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Interview with Mark Westguard, CEO of WS Form

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We really have given full control over every field, we've pretty much pulled apart the HTML5 spec for each field type -- Mark Westguard. CEO of WS Form.

We’re big fans of WS Form and so are many of our partner agencies,

We asked Mark to explain how a form system like theirs can help create a great UX and increase revenue too.


View directly on YouTube: View the interview on YouTube

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About The Author
Tom Fanelli

Tom Fanelli

Over my career, I have worked in both small business and Fortune 500 companies. I have had the honor of being a presenter for organizations like Microsoft, Intuit, Sage Software, RealPage, NARPM, NAA, and the Small Business Administration. Most recently I completed my first ebook, Infographics in Action, which teaches exactly how to create and market with infographics. Currently, I work in San Francisco and reside in the bay area with my wife and four children. Feel free to drop me a line, I would love to hear from you!
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Tom: Hello, everyone. Today I am joined by Mark Westguard of WS Forms. Mark and I first met at the WordCamp US, was that 2019 or 2018, Mark?

Mark: 2019.

Tom: 2019 maybe? Okay. It felt so long ago because it was pre-COVID.

Mark: Yeah.

Tom: But Mark and I had a chance to sit down at WordCamp and he showed me some of the awesome technology that he’s got. And I think the crew that I was there with, we all agreed this is hands down the best Form product in the WordPress ecosystem. And so, I’m really excited to sit down with Mark today and explore some of the really cool features for this. And as most of our users are agencies, hopefully, we’ll talk about some creative ways you could adopt this form system into your agency, and how you might be able to use it to increase the revenue for website design gigs. So Mark, with that, give us a little bit of an intro and background on WS Form.

Mark: Sure, yeah. So my name is Mark Westguard, from WS Form. And we started building WS Form about two years ago. One part of my business is actually an agency. And we decided to put together a plugin for WordPress and forms was high up there on the list. It’s one of those parts of web development that can be frustrating for developers. So we decided, “Okay, let’s build our own form plugin.” And here we are, is where we are today. Primarily, our objective with WS Form was to build a platform that was very flexible, had a lot of functionality built into it, but didn’t need you to install 2, 3, 4, 5 plugins to get it to achieve what you wanted for a client.

Another area of frustration for us was styling forms. So when you put a form on a website, making that form look like the rest of your client’s website. So one of the things that we’ve done with WS Form is make it integrate very nicely with Bootstrap foundation frameworks. And our own framework for building forms is very easy to start as well as us having customization features in the plugin as well.

We also wanted to develop a very easy to use drag and drop interface for building forms. And try and avoid a lot of the custom code that is needed with forms. A lot of these form plugins, you can do so much, and then it’s over to write some PHP scripts or Java scripts to get it to do what you want. And we wanted to minimize that as much as possible for the developer. So WS Form as a single plugin has an immense amount of functionality built into it. As I think you saw when we demonstrated it to you at WordCamp US.

Tom: Yeah.

Mark: Go ahead.

Tom: Well, I was going to say it does have a ton of it. One of the things I’d love for you to talk about in this is, what are some of the reasons people switch to you from the leaders in the form space? One of the things I saw that was really amazing was this idea that you could style your approach to mobile responsiveness in the form plugin is really cool.

Mark: Yeah. And I can give you a real quick demonstration of that. So when you install WS Form initially, it’ll actually analyze your theme to see if you’re using a framework or not. So for example, in this case, it’s actually detected that we’re running a bootstrap theme. And if I proceed through that, and then start to create a form, let’s just start with a Contact Us form. Let me just skip this tutorial. Then you’ll notice at the bottom, we actually have a breakpoint slider at the bottom here. So what you can do is develop your form and actually style it with different section and field widths according to the different breakpoints that, in this case, bootstrap provides to you. If you’re using Foundation, you’d have different breakpoints.

