In this guide we’ll look at 3 of the most popular free WordPress form plugins and tell you our favorite:
- Ninja Forms
- Caldera Forms
2020 update: Gutenberg Forms has arrived! If you’re looking for a form editor that uses the block editor, we highly recommend checking out Gutenberg Forms. Find out more in our tutorial post.
There are over 250 contact form plugins available for WordPress, we’ve weeded out all the ones you don’t need and focused on the ones you do.
Whether you’re looking to switch your current contact form solution or are looking to install a contact form for the first time, no longer will you be left wondering what you should use and why.
What should I look for in a WordPress contact form plugin?
There’s so much to consider when selecting a contact form plugin, from features and the interface and everything in between. Here’s what we recommend considering when choosing a WordPress contact form plugin.
Ease of use
A clean and simple interface helps greatly in making a contact form plugin easy to use. This is especially important if you’re a beginner since you’ll want to get started quickly and easily without a big learning curve.
Are there integrations for your favorite plugins or services, such as Google Drive, Slack or Salesforce? Consider what you want to connect to your contact form before you start looking around.
Can you accept payments via PayPal or Stripe directly via your form? For most form plugins, this functionality is only available in the pro version or as a paid add-on.
It’s important to make sure that you can add all the fields you need. Make sure that every field type and validation type you need are available before you spend time setting up a form, only to find out later it doesn’t offer what you need.
Does the form plugin have a recaptcha option to prevent automated spam? This is important to avoid your email being inundated with spam from bots. Most good form plugins provide multiple anti-spam options.
Auto-replies and thank you pages
Consider if you want to send a user a “thank you for your message” email automatically or redirect to a thank you page. Some form plugins can only show a message on submittal of the form and nothing else.
Storing of messages
How does the contact form store messages? Are they sent to your email only or is there a copy available in your WordPress Admin? We recommend choosing a plugin that stores them in the admin as well in case of any email deliverability problems.
Does the free version provide decent functionality, or are the essential features locked and only available in the pro version? If the latter, keep searching for a form solution. While most plugins will have a pro version, you don’t want to be completely restricted on what you can do.
So what are my form plugin choices?
With 269 pages of contact form plugins available on WordPress.org at last count, there’s no shortage of options to choose from! But how do you sort through all of them and know what’s actually worth trying? Lucky for you, we’ve tested them to the max and have picked our top three.
1. Ninja Forms
One of the most popular free form plugins available, with a million-plus active installs and over 700 5-star ratings, is Ninja Forms. It comes with a smorgasbord of features, many of which you can access in the free version, which gets a thumbs up from us.
When you install Ninja Forms for the first time, it’ll create a simple default contact form.
Click the title of the form, and you’ll be taken to the form builder, which is intuitive and clean in its styling.
There, you can edit the fields, add new fields, make fields mandatory and much more. One nice feature of Ninja Forms is you can modify each form to have custom actions on submit.
Ninja Forms lets you configure different recipients and storage preferences depending on the form. You can also configure custom success messages, which makes Ninja Forms perfect for sites with multiple forms and email addresses.
One feature we really love about Ninja Forms is the option to disable admin notices.
Admin notices are taking over and to have an option to disable them for a plugin completely shows that Team Ninja cares about its users and the user experience of someone using their plugin.
And lastly, how could we not mention the import and export functionality?
This feature makes it quick and easy to export your favorite forms from one site into another all in a couple of clicks.
What we like about Ninja Forms
- An intuitive interface and user experience that makes it simple for anyone of any ability to understand and use.
- A huge number of anti-spam options to keep your forms safe from spammers, including reCaptcha, Honey Pot fields, and more.
- No form limitations! What do we mean by this? You can have an unlimited number of forms or form submissions.
- Developer-friendly with a well-documented API.
- Free support. The friendly Ninja form team provides active free support in the WordPress.org repository.
What we don’t like about Ninja Forms
- The add-on model. While it works great and a lot of companies use it, it means you end up spending a lot more to get the add-ons you want. And if you want them all you’ll be forking out $500 for the pack that includes all add-ons and an unlimited site license.
- No conditional logic in the free version. If you want this, you’ll have to buy it as an add-on. Some simplified conditional logic in the free version would have been nice.
- While the user interface is intuitive, it would’ve been nice to see some kind of welcome wizard to assist with the first time setup for those less technical users who may not even see half of the options provided.
So is Ninja Forms worth your time? In one word, yes. Ninja Forms is a powerful WordPress form plugin that provides a ton of value even if you never purchase the Pro version.
2. Caldera Forms
In our opinion, Caldera forms is the most powerful, full-featured, and free WordPress contact form plugin available.
When you first install Caldera Forms, you immediately see it sticks closer to the “WordPress way” of doing things in its user interface, unlike Ninja Forms.
There are no default forms created, and the initial array of buttons and boxes can be confusing for a new user who may not know exactly what, where, or why to click any of the buttons. Our tip? Read the getting started guide as it’ll help greatly.
Once you’ve got over any initial confusion and clicked on the “New Form” button, a selection of templates will be displayed for selection.
