Usability Pro Tip and Rant: Stop Obfuscating and Start Posting Your Full Email Address!

Usability Pro Tip and Rant: Stop Obfuscating and Start Posting Your Full Email Address!

Summary: Are you still showing your contact email on your site like this? "myemail AT mysite DOT com" If you are, it's time to reconsider your site's usability. In 2010, it's finally safe to put your users first!

TOPICS: Collaboration

Stepping away from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and more into the realm of Web usability, one of the best premises to stick by for your site is "don't make me think." In other words, make your site as easily navigable and usable as possible for your users. In my opinion, that includes the avenues you provide for people to contact you. It's almost 2011 and I still see people writing their email addresses on their Web sites in all kinds of funky ways that either annoy or confuse the bejesus out of someone looking to contact them. You're familiar with some of them, including but certainly not limited to the following:

Example 1: myname AT mysite DOT com Example 2: mynamezzz [@] mysitezzz [.] comzzz (remove the "zzzs" to contact me!) Example 3: myname *REMOVETHIS* @ *REMOVETHISTOO* mysite *PUT A DOT HERE* com (remove all the spaces in-between myname, mysite and com, too)

Naturally, that last example is a little bit ridiculous, but I think you catch my drift. Ultimately, I understand the logic behind it, because we all hate spam and the last thing we want is to make it easy for spammers to culminate our email addresses by providing something like this:

Or even more deadly, this:

Now, I know what you're saying to yourself after seeing me post my full email address like that -- as if it were akin to the importance of my SSN -- so freely and carelessly: "Oh no he didn't!" But, yes -- yes, he did! ...Or yes I did. Or whatever.

Folks, if you're one of those who still utilize crazy email obfuscation methods similar to the 3 aforementioned examples, please allow me to pull you out from beneath that rock you've been hiding under since the 90's and introduce you to modern day technology. :) Believe it or not, email clients are very smart these days with their spam-catching technology. I would wager to say that most of us these days utilize something like Gmail or a personal client like Squirrel Mail, Round Cube, et al. With that in mind, it has now become safe for you to post your email address in such a manner that makes it completely painless for someone to quickly reach out to you via email.

To note, you may need to download a plug-in or extension for your Web mail client, such as these plug-ins for Squirrel Mail. Utilize the following Google query if you need to find anti-spam measurements to implement for your client (replace "your mail client here" with the name of your mail client in the Google search box after you click the following link): "your mail client here" anti spam (e.g. "Squirrel Mail" anti spam or "Round Cube" anti spam)

Lo and behold, should you actually receive a spam email in your regular inbox, it's quite easy to check it and send it to your spam inbox. It may be a minor annoyance to have to do that once in a blue moon, but consider it a very minor trade-off for giving your users the satisfaction and ability to contact you in the most facile and thoughtless manner possible! Not to mention, every time you report a spam email, you help the cause to track down and prevent that same email from ever making it through to you and others like you again. Besides, chances are, you already receive some amount of spam anyway regardless of how much you may currently obfuscate your email address.

To give an example, I have a pretty popular Microsoft blog where I've openly made my email address available for almost three years now! I've done that via the Web site itself and via my Twitter page (which now has my latest Gmail email address). "What," you exclaim!? Posting my email address wide-open on TWITTER!?

Yes. And believe it or not, the insurmountable number of spam emails you would *think* I've received is so underwhelming, it's almost overwhelming! Personally, I think it's a combination of much better spam preventative measures and spam email marketing not paying off anywhere NEAR as much as alternate methods of spam. Now, don't get me wrong here, because email marketing is... incredibly hot, to say the least. If you're into marketing and you don't have a list of emails from prospective clients/converts, you're missing the boat. But I digress.

So, I posit to you -- nay -- I CHALLENGE you to DARE to post your email address in its full, unbridled glory in 2010! Be a pioneer! Make it your new years resolution for 2011 if you must but DARE to be different -- like Nuprin (+1 to your level of awesomeness if you remember the Nuprin commercials, thus understanding this little joke in the first place).

Of course, there's always implementing a contact form (like what you see on this page if you click "contact" over there towards the top in the left-hand sidebar) if you don't want to expose your email address in the first place, but the main point here is really to push for better Web site usability. Whether you give your users a properly formatted email address or a contact form with which to contact you, please just do them the favor of giving them something more than this: .m.y.e.m.a.i.l.-.a.t.-.m.y.s.i.t.e.-.d.o.t.-.c.o.m. (don't forget to remove the dots... except for the dot between "mysite" and "com") :)

Topic: Collaboration

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  • It's easier for the user and better for you to use a 'contact us' form.

    Don't post your e-mail address. Use a web-page 'contact us' form ... which can, if you wish, re-direct the message to your e-mail easily enough.

    This is the easiest way for online users to reach you, as they just click the 'button' and type in a message. It also protects you from spammers who, despite this author's erroneous contention, are still harvesting and spamming every possible e-mail address they can get their grubby paws on.

    Even though spam filters have come a long way in the past decade, why make it easier for the criminals harder on yourself?

    Just my $0.02 USD for what it is worth.

    • Erroneous contention?

      @JonathonDoe Of course spammers are still harvesting email addresses, but the point I'm pressing is that it's really not a big deal anymore and not something you have to worry about. I agree that a contact form is a great way to go (which is why I mentioned it at the end of the article), but many companies like to include an email address. Formatting it properly allows a user with an email client locally configured (Outlook, Thunderbird, et al) to simply click it and compose without having to fill out two boxes containing their name and their return email address.<br><br>Between a contact form and an email address, formatting an email address such that a user can click it will give them two less steps than a contact form requires. A very, very infinitesimal detail, but I feel it's still worth noting -- especially in a day and age when companies like Google are trying to make results faster by .n seconds.<br><br>-Stephen
  • Contact forms do not equal less spam!

    I have several sites with contact forms and it seems that they have scripts now that basically copy what humans do to send spam via them. I keep having to rebuild my contact forms to stop spammers and their monkeys. Its quite irritating.... especially since the contact form emails all look the same, the spam filter you have wont filter them.


    BTW: Dont put your email out there for everyone to use unless its a free email type. Posting your work email will only generate tons more email attempting to be sent through my mail server.
  • I must disagree

    For some reason I just can't belive why someone would post their email address on a forum for spam bots to parse out... The way I see it in the forum you may provide your email address for 1 person to send you a file or something, but over the course of time you will probably receive 1,000 spam emails because of that posting... no matter if the spam filter filters it out or not, its probably more annoying then useful.

    @been_done_before, validation can eliminate spam through forms. For instance, if you have a email address field in the form name it something like DJFKD8d8fDf and validate it when its posted to the server. Also make sure your not using an old school form posting script where they want you to include the email to address in the form of where its posting to...
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