So you can resize fields, you can resize sections, you can copy sections very quickly. And for each breakpoint, you can actually customize how that form is going to look. So for example, on mobile, you might want to have one field per row, on a tablet going out to a desktop, you would then introduce multiple columns just to make that form easier to fill out. And what it does is it remembers the layout for each breakpoint for that framework.

Tom: Excellent. That’s great. And so, are there any other features people switch to you guys from that you see besides the mobile stuff that are really popular?

Mark: Yeah, I mean, I would say as well, we’ve taken a lot of care with accessibility as well. So we have ARIA tags all the way through the forms, we’re WCAG compliant. And that happens pretty much automatically behind the scenes. So people don’t have to worry about that quite as much as they would with a different form plugin. But we also have the ability to fully customize that as well. So if you have a field name, which would be maybe you’ve want to have a custom label in there for ARIA purposes, you can do that.

Another reason that we find people are moving to us is that we really have given full control over every field, we’ve pretty much pulled apart the HTML5 spec for each field type. And you’ve got a lot of different options in here for controlling just that individual field. In addition to that, we’ve also made a lot of these fields feature rich. So simple example is a signature field, a lot of form plugins, you’ve got to install another plugin, just to get a signature field. We have that built-in. You can make a select field have select 2 on it, which enables you to do Ajax lookups and searching on the actual form itself.

So we’ve introduced additional functionality over and above the HTML5 spec. But fundamentally, we’ve tried to keep the form output HTML5 compliant all the way through. So that’s certainly something that people have been attracted to the product with as well. And I think when we talk to developers that are using this, they like the way that we output code, but they also just like how quick it is to build fairly complex forms without having to do custom coding.

Tom: Yeah, and just something to note about that. I did notice that I came from Gravity Forms and now I use your form product. And there was a little bit of a learning curve to figure out the conventions of WS Form compared to and maybe you have more relevant, maybe it’s more similar if you’re coming from other form plugins to this, but I know from Gravity Forms, it took me a little bit of time, can you just give everyone just a quick tour through where they go to look for common things? Like one of the things that I’ve heard people get hung up on is, where do I set the email notification settings? And then, once you get it, it’s second nature after… It’s like you understand the intent behind it.

Mark: Yeah. And I’m guilty of that, I always skip the tutorial. So once you know where the icons are, then you understand how to use it. But yeah, just a very quick summary of where things are. So you have a toolbox, this is where all of the different field types are. And there is about 55 plus field types in there. If you do have some of our add-ons, for example, the WooCommerce integration, which we’ll talk about later, that does introduce some additional field types for you. So you can plug additional field types into this. You’ve got full-on do on this as well. So you can actually go back to any step of your form and recall that particular undo point, which is a really useful feature.

Tom: I have seen that there. I never clicked on that. And I actually did not know it was a full undo.

Mark: Yeah, and it’ll go all the way back to the first point that you created the form. And it’s nice because as you’re scrolling through that undo, it will actually show you what tab you’re on and what the form actually looks like as you hover over those. Conditional logic. A conditional logic is really extensive. So for each field that you have on your form, we have context-sensitive conditions for each of those field types. So you can do the usual stuff, like if a field name is equal to something but we also have character count equals word count equals we have validation whether the fields that you validated or not. You can even do events as well as you can say, if a mouse hovers over a field or clicks on a field.

Tom: That’s really cool. Okay, I got a use case here for you. It literally just came up today.

Mark: Okay.

Tom: Someone was asking me and my team was like, well, we’ll need to talk to Tom. He’s the WS Form expert. They were saying, they wanted to know how can they block people from using a non-professional email addresses. So basically, didn’t want to accept Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, things like that.

Mark: Yeah. And on the flip side, you may only want to allow a certain domain suffix, maybe if you want to limit it to your company, you could do that with this conditional logic. And we also have hooks for each of the actions which we’ll come on to in a section where you could filter that on a server-side.

Tom: Interesting. Okay, cool.

