As developers, we like to talk about intricate ways to route email, obfuscate information from spammers, and other technical mumbo-jumbo. But sometimes you've got to get back to basics.
It doesn't make sense for people to choose one piece of software over another until they understand why they need any software in the first place. Today well cover the most basic reasons you should use a form to receive messages from your website.
The quick & dirty way to make yourself available is to put your email address on a contact page and wrapt it in a mailto link:
Drop me a line -> email@example.com
You will get spam. And it will not stop.
Any publicly listed email address is like a gold coin for an email address harvester. These scammers, spammers & scoundrels write scripts to crawl thousands of websites all day long in search of email addresses.
Some people try to slow this by displaying [at] instead of @ or similar trickery, but harvesters are onto this and its an easy tactic to beat.1 All this really does is make it more difficult for users to read your information and contact you.
Even if your email address doesn't seem visible, if its in a mailto link or otherwise exists in source code, it is perfectly visible to bots.
1 One of our biggest rules: Spam bots are always getting smarter.
We aren't talking one-time use. A harvested email address will almost surely find its way onto a list (for profit), to be used in multiple aforementioned spam campaigns.
Scammers trade in these lists, and use them in phishing scams with serious consequences.
There are some people I just don't want to have my email address. Scratch that many people.
I wont list possible reasons you'd want to keep your email address private, but in the Internet Age, and email address is as good as a personal phone number. If somebody knows a few other things about you, then gets your email address, he could get a lot done in your name.
Personally, I just like the idea of people only knowing what I want them to know.
The Answer: Forms
Don't run yet! Forms can be really easy and secure, with a little help.
I spent the better part of a decade avoiding forms, the complexity of mail services, php and all that other back-end wizardry. HTML Forms were so messy I'd have rather taken the risk and put my email address out there.
Today, you can have your form up and receiving submissions within a minute or two, with crazy spam blocking and no publicly listed email addresses.
Now get out there and hide yourself.