There are lots of ways to make conversions on your website.
It might be selling a product on an ecommerce store, capturing an email address or having someone click through to buy on an affiliate marketing site.
Many people are simply looking for an enquiry through a phone call, email or contact form.
The issue with contact forms is: if you go to the wrong person, they cost a bloody fortune.
To be fair, programmers are expensive.
The thing is though, you don’t need to be a code monkey to create contact forms.
The solution is simple – wordpress plugins.
What Do We Look For in a Form Plugin?
Looks = Is the design good? Is the form attractive on the site?
We’re pretty shallow here at Authority Hacker.
We’re not exactly world class designers and there may be one or two better looking sites than ours (I’m looking at you Runnerclick), but we don’t want anything that looks cheap and nasty.
What we want
- Different buttons
2. Ease of Use
Ease of use = drag and drop form builder.
Plugins are meant to make life easier. That’s the whole point.
Think Mailchimp but for forms. It’s got to be simple and intuitive.
What we want
- Drag and drop form builder
3. Logic, Input Validation and CAPTCHA
Logic, Input Validation and CAPTCHA = a mechanism for stopping SPAM and people inputting incorrect information.
CAPTCHA is important. It stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. We want a CAPTCHA to verify that people submitting forms are humans so that we don’t get spammed by bots.
Input validation isn’t 100% necessary but it’s nice to have on a complex form or if your forms feed directly into your CRM.
You don’t want an email address in the phone number field; it just messes everything up.
Conditional logic is another nice to have. It allows you to present the user with options that are relevant to them.
This question can be hidden.
What we want
- Option to add CAPTCHA
- Input validation
- Conditional logic
4. Integrations/ Data Management
Integrations/ data management = integrations with other online marketing tools
In many cases it will make sense for a form to integrate with a payment processor, an email provider or a CRM system.
We’ll be looking at whether this functionality is available and how useful the integration is.
What we want
- Integration options
5. Price – Value for Money
It doesn’t have to be free, but it has to do the job and it has to do it well.
What we’re looking for here is the best value for money, not necessarily the cheapest. If the best plugin is free — great.
However, the chances are that the best plugin will have a fee attached. We want to determine if it is worth paying the money for the extra features or if the cheaper version can do a good enough job.
Best WordPress Form Plugins
WP Forms is a pretty simple plugin, but it’s surprisingly powerful with the likes of spam control, conditional logic and integrations with email providers and payment processors. WP Forms uses drag and drop interface. This makes it really easy to build the forms. There are also a bunch of templates to get you started if you don’t know what to include.
They’re mobile responsive too, so you don’t need to worry about it looking like a Picasso painting on mobile.
It also has a bunch of built-in integrations. For example, you can integrate with PayPal to accept payments or donations. You can also link your forms up to a number of email platforms (including the likes of Mailchimp and Aweber).
When someone submits a form, you can get all the data directly to your inbox. On the other hand, if you want to view all of your lead data in one place, it’s easy to find in the back-end of WordPress.
The forms all look fairly basic.
However, there’s a CSS add-on that allows you to customize the look and feel. The obvious negative here is that you have to know CSS.
There are around 5 different plans for WPForms: Lite, Basic, Plus, Pro and Agency.
Lite (free) is a pretty stripped back version with the drag and drop builder.
If you want spam protection, you’re going to have to purchase the basic version for $39/ year. This version also includes conditional logic.
Then you have the plus version for $99/ year. The only real additional benefit that this provides is integration with email systems.
The pro plan is another huge jump in price at $199/ year.
There is a reason that WP Forms is so popular. It pretty much does everything that you want a form plugin to do. The problems come when you want extra functionality. That’ll cost you. All in all though, the basic version does everything that you want a basic WP form plugin to do for a reasonable price.
Ninja Forms is an extremely popular WordPress plugin with over 7,000,000 downloads.
This is probably due to the fact it has a strong free offering for very basic forms (and partly because of the cool name).
The interface allows you to use a drag and drop builder to create forms.
In the free version, you can create:
- Simple contact form
- Request a quote form
- Register for an event form
Event forms are quite complex, so I was surprised when I found out that this functionality was included for free.
The drag and drop form builder is also available in the free version.
The cheapest paid version is a single site license for $99. It comes with some plugins:
- Advanced form layouts
- Logic based upon user inputs
- Upload documents (such as their CV for a job application form).
This package also gives you 20% off any additional plugins (we’ll touch more upon what these are in a second).
There are only two real difference between the personal package and the professional package. The first of these is the number of sites you can use the plugin on. The second is the size of the discount on plugins – it’s 40% rather than 20%.
To make your decision, you really have to look at the add-ons.
How many you are interested in purchasing? Is it worth the additional $100 for the additional 20% discount on plugins?
These 35 add-ons themselves range from $29 to $129 each. When you sign up to any paid package, you get at least some of these add-ons (conditional logic, file uploads, layout & styles, and multi-part forms).
It’s only if you buy the most expensive “Agency” package for $499 that all of the add-ons are included in the price.
