If you ask which WordPress plugins are essential for any site, you’ll get some varied answers, but many recommendations center around Jetpack, WordPress SEO, and others. For many sites, I’d contend that a quality WordPress form builder is essential as well. There are always a few names thrown into this ring: Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, Formidable Pro, Ninja Forms, and the list goes on. A lot of people like Contact Form 7 since the core plugin is free. However, the one we select for all of our projects is Gravity Forms, as it has some features that make it great for eCommerce sites and is easy to work with.
Gravity Forms: The Ultimate WordPress Form Builder #
Almost every site will need forms at some point, whether just for contact information, email signups, or surveys. Many themes include contact page templates, but these are usually inflexible and don’t provide as much information as your business may need. So what makes Gravity Forms special? It provides multiple options for generic form submissions and is easy to use, but can also be used for almost any kind of information submission from users (such as surveys, polling, and quizzes).
Gravity Forms also has an extensive Add-on Offering that greatly expands the possible uses for the plugin. However, access to add-ons is dependent upon the license you purchase. Personal licenses are $39, but to get access to add-ons, you’ll need a business license at $99 or a developer license (for access to all add-ons) at $199. Pricing provides access to a year worth of updates and support. You can continue using the plugin indefinitely, but will need to renew each year for ongoing updates and support (at discounted pricing).
So what do you get in this package, and why recommend it? Gravity Forms handles basic form functionality so well, but offers a lot of great features (like conditional logic, dynamic form population, and add-ons) that makes it a powerful and flexible plugin.
Contact Forms #
First of all, a form builder should be able to do simple contact and support forms. We’ll get to some of the more advanced Gravity Forms features later, but will go through some of the basic things that Gravity Forms does very well.
Gravity Forms provides several basic forms fields that most forms will take advantage of. This in itself isn’t very exciting, but the fact that you can choose when to display each field, or pre-populate each field, is pretty cool. Standard fields include single line or paragraph inputs, as well as checkboxes, drop downs, and multi-selects.
The ability to use several different fields allows you to create any contact or support form needed for your business. You can segment requests to ensure that the needed information is included, and can even forward form submissions to different email addresses based on how fields are completed by the user:
Advanced fields will also be necessary for basic forms, and allow you to capture details such as names, emails, addresses, and to use a CAPTCHA to prevent spam (there’s an anti-spam honeypot alternative under “Form Settings” if you don’t want to sign up for a reCAPTCHA account). You can also allow file uploads for project details or other submissions. Want to tweak the way a field looks? You can use the Gravity Forms CSS classes under the advanced field settings to do so.The advanced field settings is also where some of the magic happens in creating advanced forms. Gravity Forms allows you to use conditional logic, which changes when fields are displayed or hidden (you can do this for your “submit” button as well!). This is the best way I’ve found to create forms that respond to user input, and I also use these fields to route emails to the appropriate team member.
Conditional logic allows you to show or hide fields if any or all form fields match criteria you set. You can show or hide fields based on a selected input, using greater than / less than logic, or based on what words or values fields contain. This kind of flexibility lets you use your forms in almost any way you can imagine.
Advanced options also allow you to pre-populate form fields using parameter names that you’ve set. For example, if the first option in your form is the type of contact request (for example, “support” or “questions”), you can name this parameter something like
form_type, then pre-populate that form using shortcodes, hooks, or queries in URLs (i.e.,
mystore.com/contact/?form_type=support). This way, you can direct customers to the appropriate form from emails, pages, or other sources. One way I’ve seen this used is to select the appropriate quiz form by pre-populating a hidden field, which used the conditional logic to show / hide some questions.
Side Note: As a former teacher, the ability to differentiate quizzes using this conditional logic is pretty awesome, as you can send each user the link to the appropriate quiz and have questions dynamically displayed for that user or group of users. I’d love to hear feedback from anyone that uses Gravity Forms for online courses if you’re out there!
Finally, once your form has been created, you’ll need to choose where to put it. You can insert forms into any post, page, or custom post type. You can also display simple forms using the Gravity Forms widget.
