It’s a Contact Form, Not a Credit Application

So, tell me your name. Great, and what’s your email address? Awesome. Now, what’s your address, complete with city, state, and zip code? OK, daytime phone? Nighttime phone? Late-afternoon phone? Birthday? Oh, almost forgot, cell phone? Right, and your birthday again was? In what city were you born? Do you use an electric blanket? Electric socks? What’s your stance on beans in chili?

Overly intrusive forms are annoying, not to mention unnerving, to your visitors. After all, they just want to ask you a simple question and, to do so, have to give you their maternal, fraternal, maternal great-great-grandmother’s maiden name. Do you really need to know that?

In a world of Privacy Policies, the more information you require from your visitors, the more information you have to keep private. And, really, do you need five different phone numbers for one person? They just want to know if you have that hand-made scarf in blue.

Keep your contact forms simple, and don’t ask for too much information. Four to five pieces of information is generally enough to get the conversation started, and getting the conversation started is what you want.

Ask for too much information, and chances are the conversation it will never get going.

Don’t Hide From Your Visitors

Websites are, inherently, a very public thing. Anyone in the world (barring local filtering) can see your website. It’s enough to make many queasy thinking about people on the other side of the world having access to their phone number or, brace yourself, their email address.

Exposing your email address on a website does open you up to spam emails, but these days, many businesses have catchall email addresses anyway. If you have a catchall email address, the “I don’t want to get spam email” argument is already invalid.

Personally, I’m a bit of an on-line privacy nut. And with that said, hiding your business address and phone number has never made sense to me, since anyone can find the information on any number of government and yellow-pages-type sites.

If it’s on your business card, put it on your website, and make it easy to find. If your address, email, and phone number are not on your business card, it might be time to redesign those as well.

Hiding your business’s information usually only hides it from the people you want to have it: your website’s legitimate visitors. Not to mention that it leaves the impression that you have something besides your address to hide.