S2Member Free WordPress Membership Site Plugin
S2Member offers both a free and premium WordPress membership site plugin. When deciding whether or not to try the S2Member free plugin there are two different decisions to make. The first is whether or not the S2Member free plugin offers the functionality and capabilities required to operate your membership site. If not, the second question is whether upgrading to the premium version would offer the additional resources you need.
Big Picture View of S2Member
Overall the free S2Member has many of the core features developers want in a WordPress membership plugin. The one obvious feature which is lacking is the ability to easily drip-feed content but this is only an issue for very specific types of membership sites and continuity sites. The framework is cleanly designed and easily integrates with the core WordPress architecture and other popular plugins.
A key consideration for every membership site is how monies will be collected. The free version of S2Member allows for PayPal standard button integration – which includes recurring and non-recurring subscriptions. The only caveat is it does not support custom thank you page URLs. For this functionality an upgrade to the premium version of S2Member is required. Other popular payment gateways such as PayPal Pro, Authorize.Net, Google Wallet, and ClickBank are only available with the premium version of S2Member.
Core Membership Functions
The S2Member free plugin includes variations on most of the key membership functions including an array of customization options. One limitation is the number of membership levels available. The free version is limited to a maximum of 4 membership levels. For unlimited levels upgrading to the premium version is required. The premium version is also needed for customizable one-time offers upon user login.
There is no difference between the free and premium S2Member plugin versions in regards to content protection and download restrictions. The free version makes it easy to protect individual or all WordPress posts, pages, and categories. For download protection this plugin supports both inline and forced file downloads, restrictions based on membership level, localized storage protection, and comes pre-integrated with Amazon S3 Cloudfront.
Depending on the size of your membership site the need to mass import, delete, promote, and demote members is critical. Unfortunately, the free version of S2Member only allows for mass promotion, deletion, and demotion. It does not support mass importation, updates, or exportation. The premium version is required for this.
3rd Party Integration
The free S2Member WordPress membership plugin includes pre-integration for a variety of 3rd party tools. For mailing list functionality MailChimp and AWeber are pre-integrated. These are the only two mailing list options available regardless of whether you choose the free or premium version. Both versions are also the same in terms of affiliate management/website tracking. They both are pre-integrated with iDevAffiliate, ShareASale, and Google Analytics. Additionally they are fully compatible with any affiliate management system that utilizes pixel tracking, code snippets, and event driven API notifications.
Capabilities Only Available With the Premium Version
There are several other capabilities of note which are only available with the premium version. They include remote operations API for PHP developers, API function for dynamic Pro Login Widgets via PHP, and support for WordPress multisite blog farms allowing child blogs – including BuddyPress support on multisite networks.
The S2Member free WordPress membership site plugin offers tremendous overall value considering it is regularly updated and is a no cost solution. At the same time, there are certain restrictions and drawbacks which may make many membership site owners seriously consider upgrading to the premium version or selecting an alternate WordPress membership plugin solution.