Believe it or not, finding the right contact form for you and your website’s visitors isn’t easy. I was stuck with a WordPress plugin that was alright for some time, but I became frustrated with it when I ran into an issue I couldn’t solve. Then I discovered Contact Form 7.
@aaronrcouch hey it’s called contact form 7.
— Dan Pearce (@danoah) February 8, 2013
Contact Form 7, which is featured on our Best WordPress Plugins, stood out because it was so simple and easy to use. Due to being frustrated with an issue of the contact form plugin on my own website, I was eager to find out more about it. Needless to say, it went far beyond my expectations. It’s the best contact form plugin for WordPress that I’ve used yet.
What You Want And Need In A Contact Form
It may not seem like there’s much that would go into a solid contact form plugin. Search the WordPress plugin directory, however, and you’ll find a plethora of results. You’ll be overwhelmed, wondering where to start.
To help assist you, should you want to look for others besides Contact Form 7, here are a few characteristics of a good contact form. These characteristics in Contact Form 7 stood out to me:
- Complete customizability for whatever your needs are
- Simple “behind the scenes” interface and options for quick tweaking
- Useful help documents to answer your questions
- Incoming emails that are easy to read
In upcoming sections of this article, we’ll explore some of the options in Contact Form 7 that uniquely make it completely customizable – and easy to use for both the visitor and you, the site owner.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
Once you install the plugin and start setting up your contact form, the task can initially seem a little daunting. “There are so many fields!” “What’s does this dropdown menu of ‘tags’ do?” “How do I change and add different functions?” These are all things I overwhelmed myself with. The key is to take in one thing at a time, and start familiarizing yourself with the plugin. It’s not complicated. But just like anything new, there’s an initial learning curve.
I promise you: this curve is very short.
Setting Up And Customizing
Step One: Familiarize Yourself With Contact Form 7
The above is what you should see once the plugin is installed. Among the other menu items in the sidebar, there should be “Contact”. Alternatively, you can go to “Plugins” and click the “Settings” link under “Contact Form 7”.
Once you open up the settings, you’ll see a message box displaying various “help” links. Don’t quickly dismiss this, as there are a lot of important tips and instructions, including a basic “Getting Started with Contact Form 7” guide, a page completely dedicated to using tags and how they work, as well as how to set up the email portion, and briefly describing each of the sections on the admin (settings) screen.
You don’t need to have everything about Contact Form 7 memorized, but just know that there are resources available to answer your questions when one arises. Personally, I learn as I go and generally try to figure things out for myself, but like to have resources readily accessible when I come up against something I’m unsure of.
Step Two: Create A New Contact Form
To begin creating a new contact form, click “Add New”.. You’ll then be prompted with a page as seen below. If you’re using English, click the larger blue button. If you’re using a different language, choose the one you want, and click the light gray button on the right of the language menu.
The first thing you’ll want to do is name your contact form.
The next section is customizing the actual contact form that will appear on your website. There are some tags already entered to give you a general idea of what it can look like, but you can add in and take out anything that you’d like. To the right of the text body is a dropdown menu titled “Generate Tag”, which contains all the tags to choose from.
Once you click the desired tag, you will be prompted with additional options to customize it to your liking. You then copy the code and paste it into the “Form” text field.
Next, you’ll add any text that you want to appear with the tag, as seen above.
This is how the tag translates to the actual form on the website.
On a personal opinion note, I like the “acceptance” check box in combination with making the other text fields “required”, as to ensure I don’t get spam messages sent to my email.
Next you move on to the email message body, labeled “Mail”. The fields really don’t need to be tweaked much. The tags will automatically be added. You can choose exactly how you would like the message body to be laid out.
The last option that you likely won’t have to do much with, but can if you’d like, is editing the different message responses.
You can see some of the options above. This is great for communicating to your visitors that their message did, in fact, get sent. It’s also allows you to make the message a bit more personal to them.
A Feature I Recommend Using
When you are associated with various endeavors and receive a lot of emails every day, it can be difficult to sort them out based on importance. Of course, you can use labels and filters to manage your emails in Gmail, but I needed to go a step further. I discovered a tag in Contact Form 7 allowing me to do so. This is the “drop-down menu” tag.
Once you select and customize it (I recommend making it a required field and also including a blank), paste the code into the “Form” text box and format it as I have in the image, putting the various options (as many as you’d like) in quotations. You might wonder why I recommend including a blank entry, and the reason is because it forces your visitors to choose the appropriate reason for which they’re contacting you, rather than just leaving it as the first option.
To make it appear in the subject line, you must paste the code into the “Subject” field in the “Mail” form. Be sure to place it before the “[your-subject]” tag. I also added a colon after it.
Step Three: Add The Shortcode To Your Contact Page
Once you have the bulk of your contact form set up to your liking, copy the shortcode at the top of the page and paste it into the “Contact” page on your website. Of course, if you don’t have one yet, you’ll need to create one.
You don’t need to paste this in the “Text” view of the page, the “Visual” view is fine – that’s the beauty of shortcode. Once you’ve pasted it in, just click the blue “Update” or “Publish” button.
Step Four: Preview It, Test It, Tweak It, Repeat
Once you save your Contact page, you can check out what your new contact form looks like.
If there are any tweaks that you want to make, simply go back into the Contact Form 7 settings, make them, click the blue “Save” button. That’s it: there’s no need to recopy and paste the shortcode into your Contact page again.
You’ll also want to test filling out the form and sending yourself an email to make sure all looks good on the receiving end.
Step Five: Check Out Additional Tips
Remember that message box I referred to earlier in the article, that contains the different helpful links on setting up Contact Form 7? It also links to some other helpful pages that you might want to look at. The topics include combining Contact Form 7 with Akismet for spam filtering, tracking with Google Analytics and others.
In addition, you can always refer to the official Contact Form 7 website, for all information, FAQs, troubleshooting, documents and updates regarding the plugin.
Step Six: Install A Theme (Optional)
If you you want even more customization, there are several themes available. Themeover.com has 13 free Contact Form 7 themes for you to choose from, if you want a custom look for your forms.
By now, you probably realize that WordPress isn’t just for blogging and can act as an awesome platform for any kind of website: companies, personal and/or professional users, or anything else. And you likely will want to provide your visitors with an easy way to contact you. As someone who has a personal website for a professional online presence, I understood that providing my visitors with an easy method of contacting me was essential. Contact Form 7 filled all the gaps in communication between my website’s visitors and I, and continues to do so.
Have you used Contact Form 7? If so, what has your experience been with it? Did you keep using it, or did you ultimately move on to a different plugin? Whatever your experience is, we want to hear your thoughts, input and recommendations from you.