Contact pages: an obsolete relic from the era of personal web sites, now displaced by social media?


I just started a conversation with user Pmffl’s on their talk page, after reverting their change to this article and making a few additional changes myself. As my arguments were flatly rejected without explanations (and my own changes reverted wholesale), I feel that it would help if others are able to participate, so I am moving the discussion to this article’s talk page. Here is how the conversation went so far:


Hello! I have just reverted a few changes that you had recently made to article Contact page, because I thought that they had introduced several problems. Overall, it seemed to imply that a contact page is merely a place for an individual to publish personal contact information targeted at friends and family. More commonly, however, contact pages have been used by businesses (of all sizes). As you wrote, many websites still provide it, hardly a sign of obsolescence. Many sites have several specialised contact pages (targeted at different audiences: consumers, business customers, investors, press, etc.). Most make those links fairly prominent as they want them to be easily found. Admittedly, a few mass-market companies take the opposite approach of burying contact information, in the hope that consumers will help themselves through FAQs or community forums, instead of contacting live support. Nonetheless, even those commonly have prominent “contact us” (or similar) links on their corporate site. I also note that blog hosting providers (Weebly, WordPress, etc.) often tout how easy it is to create custom contact forms on their platform, so they clearly see such feature as still current and relevant. I’m hoping that my rationale here is not terribly flawed and, in any case, thank you for reading! Wlgrin 22:45, 13 May 2020 (UTC)Reply

No, I wrote "Many websites still provide this type of information, but the notion of a dedicated contact page is a largely obsolete relic of the early Web, when many websites were personal." Thus I restored my version, which is more accurate. -Pmffl (talk) 00:03, 6 June 2020 (UTC)Reply

Indeed, I had precisely been thinking of that sentence (above) and also of the sentence that follows it: “Social media platforms have relegated personal websites to a small niche of the modern Web.” Together, I understand those two sentences to mean:

(1) contact pages are common;
(2) yet contact pages are outdated;
(3) as they were invented at a time when there were many personal web sites;
(4) but personal web sites have become rare;
(5) because social media platforms have superseded personal web sites.

Unless (3), (4) and (5) are a digression, they must be understood as providing the rationale for (2). In that case, one understands that contact pages were predominantly useful for personal web pages, yet (for no stated reason) their use had also spread to many other types of web sites (where they remain common), and have remained in existence there for apparently no good reason.
Pmffl, it is certainly possible that I misunderstood what you meant to write and, in that case, I’d be sincerely glad to be corrected. In that case, would you please explain what you meant? Perhaps the article could be further improved with wording that is easier to understand. If, on the other hand, I have understood correctly, then I would like to know what sources you have used to prepare your changes. I would also like to understand what you felt was inaccurate in the previous version of the article, and how your version is more accurate. Of course, I would also appreciate if you took some time to respond to my arguments: that contact pages have always been a hallmark of business web sites much more than of personal web sites; that there are plenty of signs that they continue to be valued, rather than passively perpetuated, by businesses; and that, in regard to social media platforms, several provide ways for their users to create contact pages with contact forms; all of which indicate that contact pages remain, in fact, a staple of the modern web.
Thank you!

Wlgrin 23:02, 7 June 2020 (UTC)Reply

I disagree that "contact pages are common" on the current Web. That's why I wrote "websites provide this type of information" which is not the same thing as a dedicated contact page. The way the article used to be written was a relic of the Web of 20+ years ago. Take, for example, Wordpress (which you mentioned) -- the many bloggers hosted on the site will provide their own contact info, but the Wordpress website has but one contact page -- for the company itself, not any users. That's an important distinction for this article. -Pmffl (talk) 16:26, 8 June 2020 (UTC)Reply

Hello! Thanks for your comment! Of course, I am quite unable to produce an impartial and statistically sound overview of how common contact pages are across the web. Before reverting your change, however, I had made a cursory search to verify that my own impressions were not grossly out of line with reality. I had looked at a few major web sites (mostly U.S. based, which is admittedly narrow in scope), from various sources (corporate, small business, etc.), including sites from organisations or corporations that have been instrumental in defining the web and people’s experience with it, and who cannot be suspected of not understanding the web or not knowing how to craft a web site. And what I found was that, nearly everywhere I looked, those sites had, in fact, a “contact us” link leading to a dedicated contact page. Often, the link is in their bottom banner (or top banner) shown on their front page. Sometimes, it is placed on a more specialised page, such as a support page. Sometimes, it is given prominent status in search results (for example, searching “American Red Cross” in Google brings a result showing a “contact us” link within the structured list of links beneath the main title.

Here are a few examples:

What’s remarkable about those links is not that I was able to find them. It’s how easily I was able to find them, everywhere I looked.

I mentioned Wordpress, because on their front page, they advertise their product. Under the heading “grow without limits”, they write (emphasis added): “Thousands of easy‑to‑install add‑ons mean you’ll never outgrow your website. Collect leads, create contact forms, create subscriptions, automatically backup your site, and a whole lot more.” Weebly, on its “features” page, similarly advertises the ability to create forms: “Forms: create custom contact forms, RSVP lists and surveys”. If you click on the “read more” link, their page shows an example of such a contact form, and it’s a typical dedicated “contact us” page (as shown in the demo screenshot, with “contact” selected in the top menu bar of the sample demo site).

So my point is that those companies (which are examples of social media plaftorms) know full well that this feature (having a contact page) is valuable to their customers, and they want to show that it’s easy to create. Clearly, they don’t view it as an outdated relic from 1995.

You wrote: “the many bloggers hosted on the site will provide their own contact info, but the Wordpress website has but one contact page -- for the company itself, not any users.” Honestly, I didn’t grasp what you meant there. But I’d be glad if you would elaborate on it and help me understand. Did you mean that they don’t have a directory of their users? I wouldn’t see that as typical of a contact page. A “contact us” page has always been about us, not them. Wordpress enables its customers to create web sites, and to place a contact page on their own web site. And their users sure are taking advantage of it! I went to Wordpress showcase, and tried the first three sites that were presented to me (the list is updated at every visit) as “featured business sites”. All have a contact page:

I agree that this is only a cursory glance at the web. Yet I find it impossible to conclude anything other than that dedicated contact pages appear to still be pretty much everywhere, including top sites lauded for their design. But this leads me to wonder. Did I miss something obvious? Are we talking about two different things? What is giving you the opposite impression?

When you speak of “relic”, I understand “outdated”. Of course, you may well have formed the opinion that dedicated contact pages are undesirable, outmoded, useless, etc. I won’t question the validity of such opinion: I’m not competent in the matter, and that’s not for me to judge. But that would be a personal opinion, and the article should really reflect the current state of things. Do you still find, despite the examples I gathered, that dedicated contact pages are uncommon on the web? In that case, what leads you to think so?
Thank again for discussing this!

Wlgrin 23:23, 10 June 2020 (UTC)Reply

I must say, I'm impressed by your research into this matter, Wlgrin. You've made a convincing argument. I think one thing that bothered me about the way it was written long ago was the word "standard", which you took out when you revised it last week. I didn't notice that subtle change until now, after I'd reverted it.

So I must admit I'm mistaken about contact pages not being common. I restored your version. -Pmffl (talk) 18:18, 13 June 2020 (UTC)Reply