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.
It’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.
The 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.
Because 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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