Mail-to links

A mail-to link is a link that, when clicked, creates an email to the address you’ve specified in the link. You can use this to allow users to email someone; however, please keep these guidelines in mind when doing so.

If your site section has a contact form, direct users to the contact form instead.

Putting email addresses on the internet increases the amount of spam you will get, as bots crawl the internet and automatically “harvest” email addresses for the purpose of sending spam.

Also, mail-to links don’t always work the way you think they will. On a desktop or laptop, mail-to links, by default, open the email program installed on the computer, such as Outlook. However, many if not most web users these days use an internet-based email service such as Gmail or Yahoo.

A user has to specifically configure their internet browser to open mail-to links in their preferred webmail. Many users aren’t aware of this, and in some browsers, it’s not even possible. So what happens when they click your mail-to link? Their computer opens the email client, which they don’t use. They then have to close the program and are no closer to emailing you, which is frustrating.

How to make this a better experience?

When users click a link, they expect it to take them to another webpage. This is the default behaviour of links. When links perform unexpected and unwanted behaviours instead, like opening an email or a file, without informing the user, it’s surprising and annoying.

The golden rule is that when a link does something or goes somewhere other than another webpage, the user must be informed.

For this reason, do not link things like the person’s name or title, or a department name, as a mail-to. Normally, links on names go to a page with more information about that person or thing. The user will get an unpleasant surprise when it opens an email instead.

What NOT to do:

The best practice is to simply type out the email address and make that the mail-to link. This is very clear and removes any ambiguity.

The other advantage is that instead of clicking, the user can copy and paste the email address into their preferred email client, or simply read, remember, and type it.

The advantage of this for you is that you don’t have to do anything to make this a link. When you type an email address into the website text editor, it will automatically convert it into a mail-to link.

Use the specific action word “email” so the user knows what will happen when they click the link. Avoid vague wording like “contact”. “Contact” usually means an online contact form, or a page with contact information.

What to do: