Top 5 resources for building contact forms
I wrote this post a while back. The content can still be relevant but the information I've linked to may not be available.
As a web designer or developer, you know that contact forms are pretty essential on any website but their set-up can sometimes cause problems. There may be a degree of difficulty in getting the form to actually send the information and using CSS to layout the form is perhaps a bit more difficult than you might have thought. Help! Luckily, there are some great resources out there to help you build website contact forms. Here’s my top five list (in no particular order).
Tip: Before you start, make sure you know what your web host provides. They may have specific requirements. Also, many large hosting companies provide instructions for contact forms.
Security and accessibility
1. Mike Cherim’s secure and accessible PHP form script, also available as a WordPress plug-in, is easy to set-up and comes with a load of features that makes it one of the best contact form scripts around. The Help section is a great example of explaining a script set-up in easy-to-understand language and in great detail. The script also has a validation and test page with it so that you can check that the script works on your server before you install it on your website. Great work from Mike Cherim!
2. Andy King’s two-column CSS layout for an accessible form was a great help when we were looking to replace a tables-based form layout with its CSS equivalent. Andy explains the CSS in detail and provides an example form. My tip here would be to use the CSS as provided with minimal changes.
An old favorite
3. If you are looking for a simple non-PHP FormMail script, I recommend the NMS FormMail script. It’s a lot more secure than some older FormMail scripts and, as long as you know a couple of server settings, it’s pretty straightforward to set-up. FormMail scripts like this are generally written in Perl which will work on any server. However, some web hosts will want you to use their own scripts and/or ask you to place the script in a specific location on the server (usually a folder called cgi-bin).
Tip: Edit the FormMail script settings with a text editor like Notepad.
4. Tectite’s free PHP FormMail script is available with a host of configuration options. This might sound a bit daunting but there’s really only a couple that you need to set-up to get the script working. The documentation for the script is comprehensive but, if you get into trouble, you can also use a configuration wizard.
Let someone else do the heavy lifting
5. If all this sounds like too much trouble, you can also use a hosted service like Wufoo. Whether you want to pay for a hosted service is up to you but Wufoo provides a free option if you only have a requirement for one user, up to three forms, and 100 form submissions per month. That’s probably sufficient for a small business website. Wufoo has an easy-to use drag-and-drop form building interface and it also provides themes and reports.
All in all, I reckon the above should cover most requirements if you need to set-up a contact form (or any other kind of form) on your website. We have used them all at one time or another. They are excellent.
Previously: CSS layouts for forms – tips and tricks