Online Form Email Services

Updated 8/20/2017 at 8:20pm

Why Online Form Email Services?

One very serious problem with using the mailto: capability of the browser is that the user must have an e-mail program configured on their computer or the e-mail can't be sent. (In the old days, you could put the attribute

action="mailto:somebody@somesite.com"
into a <form> tag, and the browser would use the computer's installed e-mail client/app to send the e-mail. But these days, over 50% of e-mail users don't even have a client/app installed on their computer, and they use web-based e-mail instead.)

There are several server-side e-mail alternatives:

PHP, ColdFusion, and asp.net are server-side programming languages. PHP is currently one of the most popular server-side programming systems, and is free. One of the features of PHP is an email-sending function. I teach about how to use this email-sending feature in my spring semester PHP class, IMED 2351.

Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have a CGI E-mail script/program available for their customers. If you already have an Internet account with an ISP, you should investigate their site and see if they have a CGI script available to you. Many times these scripts are listed under a link called "Scripts", "CGI E-mail", "Form E-mailer", or something like that.

Probably a better option is to use one of the recently-developed online form email services. Your assignment for this week will be to use one of these services. See the above list for some of the most popular services.


Using Online Form Email Services

As I mentioned above, one of the simplest and most straightforward ways of getting information from your users is to have the information emailed to you from an online form email service. Some of the most popular services are:

All of these services offer a FREE account. The free accounts are limited, but still useful.

The forms that you create at these sites remain on their own servers. In order to use their forms, you will put some code into your own site's HTML page, which refers to, or includes, the online form.

I suggest that you get an account at one or more of these services, or any other similar service that you can find, and play with their forms to see which service you like.

I also suggest that you make use of the "required" feature of each of these forms. You can check a checkbox or some other similar feature for most of the input fields on the form, which will display an error message to the user if they fail to fill in that input field. This "required" feature is very useful if you don't want to get junk information from your users.