Do not be misled by its name, this plugin is not designed exclusively for hair salons. There is no branding in the booking forms so it can be used for shops, contractors, tutors, and more.
Salon Booking System has a lot of great features such as:
- An option to set holiday rules so that customers know when you cannot take appointments
- A customer review system that allows customers to publicly give feedback and ratings
- Payments via PayPal or Stripe
- Integration with Google Calendar
- Notifications and reminders via SMS and email
- Options to add services and assistants
- A timetable that advises customers when appointments are available
In this article, I would like to show you what Salon Booking System can do.
Familiarising Yourself with Salon Booking System
Booking WordPress plugins can be a little daunting when you first activate them as there are a lot of settings to modify and custom post types to check. It is therefore advisable to spend a little time after activating the plugin to familiarise yourself with how the plugin works.
Thankfully, the developers of Salon Booking System understand this.
Once you have activated the plugin you will see a message that explains that a new menu has been added to your WordPress admin menu. The plugin also creates three new pages for you (“Booking”, “Booking My Account” and “Thank You”) and adds some demo data to help you see how everything works.
The admin menu contains seven items: Calendar, Bookings, Services, Assistants, Customers, Settings, and Tools.
The calendar highlights the status of any bookings. Statuses include pending, paid or confirmed, pay later, or cancelled.
The page looks great and will help you schedule future bookings. At the top you will see options to change the calendar to day, week, month. or year.
Bookings contain information such as time of appointment, payment status, customer information, attendant being used, and services that were purchased. Other fields include duration, amount, and deposit.
Customers can add a personal message when making bookings and administrators can add additional private notes.
The services post type allows you to detail each service your business offers. You can define the price, units per hour, duration, the days and times in which the service is available, and a description of the service.
In the booking form, customers can select from all the services you offer. These services can be placed into categories if you wish.
The assistant post type is very similar to the services post type. You can use it to list the staff who work for you. You can, of course, list yourself as an assistant too.
You can define the assistant's email, phone number, services offered, and the days and times they work. A description can also be added.
I liked the way the plugin is set up. In particular, I like the fact that you can customise staff profiles and explain what they offer and when they work.
What I would like to see in a future version of the plugin is a basic user role system that allows staff (assistants) to check what bookings they have and what customers that are booked in. It would have to be set up so that staff cannot modify bookings, only view them. The plugin does support Google Calendar so staff members could view bookings on Google Calendar, but it would be great if there was an option for everything to be handled by the plugin.
Configuring Salon Booking System
The settings area is divided into six sections: Home, General, Booking Rules, Payments, Google Calendar, and Support.
At the right-hand side of the page there is a floating menu that lets you update settings and three quick links to manage bookings, check calendar, and check active assistants. You need to click on the tools link to see these three quick links.
Links to post types like Calendar, Bookings, Services, and Assistants, can be viewed at the top of each page.
The home tab displays an option to reset all settings to their default values. The support tab simply advises users to post support issues at WordPress.org and for pro customers to email them directly for priority support.
In the general settings area you can enter information about your “Salon”. I hope that the developers will rewrite descriptions like this in the future to be more general. This plugin can be used for any type of bookings, so it seems silly to still have references to salons within the plugin.
There are options to allow customers to choose their own assistants if they wish and to email assistants once they have a new booking. SMS and email notification values have to be defined on this page.
At the top of the booking rules area you will see an option to choose basis or advanced availability modes. Basic only checks the booking date while advanced also checks the booking duration.
You can define the number of customers per session, session average duration, time between bookings, and booking time range. You can set the days and times your business operates, and when you are on holiday.
The booking confirmation and thank you pages can also be defined. You can also set how long before a booking a reservation can be cancelled.
The payments settings area has some cool features such as hiding pricing, a pay later option, and an option for customers to pay a deposit when they make a booking.
Payments can be accepted via PayPal or Stripe and you can define the payment currency.
Reservations can be synced with Google Calendar. It's a great addition to the plugin as Google Calendar has a great permission system. It can also be easily viewed across platforms and devices. This allows you to always check your bookings on the go and get notifications of any changes to the calendar.
In the tools page there is a debug box to help developers resolve any problems with the plugin and an option to import settings from another installation. I did not, however, see anywhere where I could export settings.
There is a lot of options on offer, but you will not be overwhelmed as the interface is clean and each option is explained well.
Beautiful Appointment Forms
One of the best selling points about the plugin is its stylish booking forms. They look very professional.
I encourage you to check out their demo to see the booking form in action.
Customers are taken through several steps to finalise the services they want and the day and time they want to make a booking.
Users can create an account during the booking process.
I really love the styling of the forms, but there are a few things that could be improved.
The first thing I noticed was that shortcodes are not being conveniently displayed anywhere. They are not displayed in the settings area or available from the visual editor. I could not see any information about the shortcodes at WordPress.org or on the official Salon Booking System sales page.
The plugin adds the necessary shortcodes to the booking form page, account page, and thank you pages, that are added when the plugin is activated. However, if you were to delete these pages you would not know how to add forms back to your website.
I hope they address this in a future version and add a page that details the shortcodes that are available for forms. To their credit, the developers do have a series of video tutorials that show you how to use the plugin, so they are proactive when it comes to plugin documentation.
Another small thing that needs clarified is in the customer information part of the form. The form states that the customer can checkout as a guest but then notes that an account will be created. If an account is created during the booking process, then they are not signing in as a guest; they are creating a new account.
This may seem like I am nitpicking bringing this issue up, but it highlights the bigger problem that forms cannot be customised. As I noted previously, I love the default design of the forms that are provided, however I think it is important for there to be an option to style forms and customise forms so that users can incorporate them into their websites better.
With regards to styling, a basic CSS box would be a start, however a colour picker and a templating system would be perfect. It would help users style forms in any way they wish. It would also help users modify field names and descriptions and allow them to define what fields are displayed and in what order.
Salon Booking System Pro
Salon Booking System is 100% free to use. The only restriction with the basic version is a limit of thirty reservations. If your business needs to manage that thirty bookings, you should upgrade to the pro version of the plugin. Upgrading to the pro version will also grant you priority email support.
A single license retails at €69, a five website license retails at €149, and an unlimited license retails at €229.
This is not the real price of the product as by simply sharing their page will give you a 20% discount and bring prices down to €55.20, €119.20, and €183.20, respectively.
Salon Booking System is a feature packed booking and appointment system that I am sure contractors and small businesses will love.
I really loved the number of options that were on offer and the default booking form that is provided looks great. I would, however, like to see more customisation options available for the booking forms so that users can style and modify forms a little better.
I also hope the developers remove the salon branding. Salon Booking System is a versatile WordPress plugin that can be used for many different types of businesses, so I believe they are shooting themselves in the foot by marketing the product specifically to hair salons. Perhaps a rebrand is on the horizon :)
If you would like to know more about the plugin, I encourage you to download the plugin from WordPress.org and try it yourself. The free version has all the features of the pro version so I recommend giving it a try if you are looking for a booking solution for your business.
Thanks for reading.