Plugin Email and Notifications

Participants Database communicates with users and administrators via email. Emails sent to administrators are generally called “notifications”. Each type of email may be enabled or disabled as well as configured individually.

User Emails

There are two kinds of emails the plugin send to users: the signup response and the private link recovery email.

For all user emails, there must be one field in the record that is used to provide the user’s email address. This comes pre-defined in the plugin as the field named “email”, but you can configure any field in that role with the “Primary Email Address Field” setting under the advanced tab.

The Signup Response Email is configured in the plugin settings under the “signup form” tab. You can set the subject, message, “from” email address and name. In most cases, the “from” email address will be from the same domain as your WordPress site.

The Lost Private Link Email is sent to users if they request it using the “resend private link” link shown on the signup form. A “private link” is a coded URL that allows the user to edit their own record. The Quick Setup Guide explains how this works and how to set that up.

Administrator Emails

Notification emails may be optionally sent when a user submits a signup form, when a user uses their private link to edit their record, and when a user requests their private link be resent.

The Signup Notification Email is configured under the “signup form” tab. You can configure the email subject body and recipients here. The “Signup Notification Recipients” is a comma-separated list of email addresses that are used for all admin email notifications, including signups, record edits and private link requests.

The Record Update Notification Email is configured under the “Record Form” tab and is sent whenever a user updates their record on the frontend. Record updates performed in the backend or admin section do not trigger an email notification.

The Lost Private Link Notification Email is sent to administrators when a private link is requested by a user, and is configured under the “Resend Link Settings” tab.

Email Templates

All email subject lines and body text may contain placeholder tags that will be filled in with data from the record so that specific information can be included in the email. A placeholder tag is constructed by enclosing the name (not title) of a form field in brackets. This is demonstrated in the plugin default settings.

There are several additional tags you can use:

  • [record_link] provides the URL of the user’s record for editing. It includes the coded private ID of the record.
  • [admin_record_link] provides a direct link to the record edit page in the admin. This is convenient to administrators who need to approve new entries: they can just click on that link, see the new entry and click the approval checkbox if it looks good.
  • [date] prints the date of the submission, using the global date format set in the general settings.
  • [time] prints the time of the submission. The timezone and formatting will be as configured in the general settings.

Solving Email Problems

I got a lot of requests for support having to do with emails not getting received. It can be a bit complicated figuring out what’s going on, so I have created a Email Troubleshooting Flowchart to help clarify the issues and provide possible fixes.

The most important thing you can do when encountering problems with email functionality is to test the email functions yourself. This is because the most common problems with email have to do with deliverability: something in the configuration or content of the sent email triggers a spam filter that prevents it from ending up in the recipient’s inbox.

Other Email Plugins

Participants Database uses the standard WordPress method for sending emails, which means that other plugins can alter how this works. This is usually a good thing by providing new features, but it can result in emails not getting sent if there is an incompatibility.

I do recommend the use of an SMTP Email plugin, this provides a more user-controllable method for sending email, and in some cases is the only method that will work. Such plugins are also good for sending a test email, which is important to verify that the WordPress application can send email.