Appointzilla is a simple yet powerful plugin for accepting appointments on your WordPress site. When using Appointzilla, you forego the need to use third party appointment booking services, everything can be managed from inside the wordpress admin panel.
This is a very ideal plugin if you or your client is a consultant/doctor/lawyer etc. Lets take a closer look at this plugin and see how it works.
Note that there is a free version of Appointzilla, named Appointment Calendar, and it is available in the WordPress plugin repository. This is a review of the premium version, which has the following extra features:
- Unlimited Staff and Services
- Customizable Business Hours
- Customizable Staff Hours
- Client and Appointment History
- Google Calendar Sync
- Translation Ready
- Time Offs to create complex working Schedule
- Fast, Friendly and Prompt Support
Appointzilla doesn’t quite use the WordPress standard UI, as is recommended, but on the other hand it’s still a pretty decent interface. I just wish they’d use the standard WordPress UI, then it would definitely be a more integrated experience for the user.
I did however find the validation used on fields annoying. There is no explanation or indication about required fields when filling up a form, and submitting the form doesn’t even indicate all the required and missing forms. Definitely something to be improved.
As soon as you install and activate the plugin, you will see a new menu appear at the bottom of your administration menu. This is where you set all options of the calendar, and where you see what appointments you have scheduled.
Features & Usage
Setting up an appointment calendar is very easy. Just follow the steps in the documentation for setting up your services and availability, then drop in the shortcode [APCAL] into a page or post, and you’ll have the appointment calendar appear on the front end. Make sure you use all caps in your shortcode, or it won’t work.
The first thing to do after installing the plugin is to setup your business information
You have to enter the business details like name, address, phone etc. Next you enter the business hours, and you can also assign different working hours for specific people of your staff, a clever feature. Then you have some calendar settings, like choosing which is the first day of the week, default calendar view, etc. On this page you can also set things like currency, time slots, notifications to users (you can also customise the message they receive), and also integrate with Google Calendar. I know many people search for a solution that integrates with Google Calendar, so this is a very nice feature this plugin has.
Once you’re done with setting up, you can start accepting bookings. You can also add/remove people from your staff, and add/remove services, these are standard things that need to be in such a plugin, and Appointzilla isn’t found lacking here.
Another interesting feature is the ability to schedule time off. This will be useful when some staff members have to take holidays or are on sick leave, for example. Users won’t be allowed to book appointments with them during their time off.
If for some reason you’d like to deactivate and remove the plugin, first you should use the ‘Remove plugin’ submenu item. This removes all the tables and fields created by Appointzilla in the database, and also deactivates the plugin. A popup is used to double check whether this is really what you want to do. To complete the removal process you would then go to the Plugins menu and delete Appointzilla.
The front end view is quite a standard calendar view with options to view day, week or month. To create a new appointment you click on the day you want, and fill in a form with your details, preferred member of staff, and desired time. I’m not sure I like the idea of letting people schedule an appointment in the past, it just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.
A good feature is the ability for the site to accept deposits via PayPal when a user books his appointment.
Overall the plugin has some good features that will cater for most people’s needs. I think the UI needs to be improved however, it’s not so intuitive yet, although it is usable.
Support & Documentation
Support is provided through a private support forum.
Step-by-step documentation, available online, is provided with each purchase. I’ve found the instructions written in understandable (bar the occasional typo here and there) English and very easy to follow. I would however include better explanations about features, rather than just a step-by-step guide on how to set up and manage the plugin. Some features of the plugin could use a little more explanation to make sure that the user understands why and how to use that feature.
There is just one part in the documentation which is not complete, the one dealing with Customization. It will probably be quite a useful section, especially since the frontend looks a tad unpolished at times, and I expect the guys behind Appointzilla to write up this part soon.
Pricing & Licence
Your support license with Appointzilla allows you to receive support, documentation, and upgrades on one WordPress installation. If you want support for additional sites, you need to purchase an extra licence.
Licenses can be renewed at 50% discount to the purchase price every 12 months. If you don’t pay the licence renewal fee, Appointzilla will work just fine but you will not have access to product support, documentation and updates. This is a very popular licence scheme with plugin developers these days, and I feel the 50% renewal discount is quite a fair deal.
Plugin use in the Wild
Here are just four examples of the plugin being used on live sites, so you can get an idea of its potential in the real world:
The Mayor’s Verdict
Appointzilla is a good plugin that can be used if your website needs to accept bookings on a calendar.
To really shine, I would recommend that the guys behind Appointzilla make the following improvements.
Polish the front end interface and add instructions on how to customise the default look, maybe also include some different themes.
Reading documentation that is free from grammatical and spelling mistakes is an important thing for me and probably other potential users of this plugin. Make sure that the English used in the docs is perfect. Hire a proofreader to go through it if necessary.
Since mobile and responsive sites are such a big thing, I would also like to see better rendering of the calendar on different devices. A shortcode [APCAL_MOBILE] can be used to insert a calendar for mobile views.
In the administration panel, the plugin’s menu has a few sub menu links that don’t have any link text and clicking these links throws up errors. Not sure what’s the deal there, but it’s something that needs to be fixed.
On the front end, below the calendar, we find the ‘powered by’ text:
Appointment Calendar Premium Powered By: AppointZilla
There is no option to turn this off, which again is not quite the right way to do things.
I’ve also gone ahead and taken a look under the hood at the code that powers this plugin. It’s quite well commented but code formatting is a bit haphazard. I would definitely not recommend it as a good example of code styling. While ideally code should be written in good style from the outset, it’s something that can be improved with minimal effort. Take a look at the WordPress Coding Standards, they specify how code should be styled. While the code styling won’t influence a typical user’s experience, a developer who wants to extend or modify the plugin will be much happier working with standards-compliant code.
Al in all, this is a good plugin that does it’s job well. There is room for improvement which is not a bad thing in itself, as long as the developers continue putting in the hard work by listening to their users’ needs and implementing the necessary adjustments.
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