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s2Member — Review of WordPress Membership Plugin
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Review

s2Member — Review of WordPress Membership Plugin

updated by March 6, 2015
by October 11, 2011
Overview
Affiliate Management

Pre-integrated with iDevAffiliate and ShareASale. Compatible with just about any affiliate management system.

Satisfaction/Refund Policy

Core plugin is free. Refund for digital downloads generally not possible except in very unusual situations within 30 days.

Licensing

Free core
$69 for Single Pro module
$129 for Unlimited Pro module
$289 for Blog Farm module

Winks

Extreme versatility and power. Fantastic documentation and support. Integrates with all the top payment gateways.

Frowns

Don't expect to get this configured in a day. You'll be up and running with the basics pretty quickly, but for full-throttle functionality expect to take some time going through the plethora of options.

Criteria
WinkMaster Rating
Winker Ratings
Installation & Admin UI
Support & Docs
Member Management
Payment Processing
Content Protection Features
Extensibility & API
Subscriber Mailing Lists
Bottom Line

One of the top 3 of WordPress Membership plugins.

WinkMaster Rating
Winker Ratings
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s2Member review

Overall rating: ★★★★★

Version: 111011 [sic]

Reviewed by

s2Member is a great, well-rounded membership plugin for WordPress. The core framework of s2Member is free and can be downloaded from WordPress.org. It is already very popular there and has an excellent rating.

Built on top of the s2Member framework is s2Member Pro, which is an extension module. This module provides greater flexibility and resources for a professional membership site.

s2Member excels in almost all of the features that are expected from a membership plugin. And not only is it easy to get started with, but for those who wish to take it further, s2Member provides plenty of resources that make 3rd party development a practical endeavor.

I gotta say, this one’s my favorite. But before you jump in, please read the full review to confirm that s2Member indeed does what you want.

Installation & Admin UI

The s2Member framework, which is 100% free, is available from WordPress.org. So, you can search for it and install it from within your admin dashboard. The Pro module of s2Member is also easy to install. After purchasing and downloading the Pro module, FTP it to your /wp-content/plugins/ folder or use the WordPress plugin uploader to get it there.

Don’t try to activate the Pro module. You’ll just get an error message if you do.

The admin settings UI of s2Member loosely borrows the colors and shades of WordPress native UI, but it utilizes its own layout and visual elements. In my experience, though, it is very well organized and easy to use. Just be aware that even the free version of the plugin has massive capabilities, which means *lots* of options to browse through, on multiple pages.

Other parts of s2Member UI integrate with existing WordPress screens. For example, if you scroll down to the bottom of a user profile, you’ll find a bunch of new fields that s2Member added. These fields blend in very well.

s2Member General Options

s2Member Quick Start Guide

Documentation & SupportClick to see how WordPress membership plugins compare with regard to this feature.

s2Member is very well documented. It has plenty of video tutorials, it has a full FAQ/Support area, and a detailed readme file. There is no traditional user manual PDF. Instead, s2Member relies heavily on in-plugin documentation. Within the plugin there is a special “Quick Start” menu that explains the steps that need to be taken in order to get started.

For developers who buy the Pro module, there’s a downloadable zip folder, which is like an
SDK
Software Development Kit
.

It includes code samples and instructions for doing various things programmatically. There’s also the s2Member Codex, which is an extensive source code documentation that’s available for free.

Strangely (but most generously), support for s2Member is not reserved to paying members only. Any s2Member user, whether using the free framework or the paid Pro module, can post questions and participate in the community forums. There is no other channel for technical support, but if you needed private attention after posting in the public forum and you are a paying member, you’ll have access to help via their WebSharks support area.

Member Management

s2Member has excellent member management capabilities. It adds new columns to the native WordPress Users table, such as “Registration Date”, “Custom Capabilities” and “# of Logins”. The access rights are determined by the native WordPress roles and capabilities.

s2Member allows you to customize the registration form in many ways, including the ability to add custom fields. It also supports an unlimited number of membership levels.

s2Member User Configuration
s2Member Users Listing with s2Member-specific fields

Payment Processing Features

Out of the box, s2Member supports PayPal (Standard and Pro), Stripe, Authorize.Net, Google Wallet, and ClickBank. There are tutorials and articles available in the s2Member forums by 3rd party members about integrating other payments gateways as well.

Coupon Codes

s2Member Pro supports coupon codes for PayPal Pro, Stripe, and Authorize.Net

Processing of Cancellations and Refunds
With some payment gateways, such as PayPal Pro, s2Member can automatically process cancellations and refunds, even if the user initiates one from your own membership site. You will need to have account information entered for your PayPal
IPN
Instant Payment Notification
.

