Are Forms Plugins Becoming Data Frameworks?

For many WordPress developers, forms are used in one place, the Contact Us page. And if that is you, perhaps you won’t have any interest in all the ways a good form plugin, like Formidable Forms (also known as Formidable Pro). Of course, if you’ve ever dreamed of a souped up contact page with automatically directed emails, javascript triggered fields and more, don’t run off just yet.

Forms Beget Data

Let’s face it, forms are really about giving you a way to collect data. You can get very creative with how you use them or keep it very Plain Jane, but an HTML form, by itself, is about getting data in.

What about getting data out? Well, WordPress itself is pretty good at both getting data in and out by use of forms and templates. You create a new blog post using a specific form and it shows on your blog page using the blog template. Problem is, if WordPress gives you a thousand ways to get data in and out, it will still fall short by about 6,429,836 possibilities, right? (give or take a few billion)

Creating custom forms let you go crazy with your data in ideas, but unless you have the developer chops to create custom templates using the WordPress APIs, you might feel a little limited in the area of getting data out. There are a handful of quality plugins that can be very helpful in crafting your output. In fact, when you think about it, if a plugin’s purpose isn’t limited to input, it’s probably all about output. But we still run into our earlier estimate of possibilities and even the 36,777 plugins in the official WordPress Plugin Repository, (as of 2:31PM on March 20th, 2015) don’t come close to solving every problem or idea.

Eiffel Tower resemble data framework

Enter the Data Framework

We have frameworks for themes, like Genesis, Headway, Themify and more. We also have frameworks for other frameworks, like my personal favorite, Dynamik for Genesis. But these framworks are focused on the design of the site and design is only one part of the equation. Just as important is how your website handles data, because data is the basis of any web functionality, or application, these days.

So a plugin that allows you to craft that data, collect it and display it dynamically should really be thought of as a framework for your data rather than just a plugin, in my opinion that is.

And that’s really the purpose of this writing, to introduce the idea and open a discussion. Does Formidable Pro deserve to be considered a data framework? For that matter, does Gravity Forms?

What Does it Matter?

It doesn’t. Not functionally, that is. But if you are working in Formidable Pro from the approach that it is a framework for interacting with your WordPress data, then you will have an easier time understanding the possibilities and expanding your horizons. Forms are static, boring, data in only, while frameworks are the steel grid behind a dynamic application. Framework lets you build and create.

Congratulations to the team at Strategy11 for all their hard work as they anticipate the release of Formidable Forms 2.0. As someone who has been testing this version for the last several months, grinding on it and, at times, probably being their greatest annoyance, I can’t wait for the general public to enjoy the features and values I have seen coming. Enjoy!

formidable forms plugin for wordpress

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