From the Editor: This is a guest post from Pippin Williamson, founder of Pippin’s Plugins and Easy Digital Downloads. He’s also contributed to various WordPress projects, such as WP eCommerce and bbPress. Pippin’s specialities includes remembering every single Easy Digital Downloads function off the top of his head and churning out great plugin development tutorials at PippinsPlugins.com.
Easy Digital Downloads is the only of the major e-commerce plugins that is built specifically to handle digital products, and digital products only. With its focus on digital goods, Easy Digital Downloads is also exceptionally well suited for membership sites that are selling access to digital content.
The core Easy Digital Downloads plugin, which is free and can be downloaded from WordPress.org, will handle the majority of the functionality needed for membership sites, including the product creation, the shopping cart, and the payment processing, but in order to utilize features such as recurring billing or protected content, you will need to purchase a few extensions.
To setup a full membership site, you will need the following extensions:
- Recurring Payments – For creating recurring payment profiles and tracking member expiration dates and status
- Content Restriction – For restricting content of posts / pages to verified buyers and active subscribers
Out of the box, Easy Digital Downloads will allow you to process payments through PayPal Standard. If you wish to use something else, you will need to purchase an add-on payment gateway. Note: not all payment gateways support recurring payments. The payment gateways that currently support Recurring Payments are:
Assuming you are going to use Stripe or Paymill, your total cost for setting up a membership site with Easy Digital Downloads will be a little under $200. If you are using PayPal Standard, your cost will be a little under $150.
With Easy Digital Downloads, memberships can be created in two different ways:
- One unique product per membership level (great for topic-based memberships)
- One product for all membership levels with a price option for each level (great for tiered memberships)
To use separate products for each membership level, add a product by going to Downloads > Add New then fill in the standard title, content, category, and tag options. When you get to the Pricing Options section, you will not enable Variable Prices and just enter a single price. You will also select your recurring options here:
For recurring products, there are several options:
- Recurring: Yes or No. This simply sets whether the product should create recurring payment profiles for the customer when purchased.
- Period: This determines the time period for the recurring payment profile. If you choose Monthly, for example, the customer will be automatically billed each month, starting from the date they sign up.
- Times: This determines the total number of times the customer should be billed. Setting this to 0 means the customer will be billed indefinitely until cancelled. If you set it to 5, for example, the customer will be billed 5 times and then automatically suspended.
- Signup Fee: This is an optional signup fee that you can charge the customer. If, for example, you want the first month to cost $100 but all following months to only cost $20, you would set the main price to $20 and then the Signup Fee to $80. You can also set this to a negative amount in order to discount the first payment period.
Once a customer has gone through the checkout and (assuming they are paying with PayPal), they will see a screen like this:
If you wish to use a single product for memberships, you can enable Variable Prices and then setup the recurring options for each price separately:
If you are setting up a membership site where each subscription level gives the same level of access to content (so only the price / period differs), it is recommended that you setup the memberships using variable prices.
Restricting content to paid subscribers requires the Content Restriction extension, which starts at $29.
When Content Restriction is active, a drop down menu will be added to the Publish box of all posts, pages, and public custom post types that allows you to restrict the contents of the page to verified buyers of any EDD product. When Recurring Payments is active, it will also require that the customer has a still-active subscription in order to view the content. This menu also allows you to restrict content to buyers of a specific price option for sites using Variable Prices.
If an active subscriber views a restricted page, they will see the content as normal. Non active subscribers will see a notice that they need to purchase the product / subscription level in order to gain access.
You can also restrict content using a short code provided by Content Restriction. This is useful for when you only want to restrict a portion of the content on a page.
The short code is used like this:
[edd_restrict id="34"]This content is restricted to buyers of the product with an ID of 34[/edd_restrict]
You can also provide multiple product IDs if you wish to allow buyers of any of the products access:
[edd_restrict id="34,56"]This content is restricted to buyers who have purchased product ID 34 or 56[/edd_restrict]
The short code also accepts a message that you can use to display a message to users that do not have access:
[edd_restrict id="34,56" message="Please register an account in order to view this content"]This content is restricted to buyers who have purchased product ID 34 or 56[/edd_restrict]
Editor’s note: Content restriction can also restrict bbPress forums to users who have purchased a specific product, which is great for those of you selling themes and software. Entire forums can be restricted, or you can restrict content based on topic. This can also be used for those of you selling tutorials or support services, as well as private membership forums.
As stated previously, subscription billing is handled by the Recurring Payments extension for EDD, which is $83. Billing options are flexible, as customers can be charged based on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly cycle. You can determine the number of cycles for the subscription, or can create unlimited subscriptions (until canceled).
Recurring payments supports sign-up fees as well as discounts. Customers can also have more than one subscription so that they can pay for posts a la carte, or purchase multiple topic-based memberships.
You can’t create membership discounts with Recurring Payments or Content Restriction. However, you could achieve this by using EDD along with Restrict Content Pro and EDD Restrict Content Pro Member Discounts instead.
All Easy Digital Downloads extension purchases include full support directly from the EDD development team. If you have any questions that were not answered with this guide, you are more than welcome to open a ticket in the EDD support forums.
Looking for More info on Easy Digital Downloads Membership Sites?
Here are some other great resources that you can check into if you’re creating an Easy Digital Downloads membership site:
- Main Easy Digital Downloads documentation
- Tutorial on allowing customers with active subscriptions free access to file downloads
- Here’s a great video on Content Restriction for EDD.
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