Great Data Entry Forms and Spam Busting in One Tool

Formidable Pro Data Entry FormCredit: javrsmith

Any WordPress site administrator who allows viewers to submit comments or email messages likely knows about spam. There are far too many automated processes which look for any opportunity to submit unwanted sales messages through any available opening on the Internet. Because WordPress allows two way communications between sites and viewers, sites hosted with the content management system often allow far too many such messages to be sent to administrators' email boxes. Luckily, with just a little effort the savvy WordPress site administrator can eliminate virtually all such traffic by developing spam busting data entry forms.

The key to the process is the Formidable Pro WordPress plugin. This advanced tool allows administrators to build data entry forms which are essentially immune to spam. While this capability is also offered by the Akismet plugin, Formidable Pro offers many more form handling features and is available for a one-time fee rather than a monthly payment. As well, there is a free version of Formidable Pro which allows the creation of spam busting customer forms as well.

With the Formidable Pro plugin, site administrators can defeat spam using at least two different methods. First, the CAPTCHA process is supported by the tool. After Formidable Pro is installed, (either the free or premium version), the web site is registered at the CAPTCHA site, for free. Subsequent forms can be protected with a standard CAPTCHA string of letters or numbers which have to be correctly entered before the form can be submitted. This approach defeats the vast majority of spamming processes. One WordPress site which implemented spam busting this way was able to reduce unwanted messages from 200 a day to 0.

Formidable Pro also allows WordPress site administrators to establish a simple spam busting input field on a new data entry form. This approach requires the form to have an extra field which is solely used to prevent spam. It is labeled with an informative phrase such as "Enter the Word CAT here". Submissions would only be allowed if the field contains the required word. This is a very easy requirement for people but is virtually impossible for a spamming process to meet.

Besides the spam busting power that Formidable Pro brings to WordPress, the tool allows a large number of input field types to be added to your forms. Simple text entry is enabled as a single line of text or as a paragraph. Yes and no responses can be received from viewers as well as radio button selections. The CAPTCHA field, mentioned earlier, is also available for forms. All of these input types are supported by both the free and premium versions of Formidable Pro.

Regular or Premium?

The premium version of Formidable Pro adds an additional 18 input field types. Email addresses, URL values, numbers and more are directly supported. Values selected from reference tables, which might contain countries or states, are also supported. In addition, the premium version also adds automatic additions to email lists, customer relationship management integration, PayPal payment integration and more.

The capabilities of the Formidable Pro plugin for WordPress sites are sophisticated but easy to use by most any administrator. All field handling is accomplished on data entry forms without any programming at all. All data is stored in the site database without any SQL or table structure additions. The field handling is integrated with PHP code of WordPress without the administrator having to write a single word of that language. It really is that easy. Additional customizations are also simple as well. If a field, such as name, is to be uppercase only, the site administrator simply clicks a box to make it so. SImilarly, required fields are declared with a simple click in an option box.

Production, With Ease

The ability of Formidable Pro to accomplish so much without any programming is quite amazing. When a regular HTML form is built, someone has to define the fields required, organize them on the screen and save the layout. Connecting these fields to a database requires SQL programming and/or table building in a database and then PHP can be written to facilitate the copying of data from the form to the database. If a form is required to display data already in the database, more SQL and PHP programming is required. A good custom programmer can accomplish the required tasks in perhaps two hours, and probably more time than that. Such a programmer would be available for perhaps $40 per hour. The cost of the premium version of Formidable Pro is almost the same as a single hour of a programmer's time.

Of course, the Formidable Pro cost is a one time expenditure. An initial spam busting entry form can be developed for a WordPress site in a few minutes. This one form would basically pay for the cost of the plugin. Each subsequent form would be free, in theory. Of course, the new installation of WordPress will require some training and experience before a site administrator can be as productive as possible, but not much. Someone familiar with WordPress should be able to figure out how to use this plugin, and develop their first customer form, in perhaps 30 to 60 minutes.

As an added bonus, Formidable Pro offers a well developed support site that contains many tutorials, examples and explanations of the plugin's features. There is even a user forum and an issue reporting system. Those who purchase the premium version are given an account which allows them to submit issues to the development team. Responses are quick and usually they resolve problems completely. The support site is also where new versions are released. Premium version users are able to download all new versions for free.

The standard WordPress content management system is great at organizing posts and pages but it lacks robust features for forms. By adding the Formidable Pro plugin to a normal installation, site administrators gain tools that allow them to develop any number of custom HTML forms, all with spam busting utilities such as CAPTCHA. This tool represents great value to most any WordPress site.