I’ve been doing some work on a volunteer project for the Tarot association I belong to (I still need to do an overhaul of the theme for the site, but that’s for another week), and in order to deal with some legacy programming issues (old methods for displaying content not connected to WordPress), I’ve been looking for some basic plugin functionality to solve these problems.
Since there always seems to be about a hundred WordPress plugins for every website function, it can be difficult to figure out which ones have the best chance of working well, so I’ll let you know what my favorites are for tables, forms, and teams. I do look at review sites to get ideas, but they aren’t always promoting plugins with unselfish motives. Me, I don’t get paid by any developers of anything (and I’ll let you know up front if I adopt any affiliate relationships), so if I say something works for me, it works for me.
The most important things I look at when evaluating plugins before installing them are updating frequency, number of downloads, and review stars. I try to avoid any plugins that aren’t compatible with the latest version of WordPress (just for security and stability purposes), and that usually means they are also updated regularly. Then I look at the number of downloads and stars just to get a general idea from the community (stars may only be for 20 reviews out of thousands of downloads, for example) on what folks think. After I install a plugin, I look to see how much functionality is available for free and what comes with a paid version. I don’t mind not having all the functionality for free, but some developers make it so you basically can’t use the plugin without going to the paid version, which is kind of silly.
So here are my picks for making tables, forms, and display of team profiles.
TablePress has the virtues of being stable, updated, and fairly simple to work with, at least if you know some HTML. I keep wishing for a good WYSIWYG table creator for WordPress but haven’t seen one yet. TablePress does set up the basic side-by-side columns and line-by-line rows that are often needed to make pairs of images or other content stay where they are put on your WP page or post. It does this by keeping all your tables in its own list and then using short codes on your page or post to link to the table of your choice.
The main downside is that if you want to put links or images in the cells of the table, you will have to use the correct HTML code. I’m familiar with the code already, but here’s an example of what the “backend” of a table will look like with link (<a href=””></a> tags) and image tags (<img src=”” /> together. You can just insert the location of your image between the quotes (and for the link bit, use a different URL to send folks to if you want). This is what you’ll see in the TablePress section of the WP Dashboard:
|<a href=”http://aweditorial.com”><img src=”http://joannesprott.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/shepherd_dog_books_larger.jpg” />||<a href=”http://joannesprott.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/27476962_s.jpg”><img src=”http://joannesprott.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/27476962_s.jpg” />|
You then use a short code displayed above your table to insert into the Visual tabbed content of your page or post to have the pictures displayed side by side when the page or post is viewed. You can also put regular text in the table cells as well; it’s not just for pictures.
It may seem easier to just insert media in your page or post, use the left, center, and right justification features to place your images and then adjust the text so that the final viewed page or post looks right, but you won’t be able to count on those images to “stay put” when someone looks at them on a different-sized screen.
Speaking of different-sized screens, the mobile responsiveness of TablePress is limited. Most tables will look good on tablet screens, but it didn’t automatically convert a two-column table to one column on my iPhone. I could still swipe left to see everything, but that’s not the same as having the table automatically adjust.
Overall, though, I find TablePress a lot easier than creating tables “by hand” using just HTML tags.
There are many, many forms plug-ins, and most come with a certain feature set for free, with the possibility to add more customization, etc. by paying for extra functionality. I looked at about ten different forms plugins, and Ninja Forms had the nicest balance of free and premium functionality to allow me to use it for free for now with my small stable of sites, and then upgrade later when I need to do more complex form stuff.
And yes, WordPress’s Jetpack has a simple form creator, which actually works fine for contact forms. What I’ve used Ninja Forms for is to have an introductory page with things to fill out plus a submit button (which then sends the identifying info to you via email, just like Jetpack does), which then goes to a Success form with more specifics and a payment button.
Ninja Forms, like TablePress, keeps all your forms in its own list in its section of your WP Dashboard, and you just insert a short code into your page or post to use the form. This way you can also use the same form on multiple pages without recreating it.
Team plugins are basically a form of HTML table with some added functionality for social media connections, images, and click through to a single profile page with more information. They also adjust all the headshot photos to the same size for the initial tabular display.
There are two plugins with the simple name of “Team,” and the one I use is by the pickplugins folks. I chose this one because they provide enough free functionality for me to make good use of the plugin right away.
Team provides you with two separate places in the Dashboard, one to create teams as whole entities with a short code to insert on the page where you want all the team members to appear initially, and then another section called Team Member, which allows you to create separate profile information for each team member with their name, photo, contact and social media buttons, and bio/role information.
I found Team’s functionality a great fit for upgrading a legacy list of professional Tarot readers at the Tarot association I belong to. The old list was based on code built years ago outside of WordPress and was hard to update. You can see my finished team display and try out the functionality here.
The only reason I’d upgrade to the paid version of this one is to have more control over colors of contact/social media buttons and other aspects of the layout, but the basic layout works just fine. It’s also fully mobile responsive so the multiple columns on the desktop/laptop screen adjust nicely down to a single column on your phone.