The Specialist: Easy Digital Downloads Review
Update: Please see our review of changes in EDD 1.9 in addition to this review to get an accurate view of the current plugin.
Really? An eCommerce platform that only allows you to sell one kind of product? Oh yes, friends. And it does it so well. Easy Digital Downloads lets you sell simple and variable downloadable products using WordPress, and it does it without any fuss or difficulty. The core plugin is lean and streamlined, and executes exactly what it’s name suggests: it let’s you easily sell digital downloads. Even better, the plugin is extremely extensible, and I got excited thinking about all of the possible business models that could use EDD’s simple but effective sales implementation. Anything else? Yep. The core plugin is free, and paid add-ons are reasonably priced.
Skip to section:
- Base and Ancillary Costs
- Overview and Usability
- Customer Experience
- Built-in Payment and Shipping Options
- Built-in Reporting
- Other Features and Comments
- Easy Digital Downloads Review Wrap-up
- Read More
Base and Ancillary Costs #
Because Easy Digital Downloads is a free plugin, there should be nothing holding you back from downloading it and taking it for a test drive. If you don’t want to download and install it, you can play with the demo site to get an idea instead. Costs are going to come from paid “Add-ons” or “Extensions”, which you’ll probably need to get up and running, and it looks like the only real marketplace for EDD Add-ons is the official store. You’re most likely looking at $100 to $200 to get rolling, since you’ll need a payment gateway (unless you’re okay with just PayPal Standard) and will probably want a couple of handy extensions.
As far as themes go, it seems that EDD plays nicely with different themes, so you shouldn’t incur huge costs there. If you want an EDD supported theme, you can check out the theme listings on their website. Some are in-house themes, and others are from Theme Forest or iThemes. Pricing ranges from free to about $80 for supported themes, and there are some really beautiful options.
Bonus points for a free core plugin. Theme price is up to you, and you’ll probably spend $100 to $200 on paid extensions.
Overview and Usability #
Installation and setup is super easy for Easy Digital Downloads. Settings have good descriptions within the plugin, and if you’re stuck, the documentation does a great job of walking you through what you need to know. I didn’t need it for much, but the documentation I did look at was pretty thorough and easy to understand.
Under “Misc” settings, you can set Terms of Agreement for the products you sell, which is an fantastic addition for stores selling digital goods, and should be a no-brainer. For example, if you’re selling stock photos, you can required that customers agree to terms before purchase that specify how those photos can be used digitally, in print, and more. If you need to change the terms based on product, the Terms Per Product Extension will do just that.
The essential features are included, and not much more than that (which is a good thing). EDD is designed to be general enough for all forms of digital downloads, and the additional specialization you need will come in the form of paid add-ons. For example, if you sell music using EDD, then the Audio Player Extension will probably be useful, which provides a great way to give your customers a preview of the music they are buying. The core offering does exactly what it needs to, then gives you the choice on how you want the rest of the setup to go for maximum flexibility.
Tax options are included if needed, which depends on where you’re selling. This varies by state in the US (I’m not sure how this works in other countries). If your business has nexus (meaning operates) in a state that requires tax on digital goods, you’ll be required to collect this tax for customers who purchase goods in your state (this applies to all states in which you have nexus). You’re not required to assess tax on out-of-state purchases. If the customer’s state requires tax on digital items, according to this site, “It is then purchaser’s legal obligation to remit the use tax directly to the state where they are using the item if it is taxable.” Yikes. However, I pretty much have no idea what I’m talking about since I’m not a tax lawyer, so I’d encourage businesses doing a large volume of sales to look into this. There are a few ways of implementing regions to be a bit more technical about collecting tax.
First, if you want to just require tax for everyone, and keep track of states to which you’ll have to remit tax, you can just set a default tax rate. Don’t want to add tax for everyone? Then you can take a couple other approaches. If your business operates in an area that does not assess tax on digital goods, you can to set your default tax rate to 0.0% and leave it at that (customers would have to be responsible for tax themselves if required, but it probably wouldn’t be an issue).
