There are lots of options out there to create a WordPress membership site, and the right one will depend on your needs for content restriction, payment gateways, order management, and more.
WooCommerce presents a pretty popular choice because of the ability to sell more than just memberships, the excellent billing options provided by WooCommerce Subscriptions, the number of payment gateways available, and the oodles of extensions you can use.
However, setting up a membership site with WooCommerce can be done in a few different ways. We’ve already written about doing this with Groups and with Paid Memberships Pro. Today, we’ll introduce a new plugin that can help keep your WooCommerce content private: WooCommerce Easy Content Restriction.
WooCommerce Easy Content Restriction is a new extension from Curtis McHale, who focuses on eCommerce and membership site development. A single-site license for the plugin is $39.99, and gets you access to support and updates with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Easy Content Restriction adds the ability to restrict content to customers who have purchased a particular product from your shop. Shop owners can restrict posts, pages, and bbPress forums, but support can be added for simple custom post types (e.g., portfolio pages) easily.
The plugin supports variations and grouped products, so you can restrict content to customers who have purchased a particular product or variant of a product. Simple and variable subscriptions are also supported.
The plugin documentation also includes lots of tips and code snippets for using filters to add restriction options to custom post types, or to customize restriction messages. This can be handy if you’re using portfolio pages or other CPTs as we mentioned above, or want to change restriction message based on the product purchase required to gain membership access.
Using the plugin is very simple, as there are no settings to configure. Once the plugin has been installed and activated, you can enter your license for automatic updates, then begin to restrict content immediately.
For any posts, pages, or bbPress forums, you’ll now have a meta box added while creating or editing pages/posts/etc from the WordPress admin. This meta box will allow you to set a restriction based on which product has been purchased.
You can also optionally create a custom restriction message. This will be displayed to customers who don’t have access to your content, so you can add in excerpts and links to products to purchase to gain access.
You can choose to leave the custom restriction message blank, and a default message will be used instead that links to the product needed to gain access to the content.
That’s all there is to setup! Customers will be given access to restricted content for any paid order that includes the required product (order statuses of “processing” or “complete”).
You can use the documentation to create custom restriction messages or add restriction capabilities to other custom post types if desired. While this won’t work for complex CPTs like products (only the description will be restricted), you can use this for other custom post types that are primarily content-based.
So what are the upsides and downsides to using WooCommerce Easy Content Restriction? Here are a few major points and a list for comparison.
First, this is far more suitable for sites that like to have topic-based memberships rather than tiered memberships. For example, if you want to allow both gold and silver members to have access to a particular post, page or forum, this won’t work for you. You can only enable restriction per page, post, or forum based on one product purchase at the moment.
If you’re selling access based on topic, then this probably won’t be an issue for you, but be aware of this while researching. However, it will be far easier to use than many other plugins if you can work within this restriction.
Access will also be retroactive; if customers have purchased the product that is tied to access in the past, they’ll be able to access any restricted content associated with that purchase.
Here are some other pros and cons to using the plugin:
- Very easy to use
- Supports simple / variable products & subscriptions
- bbPress support included; Sensei support planned for future version
- Custom content restriction messages supported (can use to manually create excerpts)
- Developer-friendly to customize messages and CPT support
- Content dripping (scheduled release) planned for future version
- No bulk restriction rules (i.e., post categories); restriction must be done for every post / page manually
- Only restrict post or page to one product purchase
- No automatic excerpts for SEO / teasers
- Can’t manually assign access capabilities to customers without a purchase
- No way to easily access member list / filter by who has access*
*You can view all subscriptions and can search for products that have been purchased from the Orders screen, but there’s no way to view everyone that has access to restricted content.
The biggest pro for me is the ability to easily and quickly restrict content based on product purchases, which works great for sites that want to offer particular content to purchasers of one product. The biggest con for me was the lack of bulk restriction, which will make setup time-intensive if you have several forums, posts, and pages to restrict to members.
Overall, WooCommerce Easy Content Restriction is a young plugin, but offers a very simple solution for restricting site content easily based on WooCommerce purchases. I’ll be excited to see some of the future features added to the plugin.
Easy Content Restriction is best suited for sites that don’t have a large amount of content to restrict and can work with restricting each post to only one “level” (product purchase). If this works for your site, it’s a great lightweight, easy-to-use option for content restriction based on WooCommerce purchases.
Looking for more information about WooCommerce membership sites? Here are some good reads:
- Using Groups and Subscriptions with WooCommerce for Memberships
- Using Paid Memberships Pro with WooCommerce
- Here’s a tutorial from Chris Lema: Setting up a membership site with WooCommerce
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