Using WordPress As a Membership Site – Plugin Reviews

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Update: Some of these plugins have been updated since I wrote this but WishList is still at the top of my list. However, I’ll be revising this review before too long to update the others.

If you have an interest in starting a membership based website and don’t know where to begin the options can be daunting. I’ve been tasked with this a couple of times researched the options pretty thoroughly. All of the following options have one dependency, WordPress is the platform. Beyond that I was looking for flexibility, extensibility, a robust feature set and overall ease of use. While there are more options than what I’ve listed here, these were the WordPress membership plugins which kept coming to my attention and would likely come to yours while doing a search. If you know of more and have experience with them let us know in the comments.wishlist-wordpress-membership-plugin

#1. WishList Member: While a little pricey A total steal at $97 and definitely the best of breed among the reviewed plugins and if you are running a serious membership site it’s well worth the price. Additional features included strong member management, highly flexible membership levels, an import tool with template and broadcast e-mail/newsletter features. If you want all the bells and whistles fully integrated into your WordPress install this is the plugin for you. SPLURGE!

#2. WP-Member: Ssecond at $44.99 (converted from Euros circa 2009) this plugin has a great feature set, good member management and protection for digital downloads which can be valuable if you are trying to protect downloads like whitepapers, WordPress themes or other downloadable content. Excellent buy at that price. If you don’t need/want the email integration and import tool or if digital downloads are a big thing for your site this is a good choice. GOOD BUY

#3. Memberwing: Very good plugin but a little less robust and usage is less intuitive than those mentioned above. Comes with a free version but you have to pay if you want the payment integration. If all you are doing is protecting content but not charging for it this could work well for you. The $79.95 price to get Paypal and membership automation seems steep compared to some of the plugins above particularly when those are pretty essential features for most membership sites. Honorable mention.

#4. WP Membersite: A decent plugin but a little light on features for $47 price tag.

#5. Synergy Software Group WP Membership: A sold basic plugin but I found it to be lacking in overall features, flexibility was acceptable but not exceptional. The prices is decent at $29.97.

#6. Suma: A good basic plugin with good support for multiple payment types but a little less robust and extremely hard to justify the $199 price tag given the other options.

All Comments

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for mentioning MemberWing!
    Working on improvements as we speak…

    Just launched affiliate program few days ago.

    Recently added free feature – First Click Free (as per Google suggested specs).
    Adding Gradual Content release feature (also known as dripping content or bleeding content) within couple days. Lot more stuff coming….

    Gleb,
    MemberWing

    • says

      I am so impressed with Gelb Esman from Memberwing – if you have a wordpress site that has a membership section, his product is brilliant and his customer service is the best I have ever received. His email address is gleb@memberwing.com

  2. Scott Ellis says

    Gleb – Keep up the good work and let us know when improvements and new features come out. The Gradual Content release sounds interesting.

  3. says

    *Publishers Note: Anirudh is expressing is disappointment specifically with the Memberwing Plugin*

    This plugin does not do what they promise!

    Seriously, If youre looking to buy a plugin for membership blogs this plugin does only the half of what they say on their site.

    I purchased this plugin at $99 a few days ago, and here is what I discovered. I needed a plugin for membership blog and like everyone else I was blind sighted by the promises that I saw on this plugin website about USER SUBSCRIPTION AUTOMATION. Now they are dependent on PayPal for this feature. So, here is what they replied to me on my request:

    There are 3 ways to have person register with membership site:
    1. Send him to http://www.YOUR-SITE-NAME.com/wp-login.php to register as “subscriber”
    2. With memberwing – without charging him any fees: follow these instructions:
    http://www.memberwing.com/memberwing-plugin/how-to-add-free-members-to-membership-site-without-payment/
    3. With MemberWing by creating “join” page, creating “subscribe” button via paypal, pasting paypal “subscribe” button into “join” page and following instructions here:
    http://www.memberwing.com/software/wordpress-membership-site-plugin-memberwing/memberwing-user-guide/

    I choose the 3rd option and did everything by books but heres what I found when testing it! When users Subscribe and checkout on PayPal its MANDATORY that they create a PayPal account unless they have one, fair enough and understood because PayPal is responsible for managing user subscriptions so it needs to keep a record of user information their subscription date etc. Seriously No offense, but I think this process should have been integrated into the plugin itself, which is not the case and here’s what I get in another reply from my support request:

    Hello,
    You are correct in your estimation that some users would not like to join Paypal to join membership site.
    It could be too much hassles for people and lost sales for membership site business owners.

