220 – ‘F’ is for forms

220 – ‘F’ is for forms

‘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

Preamble

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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

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David:


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).

Nathan:

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.

Deliverability

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 similar about trying to be different). They would be the first to say they did not go at it with a plan and the company is also in the coffee business.

Not the same attention to detail with security with them. But even though they did a great product like Ninja Demos, it was never quite finished it and abandoned it which does raise some questions.

WP Forms

Awesome Motive! Aimed at the beginner market to make building froms easier. They bought Pirate Forms and closed it. As with most of their stuff you know they hire good developers but the person behind it is a growth hacker. They also they have Formidable Forms under one of their schemes.

Formidable Forms

Seemed a passion project, but I think the business side of things ground them down. Chris Lema was critical of them being a Gravity Forms copy but took them under his wing.

Fluent Forms

The new kid on the block. Seems to do a bit of everything above. Easy to use. Everything there. Nathan has adopted this as his forms plugin of choice for now and has seen regular updates in the past year, adding in features and updates that their community have requested.

Other mentions

Conclusions:

So much competition. We’re so lucky to have so much choice. I recommend playing with one, test out their support and stick with the one that offers you the features that you want and the roadmap that you need.

Nathan Wrigley

Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group.

The WP Builds podcast is sponsored this week by…

The Page Builder Summit 3.0 – 18th > 22nd Novermber 2021. FREE to attend

and

The WP Builds Deals Page

We thanks them for their support of WP Builds.

Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your host, David Waumsley, Nathan Wrigley.
[00:00:21] Hello there again, and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. Welcome back. This is episode number 120 entitled F is for forms. It was published on Thursday, the 11th of March, 2021, my name's Nathan Wrigley, and a few bits of very short housekeeping as we always do just before we begin head over to WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe.
[00:00:45] That's a page on our website, which enables you to keep in touch with all of the content that we produce in the WordPress space each and every week. And it's quite a bit, for example, you're listening to the. Thursday podcast episode. And then on a Monday, we do our, this weekend WordPress live, where I'm joined by Paul Lacey and some notable WordPress guests to talk about the last week's WordPress news.
[00:01:05] It's very fun. You can find that at wpbuilds.com forward slash alive. But getting back to that subscribe page over there, you can find links to subscribe to our YouTube channel to our Facebook group, and also to get us in your podcast player. So that's WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe. Another page to look out for would be WP Builds.com forward slash.
[00:01:26] Deals. I keep saying it's a bit like black Friday, but every day of the week, it's there 365 days of the year. And so far the links have never expired. So if you've got something that you would like to look for, you can search and filter over there and perhaps find a significant discount off a WordPress product.
[00:01:43] Also WP Builds.com forward slash advertise. If the following companies, you would like to get your message out to a WordPress specific audience. The WP Builds podcast is sponsored by Cloudways. Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that ensures simplicity, performance and security. It offers cloud service from five different cloud providers that you can manage through its intuitive platform.
[00:02:10] Some of the features include 24 seven support free migrations and a dedicated firewall and AB split test. Do you want to set up your AB split tests in record time? Like in a couple of minutes, use your existing pages and test anything against anything else. Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything. And the best part is it works with element or BeaverBuilder and the WordPress block editor.
[00:02:35] Check it out and get a free [email protected] Okay. As I said at the top of the show, today's episode is entitled. F is for forms, David Wamsley. And I, as we do every other week, we're going through the alphabet one letter at a time. And we're obviously onto F are today talking about forms. I would imagine that on just about every website you've ever built, there's been some kind of form component.
[00:02:59] It takes something static into something. Slightly interactive. In the WordPress space, we are spoiled for choice. There are so many different options that you could look at. And in the podcast today, we talk about those. We also talk about the different situations in which you might use forms. And actually there's a lot more than you might imagine.
[00:03:17] So from taking contact details to adding users, to taking payments and so on, there's absolutely loads that we can use forms for. You've probably got your. Preferred form plugin of choice. Maybe we differ in that regard, but anyway, it's an interesting chat all about forms today. I hope that you enjoy it.
[00:03:36] Hello. This is another chat in our series called a to Zed of WordPress, where we attempt to cover all the major aspects of building and maintaining sites with WordPress. And today it is F four forms. Nathan, you're excited about this one. Honestly, I really like forms. I don't know what it is. I do. I really liked them.
[00:03:57] I like the fact that, they were the first thing that I. Got into when I got into WordPress and there was such a marked difference between what was available in Drupal, which was my CMS of choice. And then I came over to the WordPress space and things were so much better. Gravity forms had hit the ground and probably had a couple of years under his belt already.
[00:04:17] And just the drag and drop nature of IL was fabulous and the possibilities and the connections that could be made to external services and all that. And also it's pretty much one of the only ways. I think that you can really have an interactive element on your website. So it connects you to other people.
[00:04:34] And I still to this day, get excited when a contact form is filled out and it comes into my inbox. I think I would just be happier probably with HTML sites where it said on the contact page. Please contact me on Acme website services, a hotmail.com. Yes. I think I'd be happy with that. Just to exclude all the cause there's other, there are wonderful forms and there was a time, I think when I got into website building, it was, I don't know if this is still true these days, but the idea is that you did need to have a form back in those HTML days because you couldn't really expect people to launch from there.
[00:05:12] From the website, their email client. So you would need a formal way of them contacting you. You didn't rely on them having software. Yeah. I wonder if that's true these days. I would imagine that just every single devices, it has got some way of default opening of email. The problem that goes with that is the is the abuse of it, I remember all sorts of clever Java script, ways of trying to mask an email address so that it couldn't be clicked on by robots. My, my suspicion is that as that has as forms have taken over probably the spam filters in things like Gmail are so good these days that you probably wouldn't need to worry too much about it.
[00:05:48] But I do think it's nice, obviously, with an email, you've got a blank canvas and you aren't in any way able to steer or shape what it is that you want somebody to tell you, whereas with a form. You can really be very specific. You can get them to fill out a particular form with particular data, choose different options.
[00:06:04] Whereas email it's very open-ended and you might not get anything that you need. Yeah. For sure it's a big thing in WordPress, because on the repository, when you look at the most popular plugins, it is contact seven which is the kind of top plugin out there. So contact seven. Yeah, that's really popular.
[00:06:23] Isn't it? There's millions and millions of downloads. Actually, they had a vulnerability a few weeks ago and it really brought into stark relief. How. The how important it is to keep that plug-in updated because with a plugin, with millions of installs, if there's a vulnerability, then that can be really serious.
[00:06:41] Yeah. And I think that plugin itself is used, I would guess mostly I've never used it, but I think it's just for those kinds of simple forms on the WordPress site where people are not. Building professionally. Have you ever used contact seven on the professional build? No. Like I said, when I, as soon as I got into WordPress the thing that everybody was talking about was gravity forms.
[00:07:03] And so I just went with that and really never looked back. And it's only very recently that I've even my eyes have even wandered to other different options. I was so impressed with everything that could be done. And remember, this was in a day when. Virtually nothing was dragon droppable on the D so big Giled by the fact that you could drag.
