When the built-in WordPress Multisite email options simply don't cut it.
Having a well thought out onboarding plan is important step when creating a successful and sustainable WordPress Multisite instance. If folks have trouble signing up for a new site, their entire experience is off to a rocky start. This article will cover both the built-in options made available by WordPress, as well as additional steps you can take with Gravity Forms to provide a seamless onboarding experience for new users.
Built-in WordPress Onboarding
WordPress does provide some helpful onboarding tools managed in the general Settings tab.
Here, you can configure options like Registration notification so that you are notified when someone new signs up.
There is also a section near the end of this page that allows you to alter the Welcome Email, Welcome User Email, First Post, First Page, and First Comment. While these emails are mainly plain-text in nature— so, no fancy HTML formatting available here— they do allow you to add handy WordPress email variables that can customize these messages per user. Furthermore, customizing the variables in these emails can help messages get through strict institutional spam filters that might be triggered by certain keywords like "password."
While these can definitely go a long way in bettering the user registration and onboarding experience, there are still some notable limitations when it comes to formatting and intentionally directing specific users to the right areas and resources for their particular use of the multisite.
Onboarding with Gravity Forms
What if we don't just make it easy for them, but impressively efficient while getting more of the information we need? What if we could do it without having to use any custom programming?
That's where Gravity Forms comes in to save the day.
Gravity Forms is a powerful WordPress plugin, and is Reclaim's number one recommendation for anyone interested in providing their users with a signup form.
Installing Gravity Forms and User Registration Add-on
In order to use Gravity Forms for onboarding, you'll need both the regular, base Gravity Forms plugin installed as well as the User Registration Add-on. If this add-on isn't activated on your site, you can do so by going to the Add-ons section of the Gravity Forms settings and scrolling down to select User Registration Add-on to install from the listed add-ons.
Once installed, go to the Plugins tab and select Activate so that it appears as shown below.
From here you'll be able to create your "user registration" form. To do this, go to the Forms tab in your Dashboard and select New Form.
Then, from the listed templates on the Explore Form Templates popup, scroll down and select User Registration Form then Use Template.
Now that you have a form template to start with, you can explore all of the functionality provided by Gravity Forms for user registration, expand on it, and customize it to fit your needs. Consider what additional information you’d like to have about your users. It may be something basic like whether they’re faculty or students. Maybe you want student majors? This is a great place to gather that information. Remember, you can use all your normal Gravity Forms options like branch logic to ask the right questions to the right people.
User Registration Feed
Once you have the form set up how you want it, you need to set up what happens with that information.
Under the Settings > User Registration Feed option for the specific form you're working with, you will create a new feed that creates a new user.
The majority of fields will automatically map to the items you need to create a user but you may need to choose particular fields from the provided drop downs.
If you included custom data (like faculty/student status), this is where you can assign it to User Meta data.
Under User Meta, from the Key drop down, select Custom Meta. It’s all the way at the bottom of the list. Name your key something unique and memorable.
Then, map the Value key to the form field containing the right information. This metadata will be associated with the user account and can be referenced or queried in a variety of ways.
This is also where you can determine if user accounts go live via the typical WordPress email process or if they'll require manual approval by an administrator.
Dig deeper into the user registration feed documentation on Gravity Form’s page.
Unlike the built-in WordPress onboarding options, HTML is enabled by default so that you can format and stylize the form as well as any emails triggered by the signup process. Yes, email communication can be controlled at this level, and in a much more robust way than the built-in options offer.
Like other Gravity Forms, you can customize emails that occur when the form is submitted under Settings > Notifications. You can create as many different email notifications as you’d like. This can be handy when you’d like to send a confirmation email to the form submitter and send other information to a site administrator.
There are a variety of built-in template variables that will help you customize your emails.
You can also customize what happens immediately after the form is submitted. That can be a lot more than a simple “Thank you” message.
You may wish to redirect people to a new page that helps orient them or push them to another page to be inspired by example projects.
Confirmations like this can also use form elements to be even more explicit about the information they’re presented. For instance, if you have a dropdown list of courses you’re supporting on WPMS, you could redirect them to a custom support page for that particular course. There are lots of options and Gravity Forms gives you the flexibility to mix and match forms and content to meet your particular needs.