Hosted Contact Form Solutions vs Rolling Your Own

What do you need to know about hosted contact form solutions vs rolling your own? Likely, more than you've ever thought to think about - that's what. Actually, this is really only worth talking about because of how the current landscape of websites is changing in the realm of search engine marketing.

Why Contact Form Choices

In May of 2021, Google's planning to mix up the algorithm for ranking search results pages. There's an announced update rolling out that's going to emphasize a website's quality of user experience. They're calling the metrics core web vitals, but for all intents and purposes "core web vitals" are measurements of the experience someone encounters when using a site.

In short, build a better website = get better search rankings. The faster your website loads and the smoother it operates, the better its chances to rank for Google searches that it should be ranking for are increased. Better rankings equate to more opportunities to be discovered by searchers. More people finding your links in their search engine results pages means more people are probably visiting your website, you're positioning your product in front more potential purchasers, and potentially procuring more business. This is all good stuff.

Modern Coding Standards

The twist is how the industry standard of what a better website is is shifting. Companies like Facebook are championing the development of new front-end programming frameworks like ReactJS that let developers built increasingly versatile, complex, and interactive features. The glaring difference between these new front-end technologies and the "old way" of building websites is that the new stuff is mostly javascript-based - which means it runs on the client-side of the computer and has no back-end server (i.e. it's "serverless").

Data Handling

Most contact form submissions are handled on the server-side, not the client-side. You fill out a form, hit the submit button, and the form sends the data to some script on the server and probably uses PHP to save it in a database and/or send an email. That's standard operating procedure for most all forms on PHP-based websites.

A serverless website can't perform that standard operating procedure. Again, because there is no server to process code on the server-side.

Hosted SaaS Contact Form Solutions

One solution for adding a contact form on a serverless website is using a hosted forms service. Software as a service (SaaS) form solutions like Formspree work great because they're easy to use and professionally supported. Most of the time, you can get a contact form up and running on your website in just a few minutes. The drawback of using a SaaS solution for contact forms is you're tied to service provider. If this is a contact form for your business then you might want to think about whether or not you want add another application to what you're already working with and if it's okay for you to trust the SaaS provider with your business data.

DIY Contact Form Solutions

An alternative to hosted SaaS contact form solutions is rolling your own. Essentially, a SaaS company is a business that rolled their own service in a way that was so good they're able to redistribute it at a price, so it's encouraging to know you could roll your own serverless email contact form - a more custom-to-you version.

Using an integratable React app like Nodemailer you can connect to a secure mail server and relay your own contact form submissions.

For example, you could create a website in NextJS using React components, add an HTML contact form like usual, wire it up with a Nodemailer React component, host it on a serverless front-end web host that runs Node (like Vercel or Netlify), and use an SMTP mail server (Gmail works and so does webmail like what you get with GoDaddy cPanel hosting).

Proof of Concepts

As a proof of concept, I created a hosted contact form using Formspree and a DIY contact form using Nodemailer.