In this article we're going to be reviewing Meta Box, a powerful custom fields plugin for WordPress. Incorporating custom fields in WordPress is the best way to extend the functionality of the CMS, adding additional features, editability, and ease-of-use. You can use PHP to add custom fields, but there are many popular plugins that make it easy to build complex backend field set ups. MetaBox is one of them, and in this article we are going to review this plugin.
This tool is offered as a free core plugin with premium add-ons. It has over half 1 million active installations, dozens of five star reviews, and a ton of happy users. Recently, the company offered their product as a lifetime deal on the popular Appsumo marketplace, giving them a lot more capital to work with, as well as a larger user base because of this.
Because of this recent growth, many other WordPress Plugins are taking notice of this powerful custom fields solution for WordPress, and adding native integrations. Some plugins that natively work with Metabox include Oxygen Builder and WSForm.
Before we get into the review on pricing, features, and functionality of MetaBox.io itself, let’s talk a bit more about custom fields in WordPress.
Adding custom fields is the best way to create a customized, professional website. Fields display on the backend, and and users can add various information to them. This information is then saved to the database, and can be queried on the front end.
The types of custom fields that could be added to a WordPress website or wide ranging, and cover everything from numbers to email addresses to URLs to text input. Metabox, and custom fields in general, make it easy to build out complex websites such as a directories, client editable pages, booking sites, and more.
Metabox gives WordPress creators an easy way to generate meta boxes and custom fields in WordPress. Instead of having to write painstaking PHP code to add these fields, you can now use a well-designed graphical user interface offered by Meta Box. Where this plugin shines is it’s large collection of premium add-ons. These extend the core functionality by a lot, and enable you to create some really incredible things.
At its heart, the free plugin gives you the ability to add 40+ custom field types, extend functionality with APIs and hooks, and customize additional types of data such as posts, settings pages, and more. The cord plugin is free, powerful, and intended for developers. However, if you don’t like coding, or need additional features, there are dozens of extensions that make light work of custom fields and even front end display of information.
The remainder of this article is going to discuss this the AIO (all in one) version of this plugin – a paid option that gives you access to all extensions at once.
Note: Not all the add-ons or extensions are paid. There are a couple of free extensions such as the custom post types and custom taxonomies, integration with Yost SEO, Rest API, and support for Beaver Builder/Beaver Themer.
The main thing that we use this plugin to do is to create custom field groups and assign them to specific types of content. For example, we could generate a new custom post type called staff. This staff post table contain information relating to individuals working for a company. The core custom post type that WordPress has to offer only has a title and content. We want to create additional custom fields to capture and then display phone numbers, emails, credentials, and more.
That’s where Metabox comes in. We can create a new group of fields, and assign it to the staff post to type. Then, we can use the user interface to create several fields that information will be added to. For example, let’s add an email, phone number, and general text input field.
When creating the individual fields, we can give it a label, description, default value, ID, and additional things such as how it will display on the backend editor. The end goal here is to make a website as editable as possible, and all our clients will need to do is enter information into the backend under a familiar field input.
When using some of the premium extensions, this becomes even more flexible. We can create fields that group, repeat, and collapse. By creating fields that can be repeated, we can create a general data structure, and then the client can input as much or as little information as they want. Once they fill up one instance of the field, they can create another, and add information to that one too.
On the backend, we can make it even easier for people to add information by utilizing the conditional logic that comes with the Conditional Logic Metabox Extension (or AIO license). For example, we can dictate that a group of fields do not display until an individual radio button is checked off. This cleans up the backend, and hides fields until they are needed.
There are dozens of structural options that come with several extensions or the all in one purchase. For example, we can utilize tabs, columns, and more.
In keeping with 2021, there is strong support for popular page builder such as Oxygen, Elementor, and even Gutenberg.
Other extensions will give you access to by directional relationships, adding data to a customer database table, a settings page, front and submission, and the conditional logic that we already discussed.