    I would rather not get into full blown e-commerce shopping cart development but use existing services.
    One of the viable alternative to Paypal is 2checkout.com. They do support recurring payments and seems to allow API for integration with other scripts.

    I will look into integrating 2CO in memberwing as next enhancement.

    Thank you for your detailed concern!

    Gleb

    Pretty comforting thought, now I have client who needs this system up and running before this guy pulls off his sleeves and finishes up with the 2checkout.com integration. Screw them! I can’t wait for that long and neither does my client, so here’s what I did I purchased another plugin hopefully which has all the promises they make!

    IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO BUY THIS ILL-COOKED PLUGIN THEN DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. STAY AWAY AND TRY ANOTHER PLUGIN. THESE GUYS ARE PROBABLY LAZY AND NAIVE SINCE THEY HAVE TO DEPEND ON PAYPAL FOR SUCH FEATURES

    • Scott Ellis says

      Anirudh,

      To be clear, you are disappointed with the Memberwing plugin correct? Not any of the others..

  4. says

    Anirukh, all your concerns were addressed,

    I even implemented the feature that you asked for (2Checkout integration that supports recurring payments without force signups) and then gave you refund you requested.

    If you still have any concerns – please contact me and they will be addressed and I do support free users as well.

    I also want to add that digital download protection and digital content theft protection features are now implemented in MemberWing 4.
    No more problems with link sharing and every membership site owner will have power to discover who is leaking your premium content on internet. These powerful features are now part of MemberWing 4 Professional.

    Gleb

  5. says

    If you want to start a full-blown, full-featured membership site using WordPress, then you should definitely check out DigitalAccessPass.com (DAP).

    - Ravi Jayagopal
    Developer of DAP

  6. says

    Doug, not coincidence but not subversive either. I don’t hide the fact that I use affiliate links sometimes and make a conscious effort to be transparent about doing so. I promote products that I believe in and won’t promote products I don’t.

    Hopefully the fact that I make a little beer money off the effort I put into this site doesn’t bother anyone but if it does it’s easy enough to avoid the links.

    To answer your question more directly with regard to #1 and #2, I didn’t rank them at the top so I could add affiliate links to them. I took an honest look at all of the plugins I reviewed and made my recommendation based on my best judgment and experience.

    In particular I’ll stand firmly behind what Stu and Tracy have done at WishList, they built a helluva plugin that I use on many sites and have implemented for clients as well.

    Best, Scott

  7. says

    Hi, I found your web site when i was searching Google for web sites related to this content. I must tell you, your site is good. I like the theme too, its pleasing. I don?t have the time now to fully read your web site but I have bookmarked it and I also signed up for your RSS feed. I will be back in a night or two. Thanks for an informative blog.

  8. says

    I'm going to revisit this review soon and will definitely include Justin's plugin. It's a very good plugin that does a lot, but it doesn't have some of the features that some of the others have like delivering sequential content (at least at last check). Keep your eyes open for the update!

  9. Jim says

    I had the worse experience with digitalaccesspass.com (DAP). I found it to be very buggy, the developer Ravi claimed it was a wordpress theme issue, even though I use the 4th most popular WP theme according to the wordpress.org site. I won't even get into the support issue, just horrible. Looking for an alternative.

  10. says

    Jim,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'll likely include DAP in a forthcoming update of this post.

    As I mentioned up top my #1 recommendation is WishList Member. This post is well over a year old and I continue to make WishList my #1 recommendation. I've used it now on several client sites as well as my own and it's held up very well. Further, their support is second to none. Highly recommend it.

  11. Mike Korner says

    Thanks for this update Scott. Good to know it is still your recommendation.

  12. Bill says

    I've been following WishList Member for a while but I need the sequential content drip feature, which they currently don't offer. I've recently been looking at MagicMembers.com and it seems promising. Support is very responsive to pre-sales questions anyway. Do you think you might review this plugin in the future?

