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Mar 18, 2018

Best practices for displaying email address

Article brought to you by Nilead, a website builder platform with fully-managed design, development, and management services.

Best practices for displaying email address


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When we first designed our website, we did not expose our email addresses anywhere on the site fearing the spammers will bombard us with emails. Then one of our clients told us that he thought we should put the email on the website to make it easier for people to contact us, we were confused.

Our initial reaction was like No, but why....? We already have the contact form on the site, why do we need to put the email addresses as well? After further interrogation with the client (erm, I meant friendly questioning), it seems like our client had to spend some time on our site to figure out how to contact us.

To understand how users navigate our website, we then utilized Yandex Metrica which is a free Web Analytics tool to capture users' interaction on the site to see how our visitors interact with the content.

(Google Analytics also provides a similar feature, but Yandex has the live mouse movement recording which is extremely helpful)
Best practices for displaying email address

“Yandex Metrica provides free mouse movement capturing”

It turned out that our Contact link on the top menu could be easily mistaken for other purposes. The Contact link was too close to the navigation icon which caused the users to believe that it's just the description of the icon and thus clicked on the wrong element and never found the contact form. We moved the Contact link 10px away from the icon and added some mouse-over (hover) effect to highlight its purpose.

The minor change bumped our contact rate 19%.

One question remains, however, is that should we expose our email addresses our not. To explain our paranoid, we have first to describe how the scammers and spammers collect your emails: these guys will use automatic tools (often called crawler) to scan every single website on the world to extract contact information. This kind of operation is called 'Email Address Harvesting.'. The collected contact information can be later sorted, validated, and used for bulk emailing. It's easy to be overwhelmed with hundreds of spam messages every day and miss the urgent emails from real customers.

After much consideration, we decided to expose our email addresses since:

  1. We use Zoho as our main email provider which already scans for spams. We then utilize Google's email system to scan further for spams (and it does a darn good job at that).
  2. We use a technique called obfuscation which allows us to expose the emails to ordinary users but making it very difficult for the crawlers to harvest the emails.
  3. You can still get spams from your contact form anyhow.
  4. It's convenient for the users. In the end, everything we do is to make life easier for the users.

The last point didn't quite hit us home for a while until we decided to renovate our office and had to contact multiple contractors to get price quote and estimation. Almost all of the contractors we found on the web have their email addresses (and the contact form) right on their website. It was very convenient to write one single email then add all the addresses we found to the BCC list.

Another reason to expose your email addresses is to avoid the single point of failure scenarios.

Most contact forms will take the submitted messages from the clients then send to an email address you use. If the contact form code has some issues, or if the internal email sending service of the server experiences some technical problems then the messages may never arrive. Your clients think that you already receive and never reply while you never see any message.

In conclusion, use contact form because it's convenient for some users (and sometimes considered as being more professional) but don't forget to also list your emails. If configured correctly you will not get any more spam than usual, and the benefits outweigh the annoyance.


About the author


Vu Nguyen

Vu Nguyen is an entrepreneur, developer, and founder of Nilead. He loves backend website development and has experience in eCommerce (owning an online store as well as being a developer), Search Engine Optimization, UX Design, and Content Strategy.

Since 2005, Vu has headed and overseen UX design teams for projects in corporations, start-ups, individuals, etc., regardless of their size. He has been involved in both the creative and technical aspects of each project - from ideation to concept and vision, prototype building to detailed design, and build-up to deployment.

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