Everything requires a reservation nowadays – a visit to a beauty salon, your favorite restaurant, or a training session at your local gym.
In the distant past, you just looked up a phone number in a phone book, call that number and talked to someone and then wrote the information you received (date and time) on a piece of paper.
Were times simpler back then? Well, not really – because if you lost that piece of paper, poof goes your appointment.
Luckily, we live in the era of technology, and it’s fantastic to see how far we’ve come when it comes to features and options online booking tools offer.
If your business requires reservations and appointments, then this article is for you!
Features Required In A Booking Plugin
Different business requires different features, so you need to look closely to find exactly the plugin you need for your business.
For example, a hair salon can have multiple employees, and all of them need to be listed on the website with their schedules. On the other hand, a private doctor will need various services offered on the site and show specific times when appointments are available.
Or maybe you’re a dentist and have dental cleanings on certain days and not on others.
No matter your business, here’s a list of the features we recommend to look for in a booking plugin:
- Needs to be able to accept payments for online bookings and appointments.
- It needs to support multiple agents or employees, and have the ability for each employee to have their schedule and calendar.
- A calendar widget that can be placed anywhere on your website (needs to be fully customizable, too).
- It needs to be optimized for mobile phones and tablets so that customers can use the booking system on small screens (60% of online users look at stuff on their mobile phones!)
- Customized schedule, to set days off and allow some time between appointments.
- Custom profiles for customers to view and edit their appointments online.
- Ability to send email notifications for both customers and administrators.
- Custom fields and menus if your business offers a wide variety of services.
Features you need depend on your area of business, so make sure to test the ones that look good to you and use our guide below to get the best value. Smaller companies may only require a free calendar widget on their website, while bigger businesses need a wide variety of features.
Whatever booking plugin you choose for your business, it helps to build your website on a reliable platform, ideally a WordPress service (psst – Skystra has a pretty good one!)
Bookly plugin is perfect for beginners and has a fresh, modern design on both backend and frontend. It offers full booking form customization, and you don’t need to know any coding to do it. The form itself is fully responsive, and the plugin provides multiple views for both customers and admins. This plugin also offers a module for unlimited staff, and each member can have their availability and pricing.
Essentially, it’s a complete booking package that can be set up without any coding knowledge.
WooCommerce plugin is royalty among WordPress eCommerce plugins, mainly because the core plugin is free, and you have access to tons of different extensions that allow you to accept payments in multiple ways. With the WooCommerce Bookings plugin, you can schedule bookings for free or receive payments online, depending on the time or date.
We recommend this plugin to everyone, even if you don’t use WooCommerce on your website already as it has a clean and modern layout, customizable CSS, and works well.
This extension offers fields for pricing, descriptions, titles, and a calendar. It also has a reviews feature if needed.
This extension is another excellent option that can be used with the WooCommerce plugin, and it allows you to integrate Google Calendar with WooCommerce. You can accept payments from your customers and then sync them with your Google Calendar. As with the previous plugin, you can schedule bookings for free or receive payments online.
The plugin is straightforward to set up, so even beginners can use the interface, but it also offers a wide variety of options that seasoned programmers can use (it integrates well with other WooCommerce extensions such as Gravity Forms, Print Invoices, or Extra Products Options).
This plugin is great because it offers fully responsive frontend calendars that can be easily implemented in blog posts, pages, or anywhere else you need them. You, as an admin can configure multiple calendars with specific time slots and then set the number of available seats for each event, approve/deny requests and customize booking forms.
Additionally, each field and label in this plugin can be edited and translated into any language. The plugin author also offers tons of different addons to extend this plugin, such as group events, payments, iCal sync, etc.
This particular plugin has fantastic ratings and is one of the oldest booking calendars for WordPress. It’s a powerful plugin that has a free set of features, and then you can upgrade to more advanced business plans.
Its features range from automated email notifications and reminders to synchronization with Google Calendar and third-party services such as Airbnb, Trip Advisor, or Booking.com. It even has an uncommon feature where you can open a time slot and allow several customers to apply for it and then later decide who to accept. It can be placed in sidebars as a widget, offers multiple languages, and you can customize it via CSS.
Booked is a very affordable plugin sold through a marketplace called CodeCanyon with a wide variety of features – paid, guest and registered bookings, calendar time slots, list view, can be translated, etc.
The user interface for this plugin is very modern and fresh, and you can customize calendar colors and fields. The plugin also integrates well with other extensions such as Payments with WooCommerce, Calendar Feeds, and so on.
This plugin isn’t free, but it comes with a one-time low fee which unlocks PayPal and Stripe payment processing, an excellent form builder that allows multiple fields and secure data collection, and modern looking calendars. You also get three built-in compositions, one with a regular booking calendar, one for unscheduled services (support tickets for example), and one for forthcoming events that can update your Google Calendar.
One unique feature is that this plugin allows you to implement maps in your available time slots if you need to send customers to different locations. You can also configure different schedules for different staff teams.
Amelia is a free plugin, which is suitable for small businesses, but you can upgrade to a more powerful, paid version which enables extra services if needed. This plugin supports SMS notifications, multiple employees, integrates well with WooCommerce, and allows Google Calendar synchronization. It has an elegant, modern design both in the backend and frontend.
One of the more exciting features of this plugin is that it offers diagrams and graphs so you can track performance KPIs. Additionally, it allows for multiple business locations, services, and services categories. You can also set up coupons for discounts if needed.
Can you believe that all these features come for free with the core plugin?!
Appointment Booking Calendar
This plugin is unique among booking plugins because it offers a free PayPal integration. It comes for free, and you can upgrade to a premium version if you want to remove the PayPal link and get additional features. One other unique feature that comes with this plugin is that it can be set up to only show available time slots in the calendar. That way, you can remove the dates that aren’t available and show only available days in the calendar.
It offers a multi-page calendar so customers can check the whole year in advance if needed, supports availability verification, and has a built-in captcha mechanism. You can customize some design elements on the frontend, but it’s best to use custom CSS for this.
The plugin supports calendar import by using Excel or CSV file, which is a welcome addition. You can also send out notifications and confirmations to both customers and admins via this plugin.
Salon Booking System
This plugin is specifically designed for the service industry, and in particular – hairdressers, salon owners, beauty centers, barbershops, and related businesses. It has a full Google Calendar integration, and reservations placed on the website will be entered in your calendar automatically. Notifications and reminders can be sent via email or SMS, and your staff or assistants can be notified of upcoming bookings via email, SMS, or their calendar.
You can also create custom discounts or coupon codes, and discounts can be automatically applied if a particular condition is met during the booking process.
Apart from that, the plugin is straightforward to configure and is translated into more than 20 languages. You can customize the booking form, get feedback from your customers, and see report trends from your Dashboard.