Mark: Yeah. So a conditional logic, I could go on forever about this, but I won’t. But you can do nested if statements, ANDs and ORs all the way through. And then on the one side, again, it’s all context-sensitive. So depending on which field you choose, there are different things you can do with that field on a then or an else basis. So you can set it visible, you can set it required, you could change the value, you can even apply classes. So if you want to style that foot somehow differently with a class, you can do that as well.

The conditional logic also works at a form level, a tab level, and a section level as well. So you can say if a section is validated, then do this. So you can have somebody fill out a section, once that’s validated, you could then perhaps show another section just to make that form a little bit more digestible. So you got to fill that out all at once.

Tom: I mean, are people building quizzes and things like that with this?

Mark: Yeah. We get a lot of good feedback from people. One of the things that we’re really hot on is support, and also listening to people. So we have a feature request on our website where people can give us ideas about what they’d like to see next, they can upload those. And we’ve done a lot of work in listening to customers and introducing new functionality for that. And usually, that just comes from a use case that someone’s trying to do something in WS Form, and they want it to do something specific. And we’ll implement that feature for them to make sure that’s even available to everybody else because we get some great ideas.

But the forms that we have the people build, we’ve had anything from airlines using it for booking all the way through to people that are just doing maybe an event booking that has a Stripe payment on it. So we do have eCommerce built into this as well, you can actually build eCommerce forms using WS Form as well as integrating WooCommerce.

Tom: Excellent. Okay, I don’t want to get you off track too much. So go back and show the other convention so people get a feel for that.

Mark: Yeah. So that’s your conditional logic, basically, for making your form interactive. And then we have actions. Now, actions run whenever a form is saved or submitted. So in a lot of conventional form plugins that are out there, they’ll say, okay, yes, you can send an email notification. And that’s about it. With WS Form, you can add any number of actions to a form. So by default, our most templates will have save it to the submission. So we’re actually saving that submission so you can come back to it or export it as a CSV file, or even edit it.

Showing a message. So that would be something like thank you for your inquiry. And you can actually go and edit that message, you can actually put raw HTML in there if you want to. And then you can also send email. So this is a Send Email action, and you can add any number of email actions that you want. So if you want one to go to the customer, one to go to you, one to go to a different department, you can add three Send Email actions, and I can very easily copy these email actions, and then just modify those for each purpose.

So in addition to that, we also have a bunch of other actions in here like conversion tracking. So if you want to fire a Google Analytics conversion or event, you can do that. We’re also integrated in with the WordPress data erasure request, data export request, which is useful for GDPR compliance. So if you need a GDPR form on your site where somebody can make an erasure request or an export request, this actually will tie the form in with that functionality that WordPress already has and initiates that process. You can also do push to a custom endpoint.

So if you’ve got an API that is maybe a legacy API or a custom API, you can actually create a custom endpoint POST, PUT, GET, DELETE request to that API. You can also run WordPress hooks and JavaScript. It’s pretty endless what you can do when a form is saved or submitted. You can even fire actions with conditional logic as well. So, you could say, if the person has got to the second tab and is validated, then save the form and run these actions. So you can run actions pretty much at any point. If you were to attach any of our add-ons to your installation, so for example, you wanted to hook up with MailChimp or Constant Contact, Salesforce, Zoho, any of the integrations we have, you can actually then add those as an action as well. So when the form is submitted, we’re saying here, push that to MailChimp.

Tom: Yeah, we use the push to slack because we’re a big slack organization. And so we don’t want anything go into email. We want everything go into slack channels. And we love it because every time we get a form submission, it just pushes and alerts us to slack.

Mark: Yeah, it’s immediate.

Tom: Yeah, it’s great. It’s awesome. I love that integration.

Mark: And that’s super easy to set up. So basically, what you do is when you install one of our add-ons, one of the things that makes WS Form different is, the template library is effectively endless because if I click on the slack tab here, you can see some of our test slack channels here. If I click on one of these channels, it’ll actually build your form for that channel automatically. So if I now go back into actions, you’ll see it’s saying add to slack. And it’s automatically mapped everything for you from that form. So out of the box, this form is ready to go. There’s no configuration needed, it does all the mapping for you. And you can customize that slack message, you can attach images to it, links to it. Any number of fields from your form can go into that slack message. And we’ve pretty much pulled apart that slack API as much as we can, so that you can customize how that slack message looks when it comes through.

