We have a few slogans here for Caldera Forms. One is “a different kind of form builder.” We use that because Caldera Forms wasn’t created as a copy of the established patterns of what a WordPress form builder does. It’s been exciting to see so many users fall in love with the Caldera Forms way of doing things, and humbling see some of our bigger competitors borrow some of our innovations. Two years ago, we didn’t see grid-based form builders and visual conditional logic creation in the Caldera-style like we do today.
We also say that Caldera Forms is more than a contact form. We are acknowledging that in addition to contact forms, Caldera Forms is being used for lead generation forms, list building forms, single-page checkout forms, and more. All of these forms are about getting the right information from the lead or customer and putting it into a format that is useful to you.
That’s the most important part and the part that is, in many ways, hardest to improve in a WordPress plugin. That’s why today we are announcing Caldera Forms Pro, a new service to make Caldera Forms notifications more awesome. Most of the time that means an email, so we’ve started there. We’ve talked with our customers and looked at the process of sending emails from contact forms, what makes it great and what makes it a constant pain in the ass. All of that, and being WordPress users and WordPress community members has led us to create this new solution.
It’s a new direction, one that will deliver great results and a better experience for you — our users and for your customers and site visitors. Gather around the blog post and let me tell you about what we have to offer and drop some hints about what is coming.
TL;DR Caldera Forms Pro is a new SaaS platform for improving Caldera Forms. More reliable emails, better looking emails, email stats, form to PDF and more. Learn about the difference between what our free plugin provides vs Caldera Forms Pro vs our add-ons here.
We Listen To Our Customers
As much as we’ve grown and it’s been a lot of growth, we’re still a relatively new and small product. When you fill our contact form, one of the co-owners of our company is going to read it. Caldera Forms Pro really started as version two of our Caldera Forms PDF service.
Caldera Forms PDF started with a lot of requests from our users for form to PDF. We had a beta of a plugin that did form to PDF, but it wasn’t reliable, used a ton of memory and just wasn’t something I wanted to release or support. So, I thought I could do better with a hosted service, and I built that. It was our first Software as a Service product.
Caldera Forms PDF did one thing: provide a download link of the entry as a PDF. We heard from a lot of users asking if the PDF could be attached to the email instead.
We listened to our users, this is what the basic plan of Caldera Forms Pro provides – form entries as PDFs attached to the email notification, as a download link, or both.
We could have stopped there and called that Caldera Forms PDF version 1.1 and moved on. That wouldn’t have been much fun and users were asking for a lot more.
If you are currently using Caldera Forms PDF, check your email for a beta invite and for a special offer on Caldera Forms Pro.
Making Emails More Beautiful
In Caldera Forms 1.4, we cleaned up the basic emails, but our Mail Templates add-on has remained a top seller, because users want branded customized emails. Those who used or were considering using our form to PDF service wanted better looking PDFs. We answer a lot support questions on layouts and style improvements for our emails.
We listened to our users and created a whole new layout builder for Caldera Forms emails and PDFs. The Caldera Forms Pro Awesome Plan and the Caldera Forms Pro Apex Plan offer a totally new fancy layout builder for creating emails and PDF layouts. Of course, the email layouts are responsive – this is Caldera Forms, after all.
You can use a one layout for every form or select a different layout for each form’s email or PDF. You can even share layouts between sites. This new layout builder was very fun to make and creates a ton of exciting opportunities for the future.
Making Emails More Reliable
You need to know that when someone fills in your form, the email gets to you. The issue of email reliability is a major pain point throughout the WordPress ecosystem. It’s larger than WordPress form builders, but as developers of a plugin that sends a lot of emails, we hear from users about this problem a lot.
We listened to our users for a long time. We introduced easy SendGrid integration last year. Many of our users rely on our MailChimp and other email marketing add-ons to handle their emails. Others use 3rd-party email services. These are good solutions, but they’re not seamless.
Setting up WordPress contact form emails, so that they are delivered reliably and not automatically flagged as spam is a pain. Caldera Forms Pro makes that simple.
Caldera Forms Pro bolsters mail sending reliability, without you, our user, having to sign up for, or configure external tools. You sign up for Caldera Forms Pro, and we handle sending the emails through a more reliable service. You just focus on the form, and of course, on getting people to fill it.
When you sign up for the Caldera Forms Apex Plan, you will get more reliable emails by clicking one checkbox. If anything does go wrong, when you contact support, we will not be helping you make educated guesses of what is going wrong. We’ll be reading log files and knowing exactly where the problem is and how to fix it.
Also, we’ll be working working proactively to avoid these issues, now that we’re able to see them as they happen. No software is perfect, but when you use Caldera Forms Pro, we’ll be better equipped to serve and support you.
Learn More From Your Emails
We’ve heard from our users about wanting these basic stats that email marketing services provide by default. We’ve heard from users about how they want to know how to track the performance of their emails, end to end.
A while back, we came out with a Google Analytics for Caldera Forms integration to give you one solution. But now, we listened to our users and provided complete email tracking. If you’re using the Caldera Forms Pro Apex Plan, you will know if each of your messages sent from Caldera Forms was opened, if any links were clicked or if it was reported as spam. This is essential information you need to use your WordPress contact form as a key part of growing your business.
Along with our Google Analytics add-on, you can now track form loading, form submission and email performance. And we’re just getting started. Caldera Form Pro is about making the tools you need to succeed all simple and easy. Expect even tighter integration with Google Analytics and other business intelligence products soon.
What Does This Mean For Caldera Forms?
This is a big new part of the Caldera Forms product family, and you many be wondering what this means for Caldera Forms Pro and the existing Caldera Forms add-ons. The short answer is: they are not going anywhere.
We’ve been very busy working on Caldera Forms Pro recently. But we’ve also added awesome new features to Caldera Forms, stayed on top of Caldera Forms bugs, and added segmentation support for MailChimp add-on, and released a Zapier integration, and improved our Custom Fields add-on’s integration with Pods, and we’ve updated our Google Analytics add-on to have a more intuitive UI.
The truth is, this move actually improves Caldera Forms the free WordPress plugin, and Caldera Forms add-ons in two important ways. First, we expect to leverage Caldera Forms Pro when it makes sense to provide a better user experience in our add-ons. Secondly, we plan to make more money from this new product which will allow us to invest more in all of our products. I will never apologize for wanting to have a business that makes more money than it spends, since that way we stay in business, and we can continue to grow our team.
I will publish a more complete answer to this question more fully with a post of its own tomorrow. It will explain where we’re going and why we think doing so will serve our users better, provide a better product and be more fun.
That last point is very important. I’ve had a ton of fun building this new app. I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned on the various blogs I write for and in upcoming WordCamp talks. Having fun, building cool shit and sharing what I learn is why I do this. I’m proud AF of that.
Better Emails, Better Reliability And More
OK folks, I’m super fucking excited about Caldera Forms Pro being a thing and I hope you’re excited to try it. The beta testing phase begins today. Over the next few weeks, we will be adding additional testers to make sure we catch all the bugs, have an opportunity to listen to users, and tune our servers.
We’re excited about continuing to rethink what a contact form should be, and are happy to have you along for the ride.