Need to accept appointment bookings at your WordPress site? Start Booking is a WordPress booking plugin that’s a relatively new entrant to the booking plugins market. It’s built to help both individuals and businesses start conveniently accepting bookings through their WordPress site. From a cloud dashboard, you’re able to add and manage services, configure users/staff members and opening hours, and manage all of your customers and appointments. Overall, we found Start Booking to be a really simple, beginner-friendly way to start accepting appointment bookings at your WordPress site. Keep reading our Start Booking review for a look at everything this tool has to offer.
Nowadays, scheduling plans, meetings, or appointments are made easy. The market has provided different tools to help us achieve the perfect booking tool for us. It is our job to look and find the right one. Here on our review, we are providing a guide to a simple way to accept appointment bookings on WordPress. If you like the easy and straightforward one without compromising the performance, Start Booking is the one. Keeping all things simple and focusing on what matters on an appointment scheduler, is true, one of the best online booking tools.
The free version provides limited features which are ideal if you want to play around it. You can easily get Start Booking by going to the WordPress plugin repository. However, if you decide to get all of the features, Start Booking offers two different pricing plans based on your needs and preferences.
- Basic – $20/month billed annually
- Business – $60/month billed annually
- Enterprise – contact to inquire about the pricing
Start Booking Key Features
- Create multiple services that customers can book
- Accept unlimited bookings/appointments
- Manage appointments from the cloud dashboard
- Choose availability for both the store as a whole, as well as individual users/staff members
- Assign specific services to specific staff members
- Manage appointments and customers from the cloud dashboard
- Send appointment reminder emails
- Check customers in (for physical appointments)
- Integrate with Google Calendar so that you can connect your personal Google Calendar account and view, create, and manage appointments from that.
- Has custom integration with tools like Google Calendar, Mailchimp, Stripe, and Google Analytics
- Support is excellent
- There are payment restrictions on some WordPress plugins
- The pricing plans are a bit pricey
- The interface is quite complicated to maneuver
Start Booking Installation & Setup
To get started with Start Booking, you’ll need to create an account at the Start Booking website (it’s free to start!) Once you create your account, Start Booking will take you through a convenient little setup wizard/onboarding process to help get the basics set up:
And then, you’re into the Start Booking cloud dashboard.
How To Set Up Start Booking On Your WordPress Site
To integrate Start Booking into your WordPress site, you use the dedicated Start Booking plugin that’s available at WordPress.org.
Once you install the plugin, you can go to the Booking tab to connect to the Start Booking account you created in the previous step:
All you need to do is log in to your account from the interface and then you’ll be connected. Once you connect your site, you’ll unlock the settings page. Start Booking will automatically create a Book Now page for you. But you can also use the various shortcode options to customize how things work:
Start Booking includes two different shortcodes that you can use:
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- Full Flow – by default, this is what it adds to the page it creates. Users choose from a list of available services and then go through the booking process.
- Quick Checkout – lets you choose a predefined service and bypass having the user select from your full list of services. You’re also able to customize the text that’s used on the button, which lets you offer a unique CTA for each service.
Here’s what the beginning of the full flow looks like by default:
Below the shortcode list, you can choose the colors for the button. That’s the only style option you seem to get:
And you also get other options for:
- Expedited booking – lets you speed up the booking process if certain conditions are met (like only having one service available)
- Content Customizations – lets you customize all of the text strings that appear on your booking form. This is nice for localization. Or, you can just switch up the English text to better fit your needs.
- Additional options – lets you do stuff like hide the progress bar and set a limit for how far in advance users can schedule a booking.
That’s all for configuration options in your WordPress dashboard. But you also get a lot more control over individual services and availability in the Start Booking cloud dashboard.
How To Configure Settings In The Cloud Dashboard (Services, Hours, + More)
Once you configure the basic WordPress settings, you’ll perform most other configurations and day-to-day management in the cloud dashboard.
We’ll show you first the rest of the available options. Then, demonstrate how the entire flow comes together to help you manage appointments.
For starters, you can configure your opening hours for each day in the profile of your Start Booking account:
Beyond overall location hours, you can also configure hours for each individual user:
This one gives you a little bit more flexibility because you can include a lunch break. But for both of these options, we’d still like to see more flexibility for handling non-traditional hours. That is if you have a work schedule that doesn’t fit the traditional “9-5 with a lunch break”, Start Booking doesn’t seem to be able to adapt.
You can also create and edit services from the cloud dashboard:
When you create or edit a service, you can go a little more in-depth by:
- Assigning the service to specific users
- Choosing the service’s duration
- Creating a “recovery” time so that you have some space in between bookings
- Setting a price
- Turning off online booking (if you want, you can just manually use Start Booking as an appointment management solution without online booking).
Finally, you can also turn notification emails on/off for certain events in your profile, as well as choose the default time interval for openings:
Paid plans can customize the email text. But we were unable to do that on the free plan. That’s pretty much it for configuration options on the plan we had access to! But if you’re on the Business plan, you would also be able to configure different rooms at your business (e.g. if you had a massage business with separate massage rooms).
How The Appointment Booking Flow Works For Users
Now that everything is configured, here’s how the flow works for your visitors to view availability and/or book an appointment:
One nice thing in this flow is that if a user enters an email address that’s already been used, Start Booking will automatically load their profile information so that they don’t have to fill it out again:
That’s helpful for removing friction for returning customers.
How The Appointment Booking Flow Works For Businesses
Once new appointments roll in, you’ll be able to manage them from the Start Booking cloud dashboard:
If you click on an individual appointment, you can:
- Check the customer in
- View customer details
- Add notes (depending on your plan)
And you’ll also be able to see a full customer list in the Customers tab:
If needed, you can manually add both customers and appointments, as well, which gives you some flexibility if someone wants to say, book an appointment over the phone instead of using your website. Additionally, you can use the Google Calendar integration to add and manage appointments from your personal Google Calendar account.
Start Booking makes it really simple to start accepting appointment bookings on your WordPress site. You can go from nothing to accepting bookings in just a few minutes. And that factor – simplicity – is what we think is Start Booking’s unique selling proposition. It’s not the most flexible appointment system that we have used, so if you’re a developer who wants lots of actions/filters to customize things, or if you have niche needs (like non-standard, broken up working hours), you might be disappointed.
But if you just want an easy-to-use system to start accepting appointments without lots of settings/configuration options getting in your way, we recommend that Start Booking makes a good option, especially in comparison to some of the more complicated WordPress plugins.