Its a decent system, only big downfall is you cant edit the form it comes with, if we could use gravityforms in place that would be great.
Its a decent system, only big downfall is you cant edit the form it comes with, if we could use gravityforms in place that would be great.
As it currently stands, it seems that a booking solution for WordPress is more likely to arise from the emerging WordPress frameworks such as Piklist and CRED (http://wp-types.com/2012/09/meet-cred-our-front-end-content-editing-plugin/).
As you know, Carl expressed an interest in creating a standalone booking product, but their more immediate interest was in producing yet another content membership and digital downloads plugin, like the one that Pippin has had such success with, but called Gravity Charge. 15 months later, they are still busy with that, so, it seems fair to say that the booking breakthrough we are all hoping for is unlikely to happen here anytime soon.
I have had some success with integrating non-WordPress booking scripts into WordPress and the resulting websites work well for the businesses in question, but that approach is less than ideal, a native booking solution is still the holy grail of WordPress plugins, my attention and hopes for that are switching more to the frameworks, in particular CRED.
Just to be clear, CRED has no built-in booking functionality and it is still in beta, but the developers are obviously aiming high, what they have achieved so far is impressive and I sense that they are more likely to pursue ambitious targets such as booking functionality.
@matteclipse - that is astonishing news, I presumed you were just basing your endorsement on their demo, sorry.
If you have a working example, would you be willing to share the URL with us?
I would be very grateful because, as I said, I've been following this niche for years and, until now, never came across anyone who had actually bought that plugin, I would really appreciate the chance to see what it is capable of in a real-world situation.
Just installed this one today as a test run for potential client for Parent Teacher conferences. Can Add Multiple service provider or in my case teachers and they can all have differnet hours that they want available which the plugin calls work hours.
Client gets confirmation then can set up to send reminders 1 to 24hrs before.
Has some other settings that I have not dug into yet
have it up on a test page here
Looks like this may accomplish what I need it to do but +1 for gravity forms to come up with something because of what is already in place with GF.... Like tiying this to twillio and sending a text reminder :)
I have made a reservation system with Woocommerce, GF and The Events Calendar Pro and will need some beta testers soon if anyone on this thread is interested in having a look through the code (my first site, so definitely open to suggestions)
--Multiple Vendor setup
--Custom payment gateway integration not currently available for any wp ecommerce plugin
--Automated onsite ticketing and payments for customer-to-vendor interactions
@ktrusak - sounds interesting, post a demo URL and I'm sure you'll get lots of useful feedback from the folks on this thread.
@jomac - For a tour booking site have you thought of using a cart plugin such as JigoShop, coupled with the excellent Advanced Custom Fields?
You can set up each tour as a product and use ACF to create your itinerary and custom content, and of course stock levels to control inventory to stop over selling tours.
For ages we've been trying to find a solution to charge people to pay TO post (not to be confused with pay PER post) and then charge them an annual fee to publish their post for a further year, and the solution we've found is to use JigoShop. It's not just for selling products, we can use it to programatically create a posts for our users to populate (they can create and edit their post but they can't publish them until they're approved), and we use it to remind them their listing (post) is due to expire so they can pay to renew using JigoShop.
We can also use it to sell featured listings and to prevent overselling spots on our site we can limit the featured posts to say 8, by simply adding a stock level.
I agree with @donacha, I don't see Gravity offering a solution for bookings any time soon. Unless I am missing something vital, I cannot see the point in Gravity Charge if it's just another content membership and digital download solution.
+1 for an event booking integration!
The most interesting aspect of that Appointments+ plugin announcement is the comments thread beneath it. In response to a question begging for a Booking plugin, the owner of WPMU, James Farmer, actually announces that yeah, we already have the Events+ plugin, here is the Appointments+ plugin, soon we will have a Bookings+ plugin.
WPMUdev is somewhat controversial but we have to give them credit for being possibly the only commercial plugin company that is focused enough to notice what their customers are asking for and professional enough to come up with a roadmap that provides those high-demand plugins one-by-one, building upon what went before: events, appointments, bookings.
Obviously, we all hoped that the Gravity Forms guys would be the first - their forms product is already so close, it already has so many relevant features such as payment gateways and the 150 posts in this thread (by far the biggest thread in these forums) should have made them aware that there was huge demand, with most people willing to pay whatever it takes, but they interests are simply focused elsewhere.
WPMUdev, by contrast, are clearly listening to customers and motivated by money, so, it is likely that they will manage to get Bookings+ to the market. There was a 3-month gap between the introduction of Events+ and Appointments+, so, who knows, we might even see the beta of Bookings+ before Christmas.
I have been trying, for years, to point out how massive this market is, to make good developers aware of how much value could be unleashed by a WordPress plugin that gets it right and keeps it simple, but it has remained a blind-spot in how they perceive the market - ingenious guys are going to keep running down the rabbit whole and frittering away their time on already saturated markets such as membership, Twitter, digital downloads and other plugins that reflect the narrow needs of developers rather than the broader market. It is crazy.
So, now, if WPMUdev are going to be the ones to actually do it, well, bravo to them, they probably don't even realize the extent to which this one plugin is going to transform their (already highly profitable) company. I have some misgivings about their practice of not providing hosted demos, and they are expensive, something like $480 a year if you want ongoing upgrades and support, but, as I say, the rest of the commercial plugin companies have utterly failed to respond to or even notice the demand, revolutions sometimes come from unexpected places.
OK, I guess I have to pipe in here. Understandably, a comprehensive scheduling application is a monstrous undertaking, and there are many developers (not WP developers) who are at least on the curve, if not ahead of it.
We use GF on at least a hundred domains, and we're using CheckFront on a few for booking. It's reliable and feature-rich, but expensive with little front-end customization.
Perhaps the best interim (or even final) solution Team GF, would be to partner with a company like vCita and provide hooks into GF, as Fast Secure Contact Form has.
This way, you can appease the masses who absolutely require this feature, yet remain focused on the forms aspect and the new gig Carl eluded to. See? The best of both worlds - GF, the best form software combined with a really nice scheduling application.
If we're happy, you're happy. Right?
Our problem is not a lack of expensive hosted services.
We are specifically looking for a booking system that will run on our own hosting accounts and servers, just like WordPress, just like Gravity Forms.
Yes, we could choose to sign up to a hosted blogging service, or a hosted forms service, but we choose to run our own blogging software and we choose to install a forms plugin that we have full control over.
Using a hosted service may seem simpler, quicker and easier but the problem is control: you have none. The provider of the hosted service has access to your clients' data, prices can change, performance can deteriorate, design settings that your design depends upon can disappear and, generally, you are at the mercy of whatever moron ends up making decisions for that business - and there are a LOT of morons out there. Think Walking Dead, but with MBAs.
