One of the toughest things to do while building a plugin is to balance the ability to do something really well and be streamlined in meeting this aim with the need to be flexible enough to support several use cases. Some complex plugins (like WooCommerce) do a lot to try to support different use cases, and thus they end up with features that not all users will use.
While supporting several types of users is not necessarily a terrible thing in an eCommerce platform or a complete membership solution, it’s not something you always want to see in smaller plugins like social sharing buttons or eCommerce add-ons. It’s always great to use a plugin that has laser focus and doesn’t try to be all things to all people.
The EDD Members plugin (€45, or about $51) is one of those laser-focused plugins. It’s designed to be a simple, lightweight membership solution powered by Easy Digital Downloads for accepting payments and managing user accounts. It’s not a solution that tries to meet tons of use cases, and thus works really well for certain kinds of membership sites.
EDD Members is from Sami Keijonen at Foxland. Before we talk about what the plugin does, let’s talk about what it doesn’t do:
- You can’t set up multiple membership levels or types
- You can’t drip content via restriction rules (it requires a shortcode)
- It doesn’t create subscription billing for memberships
- It won’t create ‘members areas’ or add content to your site
Instead, it’s designed to be lightweight and to support a certain kind of membership site. EDD Members is great for sites that:
- Only have one membership “level” or plan for the site
- Want to restrict content, and possibly sell other digital products
- Want to use bbPress to create members forums
- Have simple content restriction needs
It integrates with bbPress to create forums, and can also be used with EDD Recurring Payments to create subscriptions for memberships. As not every site needs a large, full-featured membership solution, EDD Members is a handy “simplified” alternative.
Setup with EDD Members is fast and simple. There’s one recommended change for your core Easy Digital Downloads settings: disable guest purchases and enable registration, as memberships must be tied to a user account, and EDD Members will not force registration.
Once you’ve done that, you can head over to Downloads > Settings > Extensions to find the EDD Members set up. You can restrict entire types of content with one click, such as all blog posts, or leave these unchecked to restrict them one by one.
You can also determine if comments and RSS feeds should be protected as well, and create “content restricted” messages to show to non-members if content is inaccessible.
One important thing to note: EDD Members only hides content, so it does not restrict purchasing if you restrict your Downloads to members; the download description alone will be hidden. The add-to-cart button on the Download’s page may be hidden, but this depends on your theme, and products can still be purchased via URL or from a “shop” / products listing.
If you have bbPress enabled, you can also restrict forums, topics, and replies for your members to have a private “members-only” area.
I really like the ability create customized notices for expiring or expired memberships with EDD Members. You can add or customize your renewal notices and when to send them.
Clicking “Add Renewal Notice” will let you add new emails and determine when they should be sent — in advance of expiration (and how far before) or after expiration (and how long after).
To complete set up, you may need to restrict individual pieces of content. To do so you can view / edit the post, page, or other content, and check the “Set as private” option.
Once you’ve configured settings, renewal notices, and restricted your content, you’ll need to determine how customers will get membership access.
If you need more fine-grained control over your membership content than what the settings give you, you can use shortcodes to restrict portions of content (such as a video in a public blog post) The
[edd_members_only] shortcode will let you wrap content that should only be shown to members. An optional
message attribute can also let you set a message for non-members who can’t see the restricted content.
[edd_members_only message="This message is shown to non-members."] This content is shown to valid members only. [/edd_members_only]
Shortcodes can also allow you to drip content over time to delay the member’s access. The
[edd_members_drip] shortcode works in a similar way to the members only shortcode, but can add a
delay attribute to determine the number of days the member has to wait to see the content.
Both non-members and members that will have access, but not yet, will see the “message” content. Members that have been around long enough will see the content wrapped in the shortcode.
[edd_members_drip delay="7" message="This content can be seen 7 days after purchase."] This is delayed content that will be shown to members 7 days from purchase. [/edd_members_drip]
You can manually give membership access to users on your site, or you can allow them to purchase memberships by purchasing EDD products. When you create a product, you can enable “membership length creation” for the product. When the product is purchased, the customer will become a member for the length of time you’ve specified.
Member creation also supports variations, so you can change the access time based on the variation purchased. If a customer purchases more than one membership variation or product (doesn’t have to be in the same order), the one that grants access for longer will be used.
It maybe helpful to add download notes and / or files to your membership, as these will be shown on the “purchase received” page, and you can use them to direct members to what they should do next — see the blog, visit forums, etc.
This way, members are led directly into the content access they’ve just purchased.
When any customer or non-member browses your site, the customer will still see your content in archives like your blog page or shop page. Excerpts (if shown by your theme) will also be shown to the non-member.
When a non-member tries to click on a post or other restricted content, the non-member is shown the correct “content restricted” message that you’ve created under settings. For a logged-out non-member, they’ll see your first message:
And a logged-in non-member will see your other message:
When a customer has become a member, you’ll be able to view the membership status (active, expired, or unknown) and expiration date from the “Users” list.
If you click on a user to view the user, you’ll see membership details at the bottom of the user account (if available). This will show you the expiration date.
If a customer is not a member, you can manually add a membership from here by adding an expiration date. When you save a user’s profile with an expiration date added, they’ll be granted a membership.
When Recurring Payments is active, you’ll be able to choose if memberships should be active only as long as the billing is under your EDD Members settings:
You can also limit content access to active subscribers only:
I love how easy EDD Members is to set up and use, and I found a couple of helpful hints (like the dripping shortcode) from the plugin documentation. For example, the set up guide is thorough and will get you up and running within minutes.
Each purchase also includes at least 6 months of support, depending on which license you purchase.
EDD Members doesn’t do everything a membership plugin could do — and that’s the point. It’s a light, simple solution for basic membership sites that should restrict content or forums, and allow purchasing a membership with a one-off payment or subscription (using the Recurring Payments plugin).
I’d like to see a few small features, such as the ability to bulk-edit posts or other content to restrict them, which helpful for sites that don’t want to restrict all posts, but want to restrict many at once. However, it does a good job of meeting the needs of the kind of site it’s trying to serve: a site with just a “membership” — no plans, levels, or complex restriction rules.
Need tons of different membership plans, the ability to restrict products purchasing, or more advanced billing? There are lots of powerful options like WooCommerce Memberships, MemberPress, or Restrict Content Pro. Chris Lema also has a ton of member plugin reviews you can read up on.
If you don’t need the overhead of all those features, EDD Members is a great alternative you should check out.