If you've been in the WordPress space for a while it's pretty likely you've run into Contact Form 7 at some point. It's pretty much the go-to form for new users and honestly for what it does – it isn't bad. The UI isn't amazing but it's a good starting point and it's totally free. If you're like me and you want to keep your costs low and you're just getting into WordPress it definitely isn't a bad choice. But there are better alternatives out there and some of them are totally free. The one I'll be talking about today is Ninja Forms.
What a Form Plugin Needs to Do
At a basic level a form needs to do two things:
- Collect information
- Deliver information
If a form plugin does those two things well then it's probably something I would use.
Collecting Information From the User
When you create a form in Contact Form 7 it's a bit messy. You have to generate tags and then you have to put these tags into this form thing and then copy the shortcode into your page. It works but it's messy. To put it simply: neither of my parents would be able to do it.
When you create a form in Ninja Forms is a little nicer. You can click on form fields and they'll appear in your form. You can click on different field settings and drag them and drop them around
Ninja Forms is also much better with per field settings. If you want to require the email field then you tick the required box. If you want to change the name of the message box you change the Label field.
Both of these plugins deliver the information. Both of them allow you to send notification emails with the completed form. But that's really the bare minimum. With Ninja Forms by clicking on the notifications tab you can setup various notifications all of which can be different. That means you could easily send the user a Thank You email and you could send yourself the completed form. Pretty convenient and it's all done in the UI. You don't have to program anything.
Going beyond email notifications all submissions are stored in a database on your site. If you email explodes you can go back to the site and see if there are any notifications you missed.
Going Above And Beyond
This is where the real magic happens. You see, Ninja Forms is freemium. That means that they give away their core product for free. You can use it forever with all of the features I mentioned above for free forever.
If you like the product and you want to do even more with it they have plenty of awesome extensions you can buy. I've built some of these extensions myself and they're pretty slick. My favorite extension that I developed is probably PDF Form Submissions because with one checkbox you can add a PDF copy of the completed form to the notification email. And my favorite extension developed by the WP Ninjas is Conditional Logic. You can use that plugin to show or hide fields based on previous fields. Really slick.
So give it a try. It's really powerful and if you end up hating it for some reason feel free to uninstall it and never pay a dime. If on the other hand you love it you can buy a few extensions. That's the power of freemium. It's a win win.