A few years back, I wrote a short book on how to put together a membership website using WordPress and different membership site plugins.
Recently, a client asked me about protecting a discussion website. I thought I’d look at WP-Members by RocketGeek again. It was the “cheapie” membership option I explored in the book.
The Good News
WP-Members is still being developed and supported. It’s extremely easy to install and set up. And, it’s still one of the least expensive options out there doing a good job.
As a matter of fact, the free version of the plugin allows you to set up multiple membership levels. It even lets you set up a particular level as a default, into which it puts all new registrants. Admins have the option of manually moving members into a different membership level (or “product” as the docs call it) behind the scenes.
The options for setup are minimal, but powerful. The main option is to protect either posts or pages. I’ve only had one client opt into protecting posts from non-members. Most membership sites I’ve built for clients have one or more whole pages of content they wish to protect. If your blog/posts page is something you want hidden, I find it easier to protect the whole thing. If you have info you want to hide from non-members, put it on a protected page. You can even link to that protected page from a post, and people following the link will be prompted to register for the protected content.
Another good thing – your paid plugin (and any paid extras) are good on up to three different sites! So your per-site cost for all the goodies drops to around $42.
There is also an extensive set of documentation on setting up and configuring the plugin. But hold that thought for a couple minutes…
The Not-As-Good News
If you want to sell access to your content, the free version of WP-Members isn’t going to do it. Neither is the plain paid plugin. You’ll need to get one of two options – both at an additional charge. The good news is that both of these add-ons come with the WP-Members Pro package, which goes for a very reasonable $125. As I said above, even this Pro package costs less than other paid membership site plugins out there.
But, another downer – the two options for collecting payment are either for PayPal (for which you will need an account – preferably a business account), or an option that allows you to sell your membership levels through Woo Commerce, which is another plugin for WordPress. Which is to say, if you want another option to take credit cards through some other gateway, you’ll need Woo Commerce and another attachment.
Remember when I talked about documentation a minute ago? There’s also a support forum, which is good. However, it’s only available to people who have paid for the plugin. That’s what the $59 annual fee is for – support via the forum.
If you need to set up a simple membership site based on WordPress, and then get on with the business of running your site, then I’d highly recommend the free version WP-Members. If you can figure out how to run the back end of a WordPress site, you can probably get this running with very little problem. If you want to take money for membership content, and you have a PayPal business account, then getting the WP-Members Pro package would be a good idea (although it’ll have more than you need).
However, if you want multiple membership levels, and you want to have the membership plugin handle taking payments through your choice of gateways, you’re going to want a more complex – and more expensive – solution.
Scott A. Gardner is the founder of Agile’ Marketing Services, LLC and the author of several books on aspects of marketing. One of these is Membership Site Design, a guide for those exploring putting together a free or paid membership or continuity site.