Many stand-alone membership plugins won’t work for you

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If you've been following along, we're in part six of my Platform series – where we look at how you can use WordPress to create a solution that will build your online hub.

Here are the previous posts if you've missed any of them:

And now we're leaving the example posts (Part 4 & 5) for a brief moment to answer a question I get a lot.

“Hey, what do you think about _________ plugin? It says it's a perfect membership plugin for WordPress.”

The Problem with most Membership Plugins for WordPress

So I'll tell you what I tell them.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that plugin, if:

  • It does exactly what you want it to do
  • You have no need for any support
  • Your entire business will just be, and only be, and forever be, just a membership site.

And maybe you're a developer, so the first and second issues aren't that big a deal for you.

Maybe you are comfortable tweaking whatever code you buy.

Most of the people I speak with aren't in that group. They don't want to tweak any code. Heck, they don't even want to see the code.

The real problem with most membership plugins for WordPress is that

  • they don't integrate with any other solutions
  • they have really poor support
  • they only plan to ever do the thing they wanted to when they wrote it

Let's dig into these for a second.

They don't integrate with anything else

WordPress was built to support the use of other people's code. The use of what are called hooks – actions and filters – allows one plugin to work with another, or with the base of your WordPress site. The same is true for themes.

When people develop their products with an understanding of hooks, they create simple ways to let others integrate with them, or allow their plugin to integrate with others.

But many plugins, and I'm talking about membership plugins right now, many plugins are sold directly on single page sites – filled with sales copy. The goal of their long-form marketing letter is to convince you to buy their product.

The only commitment is to the sale.

Not to their code or to integration (or playing nice) with the rest of the WordPress ecosystem.

And if you look closely at their code after you've made the purchase, you won't find hooks. You won't find a way to intercept the payment process and send out an email beforehand. You won't find a simple way to capture failed payments so that you could integrate with a service like customer.io.

They have poor support

I buy a lot of these plugins because I want to test them in order to evaluate and compare them.

When I get to those plugins that are sold via sales pages, with nothing on the page about the company behind it, and I can't access anything related to support, I know I've found a plugin like I'm talking about.

Sure, you can buy the plugin and they'll send you a link to a support site. But nothing guarantees that the site will be live in a month or six or a year.

That's because they're making money off the quick sales. Not off long-term happy customers buying again or recommending others.

They have no plans to update the plugin

I'm not lying, I've bought some of these plugins and they've not changed a single line of code in a year. Not an issue – except that lots of stuff changes in people's businesses and you want, from a plugin vendor, a partnership that grows with you.

The plugins I recommend all consistently get improvements and add (or remove) features as is appropriate.

But here's the bottom line

You want to know why these stand-alone membership plugins really won't work for you?

You.

You're the reason. Because you will end up wanting more than just a membership site.

You'll want to sell a digital download. Or you'll want to sell a physical product.

Or you'll want to let people who've subscribed to a mailing list have a coupon to join the membership site, but those who haven't won't get the discount.

That's right – you'll want integration. With other products. And these plugins can't do that.

Your business will grow. Your needs will grow. And most of these stand-alone membership plugins won't grow with you.

Which means you'll end up needing to re-do your site. Because you started with the wrong plugin. And now the redo will take time, cost money, and may leave your customers frustrated if it doesn't work exactly like it used to.

So who can you trust?

By now you likely know, because I've told you about them before.

iThemes Exchange with the Membership extension

WooCommerce with the Subscription extension

Restrict Content Pro and/or Easy Digital Downloads

MemberPress w/ its integration to WP Courseware

These are trusted solutions (by me) which integrate with other products, are well supported, and will grow with you as your business or site takes off.

About Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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