Tom: Excellent.

Mark: Yeah.

Tom: One thing too, I wanted to ask, and this was something that tripped me up a little because again, it was a new convention which is this notion of publishing a form. And so, talk about some of the pros and cons to that and how that actually works.

Mark: I guess the colony, some people forget to hit that button.

Tom: That’s right. That’s what I did. Yeah.

Mark: Yeah, the concept behind it is that the form has two states; you have a draft state and a publish state. So when you’re ready to push your first form live, you just hit Publish. And then you can add that form as a Gutenberg block, as a shortcode, a widget. We’ve also got integration, we have modules for Beaver Builder, Divi, and Elementor as well. if you then start making changes to that form, and a traditional form plugin, those changes will start appearing on the front of the site in real-time. And you don’t necessarily want that. You may want to test a few things before you put it live. So as you’re making changes to the form, you can make those changes without publishing that content live to the site. It’s only when you hit that Publish button, is it then visible to the public.

So it’s almost like a draft state on a post in WordPress. But the difference is that the published data is still working on the front of your site while you’re editing that form. And only when you hit that Publish button is it actually then live.

Tom: And one of the other things that’s interesting about your product too is that you actually compile this form into, I think, a single JSON object or something like that and publish it.

Mark: Yeah. So when you’re previewing the form, it’s actually pulling out the forms, the sections, the fields, these different database calls. That’s just how it’s stored in a database. That’s how all the form plugins do it. What we’ve done with the Publish feature is we then take all of that data and we compile it into one JSON packet, which means when the form is rendered on the front end, it’s basically one SQL request to render that form. So it’s super quick. Performance is something that we’ve been hot on with this product since day one. So we have a lot of things built in to improve form rendering performance, such as minifying the CSS, we have inline CSS, a lot of things that you would expect to see to get that Google PageSpeed check number up as high as you possibly can.

And we also work with a lot of common cache plugins like WP rocket, for example. We’ve made sure that we’re compatible with their products. And we’ve recently tested WP rocket with their team and just like the past couple of weeks and everything past good. So that’s an important thing for us is making sure that we work well with other form plugins. And that ties in nicely with the WooCommerce extension, which, I think there are a lot of cross plugin testing with that particular product.

Tom: Well, and I think that’s a great segue into something that is a constant frustration for me, which is the slowness of capture. And you guys have built some new interesting features, particularly around form spam, which is… You have all of the features that I typically used to use on my Gravity Forms like the anti-spam honey pots and all that stuff. But the reCAPTCHA stuff, sometimes it’s super-fast, sometimes it’s slow. It’s unpredictable. And so, talk to us a little bit about what you’ve been doing in terms of form spam because I’m convinced now that those first couple, the anti-spam honeypots and all that, they almost don’t work at all anymore.

Mark: Yeah, the honeypot is a very simple method of trying to avoid spam. All it does is just put a hidden field on there. And we expect that hidden field to come across without any content in it because spam spiders will typically try and fill that out, they won’t realize it’s a field that we want to be blank. The problem with that is particularly in browsers like Safari, Safari will go, oh, there’s a field, I’m going to try and autofill that. And sometimes it will put data in there. And then the form submission gets rejected. So we actually disabled honeypot by default in WS Form for that reason. reCAPTCHA, like you said, it’s just cumbersome. It’s heavy.

Tom: It’s got a really bad user experience for the end-user. It’s frustrating,[crosstalk 00:20:29], validating. Yeah, I mean, it’s terrible.

