Version: 111011 [sic]
Reviewed by M. K. Safi
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.
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.
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.
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 supports PayPal (Website Payments Standard and Website Payments Pro), Authorize.Net, ClickBank, Google Checkout, AliPay, and ccBill.
s2Member does not support upsells, but in its place, it has “One-Time-Offers”, which you can display to users upon logging in.
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.
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
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.
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. Here are user reviews of s2Member on BuddyPress.org.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.