[00:07:23] And although by today's modern page building standards, that old interface is getting a bit tired in its day. It was a complete revolution. You could reorder form fields, track, different form fields in there was obviously a whole. Slew of different form fields, check boxes, radio boxes, text areas, and emails, all of this on all of the tricky stuff.
[00:07:43]When you had to build this with HTML PHP and so on, that was all a nightmare to put together and suddenly I could do it without thinking it was great. Yeah, and I, yeah, it's probably one of the longest plugins that I've had the longest standing plugin. I missed out. It's been around for over 11 years now.
[00:08:02]Wow. Yeah. Even had the lifetime deal when it came out. Some people do understand that. Yeah. But I did play around a little bit. I remember, I think the first time I was. Fiddling around with WordPress. I, there was C forms. I think that's what it was called around at the time. And I think that was about all that was available in the early days of WordPress.
[00:08:23] But it's died. I think there was a C forms version two came out and I think it's still around, kept for prosperity. It's like a museum of old plugins for yes. Can I get to around? But yeah. Yeah, that's really my experience when I got serious was gravity forms, this is the thing, isn't it, we're talking about kind of the simple form entry that most people need, but there is a whole bunch of other things which we come to rely on now.
[00:08:49] And what forms take care of for us. Yeah. I think payments, I think now, sorry just going into that for one second. The, I think now when you go to look at. These different form solutions and we'll get on to what different rival products there are. You really are presented with a barrage of different choices and different capabilities and the amazing plethora of things that it can do.
[00:09:13] My suspicion is that most people probably do only need something like contact form seven, a very simple, I need a name please. And email address and a message. Box and then a submit button and then some kind of check to make sure those are either have been filled out or filled out correctly. But now, the sales pitch is all of the different things that you can do.
[00:09:35] So sorry, I've interrupted, but hopefully that'll lead you back into different things you can do with bombs. Yeah we made a list didn't we together? And that was taking payments is a big thing. I think most of the commercial offerings allow you some way to connect up to something like Stripe or PayPal.
[00:09:52]We've got some scribing to email lists, obviously a big thing. So those connections to all of those different services, like MailChimp, et cetera add in content to sites. This is something that you do. I believe. Yeah, I've done the builds. I've I've done it too. So for example, when people submit that deal for the.
[00:10:14] The black Friday page, I created a form which just asked for everything that I needed. And then it created a pending set it's appending, a pending posts, so that I could then go in and make sure it was actually what I wanted. But, you can do everything. You could fill out the title of the post, any custom fields the solution that I had mapped to ACF fields.
[00:10:34] So that was quite nice, including date fields, and also set the featured image for you. The categories for the post, everything. So it was wonderful. And it just makes that job of collecting specific types of content really easy. And there's a whole bunch of form solutions that will do this. Yeah, I think that's where it gets really exciting.
[00:10:53] You added add in users is something that you could do. I'm trying to think where you might use that. I guess if you want to, if you want to subscribe peoples, let's say to a membership site or something, and the WordPress default option of basically username and email address and a password is not.
[00:11:10] Enough, you might need to get some more data about, I dunno where they live or date of birth or something. You can create all of those different connections as well. So you can add more complex users than the regular WordPress users. Yes. I'm forgetting that actually I have had I've needed to do that.
[00:11:27] I've built my own membership thing and actually it was a gravity forms add on, but did registration and it was used for that. Yeah. Sending and receiving files, it can be used for that. And that I put here as well as send in support questions as well. Yeah. Yeah. So acting a bit like a support real support system.
[00:11:46] Yeah. That's a really useful thing. The one thing I would say is I had a really interesting experience with this recently in that I built a form. I won't go into the details, but it was on a personal site and I needed to share the form with a bunch of Mike. Actual sort of real world friends, people that live in the vicinity of where I am.
[00:12:06] And I was really surprised by their response. So I probably sent this to about 30 people and there were about six different fields. And about half of those people who responded, just sent me an email saying, we're not as tech savvy as you can. We just send it as an email and the thing which tripped them up was uploading an image.
[00:12:26]It was a subtle upload field, but they're so wedded to the fact that they can do this off their phone. Now it was just easier for them to send it as an email. So that was a surprise to me, even though I figure that these, that the complexity that you can create informs is brilliant. I love that.
[00:12:44] Just, it was a salutary reminder to me that actually some of the complexity that we add in even the basic things are not. What people are comfortable with. They would rather use emails that they're, fall back on familiar things. And so I often find myself creating complicated forms and then I, it really did wake me up to think I wonder how many people just get a quarter of the way through this and think, Oh, forget it.
[00:13:07] I can't be so just a bit of a warning really. Yeah, I've read a lot. We were talking about this earlier and I was seeing that when I got into website building, I was reading things like smashing magazine and there was lots of articles all the time about forms and conversion and how to make forms more accessible, how to reward the users when they're filling in forms to reduce the number of fields, of course, cause that, When people see a form, it seems like hard work.
[00:13:33] So they try and avoid it. So you try and, hide and reveal stuff. So things are dynamics or they appear. So it looks like a simple form they start off with, but things that I just don't see in WordPress plugins are the things that used to be featured in these kind of articles that I saw were.
[00:13:50] There'll be nice interactions. So if you typed in correctly, a standard email address, it recognized the characters were correct. Give you a nice little tick box that would appear to encourage you to move belong. Yeah. And I see rarely do I see it? I think like that in the WordPress forms, by default, there's nothing that kind of encourages them to move along.
[00:14:10] So I'm surprised. I wonder whether I'm out of touch with this kind of stuff, whether it's important. Yeah. Yeah, that's a good point. The only way that I've ever achieved anything like that is I've for example, I've hidden the submit button with some conditional logic, probably it wasn't gravity forms such that you had to complete the form or at least complete the mandatory fields before the submit button would appear.
[00:14:31] And then it occurred to me that was just a bit pointless because. They would submit it and it would fail any way in hiding the submit button. Probably just sent the message to, Oh, there's something wrong with this form it's broken. There isn't a submit button. So I was trying to be trying to be a little bit clever, but I know exactly what you mean.
