I run three different websites with slightly different WordPress themes: my customer-facing portfolio, my freelancer-facing Dr. Freelance blog, and my publishing company for books about freelancing. Unfortunately, that also means three sets of plugins and versions to keep updated, and three dumpsters of spam to empty on the regular. The reason for this blog post today isn’t to whine about maintenance, though. It’s a reminder about one other critical aspect that it’s easy to overlook: test your website forms. And the reason for that reminder is because I don’t want you to do what I did: losing a piece of potential freelance business because I failed to test mine!
An author whose book I’d edited last summer sent me a note to expect a referral. I waited about 2 weeks, because the ball was in the new refer-ee’s court, then finally dropped him a line to find out the status.
He responded, “Thanks, but I didn’t hear back from you, so I went with another editor.” Ugh.
Lesson Learned: Website Forms Need TLC Too
It turned out that he had attempted to send me a message through one of my website forms rather than to my email. Sure enough, I tested the form. Despite the cheerful “Thanks! Message sent successfully” response generated, the message itself had disappeared into the internet ether, never to land in my inbox.
I was bummed, but wrote him a nice note saying that I hoped we could work together on a future project. Then, I set about trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with my form plugin, Contact Form 7. I knew the problem had occurred after an update to my WordPress theme. Even though I also updated the web form plugin at the same time, there was a setting—deep in the cobwebs of GoDaddy—that was preventing it from sending due to a conflict with Office 365. Basically, the default is to use the “local email exchanger,” and it needed to be set to “Remote Email Exchanger.” (If you’re struggling with the same issue, further details here: Contact Form 7 emails won’t send to Office 365.)
After a few hours of incredibly frustrating troubleshooting and a 5-minute call to GoDaddy tech support, my problem was solved. More important, a new item was added to my regularly scheduled maintenance: test my website forms.