Using a common form mail script for multiple websites

I run a number of different websites. Most of them have a contact page which is powered by a form mail script. Until recently each of these websites used an almost identical copy of the same form mail script – I use PHPFormMail but you could adapt this solution for other form mail scripts. Each contact us page has very similar HTML in it. I wanted a way of sharing a common form script and wanted to avoid the duplicated HTML without losing the individual styling of each contact us page.

For this to work for you you’ll need:

  1. All your websites to be on a single host. The code on this page is what I used on my 1and1 hosting account, but the solution should be similar for other web hosts.
  2. To be allowed to use .htaccess files.
  3. Have enough technical knowledge to understand what I’m saying and to customise this for your own site. I’ll give you enough information to implement this, but only if you have enough understanding of knowledge of HTML, PHP and .htaccess files.

On my web server I use one directory for each domain. I map my domain names to directories like this:

http://www.advancedhtml.co.uk    ->   /advancedhtml-web/
https://www.reviewmylife.co.uk    ->   /reviewmylife-web/
http://www.interrail-italy.co.uk ->   /interrail-web/

You’ll note that it is not possible to access the root of my web hosting account ‘/’ from the web.

I’ve added a common directory to store the form mail script and the form HTML. This directory is not accessible from any web address. I’ll explain the contents of the formmail.inc later on.

/common/
/common/formmail.php
/common/formmail.inc

The formmail.php is my usual PHPFormMail script.

I then set up a global variable in a .htaccess file in the root of my web server. This .htaccess file is not accessible to any of my website visitors but it is processed.

The contents of the .htaccess look like the below snippet. You’ll need to replace the /kunden… part with the path of your own common directory.

SetEnv COMMON_PATH /kunden/homepages/25/dxxxxxxx/htdocs/common

If you don’t know what your web server path looks like create a file called ‘test.php’ with the following contents – <?PHP phpinfo(); ?> and then load file from your browser. You can use this test.php to verify that your new environmental variable is present. Below is my formmail.inc

formmail.inc
<center>
<form method="post" action="commonformmail.php">
<table width="80%" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0">
<tr>
  <td><font face="arial">Name</font></td>
  <td><p><input type="text" name="name"></p></td>
</tr>
<tr>
  <td><font face="arial">Email</font></td>
  <td><p><input type="text" name="email"></p></td>
</tr>
<tr>
  <td><font face="arial">Subject</font></td>
  <td><p><input type="text" name="subject"></p></td>
</tr>
<tr>
  <td><font face="arial">Message</font></td>
  <td><p><textarea name="message" rows="15" cols="45"></textarea></p></td>
</tr>
<tr>
  <td></td>
  <td><p><input type="submit" name="Submit" value="Send"></p></td>
</tr>
</table>
<p>
<input type="hidden" name="redirect" value="thanks.htm"></p>
<input type="hidden" name="recipient" value="commonmail">
<?php
print "<input type="hidden" name="referer" value="" . $_SERVER["SERVER_NAME"].$_SERVER["REQUEST_URI"] . "">n";
?>
<input type="hidden" name="env_report"
 value="REMOTE_HOST,HTTP_USER_AGENT,REMOTE_ADDR">
</form>
</center>

Look at the PHPFormMail documentation for information about the redirect, recipient and env_report fields. You’ll note that I have added a referer field so that I’ll know which of my websites this form was posted from. The value of the recipient field has to be present in the PHPFormMail $recipient_array. If your contact page is a .html rather than a .php you’ll have to make sure that you can use PHP in HTML files.

In your contact us/email HTML file you can include the form like this:

<?php
include_once($_SERVER['REDIRECT_COMMON_PATH'] . '/formmail.inc');
?>

The final part of the solution is to add a commonformmail.php to each of your individual website directories. It will look like this and just includes the shared form mail script.

<?php
include_once($_SERVER['REDIRECT_COMMON_PATH'] . '/formmail.php');
?>

From now on you can change the behaviour and look of all your website forms from one place.


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One Response to “Using a common form mail script for multiple websites”

  1. betty c. wetzel says:

    I have some problems with my web browser MacWWW (Samba) on your web site. The monkeys are still in the page :(.

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