OptinMonster Review: Exploring the New Features of the Leading Optin Form Plugin for WordPress
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The initial release of the OptinMonster email sign-up form plugin was one that most developers could only dream of — with nearly every WordPress news-and-review blog publishing glowing coverage of this premium popup lead-generation tool almost as soon as it became available.
However, now that OptinMonster’s been available for some time, it’s worth taking another look to see if it really is the best WordPress email optin form plugin available — and if it’s been able to live up to the hype.
It’s especially worth revisiting it now, as there have been some big changes in the way it works — such as a number of new features and add-ons for the service that are aimed at making it an even more versatile tool for those looking to increase their mailing list subscribers.
One of the biggest changes of all is that OptinMonster is now no longer simply a WordPress plugin — read on to find out what’s changed.
OptinMonster: A Quick Overview
OptinMonster joined the premium email optin form plugin market in 2013, and managed to differentiate itself from the competition by offering a user-friendly interface, a selection of clean and attractive designs for its optin forms, and a new feature that wasn’t widely available at the time: exit intent. When enabled, exit intent made it so that the popup forms would only be triggered when the visitor was about to leave the site — something that quickly helped win the plugin plaudits from users and reviewers alike (especially those averse to bombarding visitors with popups on each page load).
Other features of the initial version of this optin form plugin included:
- Lightbox, footer bar, and slide-in forms
- Multiple form design templates
- The option to add custom HTML and CSS to forms
- The ability to create unlimited forms for different posts on your site
- Impression and conversion stats for each form
- The ability to clone forms for instant A/B testing
- Exit intent to only show popups as visitors are about to leave
- Integration with all major email marketing services
- User-friendly native WordPress user interface
In short, the developers of OptinMonster went to great lengths to try to include just about everything you could ever need to start creating powerful optin sign-up forms for your email list.
OptinMonster: The New Features
As mentioned, the biggest change to OptinMonster is that it’s no longer just a WordPress plugin: it’s now a hosted service that any website owner — be they using WordPress or otherwise — can use to add a range of email sign-up forms to their site.
As it’s a hosted service, all of the form creation and management tasks now take place through your account dashboard on the OptinMonster website. This has a number of benefits, including: the introduction of a clutter-free, purpose-built user interface; the ability to manage all of your forms through one central location; and one less (large) plugin to manage on your website. Your OptinMonster account is indeed still linked to your WordPress website via a plugin, but the current plugin is much smaller and more lightweight than its previous incarnation.
If you’re already a user of OptinMonster, you can now either continue using the legacy plugin version or migrate your self-hosted data to the hosted service in just a few clicks.
Making things hosted isn’t all the OptinMonster team have been up to, though: to reward early adopters and keep the plugin competitive, the developers have added some other great new features, such as:
- more form types (blank, sidebar, and in-content/after post, full-screen entrance and exit gateways)
- purpose-built mobile forms
- more form appearance themes
- a canvas tool for creating 100% custom popups
- the ability to insert forms using shortcodes
- the ability to add animation effects to forms as they load
- a manual optin trigger (i.e. to launch forms on mouse clicks)
- newly optimised code for faster loading times
- a testing mode for previewing forms.
OptinMonster launched in 2013 with three types of optin forms. Since then, the developers have added more options to the list of popup form types, and it currently stands at as many as eight sign-up form types — each with its own variety of templates.
The list includes the following email optin forms:
- Lightbox popup
- After post/in content (new)
- Floating bar (new)
- Mobile optimised
- Footer bar
- Sidebar widget (new)
- Canvas popup with custom content (new)
The new options are welcome additions — particularly the in-content form, which is a form type that was notably absent from the early selection. Another interesting addition is the fullscreen option, which allows you to cover the whole screen with your form — thereby practically forcing your visitors to either sign up or hit the back/close button. A popular use of these types of fullscreen form is to display them as a kind of welcome or gateway message to your visitors as they arrive at your site (or just before they’re about to exit).
There’s also a new selection of forms that has been created for mobile visitors.
It’s not just new ways of displaying the forms that have been added, though, OptinMonster now includes more themes for customising the appearance of its sign-up forms.
There’s also a selection of new CSS3 animation effects that can be applied to the form as it’s being displayed to help catch the attention of your visitors.
Creating and managing your forms is even easier than ever, thanks to OptinMonster’s recent move to a hosted service. The same clean interface and well-labelled options-and-settings pages still remain, of course, but in more user-friendly surroundings.
The new Custom Content Canvas Form
While OptinMonster comes with an impressive selection of themes for styling and basing your form designs on, the new Canvas add-on form type lets you start from a blank slate.
When choosing this, you can set the width and height of the lightbox, and then enter your own custom content by providing the necessary HTML and CSS.
This means you’re no longer limited to creating and displaying sign-up forms with OptinMonster — now, you can insert all kinds content into the popup window, such as your social media buttons, links to other content on your site, products from your store, or anything else you think might be of interest to readers.
Also, before saving any custom optin popup forms created using the Canvas add-on, you can choose to apply one of numerous animation effects (such as bounce, flash, wobble, flip, rotate, and slide effects) to make sure your forms get noticed as they come into view. Note: These effects can also be applied to the other lightbox forms.
OptinMonster as a Hosted Service
With previous versions of OptinMonster, all of the form creation and management tasks took place from within your WordPress dashboard, but now that the service is fully hosted you build and manage all forms through your account area on the official OptinMonster website.
On hearing this, I was a little sceptical. One of the great things about using WordPress is that all the work — including designing your site, configuring the way it works, and publishing content — takes place within one central location: your WP dashboard and admin area. Adding an external service to the mix didn’t seem like such a great prospect.
