So long, it has been good knowing you.
Yesterday (24th March 2021) came the announcement I feared was coming. My favoured form builder for WordPress and one I’ve used across umpteen sites for all sorts of forms, is being ‘retired’ at the end of the year.
After being purchased by rival form plugin Ninja Forms – who stated at the time that they had every intention of maintaining Caldera Forms as a fully supported plugin – it now transpires that that wasn’t true. Caldera Forms wasn’t what they expected it to be (or at least the customers and their usage were not) and so they are retiring it at the end of 2021.
If you cannot win customers, buy them.
This story is replicated throughout the history of business and commerce; if you cannot entice your competitors customers to move to you, then simply buy out the competitor and the customer base comes to you. Once they are ‘your’ customers you are free to do to them whatever you like. I’ve experienced this with hosting companies, ISPs, software developers to name just a few examples. In every situation the purchaser says they wanted to buy the business because of the great product or service they provided. Then, almost without fail, they run down the product, water down the service or reduce the support offered hoping that inertia will keep the customer with them.
I recall many years ago, when starting out as a WordPress user, being disappointed with many of the Form plugins. Some were (and still are – yes Contact Form 7, I’m talking about you) unbelievably crude and / or limited in what they could do. It took a while to find Caldera Forms but I was delighted to discover that not only was it endlessly customisable, had every field type you might ever want to use, it also had excellent conditional fields where the choice made in one area would dictate what was show in another. It was also fully responsive and out of the box could deploy multi-column forms on large screens that shrank down to a single column on a phone-sized screen. Best of all, this functionality was all available in their free to use product.
What’s the Alternative?
Sadly the search for an alternative has shown that not much has changed with the form plugins that are available. There is always something missing or only available in the premium product. One (very well known) plugin had great form field features except for a CAPTCHA field which was only available if you coughed up for the paid version. So, in essence what the developer is saying is you can use this plugin so long as you don’t mind the deluge of dodgy deals that appear in your inbox. Another plugin allowed most form field types with the exception of a dedicated Phone field (this being reserved for the premium product). Few Contact Forms can go without a field to capture the enquirers phone number. Having to pay for such a basic feature is like being asked to pay for doors on your car.
It is said that “change is always difficult”. In this case it is especially difficult when you are having to move from a tool that met your needs perfectly to a less capable alternative.
I know I’m not alone, Caldera Forms had a wide and loyal following amongst developers and designers who appreciated the flexibility it provided. Hundreds of thousands of developers who have used it on countless websites are searching for the “holy grail” of form plugins.