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Email techniques

    Email forwarding
    Email links and address concealment
    Reply forms

Email forwarding
Email forwarding allows you to use your domain name for email addresses. So, if your domain name is mydomainname.co.uk, you can use any email address of the form anyname@mydomainname.co.uk. Emails like this arrive at your website and are then automatically sent on to your normal email address. This process happens extremely quickly without anyone looking at the message.

The advantages of email forwarding are

  • It looks professional to have your own domain name.
  • If you decide to change ISP and hence your 'real' email address, you don't need to contact everyone in your address book. Just tell us and we change the forwarding.

The system allows you to have as many email addresses as you like and they don't all have to be forwarded to the same person. So you might decide that 'info@' would go to one address, 'contact@' and 'fred@' would go to another while 'urgent@' would go to both. It's a good idea to use another version of your address if you sign up for anything online (maybe online@ ) - then you can kill it if it gets picked up by the spammers.

You don't need email forwarding to have a 'contact me' button or similar links on your website. Such links can go directly to your 'real' email address or to one you have set up specially for the purpose.

Email links and address concealment
If you have a website, you probably want visitors to be able to contact you. They are sitting at a computer so the most natural way is to provide a live email link like this:

contact me at me@mydomain.co.uk

This looks like a good solution because it tells the user the address in case they need to note it down, but if they just want to contact you they can click the link to open their email program with your address already filled in. You can even be slightly more sophisticated if you like and fill in the subject and some of the body too - click this link to see it in action:

send a fancy email to me@mydomain.co.uk

Unfortunately the growth of spam has made this neat and direct arrangement less desirable because automated software surfs the web harvesting email addresses for inclusion in email lists that are then sold to the spammers. Of course, there are many other ways for your address to get included in these lists so concealing the address on your site isn't guaranteed to be effective, but it is prudent.

It's possible to disguise the displayed address and the underlying code to make it more difficult for the harvesting software to find. We now do this on all our new sites and, although we can't guarantee that it's 100% effective, it does seem to stem the tide.

Reply forms
As an alternative to a simple email link, you may prefer to supply a reply form. This asks the visitor to enter specific information into a number of boxes and then to click a button to send you the information. The form below is a simple example.

You can contact me through the form below.

Your name
Your email address

The message is sent to the web server via HTML, not email so your email address is never exposed. When the message is received by the web server, it constructs an email message and sends it to you.

Besides concealing your email address, reply forms have other advantages:

  • You can ask you visitors to answer specific questions - even providing drop down lists and option buttons if appropriate
  • You can check that the questions have been answered sensibly before you allow the 'send the message' button to operate.

The disadvantage of this type of form is that you rely on the user to accurately enter their email address. If they make a mistake, you won't be able to reply to them.