However, I was also curious to see how the developers would handle this transition from WordPress plugin to universal hosted service. In case you’re wondering what the new service is like, or if you just want to know how easy OptinMonster is to use, let’s take a look at creating an optin form for your website using the new hosted interface:
Creating a Hosted Email Sign-Up Form with OptinMonster
One of the benefits of the move to a hosted service is that if you’ve bought the Plus or Pro licences, and are using OptinMonster on multiple sites (perhaps client sites), you can now log in to one central dashboard and create forms, tweak your existing optin boxes, and view your conversion rate stats — all in one place.
This also means that the process for building and deploying the email optin forms has changed quite a bit since previous versions. The good news is that, now all the action takes place through a purpose-built user interface (rather than being shoehorned into the WordPress admin area), it’s even easier to add a wide range of optin/popup forms to any of the websites you manage.
How to Create an Email Optin Form With the New OptinMonster
The first step in creating an email optin form is adding the details of your website to your account area within the OptinMonster site, which is as simple as entering the site address or URL. You also have the option of creating and then deploying the same form to multiple sites by entering the individual URLs into the website field on the form settings page.
Creating the Email Optin Form
After entering your site address on the Create New Optin screen, you’ll need to give your campaign a title and create a form to be displayed to your visitors.
The first option is to select a form type, such as lightbox popup or fullscreen form. Once you’ve made your selection, the form designs available for that type will be displayed. Some form types have more templates than others: for example, there are 14 templates available for the lightbox form, while the slide-in form has only five pre-built designs to choose from.
More good news is that each template is fully customisable — thereby giving you a little extra design freedom (should you need it).
Customising the Form Design
Once you’ve chosen the form type and template, the editing screen from which you can customise the form template or theme you’ve chosen (or even switch to another theme if you’re unhappy with your original selection) is displayed.
The user interface for customising the design of your email sign-up form is easy to use. Simply select an option from the left-hand sidebar area, such as a form theme, then click on a form element in the main panel to edit the text or change an image.
You can easily customise the colours, button text, fonts and more for a personalised form for your site, or use one of the many pre-built designs and add your own text. It’s up to you!
Configuring How the Form Works
Once you’re happy with the design of your form, it’s time to configure how it will work on your site. This takes place on the same screen, albeit via a different tab located within the left-hand sidebar.
Depending on the type of form you’re working with, you’ll have different options that govern how things will work on your site. For example, when creating a lightbox popup form, you can set the length of time to wait before it’s displayed; alternatively, you could make use of the scroll percentage trigger or enable the rather brilliant exit intent trigger.
Again, depending on the form type, you may also be able to add a CSS3 animation effect to be used when the form gets displayed.
Other configurations include setting a success message or redirecting users to a custom URL of your choice after the form has been completed. You can also set the cookie duration to avoid showing the form too often — and decide whether or not to show a ‘Powered by OptinMonster’ link.
Through the page-targeting settings, you can also configure where on your site the form will be displayed — this could be to load only on certain pages and not to load at all on others. However, WordPress users can further configure where the forms will be displayed through their WordPress admin dashboards.
Email Marketing Service Integration
OptinMonster works with an impressive number of email newsletter service providers, including AWeber, ConvertKit, MailChimp, and InfusionSoft — and each update to the service seems to add even more.
Integrating your new form with your email list service of choice is as simple as selecting the option from a drop-down list and then authorising your account. While each service works differently in this regard, a handy link to the relevant piece of online documentation is displayed on the screen to help you figure things out.
After your form is set up and saved, it’s time to deploy it to your website.
Adding the OptinMonster Form to Your Website
Having saved your form, you can then click the embed button to add it to your website.
WordPress users must download the free OptinMonster plugin, upload it to their site, and then enter their account details. This will link up your account with your website and allow you to start displaying the optin forms you’ve created.
After authenticating the plugin by entering your API username and key, you’ll have the option of configuring how the plugin will work on your site. This includes the option of displaying your form globally, or defining which pages, posts, categories, and other areas of your site your form gets displayed on.
If you click on any of the links to customise the form or create a new one, you’ll be taken back to the relevant section of the OptinMonster website. If you’re a user of the previous plugin-only version of OptinMonster, you can easily migrate your existing data, such as the forms, their settings, and analytics, to your account on the new hosted platform.
If you want to deploy the form on a non-WordPress website, you can quickly copy the relevant code. Note: There’s a bunch of handy online documentation covering all of the most popular publishing platforms, as well as generic instructions for other types of website.
Now, if all has gone well, your new optin forms should start displaying in accordance with your chosen settings.
As you can see, the move to a hosted service hasn’t drastically changed the way you create and manage your forms. The changes have mostly been positive, and the addition of new features can only be welcomed.
The developers haven’t been taking it easy when it comes to supporting and improving OptinMonster. The switch to a hosted service isn’t something seen very often in the WordPress world, but it works really well here and makes life considerably easier for the end user, rather than being an extra hoop to jump through. It’s also great that this powerful tool is now available for use on non-WordPress websites — and the improved ease-of-use is a real bonus.
As you’d expect with all these changes, OptinMonster is now more useful — plus the optional blank canvas form means you can now display just about any content you like in the popup window.
The newly added form themes look great, and the wealth of customisation options open up a world of possibilities. Another nice feature is the ability to launch the optin form from a button or link on a page — thereby giving you even more flexibility in how you attempt to persuade visitors to interact with your content.
In short, although the very clever exit intent behaviour trigger that helped this tool stand out from the crowd has now been copied or adopted by many of its rivals, the new features, existing features and improved ease-of-use mean OptinMonster remains about the best email optin form plugin on the market!
Interested? Find out more about OptinMonster on the Official OptinMonster Website.
Using OptinMonster yet? Thoughts?