At Uncanny Owl, our team works hard to understand what people are doing with Automator…
Making a business website usually means having a lot of moving parts work together. Just think of some of the things that your site would need to support your business. You’d need the ability to create accounts, provide a shopping cart for purchases, a way to add people to a mailing list, forms for contacting you, and more.
The beauty of creating your site with WordPress is that it’s open and flexible. You can add all of these little features, and with its thousands of plugins, there’s almost a product for every need. You want everything to be seamless on the site though and to give users a consistent and cohesive experience, and to do that you need to make sure all of the pieces on your site work together. Let’s take a look at how this might work on a website for a photography business.
For starters, you’ll want an image gallery for your photos. Then, it would be super to have a blog, so you can share the stories behind the photographs and give free tips. What about a contact form? People need to reach you, so there must be a form that can take submissions and notify you. How about an events calendar to schedule your exhibitions? Next thing you know, your customers are asking you for a newsletter and want you to have a forum for discussions. Eventually, you decide to sell your photography through your site and even offer online photography courses.
As you can see, as your business expands so does your website. Your site evolved from one component (the image gallery) to a total of seven. Luckily, WordPress has multiple plugins for all of these components, so it’s easy to drop them in and start using them! At the time of writing, there are over 55,000 WordPress public plugins (and many more private, paid plugins) available to help you customise and extend your website.
WordPress has plugins for:
- Image galleries.
- Contact forms.
- Events calendars.
- Newsletter subscriptions.
- Online forums.
- Learning management systems (LMS).
Now the question is, can all these plugins work together in a seamless and automated way? Can they send data to other sites, so you can manage your mailing list in a CRM and order details in your favourite accounting software? That’s where automation tools like Uncanny Automator and Zapier can help. They both excel at integrating applications and automating repetitive and tedious tasks.
In this article, we’ll cover how Automator and Zapier are different. The more you understand about the differences, the better you can leverage their respective strengths to make your life easier.
The key differences
The biggest key difference is that Uncanny Automator runs inside WordPress and connects plugins together (and to external sites and apps). Zapier is a cloud application, managed and hosted by a third party, that connects more than 2,000 apps together.
Think of it (Uncanny Automator) like Zapier but specifically for WordPress plugins. —The Events Calendar
Here’s a list of key advantages that Automator has over Zapier:
- Automator specialises in integrating WordPress plugins. At the time of writing, Uncanny Automator Pro integrates with 26 WordPress plugins (some of them with support for dozens of triggers and actions). Zapier integrates with eleven (and in very different ways). See the comparison table below.
- You have control of your data. Automator isn’t a software as a service (SAAS). It doesn’t need to store your data externally in the cloud, your data doesn’t need to be sent to another country, and it isn’t stored with third-party vendors as Zapier does. We’ll dive into this more in a bit.
- You can create multi-step recipes with Automator’s free plugin. You can have one or more actions using any version of Uncanny Automator. Multi-step Zaps are available only in Zapier’s paid plans.
- There’s support for multiple triggers in one recipe. In real life, any number of events can trigger an action. Automator has had built-in support for more than one trigger since the beginning. With Zapier, you can have only one trigger in each Zap.
- There’s a lot less logging in to do. With Automator, once you log into your /wp-admin/ dashboard, there’s no need to log in to anything else every time you want to integrate two plugins together. Not so with Zapier. For security reasons, you’ll need to authenticate yourself with Zapier first, then again for every app you integrate with. This is a necessary evil with Zapier, but it gets old real fast.
- Automator has native access to WordPress APIs, hooks and functions. Unlike Zapier, Automator does not email temporary plain-text passwords into the wild when you add a new WordPress user. Nor do you have to integrate with a third-party app like Gmail just so you can send customised email notifications from your own email address.
- You can have as many recipes as you want and run them as many times as you need to. Both Automator and Zapier unlock premium integrations with their paid tiers. Zapier imposes limitations on how many Zaps you have and how many tasks you run for each pricing plan. Automator does not limit how many recipes you create and how many times you run them. You can run millions of automations each month, all triggered instantly, with even the free version of Automator.
- Automator integrates with Zapier. You can have ultimate flexibility by combining both products; Automator supports Zapier triggers and actions. This means that you can continue using Zapier, as you already do, but with all the benefits of Automator via trigger plugin integrations and more complex recipes. This opens up the possibility of having your plugins talk to thousands of apps through Uncanny Automator’s Zapier integration.
Note that the chart above covers native integrations, not integrations via additional add-ons.
Choosing the right tool for the job
Having thousands of integrations may sound great. But, it’s more important to have the actions and triggers you need to run your business.