  13. says

    Bill, I'm planning a new and much more comprehensive review of membership plugins in the near future so I'll be sure to include MagicMembers if I can. You can achieve dripping content with wishlist as well though through the utilization of membership levels. Just something to think about.

  14. says

    Hi Scott, do you think WordPress is strong enough to handle a membership site with tens of thousands members or say an Answers.com type site? I am looking forward to hear back from you.

    • says

      WordPress is absolutely strong enough to handle it, though I would offer a couple of things to consider. 1) Pick a VERY solid membership plugin (assuming you need one), as always I like WishList Member not only because it’s good but because they have phenomenal support and that might matter if your scale is that size. 2) Go with rock solid hosting, if you’re doing that much membership traffic a $5-$10/month hosting package will do you more harm than good.

      Look at wpengine.com or some options with VPS.net. It’ll cost a little more but is well worth the stability. In addition, make sure your theme is well optimized and you should be fine.

      WordPress itself will scale just fine, it’s the peripheral stuff that is more likely to get you into trouble. Good luck, what is your site?

  15. says

    Interesting review of WP membership options. I’d be interested in a comparison to DLGuard with the WP plugin. I happen to own a copy of DLGuard that I’m not using at the moment, and was wondering whether to set it up — an effectively free solution due to sunk cost, or consider one of these alternatives.

    • says

      Pauli, I’m not familiar with DLGuard but I’ll look into it. I focus mostly on WordPress but am always interested in knowing about other options so thanks! I’m going to revise that post (it’s gotten a little dated) and include some new plugins that are on the market as well as remove some of the old ones that dont’ really apply so keep you eyes open!

  16. says

    Since you started your review, what do you think about Digital Access Pass compared to wishlist and do you know if any sample websites that use wishlist or DAP that I can view

    -Aislee

    • says

      Aislee,

      I haven’t reviewed Digital Access Pass yet, it wasn’t around (to my knowledge) at the time I did my original review. I’m planning to do a follow up and
      will do my best to include Digital Access Pass in that review. I’ll make it one of my first posts once my new site is done.

      Scott

  17. says

    Hi Scott,

    Any updates on the membership comparisons in 2011? I’m hitting my head against a wall trying to find a fair comparison between Magic Members and Wishlist Member.

    Thanks!

    Anita

  18. says

    Sad to see lot’s of requests for Magic Members and not a mention for Your Members. Magic Members was built on a very old version of Your Members code which it later licensed.

    Obviously its now exceptionally out dated compared to Your Members which celebrated it’s 4th birthday with the release of YM10 recently.

    With Suma dead that really that only leaves DAP and Your Members as serious membership plugins for people not wishing to be tied into the WishList ecosystem.

    *Disclaimer: I’m the Technical Director at Coding Futures makers of Your Members.

    • says

      Tim,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. It’s important to note that this review was originally published in 2009. While I’ve been intending to do an updated review I haven’t gotten to it yet. I you would like Magic Members to be reviewed along side the other membership plugins I’d be happy to evaluate it as long as you can provide one for evaluation at no cost. If I were to go on and use it I’ll happily pay for it at that time.

      Feel free to drop me a line http://vsellis.com/contact if you want me to evaluate. the next review will be more comprehensive than this one, will do a side by side analysis and use an overall scoring mechanism. I’ll also be as objective as humanly possible and give each developer one opportunity to make adjustments based on the initial analysis.

  19. says

    Hi Scott!

    Thank you for mentioning WP-member. Just an update, we have slashed our prices and the plugin now costs $39.99! However, if any customer uses the discount code of member25 during their purchase, they get an additional discount of 25%, making the price just $29.99!

    Thanks again! :)

    -Ian

    • says

      Ian,

      You bet. I’m going to be doing a new review (this one is kind of old) pretty soon so lets talk about upcoming changes and modifications you guys are making.

      Scott

  20. says

    Hi Scott, I agree with you on Wishlist… I also think they are the best platform for building membership sites. They really do put in all their efforts to constantly improve their plugin, and they also have a great community (Wishlist Insider) and plenty of video tutorials on how to use Wishlist so I highly recommend it too!

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