So, please take it as read that anyone following this thread has already considered, and rejected, the many, many hosted services.
Couldn't agree more however, since I haven't found a robust, non-hosted, feature-rich owned software (one that runs on our servers), yet the need remains, at the very least, tying GF into an existing system might make better sense than having no solution at all. Particularly if GF negotiated a member discount (vCita isn't that expensive - at least not yet), if they truly have no roadmap to build such a featureset anytime in the near future.
Yeah, it's certainly true that the add-ons that they have created to hook into third-party services - such as MailChimp, Twilio, Freshbooks, the payment gateways etc - have added a lot of value to Gravity Forms and, so, there is an argument that they could handle bookings that way.
I suspect the argument that the Gravity Forms team would have against producing an add-on to hook into a third-party booking service is that most of those services are pretty bad and, worse, there is no clear leader in the niche, so, it would be hard to decide which one to create the add-on for - pick wrong and you end up with the obligation to provide ongoing support for an add-on that very few Gravity Forms owners actually use.
Of course, all these services could create or commission the creation of an independent Gravity Forms add-on but, if you suggest that to them, you'll find that half will point to their own crappy WordPress plugin (usually little more than an iframe that displays a bit of their website on yours) or they will simply ask "What is WordPress?".
+ 1346 votes for this.
Been trying to come up with something over the last few days that doesn't cost $200+ per year (and actually works).
@ Scott74: What script or plugin have you used on this site? http://814media.com/bookings/make-an-appointment-2/
Also to others, I've tried that horrendously expensive Booking plugin (free version), and it would be great if it weren't so damn costly. The WMPU one looks sooo dodgy; their website CSS is mental (anyone seen their modal layouts when you try to purchase?) and their checkout isn't secure(!). No PayPal I don't think, so they're most likely collecting customers' CC info.
I'm happy to just have a script displayed through an iFrame - for those with more experience, can you suggest anything?
@donnacha -- can I ask what you consider controversial about WPMUDev?
I've just signed up with them on their monthly plan, to see if some of their plugins will suffice for myself and some of my clients.
After what I'd spent this year on products from a different WordPress theme shop, I think mine and my clients' money would have been better serviced by me signing for with WPMUDev for a year instead.
While I'm not donnacha, I'll point out that I'm a bit dubious about them for a variety of reasons. For one, I don't like the fact that they have an unsecured checkout that's being hosted on their own site (not hosted by an external gateway). I'd really like to get their appointments plugin, but I'm worried about: a) my credit card information, and b) whether or not I can actually cancel after one month or if they'll find some exception in their T&Cs that states that there's a 12 month minimum term or something dumb. Judging by their advertising as a whole, this wouldn't surprise me!
@Jamie M - I've tried pretty much every solution out there, some costing far more than $200, cost would not be much of an issue if there was something that actually worked - Web designers everywhere, in every country, are being forced to pass up on potential work because, very simply, we don't have the tool we need to fulfill a common and obvious need.
The problem with the horrendously expensive one is that, like you, all anyone seems to have ever tried is the free version which, with its limited features, works okay ... but ... no-one really knows if the more complex version even exists, there are no real-world businesses using it - for a plugin that has been around for as long as this, that is very, very suspicious.
I would leap gratefully at the chance to pay the $999 per site if I could find any evidence that it works but no-one has been able to get any sort of response from the anonymous owner of that website. The badly written English alone gives you a clue that this might not be a real business, earning real money.
The truth about plugin pricing is that, when a good booking plugin is finally created, the owners will soon realize that they have a hit on their hands and will maximize their earnings by pricing it relatively competitively - for instance, a few people would undoubtedly pay $999 a year for a Gravity Forms Developer license, but about 50x more will pay the $199 they do charge.
The only reason to make a plugin crazily expensive is that you have a product that does not work well enough to survive mainstream scrutiny or it is so buggy that there is no way you could provide support to more than a handful of customers, so, instead, you try to net the occasional rich fool and bet on the likelihood that they won't complain loudly or publicly enough for the next rich fool to notice.
@Summer - WPMUdev are controversial for sure but that has to do with past incidents and the testing of limits that naturally occurs in any new industry, it has no bearing on the value that you may or may not derive from their package today and, as I mentioned, they seem to be the only commercial WordPress company who are switched-on enough to have noticed this huge gap in the market.
Having listened, for years, to WordPress devs of all different ages and nationalities moan about how hard it is to find a niche that allows them to make a living, only to end up running with wild abandon into same narrow cluster of niches that every other WordPress dev runs towards, what I find most controversial is that so few people seem to have any clue at all. If WPMUdev are going to actually provide the tools to serve real-world needs then, seriously, Hallelujah!
@Jamie M - As for any questions about their coding skills, that doesn't really matter. Within a few months of anyone releaseing a usable booking script, the explosion in sites that use it will make it pretty obvious that they are printing money and THAT is the point at which all the other companies, probably including the Gravity Forms guys, will wake up and realize that the train is leaving the station.
Hmm, they do have 12,000+ fans on Facebook. That's actually quite a lot...
That may be, at least partly, thanks to this:
Ok well WPMU finally sorted out their website issues and PayPal is now available. Very unprofessional to see what looked like either a partial or non-existent CSS file being loaded for the checkout!
Anyway I bought Appointments + for US$19 and I'll stop the payment before the end of the month. I've installed the plugin and set up what I need, and honestly it works really well and is very customisable apart from a few shortcomings in the form fields themselves. This is where a Gravity Forms style form builder would come in very very handy. Nevertheless I'm more than capable of modifying the form so all is well.
So yeah - it's pretty good and their support answered my question within two hours.
Hi. I dip in and out of this forum every so often. I am a huge fan of Gravity Forms and employ them on most of my websites.
Like everybody here I am constantly looking for the holy grail of booking plugins. I have actually been using the premium version of Online Booking Calendar for a charity website. See http://www.carersholidays.org.uk/booking/cotswolds/
It was the best solution I could find after a lot of research and testing. It does do the vast majority of what is required. There was an upgrade to the plugin in functions and interface a few months ago. I have to say that I have found the customer service to be very good and responsive. When we had a PayPal issue a few months ago they even undertook liaison with PayPal in UK for me. Their written English is not wonderful but I find that they usually understood any concerns I was raising. The website for this plugin is up: http://wpbookingcalendar.com
If anybody wants to find out more or to see screen grabs of the back end I would be happy to oblige. http://www.123design.co.uk/contact/
I would, however, still like GF to do something in this area as I love their methods and interface.
