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5 UX guidelines for designing an effective Contact Us page

These series of articles explores the best practices for designing effective web pages to minimise potential customers leaving and to maximise visitor engagement. In this first article we look at one of the most ubiquities and overlooked pages found on every website – the Contact Us page.

Introduction

The time spent for most online users interacting with websites can be measured in mere seconds and not having your contact information easy to find or accessible could lose you a potential customer. Most of the recommendations in this article seem obvious at first glance but the cost for not adhering to these guidelines could result in losing new business opportunities. Follow the five guidelines outlined below and minimise losing prospective clients on your business website

1) What you should display in your business Contact page

Your business 'Contact Us' page should contain at the very least a phone number and an email address. Just having a physical address or just having a contact form will only infuriate users who prefer other communication channels. Relevant information you can place on the contact us page include:

  • Main business phone number
  • Email address(es)
  • Corporate/headquarters address
  • Local addresses (if relevant)
  • Social media

Other best practices for displaying contact information:

  • List secondary phone numbers and email addresses by department (sales, accounts, support, geographic headquarters, etc.)
  • A location map (graphic) or a link to a map application (like Google or Apple maps)
  • Business hours of operation
  • Time zones – for businesses that caters for nationwide or overseas audiences
  • Fax numbers (if relevant…you’d be surprised)
  • A Frequently Asked Questions section

2) Place the Contact Us link where visitors expect to find it

Based on the findings from the Nielsen Norman Group, their usability and eyetracking research has uncovered the following behaviour in users,

‘if you ask users to find the Contact Us page on a website, they will look in the top right corner of the page or down in the footer’.

More importantly, their research indicates that the perception users have of businesses that hide or don’t place obvious links to the Contact Us page are seen as untrustworthy, evasive and unreliable.

As obvious as this sound, many sites alarmingly fail to place the Contact Us link in either of the key areas mentioned above. Some businesses may even change the title for Contact Us and instead use Resources or Help Centre. This is not a recommended practice because if a user wants to communicate with a business they tend to always look for the label ‘Contact Us’.

The other thing NOT to do is placing Contact Us under the About navigation link. The Contact Us link should always be prominently featured in the top (header) or the bottom (footer) of your business website.

3) Always include and never hide your business telephone number

Having your business contact number displayed in plain sight and in key locations builds trust and shows reliability. By allowing customers a means to directly contact your business, you effectively put to rest any fears and doubt about the legitimacy of your business.

Showing your phone number also implies that you care about customers and are available to them. Hiding your number can be seen as evasive behaviour or worse, that you can’t be bothered addressing your customers’ needs.

Most people prefer talking to a real person and will only use emailing, contact forms and chats when their requirements weren’t time sensitive

4) Contact forms are not a replacement for phone numbers or email addresses

Contact forms can be a (surprisingly) negative experience for certain people. Some users are cynical and fear their emails will be captured for marketing purposes while others feel they are surrendering control of the conservation into the business's hands and wonder ‘When’ or ‘If’ their queries will be answered.

Just having a contact form without any other contact information can harm your business' credibility and could potentially foster suspicion of your brand. Make sure your form is one of many channels as opposed to the only channel of communication.

When including a form on the contact page, it is a good idea to adhere to a few simple best practices to eliminate obstacles for communication between your business and your customers.

  • Try to limit and focus the form to just 3 main fields (you only need enough details to reply)
  • Ask for their Name, an Email address to respond back to and a brief Description of the question or issue.
  • Be cautious of asking for phone numbers (if you do make it an optional field)
  • Just bear in mind that if your form has numerous fields, chances are users won’t complete the form and that could lead to a potential loss in new business.

5) Only include social media if you can reliably and promptly respond

These days, most businesses typically have between 3-5 different social media channels. However, businesses often don’t realise the full potential of social media when it comes to utilising it as a tool for communication between them and their customers.

If you include social media links on your contact page then be conscious that users will use it to ask questions or resolve issues and not just use it to follow your brand.

Make sure you have trained and available staff that can respond to queries in a timely fashion. User expectations when interacting with social media are immediate and when companies aren’t timely with their responses they are potentially harming the user’s perception of their brand.

Conclusion

It is almost impossible to gauge a user’s preference in terms of how they want to interact with your company. Factors including time they have to spare, their perception of the channels reliability and how at ease they are at using that particular channel all influence and impact on the customer’s final decision.

Users expect and rely heavily on traditional means of contact so make sure you don’t hide your business phone numbers and don’t replace contact information with automated channels such as chat and contact forms.

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