Podcast Episode

282 – WordPress Contact Forms


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

Thin Out Revisions is a great utility plugin that will allow you to remove extra revisions from old posts.\

WordPress Contact Forms

In today’s episode, we break down three different contact forms:

Gravity Forms

Gravity forms is a great plugin if you are a developer and use integrations with different services. You can get a developer license for $199 and it includes all of the add-ons.

Ninja Forms

Ninja Forms is a perfect plugin is if the majority of your forms are simple and you don’t need to connect with other services. If you do need the extra functionality, then you can a la carte purchase the extension (you can’t with Gravity Forms).

The form previewer is much better with Ninja Forms as it renders your CSS so you can see what you form will look like on your site.

Thank You!

Thank you to those who use my affiliate links. As you know I make a small commission when someone uses my link and I want to say thank you to the following people. For all my recommended resources, go to my Resources Page

Call To Action

If you’ve never tried out Ninja Forms, I recommend giving it a try the next time you need a simple contact form.

Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode we are going to talk about different option to build a contact form on your WordPress website right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast number 282.

Hello everybody, welcome back to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler and today we’re gonna be talking about WordPress contact forms. We’re also going to try to get through this without my contacts getting all fuzzy and me being able to read everything that’s on my screen.

So today, let’s start off with the announcements and today we are going to talk about first WordPress 4.5.1 and that is a – just be on the lookout for that. It’s supposed to come early this week so it could be out by the time this podcast is actually released and if you’ve updated to WordPress 4.5, be on the lookout and it will include some bug fixes as well as some security patches, I’m sure for some things that we found in the last week or so with WordPress 4.5.

Another thing that I wanna share with you this week is Jetpack is updated to version 4.0. And it also went 4.0 to 4.0.1 and 4.0.2 is the most stable release that’s out there. And so if you haven’t, go ahead and update your WordPress site to the latest version of Jetpack and the 4.0 has some very new UI things. Some improvements for onboarding people when they turn on Jetpack for the very first time. Just kind of helping people really understand the benefits of Jetpack and how to set it up and configure it properly instead of just hitting the big blue button that says connect with Jetpack.com or with WordPress.com.

So there’s a lot of things that were added. There’s some more tight integration with Woo Commerce and you can now put sharing buttons right on Woo Commerce products. The widget visibility got updated and now includes custom post type so you can hide and show widgets on custom post site pages which is pretty nice. They also have selective refresh for widgets and now this means that widgets will update instantly when live preview inside the customizer and they’ve added a bunch of other really cool stuff that’s built in behind the scenes, especially for the protect module and the contact forms. So it does all of that. Be sure to update your site and your client’s site and anybody that may be using Jetpack 4.0.2.

Let’s see, also in the news, this isn’t really in the news but I wanted to mention this just because we talked about it last week about how to hide admin notifications and are we doing it wrong with all the admin notifications and they take up the entire screen. Well, there’s a plugin out there. It’s got about 900 installs. It’s a plugin that’s still actively under development but it’s called WP Notification Center and this basically will just wrap up all of those notifications and put them up in your admin bar. Now there’s really not much that you can do once they’re there. They just kind are there and out of your way. So if you have some really annoying admin notifications, maybe you’re on a development site and your license isn’t working right or any reason why – maybe even the plugin won’t allow you to dismiss them, you know, you can go ahead and use this plugin and then just put them all up in the admin bar. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything once they’re there. You can’t dismiss them, you can’t really do a whole lot but they will appear in the admin bar and kind of clean up your WordPress dashboard which is pretty nice.

