We Need to Talk About Mailto Links

If you are like me and you don’t use an email client, you have probably run into the following: you click on someone’s contact information or e-mail address and an app opens right in your face. Email client user here? Let me tell you that it’s pretty annoying! Can we do something better?

Don’t get me wrong, mailto links can be useful for those people who use some kind of a client app. It can save a lot of time with opening a blank e-mail for you - it can even fill out the subject line. If you are looking for a good example, just check what Tobias van Schneider does with his mailto link. Nice easter egg, right? So mailto links are not evil creatures at all.

Tobias’s easter egg after clicking on a mailto link

But…

Sometimes I feel that we forget to think about the downsides of this solution. Opening a new application is a significant action. Should we really do that if we are not 100% sure that our users intended to do so? There are still a lot of people out there who don’t use any email clients. Also, iPhone owners using alternative mailing apps might have a hard time, as (as far as I know) these links will open up in the default iOS mail app anyway.

So what should you do?

One possible solution is that instead of opening an app, you copy the email address to the users clipboard. This way they can easily paste it into a new mail, or just share it with whoever they want. Yet, the downside of this solution is similar: we do something which is not necessarily expected by our users. Still, I think that modifying the clipboard is a better solution, as it’s a more minor action compared to opening a new application.

Takeaway? Before adding your next mailto link, stop for a second and think about your users. If you think that they are tech-savvy enough to use a client app, go on, they’ll love you. If you feel that they probably don’t use softwares like this, just skip it. Or try to think about an alternative solution like copying the address to the clipboard.

I would love to here your thoughts about the topic! Mailto links: yay or nay?

Have a great day!

Bence

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