This plugin is incredibly lightweight, and you don’t need to have all the extensions enabled on your website at once. That means you can only install what you need to be using, and you can even export fields as PHP and incorporate them on your website by using the functions.php file – allowing you to completely remove the plugin after using.
We typically discuss the pricing of a plugin at the end of our review, but we wanted to include this here because Metabox operates on a unique pricing strategy. It’s not just the money, but more the features that you’ll have access to with these different plans. There’s a lot of flexibility here, so let’s jump right in.
As mentioned, the core of this plugin is completely free to use. However, it’s intended more for developers and may be difficult for beginners to get a grasp of. The free plugin is more of a framework that developers can use to make adding custom fields to a WordPress website easier. If you’re a beginner, you can use the online generator to create custom meta boxes for WordPress in a few clicks.
This gives you an interface to visually create the field group, and then export the PHP. With the free plugin installed on your website, you would add a PHP with a code snippet manager (or to the functions.php), and you’ll be good to go.
However, with this, you still need to use PHP to add the saved data to the front end of a website. It’s also difficult to edit the structure of your field group, as there is no backend builder for these custom fields.
With the free version, you’d add the data from a custom field to the frontend of a template by using the following php:
As WordPress plugins go, this is a huge amount of functionality for developers in a free package. However, if you want a more user-friendly experience, additional features, and a better offer and overall, you’ll need to pay for premium extensions or the all in one purchase.
This plugin is intended to push you to get these extensions, and in our opinion they are well worth your money.
The pricing structures in unique here in that you can opt for a single license that bundles many of these extensions together, or purchase individual extensions as you need them. There are tons of free extensions offered by Metabox themselves, as well as third party developers (these are typically integrations for other products, coded by their specific teams).
Pricing varies for the paid extensions, but most cost $49 for use and unlimited sites with one year of updates and support.
This could be cost-effective if you have a specific project that needs a specific functionality. But, we expect most users to be drawn towards the bundle.
The bundle follows the traditional WordPress pricing model of three individual tiers. The first tier is called the core bundle which comes in at $99 for one year of updates and one year support. It gives you access to 12 pro extensions, and composer support.
The mid tier plan comes in at $199 gives you access to all pro extensions, all future pro extensions, the all in one plugin, and one year of updates and support. The all-in-one plugin is a single installation that gives you access to all extensions at once. This is opposed to installing the core free version of Metabox, and then the various premium extensions that you need.
The final plan is essentially the same as the developers bundle, but is a LTD. What this means is that you get access to everything that the company has to offer now, and in the future, for the lifetime of the product. You get lifetime updates, lifetime support and usage on unlimited websites.
This is pricey, coming in at $499, but if you see yourself using this tool to create client websites for the next several years, then it is a very worthwhile investment. This is the only custom forms solution out there that offers an LTD, and is the most robust solution on the market in 2021.
We already covered many of the features that meta box extensions will add to the product in the first section of this review. Now, we want to profile some integrations and powerful extensions in depth. Hopefully, this should give you a good understanding of the power that this product will offer you as a WordPress creator.
There’s a deep and native integration with Beaver Builder/Beaver Themer. If you are using this page builder to create websites for clients, this native integration makes it very easy for you to populate front end pages with backend data saved in Meta Box custom fields.
MB Custom Table allows you to save data to a custom table with in your WordPress database, instead of the default post/user/term metatable. Because you have a custom table for this data, large website will have no performance detriment from using custom fields. If you don’t have a custom table and a ton of data, the post database will become incredibly bloated, and could lead to a slower WordPress website.
Currently, there are no other custom field plugins on the market that offer this as a native functionality.
If you’re looking to future prove your WordPress website, deep integration with Gutenberg is a must for any plugin solution you’re looking to purchase, especially if you’re going after the LTD.