So even though that’s a plugin that I’m sharing, that isn’t the plugin of the week because the plugin of the week this week is one that I’ve been waiting for to share for quite a while. It’s just – I find these plugins are interesting and then I put them into shows out weeks and weeks in advance. Just when I find them, I tag them and put them in the next show that doesn’t have a plugin. But this one is called Thin Out Revisions. And this is one that I’ll actually probably install on my website and run it regularly and what it does is it basically will eliminate extra revisions that you have on your WordPress website. And so you may think, well maybe I need them. What happens if I roll back? Well, there’s a lot of time where you never ever actually will roll back some sort of revision to a post once the page has been maybe a month old or a week old or six months old or whatever that looks like. And so this plugin will actually allow you to go in and you can either manually do it or you can set up like an automated system to say; every day, take any extra revision that’s older than 120 days old, remove it now. And it just goes in and it look through your database and it finds all of the revisions and it’ll just go ahead and get rid of those.

And you may be saying, Dustin, why do we need to get rid of those? And the main reason is just to make your database smaller. The smaller your database, the faster your webhost can look through all the records to serve up the information that’s needed for a visitor that’s coming to your website.

And so this is one that I’ll probably set up, I’ll probably get stuff – I’ll probably say, I don’t know, delete revisions older than 30 days. I don’t think I really need to keep them much longer than that I wouldn’t think. I don’t actually do a lot of editing or revisions once the Show Notes has gone on live. So I can probably turn that all the way down to seven days or ten days or something like that.

So that’s a plugin. It’s out there on the WordPress repository. It’s called Thin Out Revisions. And I definitely recommend you checking that plugin out if this is something that’s interesting to you. If you wanna just get rid of extra revisions from your database.

Alright, and in today’s episode, we are going to talk about the three different contact form plugins that we can use on our website. And we’ve talked about contact forms before but this one has a brand new one that I’ve never talked about and I’ve actually never installed it until this week. And it is a plugin called Ninja Forms. And we’ll talk about that but we’re gonna talk about Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, and Ninja Forms. And so the first two we’ve talked about regularly – not regularly but those are the ones that I always go to like if you want a free plugin, go with Contact Form 7. If you want a premium plugin and want the ability to create forms more quickly, I’d say go with Gravity Forms. And then those would be really my two options.

But now, there’s this thing called Ninja Forms and it’s not that Ninja Forms is new. It’s been out there since 2011 or 2012. But I’ve just never explored it. I think that I’ve always been a big fan of Gravity Forms and just thought I don’t really need any other contact forms if I’m using Gravity Forms. Like I had the developer license, I have everything working perfectly and I was like I don’t need to explore anything else. This is the perfect plugin for me.

And so – but I’ve been hearing Ninja Forms and they’ve been on different podcasts being sponsors and other people have said rave reviews for them. So I’m like, I need to go in and check out what Ninja Forms is and how it works and then it turns in to a good show idea. So we’re gonna go ahead and talk about that.

So let’s start off with Contact Form 7. I’m gonna talk a little bit briefly about this. And then the other ones, let’s see, the Gravity Forms and Ninja Forms, I’ll kind of contrast and compare those two. Because those are very, very, similar.

Contact Form 7 is a very, very, basic plugin. I’m not sure exactly how long ago it’s been created. It’s got millions of downloads, or millions of active installs. But basically what you do is you can create your form inside of the WordPress editor and then you create the form but then you also have to create what that email response looks like. So if you add seven form fields, you have to add all seven form fields to the actual email that gets sent back to you. And so it’s a little bit extra hassle, headache to set that up. Once you create your contact form, it’s gives you a short code. And then from that short code you can go ahead and paste that on to any page within your WordPress site and then that contact form will show up. As far as I know, the Contract Form 7 doesn’t allow you to – it doesn’t really store anything in the database. It just takes whatever form is submitted and sends it off to the email. You can send it to multiple people if you like and it’s very, very, basic. It’s basically, you can add X amount of form fields. There’s probably, you know, just the normal drop-down menu radio buttons, a long contact form, or a short field. Very, very, simple stuff like that. So Contact Form 7, very, very, basic but will do the job perfectly if you just need a regular contact form on your website and that’s pretty much all that you need.

