All About mailto: Links

You can make a garden variety anchor link (<a>) open up a new email. Let’s take a little journey into this feature. It’s pretty easy to use, but as with anything web, there are lots of things to consider.

The basic functionality

<a href="">Email Us</a>

It works!

But we immediately run into a handful of UX issues. One of them is that clicking that link surprises some people in a way they don’t like. Sort of the same way clicking on a link to a PDF opens a file instead of a web page. Le sigh. We’ll get to that in a bit.

“Open in new tab” sometimes does matter.

If a user has their default mail client (e.g. Outlook, Apple Mail, etc.) set up to be a native app, it doesn’t really matter. They click a mailto: link, that application opens up, a new email is created, and it behaves the same whether you’ve attempted to open that link in a new tab or not.

But if a user has a browser-based email client set up, it does matter. For example, you can allow Gmail to be your default email handler on Chrome. In that case, the link behaves like any other link, in that if you don’t open in a new tab, the page will redirect to Gmail.

I’m a little on the fence about it. I’ve weighed in on opening links in new tabs before, but not specifically about opening emails. I’d say I lean a bit toward using target="_blank" on mail links, despite my feelings on using it in other scenarios.

<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Email Us</a>

Adding a subject and body

This is somewhat rare to see for some reason, but mailto: links can define the email subject and body content as well. They are just query parameters!!&body=Hi.

Add copy and blind copy support

You can send to multiple email addresses, and even carbon copy (CC), and blind carbon copy (BCC) people on the email. The trick is more query parameters and comma-separating the email addresses.,,

This site is awful handy will help generate email links.

Use a <form> to let people craft the email first

I’m not sure how useful this is, but it’s an interesting curiosity that you can make a <form> do a GET, which is basically a redirect to a URL — and that URL can be in the mailto: format with query params populated by the inputs! It can even open in a new tab.

See the Pen
Use a <form> to make an email
by Chris Coyier (@chriscoyier)
on CodePen.

People don’t like surprises

Because mailto: links are valid anchor links like any other, they are typically styled exactly the same. But clicking them clearly produces very different results. It may be worthwhile to indicate mailto: links in a special way.

If you use an actual email address as the link, that’s probably a good indication:

<a href=""></a>

Or you could use CSS to help explain with a little emoji story:

a[href^="mailto:"]::after { content: " (&#x1f4e8;&#x2197;&#xfe0f;)";

If you really dislike mailto: links, there is a browser extension for you.

I dig how it doesn’t just block them, but copies the email address to your clipboard and tells you that’s what it did.

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Control the Internet With Chrome Extensions!

As a web UI developer and designer, there are countless things to learn and only so many hours in the day. There are topics I’ve purposefully avoided, like mobile and offline application development because, at some point, you have to draw a line somewhere in the millions of shiny new topics and get some work done. One of the areas I’ve avoided in the past is browser extension development. I didn’t understand how they worked, what the development environment was, or how permissions interacted with overriding pages because, frankly, I didn’t think I was interested.

Then one day, my very talented designer/developer friend Natalie Schoch asked me to get her Chrome Extension across the finish line. She had the front-end prototyped, but needed some help plugging in the data set and with interactive JavaScript. The project is called Wordsmith and it’s out now at the Chrome Extension Store. It’s a free and aesthetically pleasing way to learn new vocabulary as you browse the web. The extension surfaces a new vocabulary word, along with its definition and synonyms in each new tab.

Anyway, enough plugging the new thing we made and on to the fun of figuring out Chrome Extensions!

Continue reading Control the Internet With Chrome Extensions!

Firefox Multi-Account Containers

It’s an extension:

Each Container stores cookies separately, so you can log into the same site with different accounts and online trackers can’t easily connect the browsing.

A great idea for a feature if you ask me. For example, I have two Buffer accounts and my solution is to use different browsers entirely to stay logged into both of them. I know plenty of folks that prefer the browser version of apps like Notion, Front, and Twitter, and it’s cool to have a way to log into the same site with multiple accounts if you need to — and without weird trickery.

This is browsers competing on UI/UX features rather than web platform features, which is a good thing. Relevant: Opera Neon and Refresh.

Direct Link to Article — Permalink

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