Nick DeNardis

User experience, code, higher education, analytics and accessibility.

Opinion: Alternative to "mailto" to avoid spam bots

# Question:

Is there a reason to use or not use mailto over forms for contact with people? I thought hiding the email from bots was ideal.

# Opinion:

Personally I have never seen or implemented an alternative to "mailto" that hasn't impacted the visitor's experience. I have seen some slick forms that people have made instead of mailto's but then they come with their own set of challenges because bots continue to take advantage of them.

It is pretty hard to mask an email completely from bots without impacting the user experience negatively. From my point of view I have always leaned to making sure the user experience the best and dealing with the spam through good spam filters or some other means like passing forms through Akismet (opens new window) before actually sending email.

On the flip side if the user doesn't have their default email client set clicking on a mailto link can be problematic. Since a lot of users use a web based email client it is likely. I would say it depends on your audience and how they use your site. There is no standard rule but if most of your users wouldn't have their client set then a form is probably your best option.

I haven't found anything that is fool proof and the spam filters on email clients have been getting better and better. I think masking an address is just a bandaid on a larger problem that you as one person can't fix. It just takes one "unmasked" reference to a certain email address and all your hard work to keep that address secret has been wasted. I say let the spam bots find natural addresses and think they are getting through and reduce the annoyance with something they can't immediately see, your email spam filters.

# Your Turn:

Have you seen or implemented an alternative to "mailto" that you have actually been happy with?