Thank you SO much, I have been searching for years to find an example in the wild of a site using the premium version of Online Booking Calendar.
It is also intriguing to hear that you have been able to contact them - I suspect what is happening is that they have their email set up to respond to paying customers but ignore everything else because they are overwhelmed with support requests concerning the free version, so, pre-purchase enquiries also get missed. I have written to them about a dozen times over the years.
I find the front-end of your Carers site very interesting (and what a noble purpose, too), I suspect that if you blog about your experience with this plugin on your 123Design site it will result in some serious traffic, linking and, therefore, Google PageRank, because so many people are curious about it but there is almost no independent info out there.
Looking at the implementation on your site, I have a few questions:
I see that it only displays the calendar two months ahead (currently November and December 2012), is that a limitation of the plugin? Or is it only able to show one year at a time and we are currently close to the end of this one? Can it be set to simply show 12 months ahead of the current date?
I see that none of the calendars for any of your site's properties have any status (Available, Provisional or Booked) shown for any day - is the plugin working correctly or is it simply that you do not offer the properties at all during November and December, the only visible months?
I see that the calendars themselves are not clickable but, rather, the user can consult them to work out when the properties are available and, then, enter their required dates into the form below. Upon submission, the user receives a confirmation email and, then, a second email requesting a PayPal payment of £50 - are both these emails entirely automated or does a human have to send the PayPal request? And is the system smart enough to notice when the submitter is requesting dates that are not actually available?
My overall impression is that you could achieve the same thing with Gravity Forms and one of the many simple availability calendar plugins, but I might be missing some important advantage that you are getting.
Yes, I agree, it would marvelous if GF could do something in this area but, frustratingly, I don't think they understand just how small an addition to their current functionality would be enough to break into this entirely new, very big and ridiculously lucrative market. It is just one of life's anomalies.
Hi Donnacha, I have also replied to you personally. Here are my replies to your questions:
•I did have email conversations with them when I was experimenting with the free version but maybe it was because I was clear that I was definitely interested in purchasing for the organisation
•You can display calendars for a few months or years. It is set to 2 months at the moment as the season has ended and new prices have to go up for next season.
•The availability does work but there is no availability at the moment. It will start again February.
•The calendars are clickable.
•The emails are automated for deposits and full payment can be automatically calculated, but a human has to approve the booking and then trigger the request for final payment. Unfortunately, Carers are unable to use the full facilities of the plugin as their pricing structure is so complicated and one price has no correlation with another. You have to have percentage relationships between prices for it all to work. The system works with PayPal Standard, PayPal Pro, Sage Pay and iPay88. Unfortunately, not WorldPay. With PayPal you can do Instant Payment Notification.
•The system will not allow you to book a date and facility that is already booked. There is one problem of booking in and out dates which I am not sure is a problem of the plugin but rather that of the complicated set-up of Carers – they have different start days for different lengths of time.
•The extra usefulness of this plugin is in the back end for administrators – you can see how the bookings are going and you can enter specific notes on the booking or the client. Also, you can print out from the bookings and export to Excel and then sort your info. You will see that Carers ask quite a few questions when people are filling in their form – all this info gets exported to a spreadsheet which is invaluable for their marketing. It is this back-end stuff that I don't believe can be done (at least not by me) in Gravity.
If there are any more questions I can help with I will be very pleased. Thanks also for your suggestion of putting this info on my site. You always tend to denegrate your own knowledge:)
I have finally found a well priced feature rich solution to fill this clear market gap.
At a once off cost of 119 € I think it is reasonably priced. The developer is young, passionate and prompt with support. The customisation options are amazing and I can see how it can easily be used for large hotels, single property rentals ( or just a couple of properties), tours, appointments and a lot more.
By all means, don't take my word for it!
Download the free version and take it for a test drive, and also go and take a look at a site I am currently working on that is using this plugin (not live yet but working exactly as expected).
http://manfield.ssddev.net/bookings/house/ (please don't spam me with a heap of unpaid bookings)
Janice, thanks so much for sharing your detailed analysis with us, that will be useful to so many people.
You clearly have a thorough understanding of their product and the mere fact that, even after having used it so much, you are still happy with it, well, that is a convincing endorsement and, as soon as I have the time, I will make a more determined effort to establish contact with the developer.
Again, thank you - the time you freely gave to share your experience will help so many people who are struggling to solve this problem.
Josh, that sounds wonderful - I did check out an earlier version of EasyReservations and, at that time, it was very far from being a viable option but now, yes, judging by his website he seems to have come a long way, definitely worth trying again.
I note, however, that the €119 you paid is not a one-off price, it only gets you one year of updates - I know this because I was actually about to take a chance and press the Buy Now button when I noticed the one mention of it.
I don't think he is trying to trick anyone but his English is not great and, really, he should be making it clearer because, of course, at that price you would usually just presume it was a one-off license, €119 is an unusually high amount for just one year, especially when there isn't much of a long-term track reputation behind it - even Gravity Forms didn't charge that much at first, and they were a well-known team; the guy behind EasyReservations, Feryaz Beer, doesn't seem to have any other WordPress plugins and I can't find any information about him online.
Your recommendation, though, makes it sound as if it may be well-worth the €119 per year but it definitely takes EasyReservations out of the "impulse buy" category, I will hold off from buying until I can learn more, check to see if there are any negative thoughts about it etc.
Please do let us know how you get on with it, Josh, your website looks great.
Good point on the annual fee for updates... realistically though, I doubt I will ever pay for updates. If the product is solid enough, I'm more than happy to make compatibility changes myself. I have also had several conversations with the dev and I expect the renewal fee will go just as soon as he has a steady flow of new customers (he is trying to earn a living with just this one product after all).
On the flip side and keeping some perspective, the renewal fee is half a nights accommodation in an average booking - and far less that all the booking systems that charge a %.
Will let you know how it all works out.
Oh, for sure, the cost is not that much of an issue if it actually solves the problem, I am just a little battle-scarred at having paid out so much already for solutions that seemed as if they might work out. What I have seen so far, though, is very promising, he has a surprisingly detailed feature-set and I'm going to write to him tomorrow to enquire about the few vital features that seem to be missing.
I agree that a good plugin coder should make a living, I noted from his blog posts that he is struggling financially, I actually want it to be so insanely profitable that he will stick with it for years and be motivated to keep making it better ... BUT ... it is a sad fact that most coders have little understanding of how to use pricing effectively to maximize their overall take, and high pricing ultimately prevents products from gaining the traction they need to become a real business.