[00:14:45] You sign up for SAS services and very often the mere completion correctly of a field gives you some visual feedback to say, yep. Don you're onto the next step and it is, it's quite a nice little feature. It's not adding a lot, but it also, at the same time, it's just pushing you through the hoops and encouraging you to go.
[00:15:04] And again, I think you're right. I don't, I can't think of anything like that in the WordPress space. No doubt there is. And we'll be told, Oh, good grief. Yeah, you can do it in this, that and the other, but I don't know of anything. Yeah. Should we talk a bit about the responsibilities that come with forms?
[00:15:19] Because I don't think anyone new to WordPress, certainly not me was aware of what we have to deal with forms is accessibility these days, of course. And it's a key part. I think gravity forms is doing a new update where I see. They've got an accessibility expert into check over the stuff and then needed to make changes.
[00:15:39] And this is a forms plugin that's been around for 11 years. Yeah. So what does this all sorts tied up in this isn't that? So there's, tabbing between different form fields correctly, but also the, what the screen reader sees. Each time. And my suspicion would be that in many cases, it's probably reading something out that is of no consequence to the user.
[00:16:00]So I don't know. It might be reading out [email protected], which is the bit that's prefilled inside the field itself. Whereas actually it should. They should be reading out. What's your email address? And I watched a talk, it's a word fast recently about accessibility. And this was one of the things that came up was the nature of correctly signifying what form fields are doing, because it's all very well.
[00:16:25] If it's visual. It might be really obvious on the page, but if you're, excuse me, not able to see that page. We have to go to the extra lengths of making sure that it's obvious. And I think a lot of that stuff is hidden from view with WordPress forms. The, to my knowledge, there isn't too many ways of making sure that content is correct.
[00:16:44] You've just got to presumably assume that the form has been built in the correct way, but I don't know if that's true now. Nice to see that gravity forms are taking that one on. Yeah. That's interesting things even like in the markup a minute ago, the change in the CSS, which we expect to change for layouts, but there's even the markup.
[00:17:00] So for its whole history, the forums have been listed items, but that's going to change right. For accessibility. Stuff that I don't understand that but also let's move on to the next world, which is security as well. Yeah. Yeah, it is. Cause it's another route into your WordPress installed, isn't it?
[00:17:18] And there's probably the type of plugin that's most likely to have been of abilities, our guests. Yeah, certainly grab it. What we've talked about with contact form seven it's one of those where, there's no, don't be just making money off it. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that there is the security there breach?
[00:17:38]Or there was a problem with the plugin, as we said, a few months ago. And and it really does affect a lot of people and being able to inject, I don't know, upload a file for example, or just inject some string of code, which shouldn't be passed by the server. You there's an awful lot of state care and obviously the more mature they get in the more popular they get the bigger the attack vector.
[00:18:03] So you've got to imagine that if you're a, if you're a hacker. Figuring out a vulnerability in something like gravity forms is a huge win because not only is WordPress massive, but significant number of people are using wealth. Let's say contact form seven or gravity forms. Any of the others. If you figure something out, you can probably have quite a Royal time of it for a while until, it's discovered because it's so big.
[00:18:30] And so many people with this form uploaded as a plugin. I think contact form seven is quite tricky because to get a really good experience with it, mostly you need some add-ons, which are created by another third party. So you can I think moving on to maybe one of the other points, which is data protection now, which goes with forms in order to a lot of people might want to have an add on for something like.
[00:18:55] Contact form seven, which will allow you to store the entries in your database. But again, this is another thing which over recent years we've had to change. I've made those plugins that have done that for you. Most of the commercial ones will do that for you now have to. Put in place something which will also automatically delete that content as well.
[00:19:15] Yeah. A huge responsibility here. If you are collecting anything, really anything, then under GDPR, there's those questions to be answered. So I've now had it that most, every form that I create, expunges the data. As soon as it's successfully delivered the email. Now I have no idea. How that's achieved, whether it is literally instantaneous or if it's, the next time a certain Cron tasks run.
[00:19:43] So it might be 20 minutes or an hour or two hours, I don't know, but I'm just relying on the plugin to do that. And I just don't want that data sitting around on my server. Cause it's just not a good idea. Yeah, no, I've put hours on just for, because the information we're gathering is pretty safe where I think I've got six months to clear out.
[00:20:05] Of course it's a bit, it's a bit longer than that because I think I I write to the effect that is deleted after a year. I set it so six months, because I know that I'm also saving copies of the sites onto another server. So that information is still around somewhere, but yeah. Oh, I see you just moved your GDPR responsibility to a different place there haven't you it's quite, yeah.
[00:20:27] You still retaining that data, even though it's over there, you've stayed on it. Yeah. Yeah. I set it up and cleared it up and set it for a year. And initially, which is what we wrote in our privacy policies that you were clear about. And then I realized, Oh yeah, I keep a whole load of backups for these six, maybe three months, at least.
[00:20:43] Yeah. Yeah. But big thing, big data protection I think is the key. Thing for form plugins over the last period, the ability to expunge things. Also, I don't really have much insight into the way that. That data is held in the database. So for example, if I'm using, let's say contact form seven or gravity forms, or one of the many solutions we'll highlight in a minute, I don't know if the email address field is in any way.
[00:21:09] Encrypted. My guess is it's probably not. It's probably just in plain text in the database. I'm speaking from complete ignorance. So forgive me if I'm wrong, but knowing that. It's probably something that I should do. If I'm going to use a form plugin, I should put, should probably know how that data is kept.
[00:21:26] And I'm sure that there's probably third party add ons that do encrypt it as it's passing into the database. But I don't know. We hit upon this conundrum before talking about it, weather stuff that goes into WordPress gets encrypted. And a lot of it does, but even so still, as far as I understand it can be decrypted.
[00:21:45] Yeah. So I think, yeah, it's probably not safe. I think that's the case with passwords still. I think in WordPress, if you put them in, they can be decrypted. Yeah. I guess if you're working in a, in an area where. The sensitivity of this data is utterly crucial. Maybe you're dealing with, I don't know let's say you're working for the police or something like that, where there's just no scope for there being problems.
