eMember — Membership Plugin Review
Reviewed by M. K. Safi
eMember is a lightweight membership plugin that can power heavyweight membership sites. The plugin itself does not offer much beyond the basics that users have come to expect from membership plugins, but it can be integrated with other products that extend its functionality, such as the ability to manage affiliates, protect downloadable files, and stream videos.
It starts at $49.95 only and it is backed by awesome and user friendly support, which makes it an attractive option for many startup membership sites and beyond.
I’ve inspected the plugin and written my opinion about most aspects of it to help you decide if it’s the right choice for your type of membership site.
eMember is very easy to install. Only upload & activateâ€”no need for a license key or such.
The admin UI of eMember does not look native to WordPress, but it is simple and usable.
eMember has great documentation. It includes video tutorials, how-to instructions, and FAQs. All of this material is posted on pages with open comments. You can see questions from previous users and answers from the developers.
That’s what I like about eMember’s supportâ€”it’s transparent. You can ask a question on the website or in the forums publicly. Unlike some other software providers, eMember comes with unlimited and a life-time support policy. You won’t have to pay a yearly fee for support or upgrades.
eMember can synchronize its database members table with WordPress default users table. This can be useful for integration with other plugins that rely on WordPress users table. eMember even allows you to specify a “WordPress Role” for every membership level that you create so that when you sync the two tables roles will also match.
On top of that, eMember offers some great members management features. It can import existing WordPress users. It can export members to a CSV fileâ€”or just export their emails. And it is able to collect and manage custom registration fields.
By itself, eMember only works with PayPal Standard. You create the ‘Buy’ or ‘Subscribe’ button on PayPal.com, embed it on your sales page, and eMember will be notified by PayPal when a new purchase is made.
When eMember is integrated with eStore, though, you have more payment options, such as Authorize.Net and 2Checkout. But nothing exciting can be accomplished with those either because eStore (and eMember) work best with PayPal and don’t have full support for those other payment processors.
Processing of Cancellations and Refunds
eMember can automatically cancel a membership when the user cancels her recurring payment from PayPal.com. Depending on your settings, it eMember can either cancel access immediately or wait until end of term. And while you cannot provide a user-facing cancel link on the membership site itself, you can provide users with the ability to delete their accounts which has the same effect as cancellation.
eMember has no support for advanced payment processing features such as coupon codes or upsells.
Since eMember mostly just works with PayPal Standard, it only supports registration and payment flows that PayPal Standard supports, which are the following (each â€˜â†’â€™ represents a redirect):
- Register â†’ Login & access free content â†’ Pay
- Register â†’ Pay â†’ Login
- Pay on PayPal first â†’ Register via special link â†’ Login
eMember can protect posts, pages, entire categories, and even individual comments. Posts and pages can be protected from the post/page edit screen or from eMember’s own admin UI. Categories and individual comments can only be set to ‘Protected’ from the plugin’s admin UI.
Gradual Content Delivery
It is possible to achieve a gradual content delivery model in eMember by utilizing the plugin’s ‘Auto Upgrade’ feature. Basically, you create multiple membership levels with each level having access to certain posts. eMember gives you the ability to automatically upgrade members to any of those levels after a certain period is passed (more details).
Mixing membership levels and content delivery features imposes some limitations on how you can structure your membership site. But at least if you really needed gradual content delivery, you still have the option.
eMember cannot protect files without the help of additional plugins, such as eStore. With eStore, it could protect any sort of digital file. And with the help of WP Lightbox Ultimate plugin, it can even provide protection of video streaming through Amazon S3.
You can make some premium sections of your content available to the public in one of two ways: (1) eMember shortcodes or (2) WordPress <!– more –> tag.
The more tag is used in the usual way. Anything after it is protected. Anything before it is open. But if you wanna use the shortcodes, simply wrap your premium content in [emember_protected] and [/emember_protected]. These shortcodes accept other parameters that allow you to fine-tune who can and cannot see the wrapped content (more details).
Protecting Forums, BuddyPress & WordPress Multisite
Because eMember is able to set WordPress roles through its WordPress-eMember synchronization feature, it is possible to use the plugin on WordPress-based forums, BuddyPress and MultiSite installs. But this integration is not a priority for eMember’s developers.
Protecting RSS Feeds
eMember is can protect RSS access by generating a unique RSS link for each member.
Protecting Entire Site
eMember has a feature called ‘Domain Level Lockdown’. If you check that box, eMember will protect your entire site from all users who are not logged in. All pages on your site will greet visitors with something that looks like this screenshot
eMember provides basic integration with AWeber, MailChimp, and GetResponse. All it does is add new members to a mailing list upon registration. It cannot move members from one list to another upon membership level change.
eMember itself has no means of managing affiliates. However, it can integrate with the affiliates management plugin: WP Affiliate Platform, which provides basic affiliate management features.
eMember may seem like a little cute plugin that might not have the muscle to run big production sites, but in reality that’s not the case. eMember is capable and does power large sites. Here are some of them: Max Foundry, FX Renew, SurviveAndConquerCoaching.com, Quantum Music Works, SiteSubscribe.com, JustJung.com, RPG-Exploiters, and The Nutrition Academy.
There’s only one type of license for eMember. It includes life-time support and updates and it allows you to install eMember on any number of websites you own. It only costs $49.95!
This may seem like a very low figure for a membership plugin, but keep in mind that in some cases you may need to buy additional plugins from Tips & Tricks HQ to get certain features.
Like how you’d need to buy eStore ($69.95 for the bundle: eStore + eMember) if you wanted to offer protected downloadable files, or WP Lightbox Ultimate ($34.95) for protecting Amazon S3 streaming videos, or WP Affiliate Platform ($49.95) for managing affiliates.