The Future of Caldera Forms

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In case you missed it: Yesterday we announced a new SaaS platform for improving the process of working with WordPress contact forms: Caldera Forms Pro.

A couple of years ago I had dinner with some friends the night before a WordCamp. About 2/3s of the people there worked at companies that make popular form builders. The other 1/3 couldn’t understand why we were so frustrated about reliably sending contact form submissions via email.

Caldera Forms was probably about 10% as popular then as it is now, so I honestly didn’t know yet how big of a problem it was. But, I’ve spent 2 years obsessing over it. Every Caldera Form is unique, but most of them rely on email.

Caldera Forms Pro is about making the form email process not just reliable and beautiful but as useful to your business as possible. What we started beta testing yesterday, gives you a better looking emails, that are reliably delivered and let you know if they were opened or clicked on.

It’s very cool, and I’m really excited about what we have and what we plan on doing to make the information that is submitted to Caldera Forms as useful to you as possible. I want to share with you — those who use Caldera Forms, and those who are considering using Caldera Forms — where we’re going and what this means for the free plugin and our existing line of Caldera Forms add-ons. If you want a quick run-down of the difference between what Caldera Forms Pro, the free plugin and what are add-ons provide, please check out this page.

First, Let’s Talk Growth

A man standing on a peak of a mountain.I want to start by talking about the incredible growth we’ve seen for Caldera Forms over the last six months. The beta of Caldera Forms Pro is the start of a very ambitious plan to expand the scope of what Caldera Forms is and I want to explain why it is justified and necessary as well as useful for you.

We’ve already doubled the user base for Caldera Forms this year. Not only that, the revenue for Caldera Forms add-ons sales for the first 6 months of 2017 is equal to all of 2016. We’re on track to at least 2x our revenue this year.

This is great growth. The other day I did the math and was kind of shocked to realize that we are in the top 1% of plugins, by active installs, on WordPress.org. It’s humbling to see this and to see how happy people are with this plugin.

You might also have noticed that we raised the purchases on single add-ons, but not bundles recently. This was an essential move because we found support costs were roughly equal for all customers, regardless of how many add-ons they had.

I am not particularly motivated by money. I’m very privileged to make enough money from WordPress that my wife and I can live comfortably and spoil our pets a bit.

That said, I will never apologize for prioritizing the need to make more money than we spend. This is a business and I want it to continue to be a business and that means we have to keep putting more money in the bank that comes out or we can’t keep doing this — making Caldera Forms and other fun shit. In fact, I’ve got a few really cool plugins I made while working on Caldera Forms Pro and our site that I’m excited to get out there when I have a chance.

That’s all to say we’re doing pretty good, but it’s time to scale this business to the next we looked at a TON of options. I have a lot of very cool prototypes for next big idea — some of which will never see the light of day. What we’ve spent a lot of time drilling down to is what gives the most value to our users, solves very real problems, will make our company economically viable long-term and will be a ton of fun to build. That is Caldera Forms Pro.

In addition to never apologizing for prioritizing making enough money to keep this business going and growing, I will never apologize for being driven by a desire to build fun shit.

I love writing code. It’s my favorite thing to do. If I was driven by money, I would never have spent this much time on Caldera Forms. I could have spent the last 3 years working at a company that paid me more, worked me less hours, bought me shiny new laptop and gave me a cool hooded sweatshirt.

What’s Next For Caldera Forms

Improving The Free Plugin

The Caldera globe logo with the words Caldera Forms below itCaldera Forms, the free plugin on WordPress.org is not going anywhere. In fact, Caldera Forms Pro means two important things for it. First, the free plugin needs to be there and get better as it is now an even more important part of our sales funnel. Caldera Forms Pro makes the continued growth and awesomeness of Caldera Forms even more essential to our business.

Second, you can expect Caldera Forms to get more developer time. I think Caldera Forms is awesome, but I also have a super long list of ways I’d like to improve it and have listened to a ton of user feedback on where its weak points are. If you look at the pricing for Caldera Forms Pro, you can easily guess that we are looking to use this to increase our revenue significantly. My goal isn’t to get rich, though I would like to pay off some student loans.

We released Caldera Forms 1.5.1 yesterday to improve how select and calculation fields work. That’s awesome. I have a long list of other features I’d like to have based on what I see and what our users tell us.

What I really want is to grow this team and to buy every team member a very nice hooded sweatshirt. We’ve done incredible things with 2.5 people and the help of friends. I’m excited about what happens with 5-10 people laser-focused on improving the experience of using Caldera Forms and having the opportunity to train and work with great developers. If you know me, you know I love to teach 🙂

At no point is Caldera Forms Pro going to become required to use Caldera Forms. If you don’t want to sign up for this service, that’s fine, it’s not for everyone. Just keep using the plugin like you always did.

The Caldera Forms Add-On Family

Photo of Caldera for Stripe and PayPal WordPress Blog Post HeaderWe currently have 26 Caldera Forms add-ons for list building, accepting payments and cool tools like Connected Forms or Entry Limiter. This part of our business is not going anywhere.

I suspect that the Mail Templates add-on will become a lot less necessary, since the layout builder in Caldera Forms Pro is awesome. But, some people might not want to use the Caldera Forms Pro service, and that add-on will provide an alternative.

Caldera Forms Pro is starting off as solving very different problems than the rest of our add-ons solve. Over time, Caldera Forms Pro will provide complimentary service as we add more reporting and business intelligence aspects to the app, when it makes sense. For example, we have no plans to provide our own payment gateway, but we do plan to tell you more about who is making payments using Caldera Forms and one of our payment gateway add-ons.

Again, if you like using Caldera Forms and the Caldera Forms add-ons that you have and want to keep using them the same way, you can. Nothing is going to change. This service isn’t for everyone.

We are going to continue to look at ways that Caldera Forms Pro can make the experience of using Caldera Forms and its add-ons better. The Caldera Forms Pro Apex plan handles email delivery and provides tracking of email performance. With these important features in place, we are prepared to really optimize the process of using WordPress for lead generation. I’m looking forward to turning on some of the features that are almost ready to go to give actionable analytics about how to do more with your WordPress forms.

Building this new app has given me experience building user-interfaces in a different context that has been refreshing. It’s inspired my plans for a UI refresh for our MailChimp add-on.

What’s Next For Caldera Labs

Caldera Labs banner with Catdera mascotThe WordPress community is really awesome and we are excited to continue to be a part of it. As I’ve said we’ve got a bunch of new free plugins we’re ready to release once they are properly documented. They are not Caldera Forms related, and therefore not something we want to focus on, but making them available to the community is important.

You should also expect to see me and/or Christie at WordCamps throughout the year. Pittsburgh, Montreal, LA, Orlando, Washington DC, Boston, New York City and US are all on our calendar. Our newest team member Nico, who is handling support and working on Caldera Forms Pro with us will be at WordCamp EU. Find him to get your French Catdera stickers.

Education is of course super-important. Roy is heading up a revamp of Caldera Learn so that we can build a community of developers serious about leveling up their WordPress development skills. I’m excited to teach there and to keep writing for Torque.

We’re going to keep being us. Making cool shit, having a cute cat logo and making taco jokes. We hope you’ll enjoy being a part of it.

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