Now if you need something a little bit more complex, then now I’m gonna recommend going with either Gravity Forms or Ninja Forms. Those are gonna be my new two recommendations because they’re both easy to use and they’re both a really great form builder. There’s two different – they’re kind of set up a little bit differently. Gravity Forms is a paid for product. You have to actually purchase a license. You can either do a one-time license for one site for $39.00. You can do the business license which is $99.00 and it doesn’t – it just includes basic for add-ons so stuff like A-Webber and basically Contract Form type of things. Like if you wanna integrate your form with your Contact form, or with your Mail Chimp or your newsletter provider, then you can do that with the business plan for $99.00. Or you can do the Developer plan which, the developer plan does advanced add-ons which allow you to integrate with Autthorize.net and Campfire and Dropbox and FreshBooks, and Help Scout and all these other third-party integrations. So that’s Gravity Forms. You’re gonna have to spend at least $39.00 to get in and start using Gravity Forms to even see how the plugin works.

With Ninja Forms, it’s the opposite pricing if you would. It’s free to use. It’s free to download from the WordPress repository and then if you want additional features or additional add-ons or things, then it’s going to cost you anywhere between $19.00 or you can get a pro membership which is $499.00. So they’re kind of like the freemium model. You’re gonna get in for free and then you pay to upgrade.

So if it’s free, if you’re not paying for anything, you get up to 20 sites is what it’s saying on their pricing page. That’s basically on the ala carte page. Then you get updates for a year. You get unlimited forms. There’s a lot of stuff that comes actually with the ala carte or with the free version, but then if you want to do like file upload, if you wanna have conditional logic, if you wanna do multi-part forms, Paypal Express payments, PDF form submissions, stuff like that, those are going to cost anywhere between like $39.00 to $100.00 for like, premium upgrades to Ninja Forms. If you go with the business plan which is $299.00 it comes with a lot of those extension. Not everything. But then the $499.00 plan, that’s for unlimited sites. That is priority support, that’s one year’s worth of updates and support, and it gives you some member- only features for Ninja Forms as well.

And so it looks like if you do a little bit of comparison between the two versions, which one is better for what type of developer, if you’re looking at investing in a solution that’s going to work across all of your products, then Gravity Forms will be the best because you can buy the developer package which does everything for $199.00. But if you are more focused on more features than cost, and you can push the cost out to maybe your clients or you just have money and you wanna spend it. then maybe Ninja Forms would be better because you can get away with going for about $150.00 for about the same functionality that Gravity Forms will offer you. And so that’s kind of a breakdown on the pricing side of things.

But let’s talk about some of the features. So we’re talking kind of apples to apples. They’re two plugins that do basically the same amount of things but sometimes Gravity Forms is a little better. Sometimes, Ninja Forms is a little better. And then I recommend if you’ve never tried Ninja Forms, at least to try it and see if it’s something – a plugin that you really like or could envision yourself using. But if you really like Gravity Forms and that’s the perfect solution. You’ve got hundreds of websites that are using Gravity Forms, then there’s not need to switch. There’s so many options which is awesome for the WordPress space and it just really, really – I enjoy the friendly competition if you will, of having several different options when it comes to contact forms.

Okay, so let’s do a little bit of comparison between the two. So, both of them can handle the forms pretty similarly. You can submit as many submissions as you want. It will hold as many fields as you want in a contact form. You also have the ability with both of these to export to different formats including CSV, PDF and Excel and so you’ve got all of that features, all of that functionality so you’re data’s not stuck in WordPress, you can actually export it. You can export different reports from different dates and stuff like that.

Both of them have very similar form field types. And so if you’re building a form out and you wanna make sure that somebody enters their name or address or email address, those are form fields that are already custom built and they have form validation to make sure that people are actually putting an email address in versus a text domain or something like that. The cool part about Ninja Forms, it has a favorites field. And so if there’s a couple of the form fields that you use regularly, you can drag those up into the favorites field and then they’re always there instead of always having to open and expand all of the different areas inside the WordPress dashboard. And so I really like that. It’s kind of a neat feature. You can easily toggle all of these form fields to be required if you like. You can do conditional logic to determine like; oh, don’t display this until this happens. Maye if you’re asking somebody if they want a catalog via digital or via mailing list or via the postal service, then you can say if the mail option is selected, then ask for the address. Like there’s no reason to ask for an address if you’re just sending them an email.