Flow of Registration Steps

Because of its flexibility and tight integration with various powerful payment processors, s2Member supports all sorts of imaginable user registration scenarios (each represents a redirect):

  • Register Login & access free content Pay
  • Register Pay Login
  • Pay on PayPal first Register Login
  • Pay and register account on one page on your site Login
  • Register for a free trial by submitting payment info Login Automatic payment after trial

Content Protection Features

s2Member can protect posts, pages, categories, tags, URLs, and it can even restrict access based on IP address to prevent password theft and sharing. This is all done through native WordPress
API
Application Programming Interface
.

s2Member Restriction Options

s2Member in-editor protection options

Gradual Content Delivery

Content dripping has started to come of age with s2Member lately. The recent addition of the [s2Drip] shortcode (available with the paid Pro plugin) makes it much easier than it was just a couple of years ago. With this shortcode, you use access, from_day and to_day attributes to create drip parameters for almost anything but the most advanced scenarios.

[s2Drip] will NOT work as expected when testing against an Administrator who is logged in because admins do not generally have a signup date.

Very advanced content dripping will require some PHP coding. The registration time/level function <?php $time = s2member_paid_registration_time("level1"); ?> is the basis for most of this.

s2Member Content Dripping

Protecting Files

s2Member has fantastic options when it comes to file protection. It allows you to specify the allowed number of downloads per how many number of days, or provide an expiring download link. It integrates with with Amazon S3 and Amazon CloudFront to deliver content, such as streaming videos, securely.

Teaser Content or Scripting Tags

You can provide teaser content with s2Member in one of two ways. You can use the “Alternative View Protection” option, which basically gives you the option to either allow or disallow access to excerpts in search, feeds, comment feed, and navigation menu.

Another way to offer teaser content is to utilize s2Members’ extensive scripting API, which is a collection of powerful shortcodes that you can use to programmatically determine who can and cannot view your content.

Protecting Forums, BuddyPress & WordPress Multisite

s2Member has built-in integration with bbPress forum (both the plugin version and the older standalone version).

The creators of this plugin understand BuddyPress and have developed the plugin to work with it as well as Multisite installations.

Protecting Entire Site

You can protect all of your posts, pages, categories, and tags by specifying “all” in protection options. It’s very easy.

Keep in mind, though, that while s2Member is capable of blocking unauthorized access to RSS feeds, it doesn’t provide a unique RSS link to each member, which would allow for more flexibility in delivering protected content through RSS.

Extensibility &
API
Application Program Interface

s2Member is the most extensible membership plugin for WordPress. The free s2Member framework was built with extensibility in mind. In fact, the Pro module is itself an extension of the s2Member framework.

Not only does s2Member have a well documented scripting API, which you can access within the plugin, but there’s also the free s2Member Codex. And there is the sample code available to paid members via the
SDK
Software Development Kit
.

Email Communication with Subscribers

While s2Member doesn’t have a built-in subscriber communications module, it integrates very well with MailChimp and AWeber. The plugin can add new subscriber to a list based on their subscription level. Not only that, but it can also move subscribers from one list to another when the subscriber’s membership level changes within your membership site. s2Member is the only plugin I’ve come across that contains this feature.

s2Member API/List Servers

Affiliate Management Capabilities

s2Member provides many options for managing affiliates. If you’re using a supported payment gateway that offers affiliate management, such as ClickBank, then you’re good to go. But if you’d like to manage affiliates in-house, s2Member offers integration with the popular iDevAffiliate. There’s also Affiliates Pro, which can be integrated with s2Member.

Money Matters

Despite its wealth of features, s2Member starts very reasonably at $69 only for the single-site license. The unlimited domains license costs $129.

s2Member has a special, $289, license for Multisite blog farms, which includes support and documentation for those who wish to run a website to sell blogs.

Unlike the competition, all of the s2Member licenses include free lifetime support and updates.

s2Member is licensed under the GPL and there are no refunds.

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About The Author
Profile photo of M. K. Safi
M. K. Safi
29 Comments
1 2
  • Ali
    May 24, 2014 at 4:00 am

    we want to set up a monthly subscription for clients wanting to pay low income amounts say £29 per month and access 75 documents in a year(we have total 250 docs). Clearly we need to guard against someone paying £29 and then downloading all 250 and cancelling for month 2.

    Is it possible to set something up so they can only download x number of docs per month even perhaps having x vouchers per month to allow them to download their choice but only a number limited each month they have paid?

  • Brendon
    April 15, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I require a plugin for approx 150 members, no payment to be taken/made, but each to have indivisual access to their own page of user specific content made available, which would include a downloadable pdf statement – not viewable by anyone else – is this sort of thing going to be possible?

  • July 29, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Thanks for taking your time and writing the honest review. I really appreciate it.
    Cheers

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