Towards the end of March, we found out that Caldera Forms would be discountinued at the end of 2021. Caldera was not the most popular WordPress forms plugin out there, but it sure should have been. As far as what you got for free, I don’t think anything else really compared. Ninja Forms was close and it was Ninja forms that bought them and told us that they’d be keeping Caldera around. It’s not that I think that they were insincere but from my vantage point, it sure sounded naive. The market for WordPress forms plugins is already pretty glutted so I couldn’t see how there was enough distinction between the two products to make them both viable – and apparently they see it now too.
So I went out searching for what plugin I could use to replace the Caldera Forms that I’d already created on different sites. I was wanting to find another free alternative, but I’d used things like conditional processing and multi-page/step forms and lots of fields, etc. Ninja Forms did come close but where it didn’t work, the price for paid options jumps significantly (typically around $50/per add-on/per site).
I looked at: Ninja Forms, Fluent Forms, Formidable Forms, WP Forms, Cognito, Form Maker, Smart Forms and Forminator.
I did not look at Gravity Forms because they don’t have a free option. I did not look at Contact Form 7 because they don’t have a drag ‘n drop builder (and the 3rd party plugins that purport to offer it don’t create a great WYSIWYG experience (IMHO). Contact Form 7 + extra free plugins does create a compelling option in some respects – but not really when you consider…
Forminator (by WPMU DEV)
I’d say that I still prefer Caldera but Forminator is a very compelling choice. If you’re needing to switch from Caldera and free functionality is important to you, I’d say look no further than Forminator. There simply is not (at least in my searching) anything that comes close to what Forminator offers for free. The other options were all limited in some way or another. In fact, WPMU DEV makes their money on a subscription model to their services and plugins. Their hook is a freemium model on some of their plugins but some of their plugins are completely free. Forminator is one of those. That means that they are offering for free a plugin that has premium features. It also means that their business model is not limited to selling their forms plugin (like Caldera was). It’s more diversified. While WPMU DEV has retired plugins before, Forminator has a roadmap, so one could hope that that speaks of longevity.
I use Divi on all the sites where I used Caldera and I used the Divi Supreme Lite plugin on them because it has a Caldera Forms module. This made styling the form so much easier. I’ve already written Divi Supreme, lobbying to have them replace their Caldera styling module with one for Forminator. I’ve already replaced one Caldera Form that had been styled using the Divi Supreme module and it was annoying to have to use other methods of styling and not have as much flexibility. So the conversion is not all smooth sailing but I still feel that this is the right choice given the options available.