop shopping.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

Oh, and that linkable customer service page with your support history on that given ticket item is an idea I stole from somewhere. http://www.custhelp.com does it. Though, the difference is, with them you're typically an existing customer & they already have your e-mail address & login information, so getting back to your unique URL is just a matter of re-presenting your credentials.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

Form is fine.

Since it can be disasterous if your email address is exposed, I think it's acceptable if not very desirable to just use a form.

pb
Monday, June 02, 2003

That should be called Opt-In mailing when you are dumb enough to stick your eMail address on a mailto link.

Many of the new mail servers allow you to use aliases on the links 'mailto:theman' and define 'theman=me@mydomain' in a rule table.
That way even if they inspect the code they can't tell

Kent Design4Effect
Monday, June 02, 2003

>Many of the new mail servers allow you to use aliases on
>the links 'mailto:theman' and
>define 'theman=me@mydomain' in a rule table.
>That way even if they inspect the code they can't tell

How can your customer's mail server - presumably they use their own mail program, and own mail server, probably provided by their ISP (AOL) - know what your alias is?

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

My mailto address is this:

<script language="JavaScript" src="AddressScrambler.js"></script>

<script language="JavaScript">writeMailTo('nvsquvdgf.wtbbnth@nbcwerfrk@jtj');</script>

But it shows up normal:

http://www.marktaw.com/sidebar/ContactMe.html

(do a view source and you'll see what I mean)

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

My email address scrambler is even better.  If you don't use the web form, you get a unique email address with the IP of the requestor and the date and time you viewed the page, encoded as ASCII gibberish, with a prefix so that it can still be filtered.

It turns out that most spam spidering doesn't happen off of cable modems anymore.  Instead, it happens from (big shock) various parts of asia.

w.h.
Monday, June 02, 2003

w.h. - it's the same guy who does it though... He sent servers to asia when it became too hot in NY.

I like that... IP address of sender scrambled into the address. That could work with a service like http://www.spamgourmet.com quite nicely.

Do you mind sharing your script with us?

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

At some point, perhaps.  I'd prefer that there be more than one scheme for it floating around so that it can't be easily recognized by spammers.  Well, that, and my particular code is hacked and ugly. ;)

Basicly, just figure out a nice ASCII encoding (in my case, mostly hex with the characters transposed) for the numerical IP address, date, and time and string them together.  It is just a bunch of string concatenations and hex->ASCII conversions that I hacked up one weekend.  The important part is that you don't want it to be clear that there's an IP address and time in the email address, you want it to appear to be gibberish.

It would be nice if there could be a list of known spam spider IP addresses, however, there's generally a 2-3 month lag from spider to spam, which gives them time to switch IP addresses.

w.h.
Monday, June 02, 2003

Hmmm. Why not use a service spamgourmet where each address expires after a few uses. Your first response to any legitimate e-mailer will be "this email address will expire after 3 more uses, please use the one I'm replying with."

You can use the same method to create the unique part of the address.


dateandipaddress.5.yourname@spamgrourmet.com

will give a unique address that expires after 5 uses. Heck, make it 1 use if you're really paranoid.

You can install it on your own server if you want @yourdomain.com, it's open source.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

Well.... because I didn't know that spamgourmet could do that, actually. ;)

w.h.
Monday, June 02, 2003

=)

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

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