How to Make an HTML Form that Sends Email
HTML doesn’t offer an option to create a form that sends an email after submission. However, you can use the form action element to set a mailto: address (in this case, your own), triggering the submitter’s mail client to open. This is a last-ditch option if you can’t create a PHP-based form.
Ideally, browsers would allow you to route form submissions directly to an email address. However, the reason they don’t is that emailing directly from an HTML web form would reveal the visitor’s email address, making the user vulnerable to malicious activities, such as phishing.
Adding a mailto: address to the form can be a potential way to circumvent this challenge. This option activates the default mail client on the user’s computer, prompting them to send the form over email. The web browser sends a request to the email service provider, not to the specified address.
There are a few problems with the mailto: option. For example, it isn’t 100% compatible with all browsers, it isn’t very user-friendly, and it’s impossible to control the formatting of the data when the form is sent by the browser.
Beyond that, a warning message will pop up when the user goes to submit the form, letting them know that the information they’re about to send will not be encrypted for privacy.
Below, we go over a few options for creating an HTML form that emails you when a new entry is submitted.
The option you choose depends on how you work and what platform you’re using. This is to say that things are a little different if the plan is to use a mix of HTML and different scripts. Below, we go over the different options available.
Method 1: Create an Email Send Form Using HTML (Not Recommended)
Using just HTML? From starting fresh, here is a sample code for use:
See the Pen How to Create an HTML Form That Sends You an Email by HubSpot (@hubspot) on CodePen.
This code will create a form that asks for the contact’s name, message, and includes a submit button (not visible in CodePen). Note that this code is basic — it won’t look super snazzy. For a more beautiful one, you’ll have to add some more lines of code specific to your needs.
While you can use just basic HTML, this isn’t the ideal option. This form doesn’t directly send to email addresses, but rather opens an email client or tool window to submit the form. This can spook the user out of submitting the form at all.
So, what HTML code allows you to send form submissions directly to an email address?
To make the form work with your email server and send it to a mailbox, PHP is the answer — let’s explore that option now.
Method 2: Create an Email Send Form Using PHP (Advanced)
To create a form subscribers can contact you with, the PHP script is going to be your best friend. I know, another acronym. This one stands for Hypertext Preprocessor, and this language collaborates with HTML to process the form.
Before jumping into the process, let’s break down a few form basics.
A webform has two sides: The front-end, seen in the browser by visitors, and a backend script running on the server.
The visitor’s web browser uses HTML code to display the form. When the form is submitted, the browser sends the information to the backend using the link mentioned in the “action” attribute of the form tag, sending the form data to that URL.
For example: <form action=https://yourwebsite.com/myform-processor.php>.
The server then passes the data to the script specified in the action URL — myform-processor.php in this case. Using this data, the backend script can create a database of form submissions, direct the user to another page (e.g. payment), and send an email.
There are other scripting languages you can use in the backend programming, like Ruby, Perl, or ASP for Windows. However, PHP is the most popular and is used by almost all web hosting service providers.
If you’re creating a form from scratch, here are the steps you can take.
Step 1: Use PHP to create a page.
For this step, you’ll need to have access to your website’s cPanel on your hosting platform.
When you’re creating a webpage, instead of using the “.html” extension, type “.php” instead. This is similar to what happens when you save an image as “jpg” versus “png”.
By doing this, the server will know to host the PHP you write. Instead of saving the empty HTML page as such, save it as something like this: “subscriberform.php”. After your page is created and saved, you’ll then be able to create the form.
Step 2: Make the form using code.
In this step, you’ll write the code to create the form.
If you’re not sure how to create forms in HTML, check out HTML Dog’s resource for a primer on the basics.
The following code is what’s needed for a basic form:
<form method="post" action="subscriberform.php">
Because this is similar to the HTML-only write-up, these lines will also create a name for the form and an area for subscribers to type a custom message and send it to you.
An important difference is the action=”subscriberform.php” part. This portion of code is what will make the page send the form when submitted. Recall that in the first example, that wasn’t an option.
Step 3: Make the form send an email.