Using our photography site example, here’s a real-world scenario to illustrate this.
A webinar event scenario
We want to send out an Events Calendar invitation for an upcoming photo editing webinar to anyone who:
- Purchases one of your images from your Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) store.
- Visits your A beginner’s guide to photo editing blog post.
- Clicks on a link in your newsletter that features photo editing.
You might have noticed that this is a multi-trigger recipe or workflow. We already mentioned that Zapier can’t do more than one trigger in a single Zap. Furthermore, Zapier doesn’t integrate with the Events Calendar and EDD plugins.
So, Automator is the logical (and only) choice here unless you want to write a lot of integration code.
Now, let’s take care of your webinar participants after the webinar is over. When the webinar is over, we want to:
- Create a webinar survey form using your Forminator plugin.
- Email the participants the survey link on your site.
Let’s say you used Zoom for your webinar, and you’d like to send a follow-up email the day after the webinar. Here’s where you can get Zapier to help. You can create a delayed Zap to email the survey link.
Why don’t we give special attention to the participants who filled out the survey? Zapier doesn’t support Forminator. That means you’ll need Automator to reward your survey submitters.
The icing on the cake
Using Automator, when a participant completes your Forminator survey, you can:
- Gift the participants a photography class from your WP Courseware course catalogue.
- Subscribe the participants to your BuddyPress photography group forum.
- Send a welcome email to the participants with instructions for creating their account and logging in.
Again, Automator has the advantage here. Uncanny Automator supports WP Courseware and BuddyPress. Zapier does not. If you’re running Uncanny Automator Pro, you can simply make a recipe with a Forminator trigger that:
- Creates a WordPress account for the participant.
- Enrols the participant into your WP Courseware course.
- Subscribes the participant into your BuddyPress photography forum.
- Sends a custom confirmation email with logging in information.
We cover this type of workflow in more detail in our Connect multiple WordPress sites together blog post.
Before moving on, here’s a quick word on using Zapier’s new built-in emails. Just because Zapier can now natively support emails doesn’t mean you should use them for your public-facing emails. Unfortunately, the Zapier email system screams system-generated (i.e., the dreaded no-reply) emails!
Automator uses the WordPress admin email address as the default sender. With only a point and click, we can add the recipient’s name and a reset password link to an Automator email notification.
There were over 4 billion reported data records breached in 2019. That’s more than a 50% increase from 2018. Last year, the Capital One breach alone exposed 106,000,000 financial records because of an unsecured Amazon cloud S3 bucket.
Zapier uses S3 buckets on Amazon’s AWS servers. According to their privacy statement, Zapier can keep your data for several months or as long as the data needed. For sites that want to keep their user data restricted to other companies, this is another big concern.
Using Zaps means you’re exchanging your data between Zapier and the third-party applications that your workflow integrates with. This kind of data exchange is affectionately called “phoning home”.
Automator recipes, on the other hand, don’t need to phone home because they’re already there. All your plugins, including Uncanny Automator, are installed and activated on your WordPress site.
Data is shared internally—there’s no need to go outside with Automator. Unless of course, your recipe uses Zapier or webhooks to connect with external apps.
That’s a lot to take in. Let’s summarise the important takeaway points:
- Uncanny Automator specializes in connecting WordPress plugins together and to other platforms (including other WordPress sites as well as non-WordPress apps).
- Zapier excels in providing B2B app integrations but has limited WordPress plugin support.
- Automator does not need to share your data with any third-party vendors.
- Zapier needs to store your data with a third party for your Zaps to work.
- Automator does not limit how many recipes you can create or how many times you can run them; there’s no cost per automation either.
- Zapier limits how many Zaps you can have, how many tasks you can run, and how long it takes to update your data depending on the pricing plan you have.
- Automator has direct access to WordPress data and native plugin support.
- Zapier supports delayed and conditional Zaps. Automator does not yet support conditions or delays (except via the WP Fusion integrations).
- Uncanny Automator supports integration with Zapier—extending your website’s ability to exchange data with thousands of apps outside of WordPress.
Which is better, Automator or Zapier? That depends on your needs.
When it comes to automating your workflow for your WordPress website, Uncanny Automator offers direct access to many popular WordPress plugins. Going outside of your site by using Zapier to integrate two plugins installed on your site wouldn’t be as efficient if you just need to connect things inside WordPress.
Zapier offers far more integrations, and the support for conditions and delays is compelling. For some simple recipes and use cases, using Zapier alone may be the best solution.
At the end of the day, however, there is no need to choose between the two products. Uncanny Automator integrates seamlessly with Zapier, allowing the best of both worlds and support for dozens of WordPress plugins and thousands of non-WordPress apps.