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Build Custom Web Forms in WordPress

Build Custom Web Forms in WordPress

updated by MizagornJanuary 7, 2015
by M. K. SafiJanuary 30, 2012

Online forms are a basic part of the web. They were the web’s first interactive element. Today, they are as important as ever. But building an advanced and customized form is not easy. That’s why many tools have sprung up to help you overcome this challenge.

Building a web form is not only difficult for beginners, it’s also a hassle for experienced developers. There are many aspects that need to be managed:

  • Submission processing (optionally with Ajax)
  • Front end validation with JavaScript
  • Protection from malicious submissions
  • Spam protection
  • Splitting big forms into multiple pages
  • Managing file uploads
  • Managing form entries in a database
  • Sending email notifications to various parties

These are just some of the things that need to be taken care of when building a web form.

Luckily, with WordPress, building a form is not a problem. There are excellent solutions that are not only easy to use, but also very flexible and powerful.

Not the Usual Contact Form Plugin

I’m not here to talk about the usual contact form plugin. These are plenty and there already are obvious choices.

If you only need a to put up a contact form, you could use the extremely popular Contact Form 7. It’s reliable and has been tested millions of times, literally. Or you could try the Fast Secure Contact Form, which is almost as popular and has its own set of strengths.

What I am here to talk about, however, is the fully fledged form building plugin. The plugin that is not only capable of creating customized contact forms, but also online applications, user registration forms, product order forms, email opt-in forms, donation forms, lead capture forms, or any other sort of form you can think up.

There are only a few plugins that can meet this criteria.

Using the Right Plugin

Here’s a quick summary of each WordPress form builder plugin:

Formidable (free) is the lite version of Formidable Pro ($37). It’s one of the more popular form building plugins for WordPress. It supports 24 field types and has plenty of features and add-ons for PayPal, MailChimp, WordPress user registration, Highrise CRM, Twilio, and more.

Ninja Forms lite (free) also has a full Pro version ($30). It was launched in mid-2011, which makes it fairly new compared to the other plugins. But it still manages to deliver advanced features such as multi-page forms and publishing user submitted content.

WordPress Form Manager (free) is a popular option on WordPress.org. This plugin is completely free. It doesn’t offer some of the advanced options that paid plugins offer, but if you’re interested in building a simple, customized web form, this one might just fit the bill.

Visual Form Builder (free) is another completely free and widely used forms plugin on WordPress.org. It seems to have the same features as WordPress Form Manager, but I find the interface of this one easier to understand and use.

Form Builder (free) by Zingiri. These people make several WordPress plugins, so they have the experience. However, this plugin is very clunky and its interface is just ugly. There’s a Pro version of the plugin, but it doesn’t improve on these shortcomings.

Gravity Forms ($39) is the most popular of the pack. It’s safe to say that it can probably match any feature of any of the plugins above. It’s highly customizable and has add-ons for AWeber, Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, FreshBooks, PayPal, Twilio, and WordPress user registration.

So, which one of these should you use to build your forms? Looking at the reviews online, a lot of people are recommending Gravity Forms as the best WordPress form building plugin.

Yoast.com says:

I loved [Gravity Forms], it made it so easy to create complex forms.

[Its code] is of higher quality than 99% of the plugins out there

Hesham Zebida from FamousBloggers.net says:

It’s so clear that the Gravity Forms is the best form creator plugin for WordPress plugin ever, not to mention the ease of use, Gravity Forms has a set of amazing features that has been never provided in one plugin before. I simply can not imagine running my blogs without it or with any other forms plugin, simply because it clears all the hassle, and saved me a lot of time. Honestly, one of the best plugins I’ve ever owned!

WPBeginner named Gravity Forms, the:

Most Beginner Friendly WordPress Contact Form Plugin

Because of this overwhelmingly positive feedback, I chose Gravity Forms to create a few tutorials to show you what’s possible and help you get the hang of building complex web forms within WordPress:

Form Building Tutorials

Advanced Contact Form

This tutorial shows you how to create a long contact form that’s spread across multiple pages. It features file uploads and field validation, among other things.

Custom Registration Form

The default WordPress registration form is too simple for many people. This tutorial shows you how to create a custom registration form where you can collect all sorts of data and even allow your members to upload files. It shows you how to embed the registration form on any post, page, or the sidebar.

Accepting User Submitted Content

This tutorial illustrates how to create a web form that your visitors can use to submit content to your WordPress site. This content can be photos, articles, files, or anything that can be published as a WordPress post.

Product Order / Quote Request Form

This tutorial covers the creation of a product order form where visitors select quantities of a product, shipping method, and send in a request. A total of the order is displayed to the visitor and the order can either be processed manually or through PayPal.

PayPal Donation Form

This tutorial not only shows you how to create a custom PayPal donation form with Gravity Forms, but it also covers other free methods and plugins for accomplishing the same thing.

If you have a question about any of these tutorials or the plugins covered in this page, let hear it in the comments!

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