Transcript of Episode 212 WP Plugins A to Z 0% Gravity Form Startup, Advertising Plugins, Ninja Forms and a new way to redesign the back end admin area

All transcripts start from the point in the show where we head off into the meat and potatoes. They are the complete verbatim of Marcus and John’s discussion of the weekly plugins we have reviewed.

WordPress Plugins A to Z Podcast and Transcript for See complete show notes for Episode #212 here.

It’s episode 212 and we’ve got plugins for 0% Gravity Form Startup, Advertising Plugins, Ninja Forms and a new way to redesign the back end admin area. It’s all coming up on WordPress Plugins A-Z!

Episode #212

John:                All right, and as I mentioned last show, I am covering advertising plugins.  I’ve got three more this show and probably a couple more next show, as I’ve been digging deep into the advertising plugins to find that ultimate replacement.  So the first one I’ve got here is called Advanced Advertising System.  This one here, the installation is really smooth, as well as the creation of zones for advertisers — the advertisers themselves and the banners.  This one had it all beautifully separated out in that perfectly understandable thing.  But there was a small glitch in getting it to display properly in the widget.  Sure, it just ended up being an oversight on my part but once I solved that, it displayed okay.  But there was still a little bit of issue with the image itself.  A little CSS helped cure that.  All in all, I like the way this one works.  It was very easy to use, very easy to set up.  The biggest limitation on it was the stats.  The stats were still kind of limited.  Now this is a premium plugin and I was testing the free version.  I didn’t get a chance to test the pro version.  I’ve asked the author for a copy of the pro one to see how it works.  We’ll let you know if he responds.  But the free version is very nice.  Aside from the lack of stats, a very good plugin.  This one here I had to give a rating of 4-Dragons to.  Advanced Advertising Systems, so check it out.

Marcus:           Hmm…sounds like you might have a winner on your hands on this one, huh?

John:                It’s almost a winner.  It’s the lack of stats, one of my biggest things with my —

Marcus:           Oh.

John:                — my biggest criterion in the plugin I have to have has to produce the type of stats I need, and be easy to set up.  So this one here was lacking one component, which is why it’s only a 4.

Marcus:           Okay.  Well John, this one has a huge name, small function, but great results, and it’s one of these lazy plugins that we love to talk about.  It’s called Gravity Forms Start Progress Bar at 0%.  You kind of already know where I’m going with this one, I’m sure.  Every time you start a multipage Gravity Form, it starts — if you have like five pages, it’ll start on 20% as far as completion, even though they haven’t filled out a thing.

John:                Ah.

Marcus:           So this starts you at 0% and it goes from there, so it divides it out based on zero for the first page and then, you know, 50%, 70% — whatever it is next.  So this one worked flawlessly for me.  It really helped out as far as if someone sees 20% on a form, they might think, “Did I just skip past something?”

John:                Yeah.

Marcus:           I didn’t even fill anything out!  So don’t confuse your form, people.  It’s hard enough to get them to fill the form out, let alone confuse them with the form.  So this one is called Gravity Forms Start Progress Bar at 0%, and I gave it a perfect 5 out of 5.

John:                Very nice.  I haven’t used multiple part forms in Gravity Forms in quite some time, but I do like that idea.

Marcus:           Yeah, it’s great.

John:                All right, the next one I’ve got here in the advertising lineup is called Ad Rotate.  This one here, another one, it’s a premium plugin.  But this one performs very nicely in their free version.  There are lots of extras that come with the pro version.  You can check those out.  But it does have some decent stats; not 100% of what I’m looking for, but damn close.  They’re very easy to read, very pretty.  It’s easy to get the ads, zones, and groups set up and running.

Some advantages of the pro is allowing your advertisers to log in to their own account and see their own stats when they want to.  They can also go in and create new ads on their own if they want to.  The ads are held in a queue for your own review.  You get the ability to schedule the ads in a campaign.  With the pro version, you can schedule one ad to have multiple start and stop times, which is a really good bonus if they have ads that start and stop periodically, like they might have an ad that runs in the Spring and in the Fall as the same ad.  You can run it for those time periods.

The pro version also has a media manager in it.  I didn’t check out the pro version; I was just reading about the add-on, so you can bulk ad your adverts and manage them, kind of like working in the media manager of WordPress but only localized specifically to the ads for it.  You can also get notifications with the pro version.  That doesn’t happen with the free version but it still runs very nice.  All in all, the free version on this one is pretty damn good.  The pro version looks like it’s a great hit.  But from the free version I tried, I had to give this one — they hit it to pretty close out of the park.  I gave it a 5 out of 5 on it.

Marcus:           Wow!  This is what you decided on?

John:                No, no.  This one — I haven’t 100% —

Marcus:           Oh, still going!

John:                I’m still going.  I’ve seen a couple more that I want to check out.  This may be the one I fall back to.

Marcus:           Yeah?