For instance, pricing in Euros is an unfortunate oversight when the vast majority of your potential market is more comfortable with dollars. Also, a figure of 99 will get you roughly 4x as many sales as 119 - incredible but widely documented. I would probably test at $99 for one year and a deliberately attractive $180 for a lifetime Developer license, increasing that to $249 when he has established a reputation that makes it less of a gamble.
If he is struggling financially right now, getting more money "up front" from lifetime Developer licenses would be a smart move. He could even massively ramp up early adoption, loyalty and user evangelism by copying Gravity Forms' famous strategy announcing that lifetime licenses would be available at regular price for just one month, after which they would be yearly at exactly the same price or more, with no repeat of that bargain. That tactic certainly catapulted Gravity Forms to the top: by the time that month ended, Gravity Forms had become THE commercial forms plugin.
I am impressed that you have the skills to roll your own security and compatibility updates rather than pay for renewals, although I suspect it will end up being more practical to just pay every year.
Yes, please do keep us updated, I will be testing it quite heavily myself over the next few days. Perhaps, if we do find that it is a good solution, we could ask him to run a special lifetime license offer for Gravity Forms license holders, that would certainly give his finances a nice kickstart.
I would love the ability to take online service reservation in 2 hour windows on my website for my plumbing company. I have had GF for a few years now and I have been looking for a booking solution.
After reading 3 pages of no real solid answers I want to know what would it take to have this made?
I will pay someone to make an add-on to gravity forms that will allow me to take bookings online in gravity forms, and send out a invoice with freshbooks for the appointment fee.
I don't want to own the rights to the add-on, or a % of the resale of the script to others... I just want to use it and pay someone to finally make one that works for my business needs.
Regarding the EasyReservations plugin: it is promising in so many ways but, having tested it very thoroughly, having had a few discussions with the developer and having read all the parts of the forum that are not hidden, I'm sad to report that it does have some notable problems and I'm not convinced that there is a true understanding of how reservations work in a real business.
I worry that you could waste a lot of time building your hopes around this plugin, only to be blocked from being able to do something simple that your customer needs but which the developer does not agree is necessary.
HOWEVER, it is a very complicated plugin - definitely not much about it that is "easy" - and I will keep experimenting to see if I am simply misunderstanding something.
Yeah, this thread is now 3 pages long with no real solid answers ... but that is the whole point! The day that a decent, minimal, well-coded booking solution appears, we can all go home and live happily ever after :)
I have created a plugin (pending approval at wpplugins.com) for creating events in Google Calendar via a Gravity Forms form.
I think, I can fairly easy add the following functionality:
1: Make a booking using the form and GF functionality
2: Check the booking against Google Calendar for availabillity
- If busy: Alert message (admin controlled)
- If available: Create the event/booking in Google Calendar
It is very simple and that is what you have been asking but is it too simple?
@alsc, that would be fantastic if you could tie together Google Calendar + GF. One of the missing elements in GF is this type of robust scheduling/calendar support. I see that as one of the biggest challenges to a booking system. Then you can deal with things like inventory (number of possible booking slots per time period), or even table assignments (for restaurants).
It would be great if you could use Google Calendar data to inform a GF, so for instance certain days that are completely booked wouldn't be available for selection on the GF. Very curious to see the potential results! Thanks.
So not so simple as I started with.
What is the bare minimum for a booking plugin?
Whew... just read this whole thread start to finish.... THAT'S how bad I want a good appointment/reservation plugin. Thank you Donnacha and others for all your time invested in this thread.
I want to note, that IMHO: Appointments, Reservations and Events are all very different things handled best by SEPARATE plugins.
At least in my lexicon:
I'm going to check out easyReservations, unfortunately for hourly reservations I need to buy the premium version which is €119/yr (~US$150). If it really does what I need, that's cheap, but like Donncha I've been burned so many times in this space I'm gun shy.
For GF, I'd LOVE a SIMPLE add-on like Donncha described. Just a simple a way to show an availability calendar (with available times or days) that could be picked from. Bonus if it's a visual calendar and works like Tungle.me did. I'd use it instantly as a replacement for Tungle.me, I'd use it for many of my small private practice type clients...
I have just received approval for the simple connect to google calendar plugin on codecanyon and it can be found here: http://codecanyon.net/item/gravity-forms-connect-to-google-calendar/3598271
interested in the topic, subscribing as well. have developer capability, wondering if there's a business model here..
@lkraav - As an opportunity, booking/reservations is the only remaining truly huge unfilled need in the WordPress landscape.
The business model mistake that most companies seem to make is that they provide yet another SaaS solution, because they fear that distributing their code will result in piracy. That is simply the wrong problem to worry about.
To address this very specific market - providing booking/reservations capability to the army of people running their businesses on WordPress (there are currently 60m WordPress sites, at current growth it will be 100m by mid-2014) - it needs to be a "real" plugin, not a fake plugin that merely frames a service that could disappear over night.
Just to be clear, and it needs to be restated because, even in this thread, people keep bringing up ridiculous service-based booking plugins, no sane developer will EVER risk his reputation on booking code he has no access to, a business he has no control over or transactional pricing that will inevitably rocket. That is a recipe for disaster, distressed clients and hundreds of hours of unpaid fire-fighting work in the future.
Gravity Forms is a good example of why a plugin need to contain the actual functionality - they could have created an online form builder, but that would never have been adopted and evangelized by serious WordPress developers, would never have gained momentum and would not, today, be the dominant player.
I say that piracy is the wrong problem to worry about because, quite simply, in the context of WordPress developer tools, that problem has been solved - the convenience of immediate updates to a continually improving tool that you actively use, on websites you earn money from or have been paid for, always outweighs the cost. Sure, there are ways to work around it, it isn't hard to find pirated versions of popular plugins, but no-one whose time is worth money will continue to do that for long and especially not for serious sites.
Gravity Forms seeded their market by giving early adopters lifetime developer licenses - before becoming firmly established, this great deal compensated for the risk that the developers might be wasting their time learning a plugin that might not be around in a few years. This consideration would apply even more to a booking/reservations plugin.
They then surged sales by letting it be known that this lifetime license would be discontinued within a month. By the time they switched to annual licenses, Gravity Forms had become the forms plugin that "everyone" used.
You say that you have developer capability but, actually, the more important capability is to have at least one person in your company that is smart enough to grasp the need for simplicity and stubborn enough to keep fighting for it. That is not as easy as it sounds, even skilled developers are prone to additive thinking and, if you look at the existing WordPress booking plugins that come close to being usable, such as EasyReservations, they fail because they got lost on the way to that simple goal.
I'm new to GF and have read this thread with interest. I am absolutely EXHAUSTED after spending months looking for some way for clients to schedule appointments on my site.
