WordPress membership

How to choose a WordPress membership plugin

There are a lot of WordPress membership plugins out there these days, but which one is best for your site?

It’s important to first understand what you want your membership site to do – not all membership sites are the same. Chris Lema put together a comprehensive guide late last year which helps you to figure out what you need;

There is no point (at least in my mind) to score the plugins and tell you which one got the best score (though I did it and have the spreadsheet to prove it). And you know why already. Because what you care about and what I care about may be different. More than that, you may care about different things based on the site you’re creating. So it comes down to what you care about most. So what I’m not going to do is give you a sorted order of the best ones. Instead, what I want to do is give you the top two plugins you should check out based on the factor you care most about.

I’m going to cover four different drivers of your decision:

  • Price
  • Content Dripping
  • Pausing Memberships
  • Using Stripe

More at Comparing WordPress Membership Plugins

The first three I agree completely with. The fourth, well it depends on how you feel personally about PayPal. Chris clearly hates it, and as a result WordPress membership plugins that don’t use the Stripe payment system rate badly. The problem with that for us in the UK is that Stripe isn’t available for us over here. They recently announched they were in beta in the UK, but then denied it.

Another reason to perhaps not use Stripe – they have a flat fee per transaction and this doesn’t reduce even when you’re putting a lot of volume through. PayPal reduces the per transaction fee as your monthly sales rack up, and for us at Smart Insights that discount racks up. Stripe would cost us a lot more than PayPal each month. I’ll add that there are many things about PayPal I hate – their support and horrendous administration interface to name two, but when it comes down to price they’re better value than Stripe at the moment.

Chris also has a handy infographic to step you through the choices;

Guide to WordPress membership plugins
Guide to WordPress membership plugins
WPLift has a good breakdown of the range of WordPress membership plugins 2013 has to offer – focusing more on paid plugins, which I have to say I agree with – if you’re looking to charge for membership, shouldn’t you really pay for a solution that gives your customers the best experience? Here’s what they have to say;
Today we’re going to discuss some of the best WordPress membership plugins available in the market and compare their features. Kindly note that developing these plugins takes an insane amount of effort starting from writing code for PayPal integration to support forums. Thus, most of them aren’t free except two genuine exceptions….More at Complete Guide to WordPress Membership Plugins
At Smart Insights I tested a number of solutions before we settled on our solution;
  • WishList member ($97) – really didn’t like this – when it didn’t support custom post types and the code is obfuscated, which is against the WordPress license and a generally lousy thing to do
  • Magic Members ($97) – we actually went with this and spent a good month integrating it, only to throw it all away and start again as it made some of the bespoke functionality we wanted to add just too difficult – it was pretty fixed in the way it worked and didn’t have easy ways to piggy-back of their functionality
  • Justin Tadlock’s Members (free) – was going to be too much work to get it to do what we needed for content protection and payment

In the end I settled on the paid version of s2member ($69) – we needed the paid version as we wanted to use PayPal Website Payments Pro as it looks a lot more professional than sending users off to a nasty looking PayPal screen on payment. S2member have a comprehensive set of documentation and API which has allowed us to use it in the background, but essentially change the way it works on the Smart Insights site. Their support has been fantastic on the couple of occasions I’ve had to use it as well. It comes very recommended – provided you don’t mind working with PayPal!

When it comes down to it, your choice of a WordPress membership plugin depends a lot on your specific requirements. I’d love to hear about other people’s preferences.

Published by

Stu Miller

Web consultant and specialist, WordPress developer and PHP developer based in Leeds, UK. 15 years experience in architecting web sites and applications. Co-founder and Technical Director of SmartInsights.com, formerly the same of First 10 Digital

11 thoughts on “How to choose a WordPress membership plugin”

  1. Thanks for the references Stu. And I agree that in some cases Paypal is required.

    But their implementation of fraud detection can really lock your money away for months and I know many people who can’t live with that. Honest people don’t expect that all their ticket sales to an event, for example, get locked up and they can’t pay their vendors. It can be really scary.

    1. Hi Chris. Completely agree that PayPal isn’t the best solution at times. We’ve had a lot of issues with them over the last couple of years, not least poor customer service and the woeful administration interface. Actually they only kept the reserve (keeping 1/3 of your money for three months in case of customer issues) in place for us for a couple of months, so that wasn’t a big problem for us.

      The biggest barrier to getting set up for online sales (probably more so in Europe) has always been getting a merchant account from your bank in order to trade. We were asked for between £10-15,000 deposits by a number of big UK banks when we launched Smart Insights as they just didn’t get the ‘information product’ model. PayPal had us online within two weeks. It’s simple, if absolutely not the best!

      Thankfully there are more and more online payment providers appearing now have the potential to rival PayPal – or at very least make them raise their game to compete.

  2. It’s so hard to see the differences between all of these. Some have more payment integrations, but eyond that, they all seem to provide the same functionality. Can any of these protect content contained outside of wordpress, but on the same site?? For instance a php page that is outside of the wordpress install?

    1. Hi Ravi,

      Thanks for contacting me. I’m afraid I can’t add DAP to the list at this stage. I’ve personally tried using all of the solutions on the list, but I’ve never used DAP and therefore can’t give it an honest appraisal.



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