Contact Pages – Good vs Bad
A thought-through contact section or page is critical to the success of your website. Why? Simply because visitors – be it your current or potential clients – will more than likely want to contact you at some point. And when they do, you better make it a positive experience for them. Even though your interaction is probably going to be mediated, it is important to make your visitors feel welcome, understood, and appreciated.
When visitors decide to contact you, they are willing to engage – not only with your site, but with you as a company and as a person. This means they care. Be it because they have a question, complaint, or maybe even a compliment for you. They are willing to invest time and thought into establishing a relationship with you.
Just like talking to someone in person for the first time, your first impression online is key to any future relationship with your visitors.
Let’s take a look at how a good contact page can already take you a long way towards that good first impression and thus a positive relationship. At the same time, we should keep in mind the negative effects your contact page can have if not designed carefully.
Good contact pages
What makes a contact page a good contact page? Basically, a good contact page makes it easy and convenient for visitors to contact those behind the website. Depending on the website, visitors can be very diverse groups and the ‘people behind the website’ could be one person or multiple support teams.
This already indicates that there is no one single template to a good contact page. Sometimes, it doesn’t even require an entire page. As long as visitors find your contact section, if they understand how to use it, and if they feel welcome and appreciated, it can be considered a successful contact page.
A good contact page has personality
Let’s begin with something we’ve discussed multiple times before: Personality. Designing with personality means you take away some of the cold and technical appearance of the Internet and replace it with something people can relate to. Anything really that shows that a website is made by people for people contributes to a site’s personality.
For a contact page, this is especially important because you’ll want to make your visitors feel welcome. If we can already make assumptions about a person or company judged by the design of a website, and if those assumptions are positive, we feel much more comfortable getting in touch.
The interaction designer Jarad Johnson has chosen for a very personal and authentic contact section in form of a post card.
Of course for small companies or even freelancers it’s much easier to reflect personality in their design. That is because it’s the personality of a single person or at least a small group of people. When designing for bigger companies, it is very important to agree on a single personality that will be communicated.
A good contact page is clear
Besides an inviting look and feel, it is also important that your content section is usable. This means your visitors should be able to quickly understand what contact options there are and how it works. Also, forms and links should work as people expect to avoid frustration.
For example, when using a contact form in your contact section, make sure you keep it simple. Only ask information you really need to know. Offer clear instructions, such as pointing out obligatory fields. When checking form fields, make sure your offer clear and specific feedback.
The design and development agency Point Zero offers many different ways to get in touch with them. A great detail: Form fields offer instant feedback when filled in.
Keep in mind that your visitors are all different. Also, they have different preferences for getting in touch with you. Some people might prefer to call, while others would rather connect with you via social media. Make sure your contact section offers different channels for your visitors to contact you.
A good contact page is accessible
One aspect of good usability is also a good findability and accessibility. If your visitors want to get in touch, but they cannot find a way to do so, or they encounter technical issues, chances are they give up and you never hear from them.
No matter what industry you are in, whether you sell stuff, connect people, or offer information, make sure people know how to contact you. This starts with a clearly visible and easy to find contact link on all of your pages – ideally always in the same spot. You should always be available for your visitors.
Next, find out when people are most likely to contact you and where they are when they do so. Mobile traffic keeps growing and especially when people are on the run, chances are they prefer to call you instead of reading their way through your FAQs. Is your contact section optimized for mobile devices?
The design company Spigot makes use of a responsive design for their entire website. This way, visitors can easily find and use their contact section on any device.
Again, this is much easier if you have a small website with few people to be contacted. However, it only means that accessibility gets even more important the bigger and more complex your company gets. Do you have multiple customer support teams? Make it as easy as possible for your visitors to find out where they need to be with their request.
A good contact page is trustworthy
So your visitors have found your contact section and their preferred communication channel is available. Great. But what happens if for whatever reason they don’t trust you? They might want to know who it is they are about to contact. They might not feel comfortable filling in some of the information you ask for in your contact field. Or they might need to know how quickly they can expect an answer.
