s2Member — Review of WordPress Membership Plugin

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. (Note: don’t try to activate it, you’ll just get an error message if you do.)

The admin settings UI of s2Member 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.

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.

Documentation & Support

s2Member is very well documented. It has plenty of video tutorials, it has a full FAQs / Support page, 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. 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, 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 a private contact us form.

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.

Payment Processing Features

s2Member supports PayPal (Website Payments Standard and Website Payments Pro), Authorize.Net, ClickBank, Google Checkout, AliPay, and ccBill.

Upsells

s2Member does not support upsells, but in its place, it has “One-Time-Offers”, which you can display to users upon logging in.

Coupon Codes

s2Member supports coupon codes for PayPal Website Payments Pro 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.

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.

Gradual Content Delivery

Content dripping is not s2Members strong suit. You can schedule content availability within a single post using some easy-to-write scripts, but if you want to schedule the available on per-post basis, you’ll need to do some PHP programming.

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

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 SDK, which contains some sample code and is provided to paying members.

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.

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 s2Members’ licenses include free life time support and updates.

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

26 comments. You can post one, too!

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

  2. What’s up colleagues, nice piece of writing and pleasant urging commented here, I am truly enjoying by these.

  3. David Dutch

    Hi I am building a site for a charity 2/3 rds will be open pages & 1/3 for their members only there is no need for financial links as all member pages will be read only. Is S2free OK for this type of site & is it easy to manage as I will be handing it over to non.techie people. Any advice appreciated

  4. M.K., You answered the question about hierarchical structure by saying, “There are probably very few sites that would need levels not to be hierarchical.” I would disagree! If, for example, you had 3 related info-products, all living in the one membership site, and the client could buy any one or two of them without buying all, you might need to be able to grant access to area # 2 but not areas # 1 or # 3. If access to area # 2 ALWAYS included access to area # 1 as well, there would be no way of selling the 2nd product without also exposing the first!

  5. Jon

    Would pick S2 if the register page could be customized to a one pager like I have seen with Magic Members to with free being one of the options. The customer examples I saw on the S2 site looked clunkier than what Magic Members had.

    Like these examples Magic Members has
    https://www.rcra.org/register/
    https://pilatesology.com/register/

  6. Howdy outstanding blog! Does running a blog such as this take a massive amount work?
    I’ve very little expertise in computer programming however I was hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyway, should you have any recommendations or techniques for new blog owners please share. I know this is off topic nevertheless I just wanted to ask. Appreciate it!

  7. Can this membership plugin be used NOT for membership/access to content in my site BUT TO accesses a subscription to use a product indefinitely as long as paid up with monthly re-billing (authorize.net) ????

  8. Can S2Member integrate with PDF Stamper and do you know any consultant qualified to undertake this for me?

    Thanks

  9. It is really an incredible plugin for wordpress. What I like the most about it is that the core framework of s2Member is free and can be downloaded from wordpress.org.

  10. Shawn

    Yes, it’s a great plugin …unless your content includes video. This plugin works by forcing video streams through a PHP script. So, most of the video player features are disabled. And, no video will play to a device from the protected content folder. They claim that it’s best used with Amazon s3 hosting your video content, rather than your own server.

    I bought the plugin and ditched it a week later – if you have a video site, I’d urge you to take a moment before you buy it, and look at Amazon as a solution and see if that’s how you want to go. In a week of nightmarish attempts to implement, my concerns and issues went unanswered by the plugin support and developers.

    FYI – Shawn

    • Doug

      ok shawn so what did you use to protect a video stream? I’m looking to protect a webcam, thanks.

  11. RV

    Hi, does s2Member have Google first-click-free option? Seems that is an important part of an SEO strategy. Anyone know?

  12. Jennifer Davis

    Unfortunately, I didn’t like s2Member Pro at all. I didn’t find the video tutorials helpful and would have preferred a searchable text knowledge base.

    s2Member might be ideal if you are a very good programmer as it requires a lot of PHP hacks to get the functionality desired. I purchased the Pro version because the documentation offered for the free version is extremely limited. Now I am out the money I paid for the Pro version and we won’t be using it because no matter how many times I posted on the support forum, I cannot get the answers I need.

    Instead, we are purchasing aMember Pro which does everything we want right out of the box (so to speak). No hacks, no custom programming needed. I guess you get what you pay for.

  13. Very helpful review.. helped me make up my mind about S2 Member and whether it will work for us.

  14. Kellyaz

    good review, but didn’t point out a key limitation of s2member. The ‘levels’ of content protection are hierarchical. So, your each level you might create inherits the rights to all the levels below. You can’t have a scheme, such as protection by tag or category, where a given tag or category grants rights to one and only one level, and then a different tag or category grants rights to a different specific level.

    • To me, that’s an enhancement not a limitation. It’s intuitive for levels to be hierarchical. There are probably very few sites that would need levels not to be hierarchical.

    • shane

      I agree with you Kellyaz, this is a deal-breaker for me too

  15. Curious

    I am creating a members only website for a sports club and am wondering if your plugin has the capability to allow me to add extra fields to the user profile section or modify names of existing fields to customise it to my needs (like snail mail address, date of joining, date of birth, etc.). I would then like to be able to use this table in other parts of the site to run mysql queries on. Is this possible? If not, can you please suggest a members log on that lets me do this?

    • Hi Curious, s2Member does have the ability to add exra fields to the user profile. I don’t think it can modify the names of existing fields, though. You can probably modify the names of existing fields by using translation techniques, but instead of translating to a different language, you’d just change the labels.

      Running database queries on inserted data is definitely possible, with or without this plugin.

      By the way, this isn’t a formal support channel for s2Memeber, and I’m not the original vendor. It’s best you ask these questions in the official community support forums of s2Member.

  16. Brandon

    I would like know if your WordPress product supports subscriptions, reoccurring payment, promo codes and discounts on how many users sign up and discounts on longer term commitments.

    If so I would like a tutorial on how to set it up, any documentation I would need to get going and if you have video tutorials I would like to see them as well.

    Thanks,
    Brandon

    • Hi Brandon, Yes, s2Member supports subscriptions, recurring payments, and promo and discount codes. This page has a bunch of video tutorials on using s2Member. For other questions, you best post on s2Member’s official community support forum as this page is only an independent review of s2Member and not an official sales page.

  17. Hi, please I need a suggestion from a user that tested those 3 membership plugins and of those which one is the best and of course can recommend, thank you.

    Greetings,
    Cusco

  18. We use S2Member at our site – http://ioee.co.uk

  19. CamilleMM

    Well, I use S2member for my site but as it’s an adult oriented site (erotic illustrations), maybe it’s not safe for your visitors :-)

  20. Thank you for this information. I have been looking at Wishlist Member and I think now I will try S2. I am not looking for super security, just a simple installation and an easy ability to keep many pages with limited access.

    Thanks,
    Rick

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