Implementing a simple contact form

This tutorial teaches you to create a form, validate it, submit it over Ajax and e-mail the results back to you.


Making a simple contact form might seem difficult, but with the smart application of different Zotonic techniques you’ll see that it’s actually very easy.

  1. Create the contact page URL dispatcher and template
  2. Create the contact form
  3. Create the contact-form handler Erlang file.


Readers are assumed to be comfortable both in developing Zotonic templates and in writing Erlang modules.


Create the contact page URL dispatcher and template

The URL dispatcher is placed in apps_user/yoursite/priv/dispatch/dispatch. Add this line:

{contact_url, ["contact"], controller_template, [ {template, "contact.tpl"} ]},

This says that the page at “/contact” will use the “contact.tpl” template. Let’s create this template, at apps_user/yoursite/priv/templates/contact.tpl:

{% extends "base.tpl" %}

{% block content %}
<h1>Contact page</h1>
{% endblock %}

Now we have this, let’s try to see if it loads. Flush the Zotonic cache (to refresh the URL dispatchers) by going to “modules” -> “rescan modules” in the admin. Now, point your browser to http://yoursite:8000/contact. This should show the contact page with the template you just made.

Create the contact form

Now you should write the acual contact form. You should decide what fields you want in the form, so for now, just put a name, e-mail and comment field:

{% wire id="contact-form" type="submit" postback={contact} delegate="my_contactform" %}
<form id="contact-form" method="post" action="postback">

  <label for="name">Name</label>
  <input type="text" name="name" id="name" />

  <label for="email">E-mail</label>
  <input type="text" name="mail" id="mail" />
  {% validate id="mail" type={presence} type={email} %}

  <label for="message">Message</label>
  <textarea name="message" id="message" cols="60" rows="8"></textarea>
  {% validate id="message" type={presence} %}

  <input type="submit" value="Send" />

This form has 3 fields, of which the message and the e-mail are required, and the e-mail input has to contain a valid e-mail address. The name field is optional.

Create the contact-form handler Erlang file

As you see in the wire statement in the contact form, the delegate argument is set to my_contactform, which is the name of an erlang module which we still have to create. When the form submits, this module’s event/2 function gets called. Create a file apps_user/yoursite/src/support/my_contactform.erl with the following contents:



event(#submit{message={contact, []}}, Context) ->

This is the most simple version of a Zotonic form-handling function: it just dumps all form input it gets to the Zotonic console (using the ?DEBUG macro). To compile this Erlang module, enter the following on the zotonic console:


You’ll see a notice that the file is recompiled, which should end with a ok message to indicate the success. This compiling is actually very important: Whenever you change the .erl file, you’ll need to recompile it using this command.

E-mail the contents of the contact form to somebody

Using Zotonic’s email module, you can very easily send somebody an e-mail. Let’s create a simple template to send the contents of the form to the site administrator.

Create the file apps_user/yoursite/priv/templates/_email_contact.tpl:

    <title>Contact form</title>
    <p>Hello, the contact form of the site has been submitted.</p>
    <p>Name: {{ name|escape }}</p>
    <p>E-mail: {{ mail|escape }}</p>
    <p>The contents of the message was this:</p>
    <pre>{{ message|escape }}</pre>
    <p>Regards, your website.</p>

This template will function as the message body that will be sent. Note: this template gets scanned for the <title> tag, which will double as the e-mail’s subject, so be sure to include it!

Now we have to change our event/2 function to render this template and e-mail it using mod_emailer. Change the event function to the following:

event(#submit{message={contact, []}}, Context) ->
  Vars = [{mail, z_context:get_q(<<"mail">>, Context)},
          {name, z_context:get_q(<<"name">>, Context)},
          {message, z_context:get_q(<<"message">>, Context)}],
  z_email:send_render(z_email:get_admin_email(Context), "_email_contact.tpl", Vars, Context),
      <<"<p>The form has been submitted! Thank you, we'll get in touch soon.</p>">>,

This loads the relevant values from the form, puts them in the Vars variable, and then calls the z_email module to mail the given template to the e-mail address of the site admin (which is defined in your site’s config file). For more information on sending mails from Zotonic, please see the mod_emailer documentation.

Finally, this contact-form handler replaces the contact form with a <p> tag with a success message, using the z_render:update function.