On the other hand, if your business does operate in a state (or region) that requires sales tax on digital goods, then you can set a default rate of 0.0% and you’ll want to configure a regional tax for customers in your state that should be assessed tax. The regional rates will be applied if the customer’s billing zip code falls in the specified region. Again, note two things: (1) I am not a tax expert (and you know because I just gave this advice for free 😉 ), so please don’t take me at my word, and (2) I have only looked to taxes concerning digital goods in the US. Whew. Now back to the task at hand: No matter how you need to configure tax rates, EDD will let you do it :):
Product addition is super simple, and creates products as new WordPress pages. You can add simple and variable downloadable products. Product pages include a title, product description, simple or variable pricing, and excerpts. You can also keep track of download stats right from the product editor.
Switching between simple and variable pricing is incredibly easy. Check a box. That’s it. You can also allow customers to buy multiple variations (good for songs on an album) or choose one variation (maybe for software available in a Standard or Pro version).
If you’re selling software, you’ll probably want the Software Licensing Add-on for $82, which provides a complete license key generation, activation, and checking system. You may also want to look into the Lock Downloads to IP Extension to prevent users from sharing file download links. Selling documents? Then the PDF Stamper Extension to add a watermark may come in handy. No matter what kind of digital good you’re selling, product addition is easy, and you’re almost guaranteed to find an extension (out of about 160!) that will help you sell your digital product.
Shortcodes and Widgets
Products are inserted in pages or posts using shortcodes. In your page / post editor, you’ll see an “Insert Download” button, which will help you insert the purchase options, price, and a “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” button (not any other product details).
Now, if that were the extent of the shortcodes available, I’d be a bit disappointed, since I’d have to manually add all products to my catalog and set up the layout myself (and I definitely was disappointed at first). However, there are more shortcodes you can use, which the basic documentation covers. The documentation also tells you that you can display products in a grid format using the [downloads] shortcode, and gives you a list of accepted attributes/parameters. The grid format includes the product image, description, and link to the product page instead of just a purchase button. Sounds great, right? Now I can set up a page to display all of my products in a given category and create my own shopping pages. For some reason, neither the sales copy nor the installation guidelines tell you this up front (which is true of a lot of plugins and drives me nuts).
But wait, there’s more! There’s a full list of shortcodes with corresponding attributes in the documentation. That would have been pretty awesome to know up front, and I would have liked to see it somewhere in the plugin on the WordPress side since that is the major way you’re displaying products. Links to the shortcode reference, or better yet, some integration with the “Insert Downloads” button would have been awesome. That forms one of the few complaints I have with this plugin since I had to go find this out on my own, and brand new users are unlikely to understand everything they can do with shortcodes without some nudging.
While we all know shortcodes are super useful, and you can use them with the basic WP widgets, EDD also includes a couple of widgets of their own for a shopping cart (you can create a cart page with a shortcode instead if you want), product categories or tags, and customer purchase history.
Customer Experience #
The customer experience is pretty customizable, and is really up to you. You can determine the layout, how images are displayed, the flow for the shopping experience, and more. Basic product pages display the featured image, product name, description, and pricing information:
If you want product reviews on your product pages, you can add them using the Product Reviews Add-on.
As we noted before, the easiest way to set up the shopping cart is by using the EDD shopping cart widget. If you don’t want to do this, you can create a shopping cart page as well, or use the free WP Menu Cart Extension (which has a Pro version for added features) to make your cart accessible from your navigation menu.
Easy Digital Downloads supports both registered user and guest checkout, and, as many plugins boast, uses a one-page checkout, which helps to minimize cart abandonment and maximize conversions. The checkout is very clean and easy to follow:
Once a customer has purchased your products, they can be taken to the “Purchase Confirmation” page (make sure to use this in your settings), where they can gain access to their downloads. They can also access their purchase history from their account page, which allows them to get back to this confirmation and access downloads at a later time, which they may need since you can also force downloads links to expire after a certain time.
Built-in Payment Options #
EDD comes with PayPal Standard built-in. Unless this will work for all your processing needs, you’ll probably need to purchase a payment gateway integration. However, the best bargain for your payment gateway integration may be the Extensions Bundle, which comes in a Stripe Edition, Authorize.net Edition, and a PayPal Edition (for PayPal Pro and PayPal Express). All of these bundles include the payment gateway integration, along with the Mail Chimp Integration, a User History extension to track behavior before purchase, the Amazon S3 integration, and a couple other goodies. If you don’t use one of these gateways, you can also purchase the integrations individually. Other popular processors that have EDD integrations include Braintree, SagePay, and FirstData.