I finally gave up on looking for something for Wordpress and found this PHP script from StivaSoft:
It's live on my site: http://www.nutsandboltsmedia.com/schedule
The script is $59 and you can get a developer license for $159 - I haven't upgraded to the dev license yet because I wanted to make sure it would work for me. But even the user license is worth it in my opinion. It's very simple:
- Select date
- Select service and/or staff
- Select time
- Fill out form and pay via Paypal or Authorize.net
- Receive email confirmation
I am still dreaming of the day when this kind of functionality is available in Wordpress, and I'm subscribed to this thread in hopes it will happen, but in the meantime this is a decent solution and StivaSoft offers good support. Just thought I'd throw that out there as an option.
Great post, thank you for linking to your implementation of that script and, yes, it is exhausting trying to find well-designed scripts.
For anyone else following this thread, I'll give my analysis of StivaSoft and their products. They are a Bulgarian company with large number of offshore coders, many in Vietnam.
The StivaSoft product model is to take various specialized functions - such as online booking, calendars, directories - and squeeze them into several different, narrowly-niched products, baking in features that limit the situations in which each script can be used - it is as if Gravity Forms was split into several different products i.e. "A Form for Contacting Priests", "A Form for Leaving Website Feedback", "A Form for Ordering Cakes" etc . This is pretty much the opposite of what we are all praying for: a simple, flexible booking engine that we, ourselves, can customize to suit our actual needs in many different situations ... but, at this stage, most of us will accept anything that we can somehow shoehorn into our sites.
The StivaSoft financial model is to capture as many customers as possible by being in as many niches as possible. As nutsandbolts points out, their Appointment Scheduler script is pretty good ... BUT ... I did notice a few things about the company as a whole that set my alarm bells ringing:
1. The pricing is reasonable enough: in the long run, you will probably need the more expensive developer version of the script because you will almost certainly need to make tweaks to the script and the cheaper version is encoded, but a hundred or so dollars is not too bad ... HOWEVER ... as a company, they seem to be heavily geared towards selling their coding services. If you look in their forums, many users request WordPress integration and the answer is generally "We can code that for you, contact us privately for a price quote". Now, I accept that special customization should cost money but my overall impression is that the company is taking advantage of the fact that most people are so desperate for a booking solution that they don't think through what, exactly, their clients will need and end up paying a lot more than the original price on "special" customizations that the company wrote long ago and have already sold to hundreds of customers.
2. I cannot find good examples of their scripts in real-world use; even in the portfolio of client examples of each script, most appear to be broken, abandoned or just look absolutely terrible. Questions in the forum about how to get scripts looking as good as their demos are, again, met with the stock answer "We can code that for you, contact us privately for a price quote". The simple lack of presentable client sites makes me wonder if they ask for so much that no-one ever takes it any further. As it happens, nutsandbolts has the best-looking integration I have seen of that particular script, but other users in the forums seems to be struggling with various issues.
3. If you Google around, you can find a number of searing complaints about StivaSoft's behavior - the general gist seems to be that they are very responsive when you are asking pre-purchase questions and, after purchase, are also prompt to reply but the replies tend to be along the lines of "That is not a feature of this script ... but we can code it for you, contact us for a price quote". Now, bear in mind, every company has haters somewhere online, you cannot believe everything you read, but this does seem to fit with overall impression I got from the forums.
An example of the sort of functionality that, say, a vacation rentals site would need but which might not occur to most designers when they make their original purchase, and which are not included in the basic Vacation Rentals Script, would be:
A) A way to specify DIFFERENT minimum stay lengths for different periods - absolutely essential in the context of vacation rentals: you might be willing to take on the hassle of a one-night stay during an ordinary week, but you don't want to waste your weekend on anything less than a 3-night booking and, for Christmas/New Year, you'll probably want to hold out for bookings of at least one week.
B) A way for property owners to view and edit an availability calendar for each property, allowing them to quickly black out dates that have been booked through a third-party system such as Airbnb. Again, essential.
C) A way to set a base price, a base weekend price (and to specify what days you consider to be weekend) and, then, on top of that, the ability to specify date ranges of any length during which different weekday and weekend prices apply AND, also, an easy calendar interface that allows the owner to enter different prices on a day-by-day basis. Otherwise, your owners will face a nightmare of repetitive data-entry, errors and confusion.
If you are lucky, StivaSoft have this stuff already coded, ready to sell to you as a "special customization". If you are unlucky, these features are beyond their coding abilities and they are, anyway, already making enough money from original sales and easier customizations that they can sell to an endless stream of desperate customers, all of whom will ultimately run up against the same roadblocks and have to abandon the script.
HAVING SAID THAT, the Appointment Scheduler script that nutsandbolts is using does seem to have nailed that very specific use case, I just wouldn't hold my breath waiting for additional features such as Stripe payment integration, and I certainly wouldn't expect them to be cheap.
A better option for that specific use case, although I don't have personal experience of it, might be wpmudev's Appointments+ plugin, which costs $19, is not encoded and can be used on as many sites as you want. As far as I can see, the only minus is that it only accepts payments via PayPal, whereas Appointment Scheduler also has Authorize.net as an option. Judging by their forums, wpmudev aren't particularly good at responding to user feature requests, but I reckon they probably have the edge on StivaSoft and, of course, they are 100% WordPress focused. Oh, and they also say that they are working on a general bookings / reservations plugin.
Worth noting: with StivaSoft, you can start with the cheaper one-site, encoded version of any script and upgrade later to the multiple site, unencoded version, paying only the remaining difference in price. Also, buying one script gets you another of the same value or less for free.
If anyone has used any related plugins - StivaSoft, wpmudev or ANY company - please do share your experiences with us here on this thread.
Thanks for your feedback - I can definitely echo some of your statements now that I've had the script in use for awhile. There are two glaring issues with the script as I'm using it now: (1) The time zone isn't specified, so I have to email each person and ask what time zone they're in, which kind of defeats the purpose. (2) The calendar starts on Monday instead of Sunday and people are constantly choosing the wrong day of the week.
I requested a quote for those changes and nearly passed out. And I'm pretty angry that I have to pay $100 for the developer version to make the changes myself, though it's significantly cheaper than asking them to do it for me.
I tried Appointments+ but it conflicted with my theme and didn't work at all, and (as is usually the case with WPMUdev in my experience) the proposed solution is to change my site to Twenty Eleven or Twenty Twelve. So basically, even though I have a somewhat workable solution right now, I'm still stuck waiting for someone to do this right.
Oh, that's funny, I was just testing Appointments+, out of curiosity, and it does seem to have problems with my theme!
