Gravity FormsTalk to any group of serious WordPress theme developers and chances are that at least half of them swear by Gravity Forms. Gravity Forms is a forms plugin built specifically for WordPress. It works for simple forms, but it can also be used to create very complex forms. The advantages to using Gravity Forms are numerous and WordPress websites of all types will benefit from this robust and practical plugin. I cover some of these advantages below, so many that I had a hard time keeping this list to 10 (in my mind, the reasons to use Gravity Forms are endless).

Some people do balk at the yearly license price, but the time savings and better end result win it for me every time. Luckily, the license is graduated so you pay less if you only need it for one site and for more basic needs (just $39). As your usage of it becomes more complex (for instance payment gateway integration or multiple sites), you will need to upgrade to a more expensive license ($99 or $199), but trust me – it’s worth every penny! I am a huge fan and use it on any site that requires a form, even if it’s just a basic contact form. If you’re a theme developer, I recommend getting a Developer’s license today and using it on every site you build going forward.

1. Security

Let’s just start with the elephant in the room. If you’re working with WordPress in this day and age, you are undoubtedly concerned about security. Forms are notoriously vulnerable. If form data is not being sanitized correctly, you are giving hackers an easy way to compromise your site. Gravity Forms has built a solid and secure product to keep this from happening.

2. Ease of Use

Gravity Forms has an intuitive interface that allows you to simply click the type of field you want and it is immediately added to the form. From there you can easily customize it by renaming it, dragging it to a new position on your form, defining set choices (if it’s a checkbox, radio button, or select dropdown), giving a hint or note about what the user should enter in the field, marking the field as required or hidden, etc. Additionally, you can define one or more notification emails (with different content) to be sent upon submission and you can choose where the user is directed after completing the form. The user can be shown a custom message on the same page or they can be redirected to another page or an external URL. Form data from the submission can also be passed to this new page. All of this is done from within the WordPress interface and form submissions are stored right in the WordPress database (in case the email gets lost).

3. Variety & Validation

There are a number of different field types available within Gravity Forms. In addition to expected fields such as text and paragraph, you can also easily create dropdowns, multi-select boxes, checkboxes, and radio buttons. You can insert raw HTML or create section headers to “pretty up” your form. You can even use fields whose input is limited to numbers, dates, email addresses, phone numbers, or website URLs. When these fields are used, Gravity Forms does the hard work of validating the data and letting the user know when it doesn’t conform to the chosen type. Gravity Forms also includes a super helpful block of address fields where one click will get you two street fields, plus city, state, zip, and country (you can then hide the ones you don’t want). On top of all that, you can provide the ability to upload files via your forms while limiting the file extensions or maximum file size if you choose.

4. Conditional Logic

Ever get a paper form with several sections you simply skip over and leave blank? Gravity Forms has an elegant solution to this quandary. Rather than clutter up your form with fields that only some visitors need, you may choose to show or hide fields based on given responses resulting in clean forms showing only relevant fields. This can help to avoid user confusion.

5. Multi-Page Forms & Save and Continue

I love both of these features, but I was starting to run out of space in my list so I’ve thrown them together. These features aren’t related, but they do serve a similar purpose of avoiding form fatigue. The multi-page feature allows you to break your form up into separate pages that the user moves through. This can help isolate particular aspects of the form or break up long forms. Similarly, the Save and Continue feature allows users to create accounts on your website and then continue filling out the form at a later date with all previously entered information remaining saved in the database.

6. Design Control via CSS Classes

Gravity Forms comes out of the box looking very clean and professional and it includes several helpful CSS classes on the form fields to aid in applying your own design. The plugin also allows for you to add your own CSS classes to individual fields or you can use a number of built-in CSS classes. These built-in classes offer ways to put fields into columns (rather than 1 field per line), display options horizontally, or even add a scroll box to a long piece of text (such as Terms & Conditions).

7. Integrations with 3rd Party Apps

One of the ways Gravity Forms stole my heart was the ease with which it plays with 3rd party software services. Gravity Forms provides a number of Add-Ons that integrate with popular mailing lists, payment gateways, CRMs, and communication tools. You will need the Business ($99) or Developer ($199) license to utilize these add-ons, but it’s well worth it. By utilizing Gravity Forms for these integrations, you can sign someone up for your mailing list without being relegated to the ugly form provided for you by that company. I’ve used Gravity Forms to allow users to sign up for composting service via PayPal recurring billing and also set up donation and order forms – all without writing a lick of code.

8. Better NO Captcha

Since the dawn of online forms, there have been spammers filling them in. They’re not really visiting your website though. They’re lazy and send their robot minions (also known as bots). As a result we all have to squint and interpret these weird looking captcha fields designed to confuse robots that confuse and aggravate us in the process too. Gravity Forms has a classy solution to this. It’s called the Anti-Spam Honeypot and it’s brilliant, simple, and invisible. It works by adding an extra field to the form which it then hides using Javascript. Since bots access your website via programs which do not run Javascript, they see the field and fill it in. When Gravity Forms sees this field filled in, it knows the submission is most likely Spam and it tags it as such. I have successfully used this on many sites and had no spam issues. A word of warning though: you must enable this on each form as it [sadly] is not enabled by default.

9. Creating Posts

Another powerful feature of Gravity Forms is the ability to automatically create WordPress posts. Want to invite guest bloggers, recipe submissions, or photo contest entries? You can do this with Gravity Forms. You create fields for the title and content, you can choose a specific category and even map individual form fields to a post’s custom fields. When a user submits the form, a WordPress post is created automatically – say goodbye to copying and pasting! You set the publish status of the post when you create the form so submissions can show up as drafts, or – if you’re really brave – they can be published directly to your website (I don’t really recommend this though). If you want to create custom post types, this can be done using a 3rd party plugin called Gravity Forms + Custom Post Types. I’ve used this plugin successfully myself on many sites.

10. Developer Friendly / Advanced Customization

As you may know, the WordPress code structure includes a whole system of hooks and filters. These are helpful placeholders sprinkled liberally throughout the code base which allow developers to modify data or perform additional actions. These hooks and filters allow for the type of functionality added by all WordPress themes and plugins. Without these, there would be no WordPress as we know it today. But a good plugin doesn’t just use these hooks and filters, it creates its own and Gravity Forms has done just that. Their plugin is chock full of helpful hooks and filters and their website has amazing documentation on how to use them correctly. You can grab the form data and do anything you want to using these hooks. You can use filters to pre-populate form fields or modify the resulting notification email. You can add dynamic Javascript to your form. The possibilities are endless.

As you can probably tell, my love for Gravity Forms overfloweth. It provides powerful functionality right out of the box yet makes it easy for non-developers to utilize effectively. If my reasons to use Gravity Forms haven’t convinced you, I don’t know what will. And as I explained in #10, if it doesn’t do enough for you “as is”, you always can roll up your sleeves and use the myriad of hooks and filters to take it to the next level. Gravity Forms makes that easy too.
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