John:                Oh, and I forgot the one thing that this one does — oh, it’s not this one.  It’s the next one down.  So this one here is really close, but —

Marcus:           Huh.  Well, I’m anxious — I’m sure the listeners as well as I are very curious to see which one you land on.

John:                Well, yeah.  Yeah, I’ve got some very high standards for what I’m looking for here, so I’ll just keep digging until I find it.  But this one here is sitting as the #1 spot right now.

Marcus:           Okay, good.  Well John, I don’t know about you but I’m kind of tired of the admin area — the dashboard.

John:                Yeah.

Marcus:           It’s kind of plain and boring.  And in 10 years it’s evolved but not too much, and there’s really only a few things that you can do to customize the back end.  Not anymore!  Now there’s Admin Rocket.  It allows you to customize your WordPress back end with custom themes, custom admin dashboard widgets, and change all of your own CSS settings, too.

It does things like allow you to change the logo, the background, any colors — you can make it a rainbow if you want to.  This widget’s this color, this widget’s another color.  You can change the appearance and button positions of the menu.  You can move the menu over to the right side if you want to, John.

John:                Aw, sweet!

Marcus:           You can change the color of the admin bar.  You can change the footer and the fonts and all that stuff within the back end area.  You can redesign the login area — the WP-admin area as well.  You can add media library stuff, PDFs, and you can also add Excel sheets and Word files and stuff like that to it.  It has some cool posts listing image in it as well.  And then here’s what is also nice, John.  If you have multiple authors on the site, it gives kind of a — it shows their gravitar and then right next to it a graph, as far as how many posts that they’ve made in that particular timeframe, so you can see kind of who’s winning amongst all of your authors.

John:                Very nice.  That’s cool.

Marcus:           Yeah!  So I thought that this was a really great plugin.  Sort of tough to use when you first get started, so it’s not for everybody but then again, I don’t think the novice would be tinkering around with changing the admin area in the back anyway.  The one really cool feature that I thought about this John, is in addition to all that stuff, you can import and export your settings so that you can load it up on a second website and it sets in there exactly as you had it on the first.

John:                Oh, that’s sweet!

Marcus:           Yeah, totally.  So it’s an awesome plugin.  I like it a lot.  I’ll probably be using this one on a few different installations that I have.  But because of the fact that it’s a little outside the ordinary and not everybody here will be able to use it, I rated it a 4 out of 5.

John:                Yeah, well my personal viewpoint just from checking it out, it looks like it’s a 5 to me, because I like the fact that I can move the admin menu, change the location of it, because there’s things I want at the top that are always at the bottom.

Marcus:           Right, right.  Yeah, and you can move it to the right now.

John:                And I like that you can stick an image in the background.  That is so cool!

Marcus:           Yeah, put your company logo back there.

John:                Put a company logo or just a picture of the stars back there.  That’s just cool.

Marcus:           Yeah, well what I’m saying is if you do a client’s sight —

John:                Oh, yeah!

Marcus:           — maybe you want to rebrand the entire thing.

John:                That’s a good thing — rebranding.

Marcus:           And you can also change the WordPress logo that’s up there to your company logo as well.

John:                Yeah, that’ll be installed real quick to set up on my site and —

Marcus:           All right John, I changed my mind.  Make it a five.  Play it!

John:                All right, let’s play it out.  That one there hit it.  Yeah, that’s it.  Even if everyone wouldn’t use it, the things that us geeks love about it are just awesome.

Marcus:           Yeah, you reminded me of how cool it was.

John:                Yeah.

Marcus:           I forgot, so 5 out of 5.

John:                All right, well the last one I’ve got here this week for advertising is called Ad King Pro.  This one here, pretty easy to use.  It displays the — the ad display plugin was a little bit confusing in the setup as it does not fully follow normal parameters like zones, etc.  They created their own taxonomy I guess for setting up the items and I didn’t list them out but it wasn’t ads, zones, and advertisers.  It was three other things.

It did have one cool item in it that I liked and that was when you put an ad image in there, you can actually put in a rollover image in there with it at the same time.  So in other words, you mouse over the image and the image would change to another one.  I really liked that —

Marcus:           Oh, that’s cool.

John:                Yeah, that’s a really neat feature.  I thought that was great.  You could set up sort of like a couple of .gifs that have one message before they roll over and another message when they roll over before they click it.  So I thought that was pretty cool.  That was very useful.  It did have some issues with displaying in the widget area.  Again, CSS issue, because the biggest thing I’m finding is I need one that will display cleanly in the widget areas.  And this one was having issues displaying the image in the proper sizing.  I think it’s a CSS; I didn’t dig deep enough.

It does display with short codes, which are pretty easy to use.  It actually has a built-in short code creator that allows you to create a short code based upon how you want the ads to display.  So you can use a short code in multiple areas in the site.  That was a really cool feature.  The best part about this one was its stats.  It produced some very nice stats and then the beautiful thing was it produced them as a PDF file.

