Membership Plugin Review: Envato’s WooCommerce Membership Plugin

Membership plugins on Envato's Marketplace

Some people just love the idea of a free plugin. Like the kind you find on the WordPress directory of plugins. Some people worry about free plugins and want to support a business model that they know will last – like commercial plugins (some people call them premium) that you find often sold on their own sites (or as extensions).

But some people want to split the difference. They want a low, one-time, fixed, non-recurring fee for a feature-rich plugin. When that's the case, they head to Envato's massively large and popular marketplace.

There is no question that it's large. There is no question that it's popular. And there's no question that the prices are low and currently fixed and non-recurring – though I hear rumbles of upcoming adjustments to let vendors sell maintenance contracts on CodeCanyon and ThemeForest.

If you head to CodeCanyon, what you find is that there's a whole section for WordPress. And in that section, there's a whole section for membership plugins. I've looked at two of them already in this series. And today I'm going to look at another.

I'm looking at WooCommerce Membership – but this isn't the most recent introduction at WooThemes for WooCommerce. This is a different plugin that you can buy for a one-time fee of $24. And that sounds great, right?

We'll come back to that. I promise.

I'm reviewing a plugin a day this month

At some point last month I decided I wanted to do a refresh on one of my most popular posts – a flow chart that has helped thousands of people decide which plugin might be helpful for their membership site. The issue was that in the last year I'd played with several more but not written them up, and had forgotten some of my insights. All I had was a large spreadsheet of products and features but the nuances were missing (this is a private file, don't ask for it).

So I thought I would do real tests, one a day, and write them up. The result would not only be 31 posts but also a map of the current lay of the land – which might last another year or two until it was completely outdated like the last one.

But these have to be real tests or you can't find out what issues you'll have with subscriptions, etc. So I created my list, created my criteria and started doing the work.

Here are the previous ones you might have missed, along with our current one – #15.

  1. Membership 2 Pro
  2. WP eMember
  3. WP-Members
  4. Restrict Content Pro
  5. FastMember
  6. Memberful
  7. InstaMember
  8. Members
  9. WP Membership
  10. Cart66 Cloud
  11. Private Content
  12. Zippy Courses
  13. Ultimate Member
  14. Easy Quick Member
  15. WooCommerce Membership (Envato)

WooCommerce Membership

I started digging into this plugin by buying it, and it's related product for subscriptions. I then activated each of them after installing WooCommerce. ActivatingPluginsThe next step was creating a plan. I called it Private since I already had a whole series of posts in the categories of: private, free, and VIP. So my plan was to move all the private ones into this plan.

CreatingAPlanNotice that this is simply a plan. A construct to glue WooCommerce products to content protection. Not a lot of details here, but that's ok once you understand its purpose.

From there we create a product and this is where you'll likely leave it “simple” and check the box for membership, at minimum. We'll get into subscriptions in a second.

CreatingMembershipProductWhat you notice right away is that by linking the product (above) to the Private plan, it appears linked (product / plan) in the plan area (seen below).

LinkingProductsToPlansThen I installed the subscriptio plugin from the same makers of the membership plugin ($29). It creates subscriptions but it's not the normal WooCommerce subscriptions plugin I recommend (and know and love).

StripeAndPaypalYou'll see it comes with natural support for both PayPal and Stripe. I started with PayPal. That was a mistake. In order to get it configured, you need an APP ID. And that requires an application and waiting for PayPal. And also, you have to navigate all of PayPal's developer site to get things – which is a slow way to kill yourself. So I moved to Stripe pretty quickly. But just so you can feel my pain….here you go:

PayPalAppIDOnce I activated Stripe, I went back to the product and checked the “subscription” box and started adjusting things – charging $1 for a month of access.

ConfiguringSubscriptionProtecting Content with WooCommerce Membership

Protecting content started easy as I went to lock down pages and a couple of posts. You'll see the metabox in the top right corner.

ProtectingPostsBut when I went to do a category-based protection, it became really difficult to find where I should do this. There were no rules in the Plan section, which is where logically I would have expected to find them. A second place might have been in the post category details, though that's harder to find. But it wasn't there either.

I finally did find it, only after hunting for a while. It's available in the bulk editing screen when you're editing posts. Not an easy or straight forward way to do things. So I docked it some usability points right there.

BulkEditingMembershipThe WooCommerce Membership Plugin's Missing Features

Let me just chalk this up to, “I could not find it anywhere…but who knows…maybe it's somewhere I didn't look.”

  • There was no easy way to determine how long a member could be logged in before making them timeout or re-login, which we've seen in other plugins already.
  • There was no easy way to protect against multiple people logging in with the same credentials at the same time, which we've also seen in other plugins already.
  • There was no easy way to drip content while in a membership plan, which we've seen multiple plugins do already.

Each of these things are worth noting simply because other plugins have them. And when you go for the really inexpensive plugins with no potential to renew the following year, what kind of motivation is there for the developer to do anything to enhance their plugin. More likely, the plugin will never get these additional features.

Just a guess but it's the one I'm going with.

The one-time only price dynamic doesn't incentivize a developer to keep their plugin current. Instead, it drives them to try creating lots of different plugins to see which stick and give them a better return. This is a case where the needs and desires of the producer and consumer don't align.

One more reason I prefer commercial plugins.

[Tweet “The one-time only price dynamic doesn't incentivize a developer to keep their plugin current.”]

WooCommerce Membership does suggest some cool features

If you look at some of my screenshots you'll see a hint of some cool features – members allowed to pause their membership, for example. That's incredibly awesome.

PauseSubscriptionsHowever, I couldn't get it to work. For whatever reason, the “Account” page didn't even show me my active subscription, which is a listed feature. Now, this may have been related to the fact that when I made the order, the subscription worked, but I didn't get put into the plan. Confused yet? Right. I had an active subscription (that didn't show up anywhere) and no access to protected content because my user wasn't added to a plan.

TransactionCapturedSo you see the transaction worked.

PausingMembershipsAnd I can see the “admin” feature of pausing a plan (upper right), but as a user, there are no subscription details.

OrderI do have a order, however. And it looks like it collected money but didn't get put into the completed phase (which may have caused the issue for not putting me into a plan, but I have no idea). You'll see below, I'm not in the “members” of this plan.

NoUserAddedBut the good news is that I did test the ability to add myself to the plan manually. And that worked.

ManuallyAddMaybe I'm being harsh after two days in a row of plugins that don't fully deliver on the core features they've announced on their sales pages. Maybe I'm just frustrated that I am burning vacation time on testing plugins that should work and it's taking me more time when they don't.

But I'll say this, the scores below (in terms of ease, and speed) reflect the reality of my experience today. Maybe your experience will differ.

[Tweet “Is it wrong to simply say, “You get what you pay for”?”]

Scoring WooCommerce Membership

You might score it differently. Here was my take.

  • Ease of Use – 3
  • Payment Gateway Support – 2
  • eCommerce Support – 1
  • Drip Support – 1
  • Concurrent Accounts – 5
  • Pro-rating Charges – 1
  • Upgrades / Downgrades – 1
  • Speed of setting it up – 2

The WooCommerce Membership Score: 2.0