Any eCommerce store should have basic contact or support forms for customers to ask questions or get in touch about issues with products, and Gravity Forms gives you the flexibility to create forms that respond to any business type. However, this only scratches the surface of the ways to use Gravity Forms for your eCommerce site.
eCommerce Forms #
Now’s where we get to some cool uses. Part of selling is removing every barrier to purchase possible. Effective communication and the ability for customers to ask questions can make the difference in a sale and remove a lot of barriers. That’s where I typically use Gravity Forms for pre-sales questions. You can a form with typical pre-sales questions and contact info, then create a hidden field with a default value as the page / post title so that you know which page the form is submitted from to respond appropriately.
Since the hidden form will tell you where the contact request is coming from, you can embed the same pre-sales form on all of your product pages to save you the trouble of creating forms for each product or forcing customers to go to another page to ask questions. You can embed this form on all product pages by modifying your theme templates. For example, I’ve put it in a new product tab when using WooCommerce.
Want to create a portfolio and give out quotes instead of the ability to shop online? Gravity Forms does a great job for this. Most eCommerce plugins have the ability to remove all add-to-cart functionality if you just want to display a catalog to users. Using the same idea as our pre-sales question, we could then embed a form that allows customers to request a quote for an item rather than adding it to the cart and checking out. You can set the default value for the hidden field to the page title or ID in the same way so that you send a proper quote and can use the same form for all items in the catalog.
You can also use Gravity Forms on your product pages for products that require personalization or customization. Think about ordering a computer – you’ll need to select which processor you want, what hard drive, how much RAM, and so on. You could do all of that by embedding one Gravity Form with conditional logic for your products. Integrations with Gravity Forms are available for WooCommerce, Cart66, and Jigoshop. However, Gravity Forms could also integrate with other eCommerce carts if you’re willing to pay a developer to help out with the integration.
You could also use Gravity Forms for personalized items without an integration, but won’t be able to take advantage of Gravity Forms’s ability to influence price based on selected options. For example, forms for engraving or customization could be emailed to customers after an order is placed, and you could pre-populate a hidden field with the order number to ensure that the order is linked to the correct form.
Advanced Uses and Add-ons #
For simple stores, Gravity Forms could actually be the stand-alone eCommerce solution. There are add-ons available for Authorize.net, PayPal, and Freshbooks for invoicing or credit card processing. There’s also a free add-on available to integrate Stripe with Gravity Forms. You’d have to create your own product pages and embed forms on each page, but this could be a great solution for people that already use the extension and want to sell a few small products. Note that the developer license is necessary to use the payment processing add-ons.Do you run a membership site, or offer courses to members or users? Gravity Forms has a great Quiz Add-on that you could use a checkpoint for each unit or lesson in your courses. You could mix in free-response questions, and use the advanced “Quiz” field to provide a multiple choice question and answer, along with an explanation of why the answer is the correct one.
Want to use Gravity Forms with the MailChimp add-on for more effective communication with your customer? Check out this article from Chris Lema that explains how he used Gravity Forms and MailChimp to segment readers into groups in MailChimp to make sure that readers get the information they want and no more to improve retention on email lists. You can offer customers the option to opt-in to information and emails they want, such as special offers, store updates, and more. This way, customers get only the communications they actually want so that they don’t unsubscribe entirely, and you can offer the most effective communication possible.
Gravity Forms offers the flexibility to create responsive contact and support forms, but does so much more than that. Create as many forms as needed to provide the opportunity for pre-sales questions, quotes, and other information requests. Use Gravity Forms to offer product customizations, or even use it as a stand-alone eCommerce solution if you have few products that require customizations. Create quizzes for membership sites, use the survey add-on to conduct customer happiness surveys, or take polls to see which products customers love most and display them to new visitors.
As is the case with many great plugins, the potential uses for Gravity Forms are limited only to what you can come up with. It’s helped me improve communication with customers and help clients display product customization options, and I think of new ways to use it every day.
- WP Mayor has a couple WordPress form builder reviews that discuss Gravity Forms, including a dedicated review and a form builder comparison.
- In case you didn’t click on this article in the previous section, you can check out Chris Lema’s overview of using Gravity Forms and MailChimp to create MailChimp groups. He also has a comparison post for Formidable Pro vs. Gravity Forms.
- Here’s a Gravity Forms review from Yoast, author of the WordPress SEO plugin.
- Here’s another review, but this time from Copy Blogger.