I submitted a few customization queries to StivaSoft myself, to test my racket hypothesis, they haven't replied yet but your experience confirms it: that is an absolutely outrageous upsell, timezone awareness is an obviously necessary feature and as for having a developer do it, nonsense, they clearly would have been asked about this thousands of times, they already have the code and, even if they did not, it would not take more than a few minutes to do. Also, your day of the week suggestion, as someone embedded in the culture that most of their customers come from, that is something they should be thanking you for, not charging you.
Bearing in mind that the per-hour cost of a freelance developer in Bulgaria or Vietnam is $10 - $20, how much did they quote you?
As they seem to be forcing the upgrade, it would be justifiable for you to throw in with a couple of other people from this thread, if they are interested - you've already paid the first $59, perhaps a couple more people might contact you via your website and offer to put $50 each towards the remaining $100. All three of you would also have access to the developer version of another one of their scripts too.
+1 for me too.
I've been looking for this for 7 years now. I needed it for a shared property reservation system and ended up customizing phpEventCalendar http://www.phpcodeworks.com/pec to meet my requirements. It's been working fine but I would love a wordpress solution.
So many plugins have extra features that aren't useful and that just add bloat and render the thing impossible for the client to learn and use.
I'm subscribing in the hope that someone will come up with a decent solution so I can buy it.
Whilst Gravity is busy creating really useful Add-ons such as Quizzes, this just came up on my radar:
It looks promising but no info about the developers and a whois for the website reveals it was registered anonymously by proxy.
Good find GZA, interesting that they beat WPMU to the Bookings+ name, but be wary:
* Slick marketing but no demo - "Schedule Free Full Version demo" ... WTF? ... and that button doesn't actually work!
* Overblown BS such as "have access to our IT team for 7,920 Additional Hours of Support"
* 5 obviously fake reviews on WordPress.org for their free version: http://wordpress.org/support/view/plugin-reviews/bookings-plus
* Fake customer testimonials featured heavily on their website
* The site suggests that it can be used for everything: appointments, rentals and even client billing, doesn't seem technically credible, more a case of covering every marketing angle.
* Big "Made in North America" badge on the site but the guy giving the video demo is obviously Indian - the problem here is not the nationality but the willingness to mislead.
* As GZA points out, zero info about the developer or anything else he might have worked on.
* The domain was registered 2 weeks ago and the identity of the owner is hidden.
* Limitations on the number of sites it can be used on.
* Extremely expensive for a brand new plugin with no track record, that has had no public beta and which comes from an unknown developer.
* The $99 starter price does not include all features, can be used on only one domain and comes with just ONE MONTH of updates. That is insane, a plugin of any complexity will obviously go through a lot of changes early in it's life, anyone paying $99 is essentially going to be left with an unpatched beta.
* "... without any exception we have a NO REFUND policy"
SO, despite our desperation to find a WordPress booking plugin, and despite how cleverly constructed the marketing page is, we should all be extremely cautious before gambling money on this.
GZA, I agree with your sentiment about the Gravity team, it is disappointing that they never really built upon their success with Gravity Forms, but there has been a general failure within the WordPress commercial eco-system to connect with what customers are crying out for and, sadly, that leaves the door open for scammers to prey upon our desperation.
I have now tested the free version of Bookings+ and, despite the name, it is only an appointments plugin and not a good one.
The free features are very basic and the interface is complicated by menu items that lead only to gaudy ads informing you that "This is a premium feature, subscribe now!".
It is clear, looking at the layout and menus, that even the paid version is far less sophisticated than other WordPress Appointments plugins.
I am more familiar with booking plugins but I did happen to do a side-by-side comparison with an established Appointments plugin, costing $19 for unlimited domains, which was miles ahead in every respect: admin interface, features, documentation and the polish of the resulting calendar.
@donnacha - cheers for that! I have to admit the big badge stating the plugin is 'Made in North America' made me suspicious for a couple of reasons, one being it was probably made in Canada ;-)
Not that that's a bad thing, and neither is it a bad thing if the developers are Indian but as you say, there's an intent to mislead.
I've seen a few devs from Eastern Europe countries, usually Romania and Serbia, who are reluctant to state their nationality and hide behind the 'Europe' catchall. It always worries me when people can't be upfront.
Also, if this plugin was Made in North America, Americans are usually not backwards in going forwards in blowing their own trumpets and telling everyone how great they are* (except Canadians who hide behind the 'North America' tag), so I was surprised there's absolutely no info about the developers - who they are and what their track record is etc.
This alone tells me to stay well clear from this plugin!
(* I generalise of course, but it's based on a keen observation over many years on the Internet.)
I can't recall if you all already covered this one, but it's worth another look. They have a working demo, and 8 or so video tutorials. I haven't given it a test run yet but for Appointment Bookings it doesn't look half bad. Would like to see if anyone out there as given this one a go?
@Northfork thank you for that but I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole!
Looks like another anonymous piece of crap with a keyword stuffed URL.
Why can't these people use some imagination and create a proper brand name rather than some generic collection of words for SEO purposes?
That said, I have no doubt the sort of deluded lemmings that buy stuff from AppThemes.com will lap this up for their no-hope websites.
GZA is absolutely right, just another scam, and a particularly devious one: claims to be a 2.0 version when, in fact, there has never been a 1.0 version, this plugin is only 2 months old, while the website and twitter account have only been around since Christmas Day.
What is most worrying about these recent plugins is that their marketing is so well written. We are experienced enough to go through the claimed features and realize that free or far cheaper plugins do more, but one thing I've learnt through client work is that most people are clueless and will be vulnerable to scams as well-constructed as this.
Just to clarify, the plugin itself seems to work but I call this a scam because the website seeks to deceive and charges ridiculous amounts for a limited and unproven plugin: $147 for use on ONE domain and 1 week of email support, $849 for use on 5 domains, and no refunds under any circumstances!
I suspect we might be seeing the beginning of a trend, whereby hardcore marketers are using every selling trick in the book to push hit-and-run plugins that do no more than free or cheaper alternatives and protecting themselves from the inevitable backlash by remaining anonymous.
With a bit of sleuthing, I discovered that this one is being sold by London-based Israeli web design, social media and SEO "expert" Daniel Zairi. His web designs all seem to be Themeforest themes and 2 of his clients' sites that I checked had no meta tags, hilarious.
I just found bookfresh.com and it seems pretty good. I've been using it the last few days and testing it out. I still think Gravity Forms could develop a simple solution that would be better too.