Mark: Yeah, and we do have recapturing in here. We support version two, version three of that. But more recently, we’ve been looking for better solutions for spam check-in. And the latest one that we’re working with is human presence, which is basically an AI-based system, which analyzes the user interaction on the website. And we’ll determine whether or not you’re a human based upon some clever algorithms that they do, I don’t understand it. But we’ve worked very closely with that human presence team to introduce probably the deepest integration they’ve got with any form plugin out there right now. And the way that it works is you install the human presence plugin on your website, you put your key in there, and then they have a free Community Edition, which is awesome, so you can try it out.

And what you then do is you say, okay, which of my WS Forms would I like to be protected by human presence? And when you enable the protection on one of your forms, you can then enable that spam protection within WS Form and actually determine at what level do you want to say yea or nay, this is a spam email. We have a default setting which just lets human presence do all the work for you, which is awesome. But if you want a little bit more control, you can actually control that spam threshold down here based upon what score human presence brings back to us.

And the really nice thing about that is, it’s just completely seamless, the user doesn’t see anything on the screen, it’s as if they’re just filling out a form. They don’t have to interact with the form to prove themselves worthy of filling that form out. So it’s just a completely silent solution. Go ahead.

Tom: No, I was just going to say one of the things that’s great about this is we’ve integrated this human presence into the confessio stack because we think it’s great. It’s awesome to see now our preferred recommendation of forms, also work with our preferred bot protection technology. And one of the things that drew us to this was, one, capture does have some effect on conversion. It’s frustrating for users, but it’s also really fast. And so we’re really excited. Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off, go ahead and finish your thought on…

Mark: Oh, no. I was just going to say, as well, we have a Kismet on there as well, which just enables you to look for spam keywords within the form as well. So if somebody puts something offensive in there, or the infamous Viagra spam comes through your site, then you can use that in addition to human presence to further filter the spam. So all of our fam spam options can be used with each other if you want to.

Tom: Oh, wow, that’s really great. So you can double them up?

Mark: Yeah, if you really wanted to do that. Yeah. And then in the submissions, when you get a form submission come through, it will actually show you what that score was when it came in. So we actually have a spam folder in our submissions area. And any forms that come through, any submissions that come through that are deemed spam will actually go into that folder. It’s a bit like using Gmail. you’ve got a spam folder, and then you can go through and actually say No, that’s a real one. So you don’t necessarily have to just delete those emails, you can actually just move them to a spam folder as well.

Tom: Nice. Okay, great. So that’s excellent on the bot protection. So talk to us a little bit about this WooCommerce thing. I’m super excited about the next two topics we’re talking about because I think this starts to get into the realm of things agencies can do that I think will up the revenue that they can generate from site development and/or make it easier and faster. So yeah, give us a overview of the WooCommerce integration.

Mark: Sure, yeah. So we’ve had clients in the past that have wanted to customize a product and enable someone to customize that product, maybe add some custom text onto a product, or maybe have the ability to offer a donation on a product or something like that. And there’s a lot of individual WooCommerce extensions out there that can do that. What we’ve basically done is we’ve combined all of the functionality of WS Form and enabled you to attach that to a product. So an example of some of the other plugins that we looked at that do a similar thing to this. What we found was, they only did certain things. So you could maybe put a text field on there, a text area fill, but you couldn’t put conditional logic on there, you couldn’t put repeatable sections on it, which is one of the features we have, where you can add repeaters. You can even put tabs on products using this feature.

So I’ll give you a really quick demo of this.[inaudible 00:25:36] But if we go into the [inaudible 00:25:38] or on a WooCommerce of how you want to customize that product, or you can start from fresh if you want to. So let’s just do, let’s just say like a multi-tab form. So I’ll you say use template. And what it’s now doing is building a form and it’s assigning it to that particular product. One of the nice features of this is you can say, okay, I’d like this multi-tab form to be on every product of this particular category, for this particular tag. Or you can actually say just put it on every single product if you want. So you don’t have to build one form per product, you can assign it to multiple products. And then if I publish them, we can then click on that to have a look at it. And there’s basically WS Form now on a product.

