Writing a review of one of the most powerful plugins you know isn’t easy. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but I finally got around to writing this little write-up of Gravity Forms, which just about scratches the surface of the capabilities of what it can do. As anyone who has a license for Gravity Forms will tell you, it is extremely flexible and powerful and you can do just about anything form-related with it. So here we go:
Before we start talking about more involved stuff, we need to talk about the basics. Gravity Forms is a plugin for building forms. So can it do the basics and can it do them well? Well, yes. You can quickly build yourself a quick contact form, and while there are indeed other plugins that can handle this task, Gravity Forms’ more complex options enable you to develop this form in future, should the need arise.
Granted, if all you need is a simple contact form, then Gravity Forms is probably overkill. But if you can see the need for something even a little more complex in the future, then Gravity Forms is definitely worth a look.
Now let’s start getting into the stuff that sets Gravity Forms apart. As standard, Gravity Forms comes with four groups of standard fields: Standard Fields, Advanced Fields, Post Fields and Pricing Fields.
The standard fields cover the usual stuff that some other plugins might account for; things like paragraph text, checkboxes, multi-selects, radio buttons, section breaks and drop downs.
The advanced fields are where it starts to get interesting. For example, among the field types are name, phone number, date, address, email, file upload and CAPTCHA, all of which have their own necessary data validation to ensure that the data entered is of the correct format. The name and email address fields are particularly useful, because they can automatically be assigned to your autoresponder emails (notifications), which I’ll discuss later on.
The post fields are very handy, as they allow you to create a form which upon submission, creates a new post. This is useful when accepting user submissions for reviews, for example. You can use the form to set all aspects of the post (such as title, content, post status, category, excerpt, tags and post type), or you can pre-define some of these aspects, for example if you don’t want a post to go live until it has been moderated. You can also use the custom field type to add meta information to your post, which expands the capability infinitely.
The pricing fields allow you to build an order form, which will calculate the price of whatever products and services are ordered and then allow you to complete payment and create an order. For example, if you are accepting registrations for an event, you can use a form to allow people to pay for the event. You can even use the form settings to limit the number of entries so that the number of sales does not exceed your capacity.
So, as you can see, out-of-the-box, Gravity Forms is already immensely powerful and can do an awful lot of things, just from the array of fields that are available. But in literally every aspect of the plugin, they have developed it to allow you to tweak it to your needs. The CSS styling is developed such that you can add custom CSS class names to individual fields, or you can use the CSS format to target specific fields, specific forms, or even specific field types and adjust the appearance of any number of elements. Here’s an excellent run-down of how to do that.
This is such a handy feature, that I couldn’t imagine building a form without it now. You can use notifications to send out emails to an email address of your choice (such as the site admin) after each submission, which can help you take action on each entry, or track an order for instance. Also, you can simultaneously send out an email to the person who submitted the form, providing them with a copy of what they submitted (or ordered), or you can just send out a blanket message, thanking them for their submission.
You can also use the form to pull in the name and email address of the person who submitted the form with ease. Furthermore, you can include submitted fields in the subject line, so you on a contact form, you could respond with a subject line like “Thanks for your inquiry about (subject)”, where (subject) automatically pulls in the subject from the form.
Another option is called routing, which lets you send emails to specific people, depending on the input in the form. For example, if it’s an order form and you want orders of a particular product to go to one person, with other orders going to someone else, you can set up routing to send emails to certain people, based on what was ordered, instead of having to send it to a generic inbox and either have everyone check it, or have someone forwarding the emails on as needed.
The user interface is very intuitive and it won’t be long before you’re a whiz with Gravity Forms. You can also use the admin interface to look at all entries on a particular form and take action on them from there. You even have the ability to make notes on particular entries, resend emails and check the IP address of the user.
This has to be my favourite feature of Gravity Forms. Using this, you can conditionally display certain fields. That means that a field will only show up, dependent on the input in other fields. So for example, check out my own contact form. If you try changing the subject, you’ll notice that different fields appear, depending on what your entry is.
So you can use this to build some really complex forms, especially if logic floats your boat, like it does for me. It can make a form highly interactive, that is very responsive to the user, which engages them a lot more than a standard form.
There are several official add-ons for Gravity Forms. Most of them are payment gateways that allow you to process payments for orders, but there’s other ones in there, like ones that connect to your mailing list provider (MailChimp, for example), or that allow user registrations to your site from the form. So for example, this could be used to allow people to create an account on your site once they complete an order of sorts.
Personal users do not have access to the add-ons, while basic add-ons are available to business users, and premium add-ons are only available to developers. So if you need one of the add-ons, rather than buying a business or developer license, it might make more sense to get in touch with a developer (i.e. me) and have them install what you need.
Support and forums
The support for Gravity Forms is second to none. There’s a whole community of people over in the official forums that are eager to help you with your query and get you up and running in no time, whether you’ve got an issue or you just want to do something quite complex that isn’t immediately apparent. I’ve been in touch with them on numerous occasions and they’ve always been responsive, very knowledgeable and helpful.
Those with Gravity Forms will agree that this write-up only really starts to scratch the surface of what Gravity Forms can do. For example, I haven’t even mentioned the ability to schedule forms, enable animation, provide confirmation messages or redirections, all of the unofficial plugins that tie in to Gravity Forms’ hooks and filters, enabling virtually any functionality, the ability to pre-populate fields with the user’s information, or pre-selecting options.
Hopefully, you can see the incredible value in this plugin. For a developer, it’s a must have and for any site owner who wants a form that’s more than just a plain contact form, Gravity Forms should be high on your list of options.
With that said, what are your favourite features of Gravity Forms? I’d love to hear how you all use it.