WordPress Membership Plugins
s2Member Membership Plugin

I’m currently finishing up the design and setup for a Membership Site. It’s a fairly intensive site offering separate forums, live chat, articles, live training, and separate newsletters based on the membership level purchased. There are a ton of membership plugins available and the pricing options vary from free to very expensive. Of course, the features and integration levels also vary extensively. This post explores two options that are not good, in my opinion followed by a really terrific membership site solution.

Magic Members Membership PluginIt’s been a while since I’ve done a membership site, and because of the nature of this site we originally thought we would need to purchase a premium plugin. We first went with Magic Members because of the good reviews I heard, but that was definitely a mistake! Both my client and myself attempted purchasing the initial single license package three separate times using different information, and we had the following problems.

  • The page we were taken to after purchase is completely messed up in its display (which definitely does not give you confidence after just putting down $97!)
  • We were told that you can download the product from a link on that page, however there is no plugin link available.
  • We also received multiple duplicate emails from Magic Members with the exact same information page, however at the top it said that we wouldn’t receive our files until after the fraud check was complete.
  • Both of us failed the fraud check and weren’t notified until almost two days later! This was after attempting to use a perfectly good credit card and a perfectly good PayPal account, both of which are used on a regular basis. It’s humiliating and angering to fail a fraud check when you are the actual OWNER of the payment method being used! It’s not like Life Lock.com was preventing us from accessing the account.

So, I can’t actually review their product because I never was able to test it out. On a good note about this plugin. It looked like my final attempt actually did go through (although the process was too long and I’d already given up on this company). They also did give me a full refund to my PayPal account as well. I’m actually quite thankful it didn’t work out with Magic Members, because it led me into a different direction that was much simpler and more cost-effective.

MemberWing X Membership PluginThe second option we attempted was also a failure. This was with MemberWing X. They allow a trial version so you can test drive the product. Looking good so far! It’s got a ton of great features such as multi-level memberships, the ability to purchase content, a very nice protection system for content, and with this plugin it allows you to actually have “teaser” content at the beginning of hidden pages or posts. However, there were some deal breakers for me on this one.

  • The actual product is very expensive. (The client would have been tempted to fork over the dough had it met their needs)
  • It doesn’t allow you to actually redirect someone from a page or hide the page or post itself. It only hides a portion of the page. This would be fine, except that with a live chat installation, the chat always still appears on the page and it knocks the teaser below it. Defeats the purpose of the membership aspect.
  • This plugin also has a totally separate login system from WordPress, so WordPress users are not necessarily associated with the MemberWing users. This is a huge problem when integrating a forum and chat that need to have membership capabilities all integrated in. The purpose of being logged in as a member is to have immediate access to all of your content, forums, articles, newsletters, and chat associated with that membership.
  • There are a lot of steps for integration and the set up and control panel are not user friendly at all.

s2Member Membership PluginBecause of those issues, our hunt brought us back to a little plugin called s2Member from Primo Themes that I’d actually installed for a client a couple of years ago. As they say, “The third times a charm!” and so it was for me. s2Members has improved greatly since my last interaction with them, and I Fully recommend this plugin!  I have it up and running on my clients site right now, and these are the features I LOVE!

  • It integrates seamlessly with WordPress users and adds the new membership levels you create into the WordPress user roles. So, this means whenever someone registers, they are automatically assigned an s2Member role.
  • Because of it’s integration with WordPress, it also works beautifully with forums and chat. I installed Simple:Press Forum and AddonChat (A very fast Java based chat platform) to my client’s site because they both pull WordPress user roles and will automatically log users in (depending upon their membership) to the forums and/or chat available to them.
  • It allows you to easily hide content from pages, posts, categories, or downloads very, very easily through the Membership Dashboard or directly on the post, page, or category editor.
  • It allows for multiple membership levels including a free membership level.
  • It integrates perfectly with PayPal allowing you to create subscription buttons, modification buttons, cancellation buttons, and payment buttons all from the WordPress Dashboard. You are also able to offer introductory prices for subscriptions as well.
  • It also integrates perfectly with popular mailer programs such as MailChimp and Aweber. All you need is your API Key, and the mailing list IDs and s2Membership takes care of the rest!
  • The control panel is extremely user friendly and intuitive.
  • It’s completely customizable and open source.
  • The best part…It’s completely free! They have a Pro Version as well (which I might end up with eventually), but the free version is doing a terrific job for now.

