WordPress Form Plugin Comparison – the Curse and Blessing of “Best-of”-Compilations

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Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Whenever I have new ground to cover in the WordPress universe, whenever a request for a new feature comes up, two thoughts come to my mind.

First, “There must be a plugin for that”. And it’s true, almost always.

Second, “Let me google for ‘Best WordPress Plugins for this new crazy idea’

What comes next is an endless search result list consisting of “Best of” so called listicles (posts that list plugins with a screenshot, a description and more often than not, an affiliate link):

Search result for "best form plugins for wordpress"
OK, “Form Plugins” was not a very original search query, but you get the idea…

For an early stage research, that’s just fine, because when you dig into these lists, you will at least have heard the big names in that niche. In this “WordPress Form Plugin Comparison” case, the usual suspects will be, for example, Ninja Forms, Gravity Forms and WPForms, just to name a few.

Some authors do invest a lot of effort in describing the plugins in detail, but mostly, you will find a paragraph or two about each plugin.

“Best of” posts: Randomness disguised as ranking

What you get depends entirely on the strategy of the publisher. Is it just about Affiliate income? Then they will probably add more plugins to choose from, and keep the description shorter. Expect to have 20+ plugins in the list, because higher digits get more clicks. Probably you will find the best paid or best converting plugins at the top of the list.

Do they place their own product in the list, to raise it’s authority by mentioning it in one breath with the big names in the industry? In those cases you often won’t find affiliate links. But does it make the source more trustworthy? One could argue that any description of the plugins will be biased towards their own product, and if that’s not disclosed, it is simply unfair.

I personally don’t mind any of these strategies as long as they are transparent about it. And I prefer those long copy posts that invest a lot of time into explaining the plugin’s key features. I can learn a lot without installing the plugin and possibly waisting time on something that falls short on my requirements. Sometimes I get inspired because they mention a feature I never heard of before, but which could prove highly valuable for my business.

But that’s about as far as I get, and there are some unsolvable problems of any “Best of” post, when you want to do a WordPress Form Plugin Comparison:

numbered list of SEO Plugins in a post
This numbered list of SEO Plugins makes me assume that Yoast is a LOT better than SEOPress, or at least more useful.

Problem #1: Comparing prices of wordpress plugins

That’s near impossible – very few authors take the time to compare prices and put them together in a table. Most of the times they will tell you there is a free version and paid plans start from X $.I can understand that approach for several reasons:

  1. Diverse pricing models make it difficult to compare. You have plans, you have Add-On prices, and sometimes you have a mix. If you look at one vendor alone, it may make perfect sense: For example, Ninja Forms allows you to buy just the features you need, and has a feature-packed free version already. However you may find that depending on your need (i.e. using an add-on feature on more than one site), this approach can become quite expensive.
  2. Third-Party Services can add to the cost: Sometimes you have (paid) third-party pugins to fill in any functional gap. See the free “Contact Form 7” for example: there is a universe of free and paid add-ons because the Plugin itself is (on purpose) very limited. But even the most advanced plugins will make use of third party plugins like Zapier (for automation and software integration), which are SAAS themselves and can add a significant cost to your bill. So, while one form plugin may offer a required automation out of the box, another may rely on Zapier. The plugin itself may be cheaper, but because of Zapier, you will end up paying more.
  3. Price Marketing: The business model of the plugin vendors has moved away from lifetime licenses towards saas. This is a totally logic step, making the business sustainable and incentivizing the developers to keep the plugin secure and up to date with modern standards.

    But what sometimes happens is that the vendor will show you discounted prices that will only apply to the first year. After that, you can cancel, but won’t get any more updates. For security reasons, that’s not a good idea and your client will end up paying twice the amount he expected.

What this tactic does is to make the plugin appear a lot cheaper than it actually is. If you compare a plugin with first-year discount to another one with ‘normal’ prices, and base your choice on that price, you may loose money in the long run.

At WP Plugin Scout we therefore decided to take the ‘normal’ non-discounted price because we assume that most websites will last longer than 12 months.

Problem #2: Comparing features of wordpress plugins

“Best of” Posts are fine for hearing about some features and (sometimes) looking at screenshots to get a feeling for the plugin, but you will never ever get a complete list.

This is ok while you have no idea what you are looking for, but once you are clear with some requirement such as “File Upload” or “E-Signature Field“, you will never get an answer from these posts.

WordPress Form Plugin Comparison: An example from our from our daily project work

When we have a new project that involves forms, we always ask the client what exactly he wants the form to do, and sometimes add ideas of our own if they add to the quality of the end result.

If they want to add an application form, it makes sense to offer “File Uploads” for CV documents. But it may also help if we can divide the form into sections to make it less overwhelming (Multi-Page Forms increase conversions), and if it is a very detailed one, and the chances are that it is hard to fill out all at once, you may need the “Save and Continue Drafts” feature. Another interesting feature would be “Repeater fields“, which allow the user to dynamically add as many qualifications or languages as he needs.

After the talk, we have a checklist of features, and nothing in the web would help us on this quest, other than clicking through all of the plugin websites and manually checking them against our list. Of course, we have a few go-to plugins that we generally use, but sometimes other plugins may be better – it all depends on the requirements of the given project.

So we decided to build a plugin search engine where you can filter by your feature catalogue, and launched WP Plugin Scout.

How to really find the best wordpress form plugin

That’s what we recommend you to do: check what you want to do, make a list of those features, and then apply them as filters on the WordPress Form Plugin comparison page.

In the example above, the result would look like this:

How to find the best wordpress form plugins - example

Notice that only one plugin actually covers all required features (100%), while the second place, while much cheaper, does not have the “Repeater fields” feature.

Now you can decide if the missing feature is worth 100 USD, or if you remove the feature from your “must-have” list. In any way, you know what you will be getting, and at what price.

Disclosure: The rankings in WP Plugin Scout are influenced by the match score (how they fit your requirements) and the number of features that the best plan will deliver you. If you choose to follow one of the links to the plugin itself, we may get a commission, which has no effect on what you pay.

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