Tom: Okay. This is really cool. Help connect the dots on what are some of the actual real-world applications, or industries, or types of eCommerce stores, you see these things being used on?

Mark: Yeah, I can give you some examples. So we have a demo site where you can actually try this product out on different WooCommerce products. So here’s an example of using WS Form to customize a T-shirt. So with this particular product, you can see here, this actually works with WooCommerce variations as well. And you can then use this to then customize that T-shirt. So I can go in here and actually choose the color of the T-shirt using a color selector.

Tom: Okay, now, question for you. In the old world, we would have done this using product variations, right?

Mark: Right.

Tom: And so now, how does this affect things like inventory count, when you’re talking about like you’re changing a color of a shirt and all that stuff. Is this a down and dirty way to bypass inventory management?

Mark: It doesn’t like policy inventory. So inventory is still done at a product level. So what this is doing, this is taking a core product and anything like inventory or base product pricing, you would do that with product variations, in this case, with a T-shirt.

Tom: Got it.

Mark: And I’ll show you this in a second, you can modify the product price using WS Form eCommerce fields. So the sum of the eCommerce bills on your form get added to the WooCommerce price. So this example here is really showing you how to use conditional logic to change the color of a shirt, we’re actually using a lightness conditional logical on this to determine what color the word comma should be on that shirt. So you’ll see if I go dark and light on it, it’s actually changing the color on that.

Tom: That is really cool.

Mark: So when you add this, you can also put signatures on there, it’s not going to prove that I like that particular shirt. Then when I add that to the cart, all of these features that I chose then attached to that cart item and that then follows all the way through to the order. I’ll show you a quick example of the calculations. So let me just see what we’ve got.

Tom: And I’m just thinking off the top of my head here. I mean, any customized product, this is going to work great for personalized, customized products is going to work great for but you know what? And I’m just thinking like service-based products, where you need to collect a lot of information about something when they submit it’s like, if you’re a agency, for example, and let’s say you want to productize a local listing submission service, you could collect all of that information right in the product when that person is purchasing it, and then that could trigger your workflow, and you’ve got everything you need to set that business’s Google listing up right in the eCommerce. So that’s powerful from a service product, where you need a lot of data.

Mark: Yeah, and remember, the actions I showed you earlier on, so send email, push to slack, push to MailChimp, anything like that, that even the custom API endpoints are running hooks. You can run those actions based upon an order status when the order is placed. So, for example, Usually, when a new order goes through, it’ll be say on hold. So at that point, you can then fire certain actions. You can then say, “Once I’ve received payment from the customer, I then want to run this action.” Maybe I’ll want to send a slack message to this department to let them know a new order is on their way. So you can use all those background features of WS Form with these fields. And that’s on a per cart item level. So it’s pretty powerful.

And then, this is an example of eCommerce. So you can see as I choose different features here, I’m actually adjusting the product price there, the bottom right-hand side. And when I add that to the cart, that total amount is then represented in that cart item there. So you can customize that base WooCommerce product. So to make a donation product, all you got to do is put a price field on there, set the base product price to zero, and then they can type in whatever their donation amount is.

Tom: Excellent. That’s great. Okay, this is really cool. Anything you want to finish off on the WooCommerce thing?

Mark: I can actually go on forever with this.

Tom: Oh, yeah, for sure.

Mark: But just one other thing that probably worth showing is the WooCommerce field types that we have. So you can actually drag and drop onto your form Add To Cart clear subtotal, totals Quantity field any way you want, on your form. So, we have some people that say I want to move my Add to Cart button at the top of the product. So you can now do that with WS Form, you can put these elements any way you want on the form, just to make that product a little easier to work with.

Tom: Wow. Now, one other thing I forgot to mention, which I love this feature is the auto-submit and developer tools widget that you have there.

Mark: Speaking up here at the bottom.

Tom: Yeah, exactly. Well, can you just show that on a regular form? Because this makes testing forms so easy especially long multi-step forms, and all that stuff. Man, this is a major time-saver for people developing forms.

