The Importance of Email Validation

Last night, while idly perusing his inbox, my colleague Peter got an email he didn’t expect.

While the contents (and particularly the attachments) can’t be entered into here, it was enough to make Ron Jeremy blush.

What had happened was this: someone with a name very similar to Peter’s had decided to email themselves some images that, back in the days of analogue, would not have been processed by Boots. But something went wrong.

The good news is that digital cameras have swept aside the need for jugs of chemicals, a darkroom and the ubiquitous washing line for the more free-spirited shutterbugs among us. The bad news is that the digital medium is notoriously slippery. The particular individual who wanted to email the photos to themselves (presumably never having heard of DropBox) had got their own email address slightly wrong… leaving the similarly-named Peter holding the suspect snaps.

Sticking the Boots in

Maybe it would have been better if Boots did have some digital strike team to deal with such images. We’ll never know.

Of course, Peter was very honest, and contacted his alter-ego to reveal the bad news. Only after forwarding the email on to his entire contact list, obviously. (Oh, of course he wouldn’t really do that.) Peter had by now been sent the email several times, presumably by a namesake who was getting increasingly confused about his emails never arriving.

And if this sorry little escapade doesn’t emphasise the importance of getting email addresses right, I don’t know what does.

Costly for business

In ecommerce, the consequences of getting it wrong aren’t as embarrassing for the customer, but they’re a lot more costly for business. Incorrect contact data is the bane of sales and marketing. Even worse, it can stop a transaction going through in the first place.

You’re probably aware that we offer free email validation for all users of our UK addressing service (subject to fair usage levels. /Plug). But what happens when a customer enters a valid address that just plain isn’t theirs? You can include email validation and still ask your customers to type out their email address twice. You can even use JavaScript to disable the inevitable copy-and-paste, if you really want to. But it’s liable to just make your website that bit more annoying to use.

Stay tuned for opinion from our lead designer Ralph on how he approaches the sticky issue of forms from a design perspective. In the meantime, I’d be interested to hear any technical advice for the perfect email address form implementation…

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