The answer to those questions is simple. Visitors who don’t trust you are likely to not contact you at all. This means they don’t get their questions answered and probably they will go look for alternatives elsewhere.
When trying to contact Axure, they welcome their visitors with a friendly “Nice to meet you. We’re Axure.” Then they tell you a bit about themselves before they invite you to get in touch.
Trust lies in the details. Be open with your visitors and tell them who you are, who your support team is, why you ask for certain information, or how quickly you intent to reply. What’s relevant can differ by industry, so why not ask your visitors what makes them trust you. This way, you not only optimize your contact page, you also start a conversation with your visitors and show them that you care.
Bad Contact Pages
Your contact page is made up of different elements, such as content, design, links, maybe images. If used correctly, these elements can help you make a positive first impression on your visitors. However, the same elements put together the wrong way can have the exact opposite effect.
A contact page, or section that is hidden, impersonal, or simply confusing doesn’t invite your visitors to get in touch. It doesn’t make them feel welcome. Possibly, it even scares your visitors off, leaving them with a negative impression. The result: Their questions stay unanswered, their problems unsolved, and their complements unheard.
A bad contact page can destroy customer relationships before they even start.
Impersonal contact pages are bad
While a personal design can help you create a bond with your visitors, a lack of the same can have the exact opposite effect. A cold and sterile design, that doesn’t give anything away about the people you are about to contact, is anything but inviting.
The Apple contact page is very corporate and lacks personality.
Sure, Apple is a huge company and there are many different people who want to get in touch for many different reasons. It’s obvious then that they need some kind of system, or filter on their contact page. But let’s be honest, an inviting design looks different.
Confusing contact pages are bad
Another big no-go for your contact section is to confuse your visitors. This includes complicated filter processes for different support departments, irrelevant forms field, or simply confusing interfaces.
Make sure you test your contact section with real users. This is the only way to find out if they think your concept makes sense and if they can find their way to the appropriate contact details.
Also, don’t confuse “contact” with “support”. Obviously, when your visitors request support, they contact you. However, the desire to contact a company doesn’t imply that support is needed.
AT&T offers very diverse support options. However, it is tricky to just “get in touch” for a more generic reason.
AT&T offers separate support pages for different product categories. On every page, there is a live chat and a phone number available. On the contact page, however, those two are missing. Instead, the visitor has to go through a process with multiple steps to request support. And yes, the link “Contact us” immediately brings you to the support section of the site.
Untrustworthy contact pages are bad
So if people don’t trust your contact page, they are unlikely to go ahead and contact you anyways. Trust can be created in different ways. For example, you offer detailed information about your company, show images and personal contact details of your customer support people, or you can show some customer testimonials telling about their relationships with your company.
Also, your logo and a corporate design that tells people they are still on the right site can be positive trust factors. However, your logo itself isn’t enough – or at least it doesn’t make up for every mistake.
Burger King has replaced their contact section with a general feedback form. Not really the best way to start a relationship with your visitors.
When trying to contact Burger King, you are immediately taken to a customer satisfaction survey. You might simply have a question and yet, you are prompted to fill in an entire survey. Only on second look it becomes clear that you can choose between “Restaurant” and “General” feedback. Still, they are asking your feedback – rather than showing interest in your request. They even give away a free Whopper sandwich to people who leave feedback.
Your contact section is key to building a positive relationship with your visitors. In order to make a good first impression, make sure your contact section…
- … has personality: A design with personality can break the ice and make your visitors feel appreciated.
- … is clear and easy to use: Don’t confuse or frustrate your visitors. Keep in mind that different people prefer different channels to get in touch.
- … is accessible: Be it on a desktop computer of a mobile device, it is important that your contact section is easy to find and functional on any device.
- … is trustworthy: If people don’t trust you, they probably won’t reach out and neither will they return to your site.