Mark: Yeah, so let’s just bring up a particular form. And what we’ll do is we’ll just preview that form. Okay. So this is our debug console that we’ve developed. And we originally developed this for ourselves while we were testing WS Form because I don’t know how many thousands of forms we’ve submitted putting this together. But one of the frustrating things, as you say, is having to fill that form out each time. So what we’ve done is we’ve developed this populate feature. And what it does is every time you click on that populate button, the content on the form is automatically completed for you. And it’s different data every single time.

So the advantage of that is if you’re doing maybe a form where you want the email address to be unique each time, this will do that. Cell phone numbers, phone numbers, actually have all the same area code on them, it’ll populate color field leaving populates signatures for you. The only thing it won’t populate is a recapture obviously, because we can’t interact with recapture. But everything else on that form is populated. And we also have the popular and submit feature, which populates it and submits that form in one click. So testing your forms with this is just dramatically improved. It’s so much faster.

Tom: Yeah, I agree. I love that feature. That’s great.

Mark: And that will then take that directly into your submissions. And you can then edit your submissions from the screen or view them or whatever you want. Another nice feature of the submissions page is it logs all of the actions that ran when that form is submitted. So if you have any issues with email, or maybe you’re working with a custom API endpoint, and you want to test that, you can actually rerun any of the actions as well. So maybe a customer didn’t get an acknowledgment email and you want to send it again, so you can actually use this feature to do that.

Tom: Beautiful. Okay. Now we get into the really fun stuff. You recently did a pretty significant integration to advance custom fields. And I admittedly, I’m not a super well-versed ACF user. But I’m very excited about the stuff that you can do with this. So give us a high-level of what this can be used for. Feel free to demo whatever you’d like. And then hopefully, we can connect the dots on some applications that agencies or web designers developers can use so that they can use this because I know a lot of our users use ACF and love it.

Mark: Yeah, we love it too. We use it all the time on web development that we do. So what we wanted to do with ACF, let’s give a quick intro to ACF, what it does. So ACF is advanced custom field. It’s a plugin for WordPress that enables you to add custom fields to any type of post in WordPress, so that could be a post, it could be a page, it could be a product, any post type in WordPress. So you could add a name field, you could add image fields, you can do select radios in any multitude of different field types. It’s a fantastic plugin.

So what we wanted to do is to make it easy for developers to build forms that can push and pull data to posts, including those ACF custom fields. So we have a plugin called the post management plugin. And what that used to do is it would look at your different field types and it would then enable you to create a form for that particular field type. So in this case, I’m saying, create me a form that’s going to create a post.

Now, you’ll notice that when I added this, we’ve got a bunch of other fields that have appeared here. And the reason for that is what WS Form is doing is it’s going into ACF, looking at the custom fields that you have for a particular post type and then putting those into the form, you’ll notice it’s actually slower than the right width as well based upon what you’ve got in ACF setup. So what will happen with this particular form is when a user submits it, is then going to run a post management action. And the post management action is automatically matched for us. So you can see these are our form fields, and then this is the ACF field that data is going to go into. And you can modify this after the fact. So if you introduce another field to ACF, you can add it here, or you can remove some of these, you can do whatever you want with it.

We’ve had some people where they’ve had one form to update three fields and other form to update another three fields over here. So it’s totally flexible how you want this to be set up. In addition to pushing content to a post that has ACF fields, you can also pre-populate a field using ACF data as well. So in the form data tab here, I can say populate using an action. And I can say right use post management. And because I clicked on that post template, it’s actually set that up already for me in here. So this is saying, when you find the post, pull in these fields into these form fields here, these ACF fields into these form fields here. So you can pre-populate a form, you can push data to ACF using this. And this has been a really popular feature.

We’ve actually got a tutorial on our knowledge base that talks how to set this all up. And we have a YouTube video there as well that describes how to do this. And it’s a really powerful feature. I think we’re the only form plugin that does it that has the full integration with ACF. And we have integration with pretty much every ACF field site that they have. And we’re really pleased to have this coming up.

