So many businesses need to accept bookings and appointments through their website. Since millions of such websites are based on WordPress, it follows naturally that there is a need for good appointment plugins for WordPress. The typical use case is a private practice (ie. Doctor, Hair Dresser, Fitness instructor, Massage Therapist, etc…)
We therefore went ahead and tested the options on the market and present you with the best ones we’ve found.
BirchPress Scheduler is a well-coded plugin with an excellent user interface. It lets you book appointments either via the dashboard as an admin, or via the front end as a non-registered website user.
You can define:
You can of course then create associations between them. For example a particular member of staff might be available at only one location at specified hours/days. He might also be able to perform a number of services but not all. Each service also has a number of settings including price, duration, and also padding time.
BirchPress Scheduler adds a new item in your dashboard menu named ‘Scheduler’, from which you can easily manage all the functionality of this scheduling and appointment system.
A very well-rounded plugin which also has 2 pro flavours giving you even more functionality.
Pro version prices:
- Pro Personal – $99 – 1 site
- Pro Business – $199 – 1 site
- Pro Developer – $499 – 5 sites
Each support license is good for 12 months from the date of your purchase. Personal license users receive 25% off their renewal, Business license users receive 35% off their renewal and Developer license users receive 50% off their renewal. If your license expires, your scheduler and website will still work just fine but you won’t have access to product updates, new features or the excellent product support or documentation that BirchPress provide as a service. Click here to view all the differences between the above plans.
The Pro Business and Pro Developer include PayPal integration so you can also accept payments when a client books an appointment.
Our rating: 8.5/10
BirchPress Scheduler is especially ideal for companies having multiple services, locations and staff, it’s perfect for managing this combination.
CP Appointment Calendar
CP Appointment Calendar is a WordPress plugin which allows you to define “available” time slots that can be booked by the website visitors. It’s integrated with PayPal for receiving the booking payments.
It’s pretty useful for booking/management of meetings/appointments for lawyers firms, teachers, doctors, veterinaries, beauticians, etc… and for any kind of activity which is developed with a specific schedule during the day.
The professional version ($25) of the plugin includes the following added functionality:
- Allows to disable the Paypal payments
- Can be used also as a Widget
- Multi-site compatible
- Includes all future updates and improvements made to this version
- Includes 60 days of technical support
With the free version you are therefore forced to work with PayPal and accept payments on all bookings.
This is a simple and straightforward plugin that only allows you to enter one service and accept paid bookings for it. If you have multiple services, staff, or locations then this plugin is not for you.
It’s major limitation is that it is inflexible. For example, when a customer wants to order, he needs to enter his name, phone, email, and comments. If you don’t want one or more of these fields, you’re stuck because the plugin doesn’t allow you to remove them. The plugin author accepts requests for customization, however ideally you’d be able to do these things yourself through the plugin’s administration interface.
The calendar display isn’t exactly gorgeous either, would have loved to see something more modern and stylish.
Our rating: 6.5/10
This WordPress plugin will enable online booking services for your site. Visitors to your site will be able to check availabilityof apartments, houses, hotel rooms, or services you offer. They can also make reservations and appointments with the ability to choose from multi-day, single day, or by the hour booking. Your clients can even view and register for upcoming events. With integrated Paypal (also Sage and iPay88 payments systems) support your clients can pay online.
With the free version, you cannot accept payments, you’d have to go for one of the premium packages which start at $199 and go all the way up to $2499 for the full featured multisite version.
Booking Calendar does have a lot of features, at least when we’re talking of the premium versions. I would use it for hospitality solutions such as hotels, guesthouses, hostels etc. For service providers BirchPress Scheduler is probably easier to set up and use.
Our rating: 8/10
Appointments+ is a powerful, flexible and easy-to-use plugin. Take, set and manage appointments and client bookings without having to leave WordPress. This appointment/booking plugin has a great user interface, based on WordPress UI, and is very easy to use, although it is very flexible and has many options. It also provides integration with Google Calendar.
Its multitude of features make this plugin is probably the best option if you are a service provider (possibly with a team of staff) and want to accept bookings for a number of time-based services. One should note that it also integrates with two other offerings from WPMUdev, MarketPress and Membership.
Check out this tutorial for tips on building an appointments system based on Appointments+.
Our rating: 9/10
Other Plugins Tested
I also tested a few other plugins, however I didn’t include them with the major ones above for one reason or another.
WP Simple Booking Calendar – I really like this one, it promises to do just one thing and does it well. Basically, it lets you create a clean calendar as a widget or in a post/page, and set the availability of whatever it is you are selling. Users cannot book themselves through the plugin, rather this is just for displaying availability. The pro version ($25) lets you create multiple calendars.
Appointy - While it works fine once you get it setup, this is really an interface between WordPress and Appointy.com (a third party) rather than a native WordPress plugin.
WP Online Booking System has similar features to BirchPress Scheduler, however the interface is completely alien to WordPress, it just looks like another system dumped into an iframe in the WordPress dashboard. Since I really don’t like plugins which do this, I didn’t feel it would be a good inclusion here. It also doesn’t have any free version, instead you can get the Pay-As-You-Book version at $10/month, the Business version at $349 and the Multi Domain version at $849.
easyReservations is a good plugin with many premium add-ons, however I don’t like the fact that it creates a totally custom user interface rather than relying on the default WordPress UI. I also found the multitude of tooltips intended to help the user to be more of an annoyance than an aid. There appeared to be some bugs as well with the version I tested. This plugin seems mostly targeted towards the hospitality industry (hotels, guesthouses, hostels etc.).
Booking System Pro is a fantastic plugin for booking accommodation. It allows you to set your rates and availability, then let your clients book rooms and even pay online via PayPal if you wish.
Zingiri Bookings is another alternative targeted toward the hospitality industry, but again it has a completely non-WordPress interface, and I don’t like the fact that it stores some of our data on the Zingiri servers.
The Events Calendar is a very well-made plugin, but it’s not really for taking appointments, rather it’s for events, and also integrates with WooCommerce for ticketing (through an add-on). Just thought I’d mention it if someone was looking for this functionality.
3 Sheep Booking is a free plugin that enables you to create a number of appointments, then let users sign up for them. It is quite limited however, you cannot modify the form that users have to fill in, and all appointments must be of the same duration. I tested v1 so hopefully many new features will be added, it’s a good start though.
3C-Events – a plugin that focuses on displaying events on a calendar or upcoming events list. Unfortunately it is not very polished and support seems very shoddy.
It seems that this category of plugins for WordPress is not yet very well-defined. It’s common to see users ask for refunds because this or that plugin didn’t fulfil their needs. The main issue seems to lie in the fact that it’s not that easy to distinguish what each plugin does and what it’s target market is.
It might be helpful to categorise user needs and plugin types in the following sections:
- Display calendar (for appointments)
- Display calendar, let folks book appointments
- Display calendar, let folks book appointments + ecommerce
- Display calendar (for events)
- Display calendar, let folks commit to the event
- Display calendar, let folks commit to the event + ecommerce
- Display calendar (for accommodation)
- Display calendar, let folks book accommodation
- Display calendar, let folks book accommodation + ecommerce
- Other miscellaneous calendars
So yes, there are quite a number of different niches here, and I doubt if one single plugin can be useful for each and every niche. For some cases it might even not make any business sense for a plugin to be developed, hence you will need to seek custom development services.
Do you have any appointment plugins you could wholeheartedly recommend? And do you feel there are some needed features which the current batch of plugins don’t cater for?
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