I have nothing against the author of this plugin and the tremendous work he has put into it.  It’s widely used and well known, and if you are an advanced user, you will likely have no problem not falling prey to its most common issues.  However, most people are not advanced users.  It is one of the least user friendly form plugins available and typically leaves websites using it in jeopardy of not receiving leads/contact forms and having no way of retrieving those lost messages.  In my experience looking at hundreds of CF7 installs, it is almost always set up incorrectly at the time of the website’s creation or in newer forms added after the original developer moved on.

Over the last 5 years, I have used Contact Form 7 and continue using it on many websites when it is already in place and it is impossible to migrate to another form plugin.  However, in every case I wish we could switch clients over to Gravity Forms.  This isn’t a pitch for Gravity Forms – a premium plugin.  In fact, I won’t even link to it here – you won’t see an affiliate link from me.  I just have an epic amount of experience working with both form plugins and the distance between the two, is wide indeed.

Here are a few of the reasons I recommend not using Contact Form 7.

  • Since setting up a thank you page/goal for Google Analytics is mandatory (but often not done) in my opinion, a good form plugin makes setting up a thank you page easy.  Contact Form 7 requires additional coding that most basic users would never feel comfortable using and this is a major limitation.  It is possible to set up goal tracking/thank you page in Contact Form 7.  Just not nearly as easy as it should be.,
  • Entries to the form are not saved – if the notification email you have doesn’t arrive in your inbox (which can happen for an ENORMOUS number of deliverability reasons), you are out of luck (unless you install another plugin to back these entries up – if you have to use CF7, please do this).  
  • Setting up a form is not user friendly – no drag and drop.  Much more important,  you are required to go to multiple form tabs in order to set up your notifications that will not include the new fields you added to the form in the previous tab.  This means that anytime you add a new field, you better remember to add that field to the notification email.  Since remember, nothing is saved by default as an entry – you’d lose that field you forgot forever.
  • No dev-supported integration with PayPal, Authorize.net, MailChimp, etc.  Again., it sounds like I’m knocking the dev – I’m not.  I’m just warning you against being cheap when it comes to your form plugin software.  Don’t do it!  If you are a company that relies on leads or good customer service (everyone, right?), a single form entry lost is brutal.  

Of course, if your budget doesn’t allow for the $100/year fee for Gravity Forms, you may be stuck with using Contact Form 7 or something similar.  I would recommend always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS! checking your settings not only at the time of setup, making sure you do multiple tests to ensure your forms are working correctly, but also install another plugin to make sure that even if the contact form notification email doesn’t land in your inbox when a form is filled, that you don’t lose that lead/contact form fill-in forever.  Contact Form DB is the plugin you would want to use to make sure you have this stuff backed up.  

Author’s note: I want to reiterate my respect for the author of Contact Form 7 and all of the tremendous time and effort he has put into Contact Form 7.  He has done so for free and there should be no expectation that he develop the plugin to the level of a premium/paid plugin like Gravity Forms.  However, since companies often don’t know what to do when it comes to form plugins and they often choose Contact Form 7 without knowing its limitations/issues, I felt I had to write this blog and explain my experience with websites using CF7 without having an advanced level user on staff.  

Pro Tip: In order to set up a thank you page redirect in Contact Form 7, you want to create a regular page within WordPress and call it ‘Thank You’ and make any message you would like to use.  Then load up your Contact Form 7 form and go the Additional Settings tab.  Now use the following information.

on_sent_ok: “location = ‘http://www.yourdomain.com/thank/‘;”

Where the line above says yourdomain.com/thank/ simply use the correct URL for your website’s new thank you page you created.  Now, when someone fills out the form, it will take them to this page (this page can now be tracked as a goal within Google Analytics).  Please, PLEASE, PLEASE! – test the form to make sure this works.  In fact, the number one thing with any form you create is you must test it.  Good luck!

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