A couple of things to note. If you are tied to being able to talk to support or customer service, you might be a little frustrated. There is a lot of support through documentation and forums, but not a direct link to get support personally. However, I’ve found all of my questions answered through the forums or supporting documents and videos. You can find that support on the s2Member Plugin forum and the actual plugin site itself. I’m going to share a great treat I just found today having to do with the s2Member role ids…but that’s for another post.

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October 28th, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Thanks for sharing your experiences with these plugins. I would agree with you about how much s2members has improved in the past year.

I thought you and your readers might like to checkout Paid Memberships Pro, which is available for free in the WordPress repository.

PMPro is 100% GPL. We won’t charge for the plugin or addons. We do charge for support and access to some of the documentation at paidmembershipspro.com.

Anyway, it’s too late to help you with this project you’re writing about, but I’m hoping you’ll consider PMPro for future use. Thanks!

October 29th, 2011 at 4:46 am

Thanks for the comment and the tip, Jason. What advantages do you think your plugin would have over s2 Members just for sake of information for our readers?

January 23rd, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Sarah,

This reply is coming WAY late, but I ran into this blog post again, and I assume others are still reading your reviews here when deciding between WordPress membership plugins.

The main difference between Paid Memberships Pro and s2Members is that PMPro does not sell any modules to integrate with Authorize.net or Stripe, e.g. All of our code is available for free, either inside of PMPro itself or for download as a separate plugin in the WP repo or on GitHub.

The second difference is that our settings tabs are more streamlined (last I checked). Our philosophy is to make sure that the standard setup that is common across 80% of users is quick and easy (just charge $x/mo for access to certain pages) and that further customization is easy to do via a little bit of development. So instead of screen after screen of settings UI to tweak things, you’ll need a developer (or us via support) to enter the couple lines of coded needed to tweak your site to work exactly how you want.

Some site owners like the ability to build everything themselves without developer help. Others like the flexibility of our approach or just want a developer involved to begin with.

Hope this helps. Cheers!

February 26th, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Thanks for taking the time to comment here and for the clarification.

February 24th, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Hey Sarah, thanks for the review. I think it’s down to S2 Members and DAP (Digital Access Pass) for me. Your review helps a ton.

February 24th, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Glad to be of help. So far S2 has been working really well for both sites I’m running it on. The one has jumped up to a ton of paid memberships just in the last couple of months, and I’m really grateful that the plugin has allowed for a smooth integration with the WordPress user roles especially since there is a chatroom and forum involved. I’m not familiar with Digital Access Pass, so if you do go with that one I’d love to know why and what you like about it.

March 19th, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Great overview. While ‘Wishlist Member’ has many positives, it shockingly lacks a some basics like – allowing your members to UNREGISTER! Wow.

Read the full review…

‘Wishlist Member’ WP Plugin Reviewed!
bit.ly/Gzr1xV

March 19th, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Yeah, that would be a big negative! Thanks for sharing.

March 31st, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I use WishList Member and really like it.

April 1st, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Thanks for the tip, Ed. What do you specifically like about WishList Member?

Dick Raney
October 24th, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I have been trying for a month to get Magic Members working. Big Problem: It is NOT compatible with the new Payflow version of Paypal Pro. Supposedly they are working on an update, but I can’t get a reply to my support tickets asking for an estimated delivery date. The product may be good, I can’t tell yet, but right now I would give them a very poor grade on their customer service.

November 12th, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I’m still quite happy with S2Members. They do have some hiccups sometimes when people want to upgrade their accounts, but create a new registration instead of upgrading. It will go through in PayPal, but doesn’t reflect the change on the site because they are using the same email address as their previous registration. So, it only keeps the first registration information, but it charges them for the higher level and sometimes double charges. We’re probably going to start going pro with S2Members so that issue gets resolved.

December 1st, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Excellent post. I absolutely appreciate this website. Continue the good work!

January 3rd, 2013 at 5:03 am

Thanks for a great post. I have been searching for a good membership plugin for sometime and I will be looking further into this again now!

Steve
March 7th, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Thanks for this great review. I am in the process right now of researching and playing around with some of these membership plugins. Perhaps you can clarify something for me real quick. I would like to have the type of membership site where the members can have their own profile page where they can also upload a profile picture, etc. Is this type of functionality possible with S2? I know it can integrate with buddypress, but I am not sure I want to add buddypress to the mix for my site. Perhaps another option to achieve what I am looking for is going with a forum plugin like bbpress which might allow for users to update their own profiles, etc. Any suggestions there?
Thanks!

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