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220 – ‘F’ is for forms

Listen to the full episode here:

‘A-Z of WordPress’ with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

It’s another of chats in the series called the A-Z of WordPress where we attempt to cover all the major aspects to building and maintaining sites with WP.  Today is F for… Forms


We expect most sites to have a contact form. Something that does not require the visitor to launch an email client, although I wonder how old that thinking is now.

In fact it’s a form plugin has the most active install on the WordPress repository (it only counts up to 5 million, but the order changes on the “Popular Plugins” section).

But they are used for much more:

• Taking payments 
• Subscribing to email list 
• Adding content to sites
• Adding users
• Sending and receiving files
• Sending support question (do we include chat bots in this discussion)

They also come with a bunch of responsibilities:

• Accessibility
• Security
• Deliverability 
• Data protection

Personal stories/history

I’ve used Gravity Forms for eight years. Rarely doing anything complex with it, but it has never let me down so I have stuck with it. I do go back to the early days of WordPress so remember what I think was the first form plugin – Cforms?

I think I set up Contact Form 7 on an early site and had a brief time with Ninja Forms before settling on Gravity Forms. I even remember setting up something for an early HTML site, but I had no clue what I was doing!

I liked Formidable Forms (focussed more on the developer stuff and things like ACF integration) when it came out, but had no need for it.

Recently I tried out Fluent Forms as the Pro version had a working integration with subscription to Moosend . Gravity Froms has nothing and and Moosend’s own version seemed broken (although I’m pursuing this so that may not be the case when this episode is published).

I came to WordPress long after the competition in the WordPress form market had already taken off. Trusted friends told me at the time that the best solution all round was Gravity Forms , and so that’s the one that I chose. I often looked at other solutions, but never made the jump, because there was just too much legacy in the sites that I had built, and the idea of going back and replacing all the forms was not something that I had the time for.

This is interesting as it shows that (in my case) it shows that inertia means that I was willing to pay for Gravity Forms year after year, even though I could see that the competition was overtaking them in terms of the UI for building forms.

Recently, I bought Fluent Forms and this is now my plugin of choice. I still have the Gravity Forms license, but as time goes by I’m using it less and less, although I’m really interested in the beta versions that they’ve been building. I think that they have realised that the competition are beginning to take their market share, and so they’re doing something to fix that.

Points to note…

Are WordPress forms a bit poor when it comes to usability?

Up to ten years ago I used to read lots of CSS techniques that would guide and reward the user as they filled in forms and you see little of that in WordPress form plugins. I’m talking about the nice green tick box if the format and data was correctly filled out.


SMPT plugins / transactional email services are often required. Things like Mailgun, Amazon SES etc.

What do we expect from form plugins in terms of addons, ease of styling, interaction with other mail services?

Is it too easy to forget the forms are quite a security weakness on our sites?

Do we even need a WordPress plugin? Google Forms etc and those included in Page Builders – are they enough for most needs?

Plugin competition

There’s a load of competition in the WordPress forms space. In fact I’d say that it’s likely the most competitive area to be in. I can’t think of any other area in which there are so many fully featured plugins in the market. Which, I suppose, is because literally all sites have a form somewhere on them?

Gravity forms

Has the advantage of being overlooked by a large ecosystem so it is stable and secure and there’s plenty of addons for it (although many are the same cost again). It also can’t easily change over night for the same reasons. So it seems outdated in this era of easy Page Builders for things like styling, although the recent beta versions are making giant leaps to catch up in this area. For David this not an issue. He’d rather have a CSS challenge and stability and he can probably justify the cost for the addons. He likes that forms is all they do and the same three people are at the helm over a decade on.

Ninja Forms

Gives you a lot for free, but you can buy the addons individually as well as in a package. As a company they tried be a little different, so it does not surprise me they bought Caldera Forms (who were

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