MB Blocks is an incredibly powerful way to create custom Gutenberg blocks with PHP. All you need is standard PHP knowledge, WordPress, and Metabox (with the MB Blocks extension). You can rapidly create custom Gutenberg blocks with custom fields, that 100% integrate into the Gutenberg builder.
Like Beaver Builder, There’s also support for Elementor. Because this works seamlessly with the page builder, you can now create relatively complex websites using Elementor to generate your front end pages, posts, and templates.
This is a unique solution that allows you to easily display custom data from custom fields on the front end of your WordPress website. You can build entire website with this tool. A view is essentially a template, and you can create new ones, as well as edit existing ones even if they don’t have Metabox fields associated with them.
This essentially replaces the need for a theme in WordPress.
With the release of Oxygen Builder 3.9, the Oxygen team has added native support Metabox. This is an incredibly welcome move from the community, especially because many own lifetime licenses for the Metabox plugin. Now, with native integration, we no longer need to use PHP code to display information on the front end.
This is quickly growing to be one of the most popular custom field plugins for WordPress. Because of that, many popular plugins, page builders, themes, and other frameworks are beginning to offer native support for Metabox.
For example, WSForm recently revealed their integration – it will automatically generate input fields for a front end form from all the custom fields in a Metabox group.
With any powerful and popular WordPress plugin, support and documentation needs to be 100%. If you don’t understand how to use a tool, it has no value. Luckily, with Metabox, developers, support team, and public documentation is very high-quality.
There is an active Facebook group where problems are resolved relatively quickly, as well as an official support channel. We’ve never had to use the official support channel, but have asked few questions in the Facebook group and work quickly responded to by the founder of the company.
The development team actively produces tutorials and documentation designed to answer questions that arise in this Facebook group. The documentation is well written, easy to understand, and contains helpful examples and videos showing you how to incorporate Fields into both the back end and the front end of your website.
The developers are also happy to take any user suggestions on features to add and incorporate them in future releases of the plugin, as well as collaborate with other developers of other solutions to create integrations.
The main competitor to Metabox is ACF Pro. ACF Pro Is a high-quality plugin that adds custom fields just as Metabox does. It’s a bit more popular, and was recently acquired by Delicious Brains (some loved that, some hated it).
We will soon be publishing a complete, in-depth comparison between MetaBox.io and ACF.
As an agency, we have used both solutions. Metabox has more of a learning curve, but is a much more powerful solution, and the only one offering a LTD. As we work only with Oxygen, v3.9 brings with it a native integration with Meta box (they already had one for ACF), so we will be using this plugin as our go to custom fields solution now.
Something that sets this apart from its competitor is the native support for custom database tables, native support for bidirectional relationships, and overall more powerful collection of fields with a cleaner and easier to use interface.
What’s pretty awesome about this tool is that it is really easy to migrate from ACF to Metabox as there is an automatic tool that will do it for you.
Pricing for Metabox is also more appealing than ACF if you’re looking to create more than one website. As a refresher, you get 12 popular extensions with use an unlimited websites for $99 per year. You get all the popular extensions for years unlimited websites for $199 per year. There’s also the LTD.
ACF might be appealing if you only have one website. That license cost $49 per year, but can only be used on one website. Seeing as Metabox Extensions typically cost this, if you have a specific use case Metabox may still come out on top for a single site.
This is a very powerful solution for WordPress creators. With the proper extensions, you can even create complete WordPress sites with custom Gutenberg blocks, custom templates, and more.
Our agency has increasingly use this tool in many of our WordPress projects to create relatively complex websites that are easy for clients to edit in the backend. We expect to completely switch over to using the LTD AIO version of this plugin now that Oxygen supports it.
We definitely think that this tool is worth it. If you compare it with ACF, it’s closest competition, it offers more features at a lower price. It also offers a lifetime deal version, meaning that you only need to pay once, and have access for life.
What are your thoughts on this plugin? Do you have any tips or tricks? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
IsoGroup- Web Dev/Design, WordPress and More