There’s also tons of integration options between the two of them. Again, some of them you have to pay for with Ninja Forms and some of all of them are included in the developer’s license with Gravity Forms. So if you need to do a lot of integrations between lots of different services, then maybe Gravity Forms wins in this category because it’s a one-time fee for everything that’s offered within Gravity Forms.

The form builder user interface works really well on both of them. They have – it’s drag and drop or you click a button and the form field automatically adds and then you can drag and drop them. It’s very, very, simple and it’s very easy in comparison to Contact Form 7 where you’re generating a lot of short codes inside of a contact form and it’s just kind of an ugly, ugly experience. So definitely both of these, they’re pretty equal in the fact that they both work very, very simply. And they feel very Word Pressy if you will. I think the Ninja Forms wins in the category of simplicity. It looks better. The form fields just look a little bit nicer. And the form preview looks much, much, better. The form preview on Ninja Forms actually will show you a preview with all of your CSS style brought in from your theme so you can see exactly what it looks like. When you look at your Gravity Form preview, it’s just gonna be very, very, generic with no style elements added whatsoever.

And I really like how Ninja Forms gives you the PHP code so if you wanted to add it directly to a feed, you have that ability to automatically add it right to your feed and so you don’t need to worry about short codes you can add it directly to a theme template page which is really, really nice.

Both of those are great solutions. I wanted to highlight just some of the differences and the things about both of them. They’re very, very, similar. Out of the box Gravity Forms and out of the box Ninja Forms, they’re so similar, I think that you would probably – if you did a blind test and you were looking at them, if you’ve never seen either one of them it would be very hard to distinguish which one has more features because they’re very, very feature – like the feature parody is very, very, similar. It’s just when you need those extra things; if you wanna connect with your email newsletter, if you wanna be able to, once somebody submits a form and you wanna connect it to Zappy or to do something else, you’ve got the ability within Gravity Forms to do a lot of the stuff and with Ninja Forms you would actually have to go and you’d have to purchase different add-ons.

There’s lots of really nice things. I mean, we talked about a lot of these different add-ons and there’s probably maybe, I don’t know, four dozen of these 50 or so that you can add and you can integrate with your form and so you’re only paying for the one exactly thing that you need. Whereas with Gravity Forms you have to buy the developer license to get the integration if you need it or there’s no like, ala carte option on Gravity Forms to just buy this one little module. Like if you need the one module to do something that’s only the developer pack, you have to buy the developer pack and spend the whole $200.00. But maybe if you only wanted to integrate with Fresh Books, with Ninja Forms, then that’s just a matter of purchasing a single-site license for $24.00 if you only have one site that you need this on.

So all in all a great, great, three different options to talk about when it comes to building brand new forms and I highly recommend checking out Ninja Forms if you’ve never used them before. Even if you just – just to even play with it and see how it work.

Alright, so now’s your chance. Go out and check out Ninja Forms. Give them a try and I have to be honest here, that I’m probably gonna change my forms from Gravity Forms to Ninja Forms. I love Gravity Forms but I like Ninja Forms too. Like with my testing and my debugging, everything looks really nice and I don’t honestly have very detailed forms. No integrations or anything so I think Ninja Forms is perfect to for me. And so that’s on my to-do list for this week.

    • Jérôme Lacroix Reply

      Hi Dustin,

      I just found out about CaptainForm (available since Nov. 2015), a free plugin that comes with all third party integrations without having to pay any money, The only restrictions are for the amount of forms/fields/sites you use, but the free version has enough stuff in it for most common use. Did you know about this one? I will test it more in the next few days, but it’s looking great so far and you can test the backend on their site.

      Thanks for the great podcast, I’m a fan 🙂


      May 4, 2016
      • Dustin Hartzler Reply

        I haven’t heard of that one, I’ll have to take a look 🙂

        May 4, 2016

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