[00:22:11] My feeling is I wouldn't probably be turning to WordPress plugins. To access that data or sorry to, to create that data and store that data in a WordPress database. I'm thinking at that point, I would probably be looking further afield to third party SAS apps that have a deep understanding of the way that their data is held and stored.
[00:22:32] And can probably give you some assurances as to the way it's encrypted and what kind of encryption is in place. And you can shift the blame somewhere else. That's right. And that when you pay them handsomely, presumably for that, the option to blame them. Yeah. Yeah. I think the big thing for me with the responsibilities of forms is deliverability.
[00:22:53] Yep. That's the bit that I hate the most. So you must have run up against the same kind of issues because we're both managing our own servers effectively, so yeah. I've never asked you, do you have a transactional. Email service, which is making sure that your emails are getting forwarded. Yeah, I do.
[00:23:11] I use, I have done for quite long time now. I use Amazon SES. Oh yes. Which I'm very happy with seem to get deliverability of more or less everything. And I've got no, I've had no complaints from clients saying that they have a reason to believe that. Things are getting lost, but of course that was in the day before I was expunging things, no sooner had they been processed through the form.
[00:23:37] So this is something I should probably revisit and just periodically get the clients to fill out a form as a test and see how it works. And I tend to go when I do this and I test these forms. I do I go to one of these disposable emails, services online, where, you know, you'd literally go to the webpage.
[00:23:57] It creates an email address on the fly. And I send things through those so that it's not always going through to to my Gmail account. So I'm trying a different variety of things, but yeah, I use Amazon SES, but I know there's a slew of different options and there's so much big business surrounding the delivery of emails.
[00:24:17] What do you use. Mailgun and I'm quite happy with it. What I'm happy about is, I had to do, as soon as I moved to managing my own server had no choice really up to that point, I could use an SMPT plugin. But Yeah, suddenly I needed this deliver a mail gum was there and it's been fine.
[00:24:34] And it does give me something which gives me some reassurance. So when a client has said that I haven't received an email, usually on the plan that I've got, at least I can go back, I think up to 30 days and see what's been delivered what it says. And it just say, when it's been accepted, when it's been delivered, so I can get a screenshot and say it appears to be working from our end.
[00:24:55] After that, I can't tell you, but I never really a hundred percent sure because even when it says delivered I dunno if it's the way that I've set certain things up. Of course you've got to be particular about what email you're sending from that. Yeah. Yeah. I've had I did actually have a client who was.
[00:25:11]Signed up because they were basically to cut a long story short. I got an email from Amazon saying, are you aware that this type of email is going out? There was nothing weird about it. It was just, it was promotional. And for this service, Amazon SES, you're not really supposed to send promotional emails.
[00:25:30] It's supposed to be transactional. So if they clearly see that you're trying to drum up some new business and spraying it to an email list they see that. In a bad light and they threatened to cut your account off. In this case it was a question of just informing the the client that they needed to find another solution, which they did.
[00:25:46] It was no big deal. It was just a misunderstanding of what it was capable of. But yeah, I really don't have a great deal of insight into which email clients accept things from. But in my case, Amazon SES a hundred percent of the time or how it works, but I've had no great complaints. I do need to watch this or this often, because I'm just with mail gum, because I'm going for a cheap account.
[00:26:09]On that I don't have a dedicated IP with so shared with other people who will abuse the system. So occasionally you do get blocked and I've noticed this a lot with UK, particularly with BT internet, which is the British telecom. Internet service. They seem to complain. They've complained a couple of times over the IP addresses.
[00:26:29] So they're probably on the ball. So you don't have to watch out for it. Cause if you're suddenly banned, then you don't know. So it's quite a big responsibility. I was still like my idea of my Hotmail address. Yeah, that's it. I was unsure, surprised that Amazon had picked this up to be honest because it wasn't that it was.
[00:26:48] Missing crucial things like an address at the bottom or a unsubscribe link or anything like that. It was the content, it was the wording of it. So I w I don't have an answer to this. I don't know if it was a human that spotted it, or if it was an algorithm that spotted it. Literally no idea, but they did.
[00:27:05] And it did transgress their rules. And so whatever system they've got in place, I did get some assurance from that because I felt well, they are actually looking at what's going through their network and checking it. So props to them. Yeah, absolutely. With the. You spot this a lot, that if you're in any of the forums as I am with BeaverBuilder you often, it's a question actually only about a week ago where someone says, my emails are stopped coming.
[00:27:31] They used to come. And I think it's because a lot of service setups, a lot of hosting. We'll have something on there that we'll send, but things will change for that host in. And then suddenly you have to introduce them to the idea that they're going to need a transactional email service, or they're going to need an SMPT plugin to make sure that they're going to get that deliverability.
[00:27:51] I see this so often. No one knows this. The installer forms plugin. It may be works on the hosting for a while and then stops. Yeah. Yeah. Certainly it's not a good idea to be sending out through PHP mail through your own IP address. It is. I w I would go as far as to say, it's crucial that you set up some third party service, even for the, for the modest amount of emails you might get.
[00:28:14] So in my case, Amazon SES is a paper send model, and I think the pricing is crazy cheap. I think it's, one-third, maybe it's a hundred. Or it's a thousand emails per us sent, for a site, a modestly small site. You're talking a fee, a handful of dollars for thousands and thousands of emails. So economically it doesn't, there is no justification for not using something like that.
[00:28:38] I don't know what the pricing is for mail gone. I know that quite a few of these services have a fairly substantial free tier where the first, I don't know, 5,000, 10,000 per month comment, no cost. And then you build a payment plan on top of that. Yeah, I can't help, but think, we've got some, maybe beginners to WordPress when you'd be better just saying, Oh, embed a Google form or something.
[00:29:02]Again if you want to stay clear of all this, why not go to one of them go to one of the SaaS apps that does this and say, Oh yeah, Google forms will do that for free. Won't they? That's a good point then. Exactly. If you're accepting data. Yeah, she'll Google have got that covered, but I could be wrong.