This means you’re missing out on:
- Front-end posting (you can edit the form in the front-end of the website rather than in the back-end)
- Email Integration
- CRM Integration
- Payment processor integration
- Notifications (through Slack, SMS)
- Registering and managing users.
Honestly, there’s a whole lot of functionality that comes with Ninja forms, you just have to pay for it.
“Gravity Forms is the Easiest Tool to Create Advanced Forms for Your WordPress-Powered Website.”
If the team at Gravity Forms is to be believed my job here is done, but let’s see if the plugin lives up to its own hype.
The basic package ($59 per year) allows you to create unlimited forms and receive unlimited submissions through those forms. It also has around 30 preset field options of different types of input that a user can enter.
These are split into four categories:
- Standard fields (single line, paragraph, drop-down, etc.)
- Advanced fields (name, email, CAPTCHA, document upload, etc.)
- Post fields (post title, post body, post category, post image, etc.)
- Pricing fields (product, option, quantity, shipping, total)
You can also set up conditional logic. This means that, based upon previous inputs, the user will only see fields that are relevant to them.
If you’ve created a long and complicated form (think something like a complex job application), you can allow users to save their progress and continue later.
Users can also upload files (think CVs), you can get email notifications when someone submits a form and the form can also do calculations based upon the numbers inputted.
This last one is useful for people in the service industry in particular. Think of a landscaper who needs to know the size of the yard before he can provide a quote or a writer you needs to know the number of words in the article.
However, in order to get responsive design, you need to purchase the “Elite” license for $259 per year.
For me, responsive design is essential in a form plugin. In my view, you need to buy the $259 per year package.
The elite package also gives you additional functionality such as anti-SPAM measures.
Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 is a completely free option, and it’s also one of the most popular form plugins around.
You can create, manage and customize forms in the WordPress backend. It also has a number of anti-SPAM features (such as CAPTCHA).
Contact Form 7 does have a few drawbacks though.
It can be quite difficult to use for beginners. It doesn’t have a drag and drop interface but instead uses a series of shortcodes that are almost HTML but not quite.
I mean, they’re not difficult to understand but it takes a second to look at them and work out what it all means. You also don’t see a live preview. It’s like the standard editor in WordPress where you have to go through the ‘save, preview, edit’ cycle.
For me, a visual drag and drop is just better.
For data management, you have the option of which email address you want to send the submissions to. The same creator has another plugin that allows you to write this information to a database but that means another plugin to install..
Contact Form 7 should automatically adopt the settings of your existing WordPress theme. If this is not what you want you will have to change the CSS yourself.
Again, this isn’t particularly complicated but it just adds enough of an additional layer of complexity to be annoying. I hate CSS!
Contact Form 7 is an open source project. This means that a number of adds on have sprung up around the plugin. Some of these are paid but most are free.
It also eliminates the issue you have with a lot of plugins created by individuals. There is an active community working to maintain Contact Form 7. If the creator loses interest, the community will maintain the project.
It also means you can add some pretty complex functionality to what is a relatively basic plugin.
Some of the most impressive plugins are:
- JQuery Validation For Contact Form 7 – Validate the data being entered without refreshing the page.
- Custom Skins Contact Form 7 – Allows you to choose from different looks for your forms.
- Contact Form 7 MailChimp Extension – Allows anyone submitting a form to sign up to your Mailchimp email list.
This plugin is free, has the potential to provide lots of functionality, can look good, can block SPAM, can validate inputs, but it falls down on two fronts.
Firstly, it’s not easy to use and secondly that for each of these pieces of functionality you need to bolt on another add on.
If money is tight, this could be a good option but there is a reason some of the other plugins are more expensive.
Pirate Forms is our second 100% free plugin.
The entire point of this plugin is to be simple and fast.
That means that there is no fancy functionality, it does what it is meant to do and it does it well.
You get one form template and you can customize the labels within the field and any error message if the user inputs data in the wrong format.
There are options to add CAPTCHA verification and to send the messages via SMTP rather than the PHP mail function so that your notifications are less likely to end up in your SPAM folder.
Overall, it is a very simple and lightweight product but if this is the type of form you are looking for then it is a very useful plugin. If this is not the type of form you are looking for it is a very useless plugin.
It’s pretty much as simple as that.
How Do They Compare?
|Plugin||Looks||Ease of Use||Logic, Input Validation and CAPTCHA||Data Management & Integrations||Value for Money|
What Plugin Should You Use and For What?
Personally, I probably like Gravity Forms the best. The question is: can I justify $259 per year (more than $20 per month) on a form plugin?
Well that depends.
If I’m simply an Amazon Affiliates site then no.
If I’m someone who generates revenue through forms (a freelancer, a B2B company, a painter and decorator) then yes, it’ll pay for itself.
If I’m a membership site relying upon signups through forms, then yes.
So, it depends upon your circumstances. If I was an Amazon Affiliates site, I would probably go for Contact Form 7 (although I do love the simplicity of Pirate Forms).
Even if I was a freelancer looking to generate quotes through a form, I would still be leaning towards Contact Form 7. It takes a bit more time and effort to set up but if you’re not generating any revenue through forms yet it’s not worth going out and spending almost $300.