Built-in Reporting #
Easy Digital Downloads nails reporting, and provides useful data for your store. You can view Earnings over time for a lot of time ranges, or for custom date ranges (in an easy to understand graph). You can also view downloads and earnings for products or categories, order data for customers, data for payment method successes and failures, and tax collection data. The “Reporting” menu also boasts a built-in CSV/PDF exporter for sales, customers, and downloads, and logs for file downloads, sales, and more.
Want to get this information on the go? You can use the Easy Digital Downloads iOS app for $2.99, which provides sales tracking, earnings stats, and product overviews for your EDD store.
You have to be impressed by a plugin that reaches a 4.8 star rating on WordPress.org with about 150,000 downloads, and EDD does it with 102 five star ratings. What’s more impressive is that reviews show people are pretty pleased overall but especially like the support. Most reviews gush about the help available, as well as the fact that it’s a durable, flexible, and easy-to-use plugin. Easy Digital Downloads provides lots of help with potential issues, including videos, basic support, and a documentation collection that has won some fans. Most support is handled in the EDD basic support forum, and responses seem to be prompt and helpful. If that’s not fast enough or effective enough, priority support will run you $39 per month (or $129 per year), but unless you need answers yesterday, it seems that basic support is great for the average user.
Other Features and Comments #
Even though the EDD plugin is designed for digital goods, you can add Simple Shipping using an extension to be able to sell physical goods as well. You can also turn your EDD site into a memberships and subscriptions site using the Restrict Content Pro Add-on, which provides multiple methods of restricting content. Want to offer discounts based on membership? Then you can use the Restrict Content Pro Membership Discounts Extension as well.
Recommended products and cross-sells are not included in the core plugin. If you want to add these, you’ll probably want the free Related Products Extension, the Cross-Sell and Upsell Extension, or the Recommended Products Extension. You can also encourage more purchases using the Volume Discounts Extension, which provides discounts when customers buy multiple products.
One of the really cool potential uses for Easy Digital Downloads is the ability to turn your EDD store into a virtual marketplace. If you want to allow fledging authors to submit sample chapters or ebooks, or if musicians want to upload songs to sell, you can use the Frontend Submissions Extension to allow potential vendors to upload their products for you to review. You can create an affiliate system using the Affiliates Pro Integration Pack, or integrate with the Share a Sale Platform to manage affiliate sales of these products, or simply pay commissions for products sold to create your virtual marketplace.
Easy Digital Downloads Review Wrap-up #
Easy Digital Downloads is everything its name suggests. The user interface is intuitive and easily understood, and browsing is simple on the frontend. The level of customization this plugin provides is fantastic, and it offers loads of flexibility in what digital products to sell and how to structure your store. Support and quality is top-notch as well. To top it off, it’s crazy extensible, and the estimated $200 you’ll spend on your store is well worth it for the quality you get from the plugin and corresponding add-ons. If you’re selling only digital goods, Easy Digital Downloads should be your clear-cut favorite.
Read more: #
- This Easy Digital Downloads Review has some great insights into using EDD to sell themes.
- FooPlugins discusses why they use Easy Digital Downloads as their cart solution in this article.
- This Easy Digital Downloads Video gives you an overview and demonstration of some plugin features.
- WP Nuggets posted a review that provides some in-depth information on plugin features.
- WPHub also posted an Easy Digital Downloads Review that walks through installation and configuration step-by-step, which is very helpful.
Like this Easy Digital Downloads Review? Check out the rest of our WordPress eCommerce Platforms Guide.
Please Note: I did not test all of the paid upgrades/plugins that I reference in this article; If I didn’t test it, I’m basing my information on reading user reviews or other articles.
Full Disclosure: The author of this article also works for SkyVerge, who develops WooCommerce extensions. Despite this fact, every effort was made to be impartial and write this review from a neutral perspective.
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