Do lightweight form plugins even exist?

WordPress Mobile Speed

Updated


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We do not like multi-function plugins claiming to do everything imaginable. That’s sure trouble. For speed and fast results, we prefer purpose-built, lightweight, single-function, no-setting plugins. We call these discrete plugins. They need no operators manual, tutorials, or explainer videos.

Form-builder plugins claim you won’t need a developer to create your jazzy form. Uh. That doesn’t sound realistic. They say their plugin takes minutes – not hours- to set up. Get serious. Not a task for newbies.

For example: Do a Google search on the phrase “form video wp YouTube.” How many hit results do you get – not mere blog posts – only for videos?

About 249,000,000 results. A quarter of a billion videos. Ugh!

Now try: “Super Simple Contact Form” plugin video tutorial.

Google results: None. Zip.

What? No video tutorials? Is it that junky?

No. It’s that good.

Here’s why: Discrete plugins require zero configuration settings. There are no options at all.

Super Simple Forms plugin is so simple it doesn’t activate jQuery or Ajax libraries. Those are common coding crutches for form plugin developers. Two of our favorite themes don’t activate those script libraries: Astra and GeneratePress. For a theme programmer to avoid that means awareness of the speed cost. But add one form plugin like Contact Form 7 – and it activates both libraries globally. That’s on every page and post of the site. Even if there is no Contact Form 7 shortcode.

Ajax alone slows down pages by 436 milliseconds.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/ajax-slows-down-wordpress-popular-posts-plugin/

Customizable plugins spell trouble for speed. When you hear the words, “smart plugin,” it’s a red danger flag of technological quicksand.

Form plugins are more than mere contact form plugins. They go beyond contact forms with a drag-and-drop builder for surveys, quizzes, and more. They must communicate with server databases like MySQL. With this type of plugin you create:

  • contact forms
  • surveys
  • quizzes
  • registration forms
  • payment forms
  • purchase forms
  • email marketing forms
  • calculator forms

You can build anything you imagine? Someone save us!

Now try and remove a complex form plugin. You find it’s addictive. It’s not removable without severe withdrawal. It leaves trash clogging your database.

Not all plugins are shiny.

This is one case where we recommend enlisting a third-party and their expertise. Offload the plugin overhead from your shared server to their super-fast one. Let them do the babysitting – and have them incur the learning curve and cost of speed.

Wondrous form plugin pliability is a problem. Multi-function, all-purpose plugins are complex and heavy – and slow down host servers.

Being one of the FASTEST WordPress form builders on the market is hardly a claim to fame. It’s like saying you won a turtle race. Big wow!

And… is there a learning curve? Think about it. Complex and bloated? What would you expect?

And when they boast: “We’re one of the most SEO friendly contact form plugins.” Really? Sorry forms have little to do with SEO. So please don’t make that false claim of benefits. Ridiculous.

We don’t have a magnificent suggestion for FORM plugin substitutes (other than simple contact forms). We have a blog post recommending using Mailchimp‘s external landing page tool. But what about those poor site owners who insist upon a sign-up form. One nested within many steps of conditional logic?

It seems like Formidable Forms, Gravity Forms, and WP Forms are the main options. Formidable Forms has conditional logic options – as do others.

Conditional logic allows setting rules which cause your processes to change. It focuses on an intelligently designed workflow showing what users need to see next. Need – or want – to see? Sounds like delightful fun for puzzle-solving programmers. But the common human being? Run while you can. Find a workaround. Be creative.

Get together your pals and family, ask them some product questions. Ask this ad-hoc focus group if they’d like a particular form feature. The consensus will be “yes.” They lie rather than admit they don’t know. They don’t want to look foolish or inattentive. So if someone says, “Users need this.” Watch out.

What are our recommendations about these monstrous form plugins from a page speed perspective?

Anytime you use conditional logic, it requires server processing and storing data. Often the plugins need frequent checking for database changes and use counters. All this activity slows down the server. How bad? Well, that depends upon the complexity of what you’re doing.

All form plugins mentioned above are big downloads. Here are their decompressed sizes plus a couple of more for comparison:

NOTE: Paid plugins aren’t risk-free and better than free. Pure myth.

Plugin package sizes correlate to slowness. Complexity translates into package weight (aka code bloat).

Some of these forms incorporate reCaptcha by Google. Not good.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-google-no-captcha-captcha-slows-down-your-mobile-site/

For a weight comparison, WordPress 5.6.1 weighs 52 megabytes decompressed.

Our recommendations about complex form plugins – if you must use one:

  1. Don’t put the form on every page. Isolate it to one page and selectively activate the form plugin only there. That keeps the weight from loading globally. Use a text or image link on your pages and posts to take people to the form (contact page). Keep it simple. Especially for mobile users.
  2. For selective activation, we recommend this old but wonderful plugin called Plugin Logic (14,4k download): https://wordpress.org/plugins/plugin-logic/
  3. See if you can dismantle the plugin. Analyze your business’s most needed features. Will those make you more profitable? Find free discrete plugins or lighter plugins that do that one function. It’s better to install many lighter plugins than one heavy one.

Millions of WordPress websites install these form plugins. Don’t be seduced. Popularity is not a measurement of speed quality. It’s a measurement of Herd Behavior.

Herd behavior is when a group of individuals act collectively without centralized direction. Herd behavior occurs in animals in herds, packs, bird flocks, fish schools, as well as in humans.

Individuals reduce their personal danger by moving close to the center of the fearful group. Thus the herd appears as a unit moving together. But its function emerges from the uncoordinated behavior of self-serving individuals. It’s fear-born irrational panic.

Characteristics of escape panic include:

  • Individuals attempt to move faster than normal.
    People choose a popular plugin in a compulsive rush. It’s akin to non-thinking impulse buying. “6 million active installations can’t all be wrong.” Except when they are wrong.
  • Individuals display a tendency towards mass or copied behavior.
    “Hundreds of blogs recommend this plugin as an essential plugin.” The written source is an advertising affiliate benefiting from the herd’s bad choices.
  • The herd overlooks alternative or less used choices.
    Uninformed buyers beware.

Some site owners accept a plugin but without protest. They don’t do any significant critical plugin analysis or research. This is due to the majority of WordPress site owners having a similar mindset. It seems less risky to follow the herd.

For example, many people are tolerant or welcoming, of widespread Google policies. Don’t accept dogmatic nonsense.

Bounded rationality is a decision-making process. Limited by:
1) the supposed ease of managing a problem
2) cognitive dissonance
3) the perceived deadline

Decision-makers seek a satisfactory rather than an optimal solution. Humans don’t undertake optimization with value analysis. Instead, they choose an option that fulfills their adequacy criteria. They choose the cruddy popular plugin.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, and is typically experienced as psychological stress when they participate in an action that goes against one or more of them. Wikipedia

Even with the correct knowledge, social pressures convince adopting an alternate, incorrect view.

So what contact form plugin do we use on PagePipe?

None. We use encrypted email text links. For signups, we use free landing pages offloaded to Mailchimp remote servers. Try signing up and see.

Godspeed-

Steve Teare
performance engineer
May 2021

 

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