[00:29:18] I'm not sure whether I'd be wanting to store confidential stuff in a Google sheet. I'm not sure. Yeah. So I've really brought down the excitement of forms. You've flown it for me. The the I'm curious to know actually, which SM I'm going to say this correctly. Cause I noticed that you've said this incorrectly twice.
[00:29:37] S T P yeah. Sorry, you said SMPT, which I don't know what that stands for, but what, which plugin you're using to connect your WordPress site? I'm currently using the WP forms one on a forgotten what it's called. It might just be called WP SMTP or something like that. But whenever I search for a plugin, I just type in SMTP in the WordPress repo in your, the plugins, the add new bit.
[00:30:03] And and that always comes out. It's got a picture of a pigeon. Yeah, isn't that? Now it didn't really have a change of ownership on one of the big players heads and it go from Yoast to. Or some motive. So it became part of WP beginner's blogs. They will promote it. Yeah. I don't know. Maybe it was a movement.
[00:30:21] It was definitely WP forms who were the custodians of my SMT. People are gonna have just mentioned they were, and also motive company. If they've, I don't know if they are not anymore. I'm not sure. No, I think that WP forms are just thought the ownership of the S M T P plugged in I've got it, right?
[00:30:42] Yes. Yes. And I remember they bought duplicate posts, but I can't remember them buying an SMT people, put your ID. Doc stand corrected if you've got something there. Yeah. Yeah. Don't know we're waffling now. Aren't we there is a new one as well. Isn't it? That's just come out by the fluid forms folks.
[00:30:58] Yeah. It's called fluent forms SM or fluent SMTP. I think it is. I'm sure that will start to make a bit of an in road. Both of these are free, so there's no, there's literally no downside to having it. And it just, you type in your. Username and password. And I probably get the port that it's going across and the host IP address.
[00:31:19] I can't remember what the fields are, but it takes about four seconds to fill out. And then you test it, received the email and you can forget about it until it goes wrong, of course, and then refuses to send anything out. And doesn't tell you that it's not sending anything out, which is different problem altogether.
[00:31:35] Oh, do we want to wander into the dangerous territory of comparing the different forms that there are out there too good in terms of comparison, because I've basically only used to throughout my WordPress career, but it sounds like you've had a bit more of an extensive play. You've maybe been out for the sort of shiny object syndrome a bit here.
[00:31:56] I don't know. I have a bit, but also I did I was thinking about doing a kind of video of my own, which was why I chose gravity forms. And I started to look into a little bit of the history and the kind of positioning of the different forms out there. So I've got Basic feel for kind of form history.
[00:32:14] I don't know if it's correct. I think when it came to professional use, we came in with gravity forms, winning out there. It was one of the first that was a kind of commercial form, which many of us were looking for. And then you've got the second player, which was. Kind of Ninja forms.
[00:32:29] And it's interesting with both of those, when I listened a little bit to their kind of personal stories from the authors about how they set them up and what they were doing. And it seems pretty clear that both really didn't know what they were doing when they set up. No, they didn't expect the success that they've had.
[00:32:47] Both of these are two big players, Ninja forms and gravity forms and Ninja forms follow along for why not we'll do it. We tried to do something a little bit different to what gravity forms does. That's their kind of key thing. And didn't expect it, gravity forms set it up and got it out there fairly early on, got some help from other people in the community.
[00:33:04] And they were a nice team. It's still the same team, but again, it's a mystery to them. It was just, I guess they found it. The need that was there, but so they, they are two dominant players, but I guess who's come up later. They've all had a kind of a purpose for being, and as far as I can see, so WP forms by awesome motive.
[00:33:26]They went in for the beginner's market scene, that it was quite difficult for people to set up those forms and they wanted to. Target those people who a lot of new people beginners. So they've gone down that path. Formidable forms came out as well. They had a kind of slight focus towards the more technical stuff, which is in the ecosystem ready for gravity forms, but they wanted to do stuff.
[00:33:49] So you could do this clever ACF stuff. And. That's how I see it's built up and now we've got new players, like fluent forms who were taken on everyone. Yeah. That sum is really interesting. Just the idea that there was a career in a forms, plugin. Yeah, not just for one person, but in, in this case, we're talking about, half a dozen and more as we'll describe in a minute different plugins, many of whom we've got multiple employees, it's just breathtaking, rewind the clock 12, 15 years when plugins have a commercial nature, we're probably not really much of a thing.
[00:34:25] And the idea that you could have. Said. Yeah, you're going to make a decent living, quite a nice living and sell hundreds of thousands of licenses for a form platform for WordPress. Just be laughable. And yet here we are. They're probably in the safest market in the WordPress space. I would have thought because everybody.
[00:34:48] Apart from no, there is no, nobody. I would imagine that just about everybody wants the capacity to put a form on their website, even if they're not making use of it, just to have it sitting around in the background, any website could do with this. So it's a really good business to be in. It's really impressive.
[00:35:05] And I think the development also reflects the development in WordPress and the type of people that come to it. So when gravity forms came out, it seemed very easy at those times, because if you are wanting to use WordPress's CMS, that was a new concept. You use, you were used to fiddling with stuff.
[00:35:20] So gravity forums seemed really easy to use, but as we've moved through this time, and we have more beginners expecting to do more, have page builder like experience, then gravity forms looks really awkward. And you can see why all these different things have developed over time and you can see why certain people like formidable forms have tried to go for that kind of the more complex stuff that people want to do within the same form package.
[00:35:44] You can see the history of how things have developed with it. But what's interesting to me now is that they're all competing to each other. And of course, each of their customers demands almost everything that the other ones have. So it's quite, yeah. Quite tricky. Yeah. I think it feels almost like just about all of them are feature.
[00:36:02]There's some sort of parity between the features. In some cases, one of them will do something that another one might do. Like it might have a native integration for, Oh, I don't know an email sending service that another one doesn't have, but that other one will probably have one that this one doesn't have.
[00:36:18] And now it seems to be all about the ease of use. So yeah the drag and drop nature of it. The fact that you can reorder things, trivially yeah. In the case of fluent forms they've also included. I don't know if this is the case for the, for any of the other solutions. They've also included a way to make the form.