I am hoping that Gravity Forms creates a "booking" or "scheduling" add-on as they would do a great job with it. I would do anything, well almost anything, to get Gravity Forms to create the "booking" add-on. This add-on is ripe for Gravity Forms now. It may even have to be a separate product but I'll do anything to support Gravity Forms to make this happen.
Unfortunately, bookfresh is just another plugin that simply iframes an online subscription service, taking security, privacy, control and costs out of your (and your client's) hands.
As for the chances of a GF booking product, well, it appears that Gravity Charge may finally be released into beta sometime this quarter, with a full release in Q2. We've got to presume that the first few versions of Charge will require a lot of support and fire-fighting, and then they'll presumably need a decent break before embarking on any new projects.
So, the question is whether, towards the end of this year, when they get clear of all that other stuff, they perceive WordPress bookings as a potentially lucrative enough niche to start working on. It might seem obvious to us that it would tie in really well with the work they've already done in forms, in payment systems and, of course, Carl expressed an interest in this thread less than two years ago, but you can never tell what choices people will actually make.
For instance, I was genuinely surprised when they revealed their Gravity Charge plans, the potential is not as obvious to me, so, my hunch is that they're probably not going to target something so obvious as bookings anytime soon, but I'd love to be proved wrong.
@donnacha, I wasn't so surprised about their plans for Gravity Charge because as with a bookings plugin it seems a logical extension on what they've built with Gravity Forms to date.
I'm also not sure that Gravity Charge would simply be just another similar plugin to Pippin's Easy Digital Downloads as my hunch told me it would have a broader remit. I could be wrong and it's hard to guess since it was some time ago when it was first announced.
If I am wrong then I suspect it doesn't matter that they're entering a crowded market as I'm sure they will be adept at leveraging the hell out of the position build with GF ;-)
By the way, what makes you think Gravity Charge will be released in beta in the first quarter?
@GZA - I came across that info in another thread in this forum, you should be able to find it by searching "gravity charge". The poster was not one of the GF guys but he was so specific about the timeframe, I presume he picked it up from a tweet, podcast or some blog, I don't pay enough attention to WordPress chatter these days.
Then again, perhaps he was working from old information, I know that it was originally meant to come out around the beginning of 2012, perhaps I've got my wires crossed.
I, too, have no idea what features Charge will include, I presume the delay has been precisely because there are so many skilled and, now, deeply entrenched competitors in that broad niche, their release has been continually pushed back because they need to come up with something that truly stands out.
I'm not sure that leveraging the position of GF will be enough - yes, they will get a rush of early purchases from existing GF users, particularly if they stick with the plan to offer them a good discount, but that trust only increases the pressure to provide a clear improvement on what is already available or risk tarnishing their overall reputation. I mean, the delay already looks pretty bad and there is very little buzz about it, no obvious demand, they need to really hit it out of the park, I'm not convinced that the niche is lucrative enough to support a slew of roughly equivalent contenders.
I'm just sad that they didn't just go where the big money is, bookings, while it remained uncontested, before Woo and WPMUdev started to mobilize, they could have owned that space in the same way that they own forms, they could have locked it in, and then used that as a strategic base from which to mop up digital downloads and other small niches.
@donnacha, apart from your posts in this thread there's ample evidence that a decent bookings plugin is in great demand and it's right under their noses! Beats me why they haven't tackled this to be honest, and surely they could ringfence a budget and dedicate a couple of people to scope it out, and of course hire you as a consultant ;-)
I wonder if some of the recent fly-by-night chancers in this field are well aware of this thread and trying, painfully, to act upon its content?
Bookings is something I am keeping my eye on but my main concern has been pay to post and have to admit I was going down the wrong path with Gravity and some of the add-ons, along with the idea of wrangling one of the WP membership plugins for this purpose.
Instead, the eureka moment came towards the end of last year when we discovered the wonderful Advanced Custom Fields plugin and Jigoshop! Essentially, combined with ACF we can use a shopping cart to create a very simple pay to list functionality and renewal system ;-)
So, Gravity Forms has become redundant for us except for setting up basic contact forms in our project.
@GZA - For sure, the scammers and chancers are well aware of the demand because, if you think about it, their "job" is to identify and reflect demand. This thread is hidden from the Web, accessible only to registered customers, but I repeatedly come across the same desperate demand throughout the Web, sometimes tied to WordPress, sometimes other CMSes, sometimes just demanding any booking solution at all and, as such, everyone ends up wasting huge amounts of time on scammy "solutions" designed to trap the unwary, the foolish and the impatient.
Sadly, almost the entire software industry is based upon selling "pig in a poke" solutions, while the few genuinely skilled and honest coders tend not to be tuned into customers want or, at least, not past a certain initial level of success and comfort.
With sufficient skills and patience, it is possible to cobble together working solutions, as you did with ACF and Jigoshop, and as an increasing number of people are doing with Toolset, Pods etc. True, Gravity Forms is no longer at the cutting edge but it is financially successful and will remain fondly regarded by many as the first truly polished tool that made it easy for normal folks to do advanced things with WordPress.
A company having both technical genius AND the longterm ability to remain tuned into what their customers really want, and to have the drive to keep advancing into new areas, that is truly rare, that would be a Steve Jobs level phenomenon, and it would be unfair to expect that level of sustained focus from Gravity Forms or any small company.
Just a note as a Gravity Forms fan, and not as an employee, relating to the products growth and change.
When I first used Gravity Forms, back in 2009, it was a tiny plugin that allowed people to create custom data entry forms (basically a slick version of what others were doing at the time with contact form plugins).
Today, there are very few data collection forms that I can't get Gravity Forms to meet my needs for, but that extension at the core of Gravity Forms has come at a cost - longer development cycles. There are more things to test, and major rewrites required to add new features. I am not a programmer, but Gravity Forms core is not tiny at over 3.5MB uncompressed, and even with half a dozen developers, it is difficult to make big changes quickly with that much code to manage.
But at the end of the day, that's the price we pay for having such a large, flexible, easy to use tool at our disposal. */sidetrack*
On topic: I'd love to see an amazing reservations system, and before I started working here, I was hoping to use it for my previous employeer as a facilities booking for internal needs, and ended up having to
write cobble together a basic PHP script myself instead...
I really hope to see something amazing in this space sooner rather than later, but our current company resources are focused on User Registration improvements, Quiz add-on improvements and refinements, PayPal updates, a logging add-on, potential new field types and the upcoming coupons add-on, not to mention core improvements for the start of our big 1.7 release cycle.
@David Peralty - yes, agreed, I did not mean to suggest that Gravity Forms is not still crushing it in their specific niche.
