RESTful contact forms

Matt Jankowski

Just like static content pages – simple “contact form” pages are another thing that can very easily fall into the RESTful pattern if you want them to. And, in the same way that seeing implicit actions in static page controllers keeps me up at night, so does seeing something like this in a controller…

class SiteController < ApplicationController

  def contact
      # Send some mail
      # Set a flash, and redirect back somewhere
      # Render a contact form


There are least three things wrong with this small code fragment:


  • The name SiteController – in this case, does not correspond to a “site resource”, and there’s no Site model in the app. I feel like a controller name should meet at least one if not both of those requirements, and this controller doesn’t It’s just being used as a bucket to drop stuff that doesn’t go anywhere else.
  • The use of contact for action naming. “This action does a ‘contact’ for the site” only marginally makes sense.
  • The use of “if” as the outermost code in an action. Come on. This style can almost always be refactored into two actions.

So how do we want to change this? Well, what’s the resource here? I’m going to say the resource is “the contact” or “a contacting event” maybe. I suppose you could go with “Message” as well, or some other naming that reflects the passing of information from a site user back to the team running the site. That deals with the first problem.

We can deal with the action naming problem and the “if” problem at the same time. In terms of action naming, I think the form we show the user to submit the information should be “new” (although I’ve entertained fascinating arguments for why it should be “show”!), and the action which actually “creates the contact” (ie, sends an email back to the team, or logs the info in the db maybe?) should be “create”. Both are standard RESTful named actions, so that requirement is met.

We end up with a controller like this…

class ContactController < ApplicationController

  before_filter :check_message, :only => :create

  def new

  def create
    flash[:success] = 'Feedback sent successfully'
    redirect_to root_url


  def check_message
    if params[:message].blank?[:failure] = 'Please supply a message'
      render :action => :new and return false


(Note the correct usage in the before_filter. Again, without that in place, I’d lose sleep.)

…and a new route, like this…

map.resource :contact, :controller => 'contact'

(Note the correct singleton resource usage. If I didn’t do that I’d once again lose more sleep and this refactoring wouldn’t be even be worth it anymore because I’d be up all night.)

I like that much better – and as a side effect, I’m going to be able to write separate functional tests for #new and #create, which should clean up the tests a bit as well.

Does anyone else do “RESTful contact forming”? Any better ideas for this simple problem?