A recent project of mine involved updating a very old website for a local fruit market here in Brooklyn. The existing website had been created in 1998 and was long overdue for a modern upgrade.
I wanted to bring all of the newest tools and features to the new website, and for the most part we did; it’s responsive, SEO optimized, and is easily self-manageable.
The new website also has a very slick system where the weekly specials automatically get posted to the website, Twitter, Facebook, and Mailchimp — all in one easy step. More about that slick system in an upcoming post.
But we also made a new Home Delivery page, where customers can place a delivery order by filling out a form on that page — a fairly common website feature, and not a hard thing to set up.
Just The Fax
However, my client had a very strange request for the Home Delivery form:
He wanted to receive a FAX when people ordered, instead of an email. A FAX!
It was 2016 and he wanted the website to send him a FAX!
Once he explained why, it made a bit more sense.
You see, it’s an old-school type of business, and the packing guys are used to getting a fax on their fax machine back there. Old habits die hard, and the client didn’t want to change this. It had to come in as a fax. Okay, made sense.
So I had to make it work. And here’s the solution I came up with:
- Customers will fill out the order form
- The form tool converts the form entry info a PDF
- The PDF gets attached to the email sent out by the web form
- The email gets sent to an account we set up at E-Fax.com
- E-Fax takes the attached PDF from the email, and faxes it back to the fruit shop’s fax machine.
Beautiful! It worked! Now, the website form sends a fax back to the shop.
The Faxing Details
We use the amazing Gravity Forms for all of our web forms, and we here added a plugin from GravityPDF, an automatic PDF generator plugin for WordPress.
I configured the GravityPDF plugin to make a simple PDF version of the grocery order, and attach it to the outbound email sent by the Gravity Forms order form.
Now, how to get a FAX?
There’s no way to make a website send a fax directly. I needed a third-party fax service that I could go through.
So I searched around and chose E-Fax.com. The fees were reasonable, and I could make it do mostly what I wanted; which was to receive an email and send it out as a FAX.
But a limitation was that they can only fax attached documents, and not the content of the email itself. This limitation was the reason I had to add the GravityPDF maker to the process.
Now, most of the time these e-fax services are for businesses who need to (send and) receive faxes by email. But we needed receive an actual fax, on a real fax machine.
So I set the delivery order form on the website to send its email (with PDF attachment) to a special email address at E-fax (firstname.lastname@example.org) which sends outbound faxes — only here we use it to send a fax back to our own fax machine, in the packing room of the fruit market.
Voilà! The modern website order form now generates an old-fashioned fax back at the fruit market — just the way they’re used to receiving things!
Circus Fruits is an open-air fruit market, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They never close! Circus Fruits has a huge selection of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, a full service deli counter, and a selection of convenient groceries and products.