No, we’re not quite sure either why writing and templates are so small. But alas, it’s still a nice way to get started with a pre-built form rather than configuring things from scratch.
Pick a basic contact form and after the form is created you’ll be taken to the (admittedly) quite confusing builder.
With so many buttons, options and hover actions, building a form isn’t for the non-technical. But once you get past the difficult interface, the power of Caldera Forms quickly becomes apparent.
There’s almost nothing you can’t do! From powerful conditional options, a large selection of custom fields. Processing actions and a host of other features, you’ll be wanting for nothing (except maybe an easy-to-use interface!).
What we like about Caldera Forms
- Advanced conditional logic built-in with no need for a paid add-on.
- The most powerful feature set of any free WordPress form plugin.
- Form templates to help you get started quickly and easily.
- Built-in form responsiveness options.
- Multi-page forms in the free version.
What we don’t like about Caldera Forms
- Confusing user interface and form builder for beginners and new users.
- Just like Ninja Forms, Caldera Forms also uses a paid add-on model meaning it’ll cost you $550 for all add-ons and an unlimited site license.
- No free support. Let’s make no mistake about it, supporting WordPress plugins is both costly and time-consuming, but with no free support provided at all, new users and those less technically inclined have to rely completely on the documentation provided.
So is Caldera Forms worth your time? If you don’t mind spending an hour reading some documentation and getting to grips with it, then yes. It is the most powerful free WordPress contact form plugin in our opinion.
If you aren’t comfortable with lots of options, buttons, and no free support, you might want to try out Ninja Forms instead.
In a perfect world, the ideal scenario would be all of Caldera Forms’ free power with Ninja Forms’ interface.
WPForms is from the company behind WPBeginner and OptinMonster. It exploded onto the forms scene thanks to and now has over a million installs and 3,000+ ratings on WordPress.org. But does it live up to the hype?
On activation, WPForms immediately feels… different. While the welcome screen is clean, it’s quite clear the pressure here is to purchase the product. Not something you want when you first install a plugin, right?
The builder itself is clean and intuitive, appearing to take inspiration from Ninja Forms.
Enter your form name, select a template and et voila! You’ll be on the form builder screen.
If you’ve used plugins like Gravity Forms before you’ll feel right at home here as the premise, while presented in a cleaner interface, is basically the same. Drag the fields from the left to the form on the right.
You can’t knock this form builder at all. It’s intuitive, clear, and simple to use. The only problem with WPForms, in our opinion, is the constant upsells. Wherever you look or click, there’s a modal asking you to upgrade. Those nice fancy fields? Sorry, you can’t use those they’re only in the pro version. Click one and you’ll get a popup like this:
Want to add a new notification to let someone know of a form submission? Sorry! You can’t do that either — it, too, is only in pro version.
There’s only one marketing integration available in the free version — Constant Contact. All the rest, like MailChimp, are only available in pro.
While the point of any freemium plugin is to make money, we feel that WPForms almost makes the user feel bad about not having the paid version as every step along the way there’s a roadblock asking you to part with cash.
Both Caldera Forms and Ninja Forms handle upsells in a much more elegant and non-intrusive manner.
With WPForms, one of the most critical aspects of any form plugin — the actual saving of form entries — is restricted to the pro version. That means you’ll have to rely on your site to send an email with the form contact information, potentially resulting in lost submissions.
What we like about WPForms
- A clean and intuitive user interface that is a joy to use.
- Quick and easy to get a form set up.
What we don’t like about WPForms
- Constant upsells every time you click something or navigate anywhere in the plugin.
- Lack of features and form fields with everything of real value being restricted to the pro version.
- Form entries aren’t saved to your site in the free version.
So is WPForms worth your time? If you want a simple contact form, give it a look. Otherwise, we struggle to recommend it despite it’s easy to use nature. The lack of functionality and constant upsells grate after a while and mean the free version lacks any value proposition.
What’s the best form plugin for WordPress?
Our favorite WordPress contact form plugin is Ninja Forms. It strikes that delicate balance between functionality, ease of use, and free features to come out on top in a crowded form builder market.
While Ninja Forms may not have everything you need in the free version, for us and for most users it provides important functionality, such as saving of forms, multiple custom fields, and importing and exporting of forms all for the grand price of zero bucks.
Caldera Forms, while we liked it, had a complicated interface — difficult for a beginner to get to grips with it despite the more powerful functionality on offer.
And in last place is WPForms. The interface is fantastic, but the constant push for you to buy something reminds us of in-app purchases in video games.
At MailPoet, we use Gravity Forms for our own website and it deserves an honorable mention for being one of the first solutions on the market that really capitalized on what people needed from a contact form plugin. It may seem slightly clunky and bulky by today’s standards, but it’s still worth checking out if you’re on the lookout for a premium solution.
Picking a WordPress contact form plugin is no easy task, with the plethora of options available and the different pricing models offered. Hopefully, this guide has given you an insight into three of the most popular solutions currently available and what to look out for.
So do you have a favored contact form plugin? Perhaps you have experience with the ones we mentioned? Let us know how you found using contact form plugins in the comments below!