What I was wishing for is if I could take the stats from this one, the image creation from this one, and combine it with the previous plugin, and I would have my [inaudible].  So it’s just one of those things where two different plugins had the ideas I need but they weren’t in one spot.  So at any rate, this is a great one.  Because of its difficulty in setting it up and a little bit of confusion with not following normal parameters like zones, etc., I had to give it a 3-Dragon rating.  So Ad King Pro — really nice one if you can get used to the differences — probably a great one, so check it out.

Marcus:           Hmm…still no takers though, huh?

John:                No, no.

Marcus:           Still no big winners.

John:                No, not yet.  We’ve got one sitting at the top and we’ll find out maybe in the next episode what I finally landed on, because I’ve got a few more to try and we’ll let you know.

Marcus:           Hmm…okay.  Well, I’m gonna talk about a cool plugin that, you know, I use Gravity Forms typically.  John, I know you do as well.

John:                Yep.

Marcus:           But I’m starting to find that Gravity Forms is getting a little lame as far as it’s being upgraded, all these other things happen with it.  But the layout of it still has never evolved; it’s always the same.  It’s always the same as far as putting your form together and adding this field and that field and having to click on the little down arrow in the window, and change it on the inside and all that.  I love it for conditional logic and things like that.

But I want to talk about something that we really don’t talk about on this show, and those of you who have listened to WordPress Weekly, back on the 11th we talked to the creator of this plugin.  This is Ninja Forms and just let me give you a rundown.  If you’re looking for kind of that single solution across all of your projects but you’re kind of still focused on the overall price tag of everything, Gravity Forms is probably the way to go.

But if you’re more focused on features than cost and you really want to kind of push this cost over the course of several sites or projects, then Ninja Forms is the way to go.  I’m gonna talk about Ninja Forms here and some of the things that it can do.  It does everything that Gravity Forms does, except I’ll just kind of give you a side-by-side comparison, since we all know what Gravity Forms is and what it can do.

It can do Aweber, Mail Chimp, Campaign Monitor, as far as email integration from different providers.  But it also does two other ones, which is Mad Meany and Mail Poet, so it can do those.  Can it create posts with forms submissions?  Yes, and so can Gravity Forms.  But you have to have an added plugin to Gravity Forms to do that.  Ninja Forms, it comes out of the box.  Can you create users from the forms?  Yes — both Gravity and Ninja can do that.  Multistep forms, multipage forms?  Yes, both can do that.  They can both upload files in forms.

Let’s see — let’s talk about ecommerce for a second.  Collecting cash — everybody takes PayPal across the board.  You can use Stripe with Gravity Forms, but you have to go buy another plugin.  This one has Stripe integrated into it.  It doesn’t do things like display the form entries; neither does Gravity Forms.

Here’s what’s really cool John: Ninja Forms allows you to pause and resume the form.  So if you didn’t fill it out completely and you come back, it’s where you left it, as far as that goes.  It is the best as far as styling the form that I’ve seen and it integrates with tons and tons and tons of different kinds of back end, third-party apps, additional plugins and applications, things like that.  It works really well for that.

So it’s in my eyes, just as good function-wise as Gravity Forms, and I think layout-wise, it’s leaps and bounds beyond it.  So it’s called Ninja Forms.  I highly recommend checking it out and I gave it a 5 out of 5.

John:                Very nice!  Well, I’ll have to give it a shot and see how it works.

Marcus:           Yeah, I wanted to make sure that I gave it a side-by-side comparison of Gravity Forms, because that’s what we’re all used to.

John:                Yeah, well I’ve been using Gravity Forms since I discovered them four years ago, so yeah.

Marcus:           Yeah, the problem is they haven’t discovered anything new in four years, either.

John:                Yeah, they —

Marcus:           Gravity Forms.

John:                — they haven’t done a lot but it’s still better than a lot of the other free plugins out there, so —

Marcus:           Yeah, I love Gravity Forms especially, and what drew me to it was the fact that you could create special notifications and additional notifications.  So if somebody filled out a form, you can put one layer on it to tell the admin or not.  Then you can make another level that maybe let’s say if it’s a bowling league, maybe the team captain or something wants to see who signed up for their team.

John:                Yep.

Marcus:           That’s a good way to do it.  So Ninja Forms is what it’s called and I gave it a perfect 5 out of 5.

John:                Excellent.  So we’ve covered up in this episode — I covered up Advanced Advertising System, which I gave a 4 to.  Ad Rotate, which I gave a 5 to, which is winning the race right now.  And then Ad King Pro, which I gave a 3 to, which has the features I want, but some of the features I don’t.

Marcus:           Hmm…if we could just Frankenstein them into one, that’d be great.

John:                That’s all I need: Frankenstein ‘em together.

Marcus:           Okay, well fives across the board for me: Gravity Forms Start Progress at 0%, which by the way, Ninja Forms starts at zero — 5 out of 5.  Admin Rocket, 5 out of 5, which lets you change the back end layout of the admin area.  And Ninja Forms, which we just talked about — gave that one a 5 out of 5.


[End of Audio]

transcript here