After you create the form and add all the proper fixings depending on your design preferences, it’s time to create the email portion.
For this, you’re going to scroll to the beginning of the page (the very beginning, even before defining the HTML Doctype). To enable sending data in the email, we have to add code that will process the data. Copy this code or create something similar:
mail("firstname.lastname@example.org", "Here is the subject line",
$_POST["insert your message here"]. "From: email@example.com");
Everything inside the first and last lines will tell the webpage to make these functions perform as PHP. This code also checks to see if a subscriber uses the form. From there, it checks to see if the form was sent.
Further breaking it down, “mail” sends the completed form as an email to “firstname.lastname@example.org,” and the subject line is what follows. In the next line, you can write a copy of the email message inside the quotes, to be sent from whichever email address you choose.
Once the form is submitted, the page sends the data to itself. If the data has been successfully sent, the page sends it as an email. The browser then loads the page’s HTML — the form included.
With that, you have the basic code you need to create the form.
Note that this is just one way to do this — alternatively, you can also create a form using a builder, and then embed it onto your website.
Method 3: Create an Email Send Form Using a Form Builder
If you’re not using WordPress to build your website and are not coding-savvy, you may be at a loss as to how you can create a form, especially if your CMS doesn’t offer a drag-and-drop page editor.
(Hot tip: A drag-and-drop editor can make it much easier and simpler to create an email-sending form. Try CMS Hub — it’s 100% free.)
Each of the below tools allows you to build a form that sends an email without any coding needed from you. The best part is that you don’t need to change content management systems if you don’t want to. Instead, you can embed the form onto your website using each tool’s embed code.
1. HubSpot: Best Email Form Builder Overall
HubSpot includes a form builder in the free tier of all of its products. Because HubSpot already has your email, it will automatically send you a message when a new entry is submitted.
HubSpot’s form builder is linked with other tools in the platform, including Marketing Hub and CMS Hub, and doesn’t require any previous technical knowledge. If you want to extend the form to include marketing capabilities, you can do so as well.
For example, you can build custom forms that connect to your contacts list. You can also customize those forms and trigger automatic emails based on the completion of your forms. Note that the latter requires a premium upgrade.
If you want to learn how to receive an email after a form submission, take a look at our Knowledge Base article.
2. Forms.io: Best Quick Email Form Builder
Forms.io allows you to quickly create a form in its drag-and-drop interface, then embed it on your site using HTML embed code. You’ll receive an alert or notification, and you can then manage responses in the tool’s backend. It’s free for 10 users, but if your company will need more seats, you can have access for $14.99/month.
3. Jotform: Best Email for Builder for Multiple Forms
Jotform is free with its branding. Pricing starts at $24/month.
Check out more form builder tools here.
Method 4: Create an Email Send Form Using a Plugin
If you’re running a WordPress website, we have good news: You have a plethora of form builder plugins available to you, most of which come at the excellent cost of free. These tools will all send an email upon receiving a submission.
1. HubSpot Form Plugin: Best for Lead Generation
If you’re planning to use your form as a lead generation tool, then we highly recommend using the HubSpot form plugin. It links directly to your HubSpot account, allowing you to use it in conjunction with HubSpot CRM, Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and more.
2. WPForms: Best for Embedding Anywhere
WPForms is a drag-and-drop form builder that allows you to configure it to email you upon receiving a submission. You can also embed the form anywhere on your site, including the sidebar and footer.
ARForms allows you to receive email notifications based on conditions you’ve set, but you can also get email notifications for all submissions. You can also integrate it with other tools in your tech stack, including HubSpot, PayPal, and Google Sheets.
The Perks of HTML Forms that Send Emails
Whether you want to convert more visitors to leads, collect information for your sales team, or create more loyal brand advocates, forms are imperative to an inbound strategy. If you don’t have a form on your website, you could be missing out on more leads, higher conversions, and happier long-term customers.
The problem is that it’s easy to forget checking the responses, and even easier to get submissions but have no searchable record of them. Forms that send an email back to you keeps information in your inbox for reference and ease.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Sep 1, 2022 7:00:00 AM, updated September 01 2022