Plugin review: Contact form 7

Your website needs a way for people to get in touch with you (or at least with your representative, if you’re too much a bigshot to answer your own email). It’s best not to have your email address exposed online, however, or it will be “harvested” by spammers and you’ll receive even more tempting offers of Canadian prescription drugs and free money from Nigeria.

To avoid this fate, I put a contact form on each website that lets people enter a message for making initial contact, which the website forwards on to you. I like the plugin Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi , which is the most popular, is very customizable and integrates with popular spam-blocking technology like reCAPTCHA.

It does have a spot of HTML (like) code to configure its operation. Here’s an example of how the form looks when you edit it for what fields to include and how they should be arranged.

Sample HTML-like coding for contact formSo, it’s not WYSIWYG, but it’s not Greek either. It should be fairly clear how to add or delete your own fields — especially since that row of buttons at the top each pop up a little box to make it simple to create those square-bracketed field descriptions.

Though this plugin does integrate with reCAPTCHA, I dislike using such tools for several reasons:

  1. The spammers are working hard every day to figure out how defeat them.
  2. They ship off data about your visitors to Google or other places, which affects what you have to tell people in your privacy statement.
  3. They’re obnoxious — especially now that reCAPTCHA displays it’s damn icon on every page of your site, even those that don’t have a form to fill in.

So, I like to use a different mechanism for blocking spam — the quiz question, which you can insert by clicking the “quiz” button. The question should be easy for a human, not so easy for a bot. Something like this:

screenshot: create contact form 7 quiz question

This gets you out of the arms race between spam blockers and spammers, it respects visitor privacy, and if you choose the right question, has the added benefit of making sure the sender has at least glanced at any instructional text you posted above the form, e.g. “For rights questions please contact my agent, Myron Biggle of Biggle Literary.” Obviously it’s not hard to defeat this for your particular site if the spammer looks at it, but they have bigger fish to fry — and you can always change the question.

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