[00:36:35] Look. So there's a part of the UI where you can style the form. So you can, I don't know, expand the width of the button, change the button colors, round the corners on the text areas and so on, and, change the way that the radio buttons look and this kind of stuff. And it's old inside every forms settings.
[00:36:53] You've got a unique way of either uploading a previously saved template or just starting from scratch. And although the options are. Constrained. It's not like you can do everything with it. You can get a lot done and make it look really nice. And also there seems to be a move to, to make forms, easier to create.
[00:37:11] So with gravity forms, and I don't know if this is still the case. I know that they've got a beater program going on. Maybe that's finished already. Maybe they'll include some of this stuff, but. The idea that you create a form. And the first step that you go through is to click a button for a pre-made form, just like the one you want to use.
[00:37:32] So it might be a, Oh, I don't know, a job application form or a simple contact form or a, I don't know, a menu recipe. Some something to go with. E-commerce something to like a restaurant might use or something like that. And it's already made and you just click a button and within three seconds, all you've got to do is fiddle with it, not build it from scratch, which is just brilliant.
[00:37:57] Yeah. Gravity forms have had for some time an import facility and they've gotten a few templates, but they basic ones. I think they still are separate in their kind of ground. I think I guess gravity forms can't change much because of the huge ecosystem. We're talking about, can you imagine anybody making a living out of a forms, but can you imagine some of these companies that we've got like gravity perks and.
[00:38:19] I can't remember the names of other world views. Another one as well. Gravity views. That's it. There's a few big companies out there who that is their business. Yeah. Adolescents. Yeah. For a forms. Plugin. Yeah. Wow. That's incredible. So people making a living. Off of the back of another plugin. That is amazing.
[00:38:38] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. There are a whole bunch of others, which are hard to really place because I see them. This might be unfair as once that, just to add in. So you mentioned the one that was by WP, M U dev they've what was it called? Formulator. Yeah. For Mineta yep. Yeah. Doing really well in the repo because they've taken the approach that whilst.
[00:39:01] Whilst all of their plugins have a commercial angle and you have to sign up for their membership in order to make use of the, the more interesting features. So we say all of the edge case features, the apparently the free version is amazingly feature rich. So that is actually one to look at, if you're not prepared to spend on a license for a form, I would imagine that a for Mineta's probably quite a good one to look at in the WordPress repo.
[00:39:26] And I think it'll probably do the vast majority of what you want for no cost, which is great. Yeah. And there are, there's one that has now been bought by the Ninja forms folks, which is caldera, which I'm the guy behind that. I've seen him on a few interviews with the nice guy. And he's always said that, against these big players, that he has to do something different.
[00:39:49] And I think that was Ninja forms, ideas to do something a little bit different from what was in there. So now they're grouped together, but it just seemed like we've got a lot of forms out there. There's a few free ones. I was looking around earlier. There's one called simple, basic contact form, a freebie out there.
[00:40:04]There's one obviously in jet pack. Yep. I see. You've got formed there. There's another company which produce a lot of different plugins and and they do, we forms, they've got weird. Everything. I think company is we dev. Yeah. And I've discovered one I'd never seen before where she's Everest forms.
[00:40:21] I've never even heard of that one. That's on the repo. Is it. Yeah, it's on the repo. And I'm just going to have a quick check now to see how many people are using it. Cause I think it was a surprise to me. Yeah. A hundred thousand people are using that and I'd never heard of it. I know how no it's by a company called WP Everest a hundred thousand plus activation.
[00:40:42] So it could be significantly higher and it was updated a week ago and it's got really good reviews. I know it's incredible. I can just keep finding forms all over the place or one that really caught a lot of people's attention was happy forms. And That done again, trying to hit the same market as maybe w P forms was in the sense that it was trying to build that kind of page builder side to things.
[00:41:08] So it was really exciting because it was so easy to use it if you were beginner with that. But I think with them, they've had difficulty with that position then, because. A lot of people might jump onto it, then we'll be saying it doesn't do this. And it doesn't do that. And maybe it never intended to, it was meant to be for beginners.
[00:41:23]It's, I think it's really difficult for all the competition out there to find their kind of place because we users, we jump on board with something and then our demands change over time. They also, you it's a bit like when you sign up for a bank, the banks are. So pleased to sign people up because they know that in, I don't know, 50, 60, 70% of the cases, that's it you're there for life.
[00:41:47] Cause it's just so much effort to, to change banks. Actually, that's now changed in the UK. It's trivially easy, but up until recently, it was really hard yet to, contact every company that was paying that you were paying out or from that account. And so on, similar to this, once you become.
[00:42:04] Because there's so much riding on the forums on all of the different websites that you've got animals. So you've learned all the tricks of how to make those forms work. So in the case of gravity forms, you've probably built up a little stack of CSS that you've used and deployed to make the forms look nice and put things in different columns.
[00:42:21] Or you've learned the UI and you know exactly where to put the mouse to get the exact form and where it, where the conditional logic button is and all that you, once you've settled on something you are going to stick around or at least that's the case for me, having only really used to, I could have tried every one of these and I probably would have enjoyed every one of them for certain things.
[00:42:41] But once I found something that I liked you just to stay around, because there's so much riding on it, And I think, it's quite a difficult business to get in. I think I think it's fine to mention this. Happy forms, they have a lot of people turned against them because they took stuff away from the free offering because they misjudged their kind of pricing with it.
[00:43:01] And since they'd been trying to build up a lot of trust around their name for doing that, cause it does get you a lot of bad reviews, but I did notice also there was one, I don't know if you've encountered this w S forms and know. It looks absolutely amazing. It seems to do everything. There's a YouTube video where that was going around, where it says, does your form build to do this?
[00:43:22] And it looked absolutely wonderful. And I looked at it and it got reviews, genuine reviews from people like crystal, lemme Corey, Ashton. Who's a big promote who was a big promoter of gravity forms and even Elliot. Cordon who I would trust. I don't know what happened to this one, because it's only got something like 200 plus installs on the repository with all those people behind it.
