A Review Of WP-Member – A WordPress Membership Plugin
Nothing is Ever Flawless
The following is a product review of the WP-Member WordPress plugin, which allows you to set up posts and pages to be subscription based. It allows multiple levels of subscription types that can be either free or paid, and supports multiple gateways. I am not getting paid to write this, nor have any affiliation with the product. I am just writing this so that other front-end developers have some information about the plugin before they purchase it.
If you have ever built anything in WordPress and have used anything but a basic plugin, then you will know the frustration of seemingly finding a plugin that sounds great but ends up either flawed , lacking a key feature that you actually need, or just plain broken. I’m not talking about a plugin that does something simple like adding share buttons to your posts. I’m talking about a plugin that actually has features you need to fill in a bunch of settings for. What is usuallly surprising is that the plugin actually costs money which makes the situation even more aggrivating. I think sometimes that we have an ability to work at an extremely high annoyance level compared to the average person. Do me a favor and raise your hand if you have seriously thought about punching your computer monitor. That should be just about all of us. I just counted….there is one guy somewhere in Hawaii that didn’t raise his hand because where he lives counteracts this. Everyone else though was nodding in agreement there. WP-Member gave me these feelings for sure. Let’s not start out with a feeling of hate though, because in the end WP-Member does what I need it to. There was certainly bad, but 1 thing made me stick it out to come to the conclusion that I would use it again. Yes, I just spoiled the rest of the article, but let’s get into some details.
Seems great on the outside
Obviously installing a plugin is simple, and as usual I didn’t have a problem there. In fact right out of the gate I can say I was fairly impressed. I didn’t have to read any documentation on how to do things because it explains almost everything clearly. Everything looked good, and it had what I needed built in.
You can set many subscription types for your posts or pages ranging from free to many different subscription payment levels. In my case I needed three: free – which allowed the client to give specific people access, monthly and yearly (which gave a slight discount for choosing a longer subscription). I was easily able to switch my posts to the levels I needed. What was really good was that because there were a lot of posts I can set them all in one go, and then set specific posts to be a certain subscription type if needed. This was a time saver because going in manually through each post would have been very time consuming. I was glad to see this feature included.
What is also good is that you can set each subscription level to be recurring or not. Or set it to expire at a specific date. A lot of though went into this because I ended up using almost all the features within this plugin. I needed a two week trial added later, which was a free subscription but had a set end date of two weeks after registration.
Login widget and registation page
The login widget that you include on your pages looks like a typical login widget, nothing special there. You know the type: username, password, lost password, remember me. What was overlooked is how to style the widget easily. Everything is wrapped, but generically. A bunch of paragraph tags and inputs with no classes, which caused a problem since I needed it to look s certain way. When I tried to style the username textfield it style the other inputs in the same way. Not good. Had to do some trickery to get things to look the way I wanted. If the owner reads this, adding classes to each item within the widget would be great because no one is going to use it the way it looks like by default. So just note that as it stands, this will be difficult.
Paypal Instant Payment Notification (IPN)
There is a long as story here, but I’ll try to make it quick. IPN is basically a message that is sent when a transaction happens. The problem I had, and this was the major flaw in this plugin, was that the page that was being submitted to Paypal, contained the wrong IPN url embedded within it. The transaction would go through in paypal, meaning the user would be charged the subscription amount, but then would fail on the return. So here the person’s credit card is charged, but since the IPN was wrong, they would not be registered with the website. This is very bad. What made it worse is, that embedded url was also overwriting the url I entered into Paypal for this. Enter support.
h3>Support for the win
After I figured this out, and reassuring my client that I would fix this, I instantly got on the plugin’s support page. It is ticket based, which I freakin’ hate, but the owner of the plugin responded fairly quickly. I say that because with this kind of system you are not going to get instant help. But my questions were being answered within 30 minutes or so of being asked, and competently. On top of that, I was notified that the person helping me was the new owner. Always good to deal with the top guy. Of course there might not be anybody below him.
Anyway, the conversation led to a point where I was completely mind blown. Apparently the plugin was being totally redone because the owner felt that jamming code in to fix what it was, was going to be too difficult and rather messy, so they started from scratch. This was where I told him “Look, I just need to get this working. I don’t care about upgrading, and yes I know that would be better in the long run, but I just need this to work NOW”
He then responded “Ya, it won’t work. You’ll have to download the new version, which is in beta, and you’ll have to do some complicated install”
There was a pause there as I just looked at my screen…”So what you are telling me is that the version I have, is completely broken, and the registration will NEVER happen because of the embedded url”
And I’ll give him credit for being honest, because he responded “Basically…yes.”
Many paragraphs later, he helped me get everything upgraded, and it the plugin worked very well. Now, answer me this. If you had paid for a plugin, would you have stuck in there talking with him, or would you go off the hook swearing and bitching him out?
What I do know is that he didn’t back away and not respond. He answered everything, and eventually got me to where I needed to be with the plugin.
If the owner had not been honest (oh and I shortened the quotes above…a lot more was said) and quick to help, I would have told him to go @#$% himself. If you are dealing with the old version, I feel bad for you. You are basically screwed. BUT…I do indeed recommend WP-Member in the latest version if you are looking for a subscription type plugin. The support is good, even though not instant, and it works the way it should now. It is also incredibly easy to setup and use, even if you are not a developer. Anyone can figure out how to get this working. I applaud the new owner, and am extremely thankful for the amount of time he took to help me.