One of the things most of the how-to and MMO blogs stresses is the necessity of having a contact form. It is not quite as necessary for a personal blog, although it could be useful, but for those serious about making money, a way for people to contact you besides commenting on a post is absolutely required. But how to enable that contact?
The easiest way is to put your email address someplace where it is easily seen. A text widget on the sidebar is visible, on all your pages and posts, and easily recognized by anyone that has used the web for more than a couple of days. But it is also ripe for scraping by spammers, can cause you to miss messages in your other email or to an overenthusiastic spam filter, and is not as professional in appearance as you might want. Fortunately there are plugins available to handle your contact needs.
Simple Contact Forms
The Tiny Contact Form is not talking about the size of actual form, but the size of the plugin. It is hard to see how it could be any easier to use. Install it, paste the shortcode on the page or post you want to use for contacts, and put your email address into the field on the setup page (This is in fact the entire setup page. One field for your email.) Bingo, you have a contact page. Or you can use the widget to stick the form into your sidebar, so it is always available to your visitors.
Not to say that it is perfect. The widget adds the form to your sidebar, but you need to do some css editing to make it fit correctly. There is also no attempt at catching spammers. But it is a very new plugin, very easy to use, and worth looking at if you want something basic and fast.
Unfortunately, there are things about the plugin that are not quite so nice. The options for the form are limited for something so hard to install. In order to change the look of the form, you need to directly edit the css on the plugins stylesheet, which is not the easiest to figure out. The biggest problem with the plugin is possible conflicts with other plugins using the same progamming systems. (This is not the fault of the author, the problem is caused by having thousands of people creating thousands of plugins, with no coordination.) Nice looking, lots of potential, but not really something I would select for ease of use or installation.
Enhanced WP-ContactForm is almost as easy to install as the Tiny Contact Form. You just need to fill the input fields on the Setting page, although the only one that you have to make any changes to is your email address, choose your language (English, French, or Dutch), and paste the shortcode in the location you want the form. It includes a check for malicious code and has a spam checker, along with allowing personalized messages for various results.
While it is usable right at installation, it does not look that good. You really need to do some css styling to make it look better. The author has a sample on his support page, so modifying it would not be too difficult if you are comfortable with CSS, but would be nice if it was included somewhere in the plugin.
Form Builder allows you to build simple forms fairly easily. It’s latest update added some nice features, including CAPTCHA, the option to save submitted forms in your MySQL sb, and a pre-populated form when you create one, rather than having to do it all from scratch. The first is obviously useful these days, the third means it is much more plug and play then before. There is a nice selection of options available for your forms, drop down menus, radio buttons, and 2 sizes of comment boxes, as well as 2 spam blocking methods, including the new CAPTCHA. And the 2 methods of placing forms, shortcodes or dropdown menu, give it some nice flexibility in that area.
There is an Auto-Responder capability in the plugin, but you have to set it up. The documentation on the plugin home is a real help in that. The styling is very basic, although you can use custom CSS on an additional stylesheet to make any changes you want. This can be daunting if you are not very familiar with CSS, but it is optional. And the addition of the pre-populated fields when a new form is created has helped a great deal in ease of use. This is a solid plugin, which does what it says it will.
Contact Form 7 is an easily installed, moderately flexible contact form plugin. You generate tags on the option page, then paste those tags into the form area of the option page in the order you want them. You can style the forms in a couple of ways, either in the form area or by assigning class and id names in the tags when you create them. The second method gives you much more precise control over what your form looks like. Although like Formbuilder, some familiarity with CSS is required.
It has a nice variety of options available for generating tags, including CAPTCHA options, radio buttons, checkboxes, and drop down menus. It also integrates with Akismet to check for spam, and has customizable messages for various results. While more limited than cforms II, Contact Form 7 is much easier to use. It is much more plug and play, and on most blogs will need little to no styling.
cforms II is a popular contact form plugin. It is extremely versatile, allowing you to do anything from quickly creating a page with a simple message box to designing multi-page forms with a large amount of required information. It also allows you to replace and customize your comment box and is compatible with CommentLuv, Subscribe to Comment and WP Ajax Edit Comments. Add in CAPTCHA, CSS styling, and dynamic form capability and you pretty much have everything you could possibly want in a form builder.
But this comes with a price. All of the possibilities available in cforms means you also have a huge amount of complexity. The documentation is excellent, giving examples and leading you through the options to help you create exactly what you want. But it still takes quite a bit of work to create, especially if you want to modify the CSS to fit your theme. You can easily use one of the default forms and CSS styles provided to just drop into your blog. But if you are going to do that, why pick such a high powered plugin? If you do have the need for more than a simple contact form, or think you will in the future, this is probably the way to go.
There was one other plugin I did not try out. The simpleContact plugin is only available in German, so there was no way for me to set it up. I looked at it and got an error, but that could have been caused by my not doing something necessary because I couldn’t read the instructions.
So there are a lot of ways out there to help your readers contact you. The range of available plugins, from the simple Tiny Contact Form to the powerhouse cforms II, means you can easily find one that suits both your programming abilities and your needs.blog