Tom: So tell me, what are some of the use cases for this as a web designer, developer, if you’re not using ACF, help them understand what can I use this for if I’m building a website for a client?

Mark: It’s pretty much endless in terms of what you can apply it to. We have a lot of people that will just use this for a basic newsletter sign up. There are a ton of templates that we have in here already that you can click on, we have calculations here. So you can actually use this to build different calculators on your website, maybe you want to build a mortgage calculator or a compound interest calculator, car payment calculator. They’re all there. We haven’t even discussed the calculated fields.

Tom: I know. We totally missed that whole topic which is calculators.

Mark: Yeah. I’ll give you a quick example. So if you wanted to put a car payment calculator on your form, you don’t have to use our template, you can build it yourself. But we’ve got some of that in here already because some of those equations can be a little bit heavy. But basically, with WS Form, you can create calculated fields. We have a little calculator in here and you can build very complex calculations in here. So as well as basic arithmetic, you’ve got square root, powers, rounding, base, and stuff like that. So the calculator, we find a lot of people using a calculator for maybe working out square footage of a room and then having that updated field on the form.

So some of the other use case scenarios we’ve had is like customer surveys. We have one customer that is using it to request samples of foods flavorings and things like that. And that then ties into Zoho and their sales team then take it forward from there. Event booking. But we have a lot of people just building very complex online apps with this. So almost using it like an app development.

Tom: Yeah, I could see how you can do a lot of stuff, a lot of business workflow things, back office and front office for your website. You could do internal employee onboarding forms and all sorts of operations type functions with it as well.

Mark: Yeah. And the conditional logic will actually switch sections and fields on and off, make certain things required. So you can make sure that the data that comes through is the way that you want it. So yeah, it really is fairly endless in what you can build with it. So yeah.

Tom: That’s great. So real quick while we wrap up, give everyone the details on where they can get more information about this. And do you have a free trial, is there a free paid edition, what are the different packages, all that stuff?

Mark: So there are basically three flavors of WS Form in which you can purchase from the site. We’ve got the personal edition, which is a one site license, we have business, which is a five site license, then we have an all-access as well. So that’s basically unlimited site licenses. And it’s $249. And it actually includes all of our add-ons as well. So our add-ons are basically additional functionality to WS Forms to enable you to hook up with any number of different third-party integrations, as well as being able to do the custom integrations that we spoke about earlier.

And then in addition to that, we’ve got a knowledge base on here as well. So you’ve got all of our tutorials are on there. Details about all the different field types that we have. And every single one of these actually has little demos on it. So you can try those field types out, as well as a breakdown of all the different settings that you can configure for each of those skill types. And also, this is where you can fire us a support ticket if you have any questions about the product as well.

Tom: Excellent, well, great. Well, hopefully, that was informative to everyone. This is, again, the best form plugin that I’ve seen, and I highly recommend you check it out. Mark, thanks for being with us and I appreciate it. Thank you.

Mark: Thanks, a lot, Tom. Appreciate it.

Tom: All righty. Bye-bye.

About Mark Westguard

Mark WestguardMark Westguard is the CEO of WS Form and also runs Westguard Solutions, a web development firm based in New Orleans specializing in online marketing, designing engaging websites, and innovative software solutions.

WS Form is a WordPress plugin that allows you to build faster, effective, user friendly WordPress forms. Build forms in a single click or use the unique drag and drop editor to create forms in seconds.

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About The Author
Tom Fanelli

Tom Fanelli

Over my career, I have worked in both small business and Fortune 500 companies. I have had the honor of being a presenter for organizations like Microsoft, Intuit, Sage Software, RealPage, NARPM, NAA, and the Small Business Administration. Most recently I completed my first ebook, Infographics in Action, which teaches exactly how to create and market with infographics. Currently, I work in San Francisco and reside in the bay area with my wife and four children. Feel free to drop me a line, I would love to hear from you!
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