[00:43:44] And it looks amazing. So I don't know what went wrong with that one, but it just shows you how perhaps volatile the whole. Farmer's market is, Oh, so many, it's a Testament to good marketing on behalf of the other people. I actually do think that the gravity forms marketing basically didn't exist because they were in such a dominant position.
[00:44:03] But I've noticed in the last six months, they've really made more of an effort. I'm actually getting promotional material from gravity forms where I wasn't before. And they're creating blog posts. Like they. Never used to before. And they're the branding around gravity forms has been significantly updated.
[00:44:21] So I feel that this space is so saturated with so many different options, that it doesn't matter how good the tech is. So in the case, this one that you mentioned, there's only got 200 installs Ws forms. It might be the best solution for just about everything. And certainly, from everything that you've just said, it sounds like something we should all be looking at.
[00:44:41] Maybe they're just lousy at marketing, and the fact that nobody's heard about them is a Testament to how good the other people are saturating that space with their own messages. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It's a bunch of the success in WordPress now comes down to marketing. I think gravity forms. For me, I'll be one of those kinds of people who stick with it.
[00:45:00] Cause I know it. Yeah. It's yes. It's a little bit clunky and some other stuff. Some other comp competitors out there offer other stuff, but then it does, it's got a long history of knowing who it needs to serve. It's got a big ecosystem that is going to. Watch out for it to make sure they can't really move too much.
[00:45:17] They can't make it into a rubbish plug-in can they, because too many people are watching it all the time and depend on it. So I think some of the, the good code in. Stuff that will go with gravity forms will always be there. And that's it, unless it really does get overtaken by all the competitors.
[00:45:32]Yeah. Yeah. Watch this space. I don't see it as a slam dunk that gravity forms will be around forever and a day. I'm sure that it'll take quite a lot to knock it off its perch, but I do think some of these other players. Beginning to chip away because I can see everywhere, they're in social media, they've got their successful Facebook groups that are creating all the products, which are compatible with what they do.
[00:45:58] So in the case of fluent forms, they've they've got this free SMTP plugin, which we mentioned, but they've also got this CRM, which obviously is. Supremely useful. You've got the form side to capture the data, and then you've got the CRM side too, to hold the data, caveat emptor or everything. We said a moment ago about security and making sure that data is safe.
[00:46:18]But having all of those different things in a much bigger ecosystem, make it quite desirable, which of course gravity forms has with all of the third party plugins that you can buy to wrangle the stuff that gravity forms Sox in. Yeah. Yeah. It's not, it's definitely not a cheap approach.
[00:46:33] I think probably people that are successful at marketing now, obviously or some motive who WP forms and that's taken off again, a lot of what helps these along, including gravity forms from the beginning is the lifetime deals that a lot people pick up. But they are excellent at marketing because with running the most successful blog in the WordPress space, The WP beginners, that's a good start.
[00:46:57] And with only so many other products, it's easy to to feature the forms. But with that stuff, it's always pretty well-made isn't it, there was get developers. Yeah. Yeah. I've just got no complaints about the two form solutions that I've tried. I'm certainly going to link to all of these different form plug-ins in the show notes.
[00:47:15] Every single one that we mentioned, I'll try to find the most appropriate link for it. In most cases, that'll probably be the WordPress repo. And then you can find the link from there. If they've got a premium version, but yes, so much stuff really just fascinating. I would not like to be myself, a plugin developer in this space just because I feel it's the, it is so saturated.
[00:47:35] I can't think of anything else, any other plugin area, whether it's so much competition, form seems to be the one that. Not only shifts a lot of product, but also there's a lot of competition out there and it must be hard to keep up. Yeah, absolutely. So do you think we've done forms?
[00:47:53] Yeah, I'd say so. Yeah, I think so. So next time in a couple of weeks, we'll be doing the letter. That's a Gigi, but we're not entirely sure what that means is we've got to argue which one we're going to go with G is for something anyway.
[00:48:09] Okay. Thanks for that. Nice chat. As a voice, a fascinating chat with David Waumsley. It's always so interesting talking about these subjects. Something seemingly on the surface, as banal as forms can offer so much choice in the WordPress space. So much competition for features and different.
[00:48:26] Types of plugins that you can install in your WordPress website. If you've got an opinion on this head over to WP Builds.com forward slash Facebook, that's a link to our Facebook group. You can leave a comment in the thread there. Alternatively, find it on WP Builds.com. It is episode number 120 in our podcast archive, which you can find in the archives menu at the top.
[00:48:47] Let us know what you think, let us know which plugin you choose and why you've chosen it. The WP build's podcast is brought to you today by Cloudways. Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that ensures simplicity, performance and security. It offers cloud service from five different cloud providers that you can manage through its intuitive platform.
[00:49:09] Some features include 24 seven support free migrations and dedicated firewalls. It was also brought to you by AB split test. Do you want to set up your AB split test in record time? Like in a couple of minutes, the new AB split test plugin for WordPress, we'll have you up and running in a couple of minutes, use your existing pages and you can test anything against anything else.
[00:49:32] Buttons, images, headers rows, really anything. The best part is it works with element or Beaver builder and the WordPress block editor. You can check it out and get a free demo. That's at AB split test.com. Okay, thanks for listening. One small. We will be back next Thursday for a podcast episode, but because we've just had an episode with David Waumsley, we flip and flop next week will be an interview episode and I'll have some notable WordPress.
[00:49:59] Plugin author or theme author or something like that on next week. And then in a couple of weeks time, it will be back to David Waumsley. No doubt talking about the letter G because that is next in the alphabet. Join us on Monday. WP Builds.com forward slash live 2:00 PM. UK time where we're going to be having some notable WordPress guests.
[00:50:17] Yeah. Live on the show and we always enjoy it when people come in and comment, and then we publish that, repurpose it into a video and also into our RSS feed for our podcast listeners that comes out on a Tuesday, along with our newsletter. So you can subscribe to that as well. All of that can be [email protected] forward slash subscribe.
[00:50:37] Okay. That's it for this week. I hope that you enjoyed this show. I certainly enjoy making it each and every week you got any comments, please let us know what you, you think we will be back next week. Have a good week, stay safe. I'm going to fade in some cheesy music and say, bye bye for now.

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