2012-10-09

mailto: links are evil (not because of spam)

The easiest way to let visitors send you an e-mail through your web site is putting your e-mail address inside a mailto: link. This appears to be a clever move (“they’ll click on the mailto: link, write me the e-mail and that’s it”) but it is not!

The problem is that not everybody has a properly configured e-mail client and/or browser that will let him/her send e-mails by clicking your mailto: link.

I made myself the mistake of using mailto: links on a website I had to make for one of my customers.
One day, he told me that “some people couldn’t send e-mails using the website”: he was very worried and concerned about losing reputation with the site visitors/users.

I have to admit that I had no clue of what the problem could be. Fortunately, I could interview a user, a nice woman who said me something like:

I am very, very sorry probably I’m making a mistake myself but... when I click the e-mail links, I see a window with all the stuff like recipient, subject, etc... I write the message and click “Send”. Nothing happens and the recipient says he doesn't receive anything... Please help!

She was using a not configured installation of Outlook Express 6, that was handling the mailto: link. She couldn’t distinguish between a website e-mail form and an e-mail client, and that’s her problem.
But my problem is to make users happy even if they are not tech-savvies.

As a fast workaround, I immediately removed all the mailto: links replacing them with the bare e-mail address (no link), and planned the implementation of an e-mail form.

Rationale: HTML mailto: links should just be avoided. Never use them. Use e-mail forms, or if you can’t, just write the e-mail address without any link.

Tags: web, html, e-mail
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