The reason why we users, most of us professional integrators, hoped that they would keep moving forward and expand into bookings is that the GF ethos already comes so close to the simple, minimalistic but extensible approach that would be required to make bookings a functionality we could credibly offer our clients, and we experience the untapped demand for that every day in the form of jobs we have to turn down. It kills us that GF is already so close, and yet so far away.
It is a good thing, in many ways, that the GF guys continue to focus upon improving their core product, which we all benefit from, but I do also believe that most good coders have a blind-spot for opportunities, especially when they are too big and too obvious. Springboarding off the success of Gravity Forms, they have clearly invested a lot of energy, capital and over a year of hard work into their next product, something to do with digital downloads. I am sure it will be excellent, and I do understand the synergies with their existing work on payment gateways etc, but I can't help thinking that is a relatively small and already well-served market. I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of times I have been asked to deliver such a site whereas, with truly flexible booking functionality, I could walk into a 100 different businesses within a square mile of my office and walk out from each with a contract, and that doesn't even begin to touch on all the online projects that would also suddenly become possible.
As I say, however, I don't blame GF for not leaping upon the opportunity, I genuinely understand how hard it is to follow up on a big initial success, and no other major WordPress house has tackled it either. I just hope that hungry, ambitious new coders might come across this thread and realize that, incredibly, the most lucrative and commercially useful niche in WordPress plugins is still wide open, and all they need is the arrogance to believe they can own it and the discipline to not overcook it.
@donnacha, another fine post, mate!
The bookings market is a wide open goal just begging for a 30 yard screamer into the top corner of the net! Left foot or right foot, it doesn't matter ;-)
I don't know why Carl and his team doesn't hire a couple of new devs to focus on scoping and building a solution based on the knowledge GF has amassed over the years.
I'm not even sure if a bookings solution should be an add-on to GF, but a new product entirely.
Just subscribing to this thread.
hello + 1 i looking for that .
I found and buy TDE_AppCalendar : http://www.topdreamweaverextensions.com/appointment-calendar
But i don't know how can integrate it in gravity forms.
two yeaar later wich system do you choose for booking appointment with gravity forms ?
I subscribe to this thread. Thanks
I think that the problem is that it is not so easy to develop. In 2007 I started a booking system for a hotel and because of many things it resulted in a bad product not able for the masses as I would like.
If it was so easy some of us will hired a developer or started the project ourselves (again, in my case...). Someone has asked here for a quote and never has been answered; maybe it is a symptom of the problem.
As a developer, every customer tells me "it so easy, you only need to..." and "make it cheep, coders always have got that magical peace of code in a drawer and copy-paste it is more easy than you try to explain to me". And then, the projects are not what both parts expect and in cases like this, we see a lot of scamers and a very few projects doing things not as well as expected.
So, saying that, I encourage you to do the hard work with the aim that someone with enough skills starts doing something well in benefit of all us.
We all know what a booking system needs and we all know how it should work. But really we all not know anything (trust me! ;D) so, please, start writing everything we need.
Also, write some user cases. This is useful to detect inconsistencies between what the customer asks for and what we need to develop really.
Please, please, please, explain clearly if this is a booking system for hotels, restaurants, for all of them... Maybe it would be for everyone, but we must do the effort to be clear on what we want and what we need, so write your thoughts near each requisite or user case.
Many of us think on a Wordpress plugin, but why not a Drupal plugin, or a custom development? Lets talk about this also.
THE ROAD MAP
Be realistic, what you need first? At the end of the list you can dream -dreams are possible!-.
GPL? A dual licensed code? What would be the best for that project?
THE BUSINESS MODEL
Oh, yes, you should write this also. We need that someone thinks: oh, I can do this and I will start right now!!! So you, real business people, experienced booking-related project managers, tell the world how do you think it would be the best business model (in this forum there are som ideas, maybe we can copy-paste them to start working).
THE MARKETING TIPS
Why not? You talked about crappy SEO-names. Ok, tell us how YOUR PLUGIN should be named ;).
Of course, you can add anything you think that could be interesting for such project.
I've created a Google Drive folder with a doc inside to start talking about this, if you want: http://bit.ly/BookingsSecretProject The folder is not completely public, only those who have got the link can view and edit its contents.
Hopefully do you think that all this is useful ;D.
I believe that if there is a true interest on moving on this kind of project, we will see this here.
If any developer, team or business starts something upon this, please, tell something in that forum or write a comment in the doc so anyone could be in contact with you to ask for information or for give you some help.
PS: please, Gravity-team, allow people to subscribe topics without the need to write a comment :).
Keep in touch!
@eutopia/David, great post, lots of good thoughts, including the Google Drive folder and document.
I do understand that bookings is not a trivial problem to solve ... but ... it is not impossible and, most importantly, the demand for simple booking functionality, abstracted down way to the most basic level, is far, far higher than most developers realize. It is still, after all this time, a huge blindspot for developers, but still potentially the most important functionality that could possibly be added to WordPress.
I working on deadlines and don't have time, right now, to address all of the issues you raised but I strongly believe that anyone serious about tackling this needs to avoid starting in the wrong place: the license, the marketing, the business model, those are all distractions or, at least, issues that should be addressed after the coder actually has a working proof of concept.
The power and apparent simplicity of WordPress attracts a lot of dreamers and I have lost count of the number of people who have emailed me, outlining their impressive marketing and branding plans ... but they always seem to put off the actual booking mechanics until last. As you learnt in 2007, that is the difficult part, and that is why I feel it has to come first before anyone wastes months fiddling around with the other stuff, essentially doing anything except for the most important thing. Procrastination is an epidemic :)
When I have more time, I will share a basic database model which, hopefully, will express the both the necessary complexity and the possible simplicity I have in mind. The goal is extremely basic booking functionality that can be over-layered with more specific use cases of ANY type.
Your point about not restricting ourselves to WordPress, about creating something that could also be used by Drupal etc is very valid and, in fact, I now suspect that WordPress may not end up being part of the equation anyway.
The reason why users, desperate for booking functionality, have gravitated towards WordPress is that they hope the simplicity of WordPress will rub off on the plugin they imagine. All of us have experienced the horror of bookings system bogged down in unnecessary crap, with clumsy interpretations of specific use-cases hard-coded in. The hope is that an entrepreneurial WordPress coder, seeing the massive demand, would be inspired to follow the WordPress spirit and create a truly minimal plugin.
Personally, after expecting it for so many years, I have come to the sad realisation that WordPress is highly unlikely to be the platform upon which the bookings revolution will happen. The main reason is that the type of programmer attracted to WordPress is not the type of programmer who is attracted to truly ambitious projects, regardless of how obviously profitable the opportunity might be. It is a mostly psychological rather than technological issue.