How I created a complete membership site with WordPress

by Paul Goodchild on March 10, 2011

Membership Ring

I put up last week that I had finally launched an e-book of how to setup Google Apps on your domain name.  This e-book covers a lot of things, including what a domain name is, how to register it, and how then to achieve Google-class email service on it.

But I needed a way to distribute this product, and so I opted for hosting the PDF file for download from my website.  When I made that decision, I had to work out how I would allow only buying customers to access the file any time they wanted.

The answer was to create a membership system on my WordPress website.

How I did it follows…

What is a membership site?

A membership site is simply a website whereby access to some or all of the content on the site is restricted to registered members of the site.

Taking this website a counter-example, ‘Life In Balance‘, access is completely open to all visitors.  At the time of writing there is currently no restricted-access on any content on the site.  You don’t need to register, and you’re effectively an anonymous visitor.

However, my main consulting website, My Business Anywhere does have restricted content, namely the E-Book.  You can visit the e-book download page but when you try to download the E-Book, you will be prevented from doing so.  This is put in place by the membership system I use.

The website is based on a WordPress blog, even though the site isn’t really a blog.  WordPress is one of the niftiest platforms available for creating a dynamic and flexible website.  Don’t get bogged down on the terminology of “blog” etc., it’s just a website.  But the system of membership, registration etc. is somewhat limited by the the out-of-the-box WordPress installation.

To create a website with finer access control to particular content, I needed to find a dedicated membership system that I could add on to WordPress to create a membership site.

After a few weeks of research and deliberation, I narrowed it down to two main options:

Why I chose Digital Access Pass (DAP)

I never installed Wishlist Member, so I can’t really comment on it, but time permitting I intend to install it on the trial period and see it works.  I figured for several reasons that Digital Access Pass was likely to meet most of my long-term needs.  Here’s what sold it for me:

  • Integration. There seemed to be a massive amount of options available for integrating with other 3rd party products.  This included: Paypal Standard, Paypal Pro, E-Junkie, 1ShoppingCart, Aweber, Mailchimp (to come), Clickbank, Infusionsoft, and others.  Wishlist on the other hand has perhaps half of these.
  • Documentation. Check their documentation site here. Digital Access Pass has a huge repository of documentation!  I used their “1-hour membership site” video to show me how to set up the basics of a membership site in an hour.  Brilliant!  Sure, they can’t cover all the options in 1hr, but with this you get 80% of the way there by just following along with their video.
  • Free Installation – they will install the package for you on your site for free.  I never used this feature because I wanted to do it myself and learn how to install a membership system.
  • In-Built affiliate system.  I don’t think Wishlist member (at the time of writing) has this.  I wanted the ability to create a membership site whereby people who sign up or become customers can help promote your product.  I’m not using this feature yet, but affiliate payments is on the cards.

I think Wishlist Member is probably an equally solid and reputable membership system, but I felt that Digital Access Pass had the edge in terms of features and speed of development.

I also felt that the personalities behind the product were likeable.  How I do know the personalities?  I don’t know know them for sure, but the creators behind Digital Access Pass seemed enthusiastic, full of confidence, and 110% behind their product.  Their blog helps to give the impression that while they work hard to create a great product, they’re fairly easy going and enjoy their work.  Marketing strategy?  Perhaps, but I liked it.

Documentation and support with the Membership System

Both the 2 systems that I had short-listed had extensive documentation sections with videos for learning how to get the most out of the product.  Because I haven’t installed and used Wishlist Member yet, I can’t tell from 1st-hand experience how good it is.

The same goes for support, and I have had only 1 occasion so far to use the support system with Digital Access Pass.  The problem was that in the process of testing I had logged out of the administrative side of the membership system.

I hadn’t realised that there was NO relationship between the users/administrator of the membership system and with the users/administrators of the WordPress website.  So I couldn’t understand that while being logged-in to WordPress I wasn’t logged in to the Admin side of the site.

I sent a request to them and I had the answer returned to me in about 10 minutes.


Digital Access Pass doesn’t over-promise and setup huge expectations.  It simply tells you what the system is capable of and it delivers on all of it – at least all the parts that I needed it for.

Are there any downside(s) to Digital Access Pass?


For me the biggest problems are the templates they provide for Login / Register / Profile pages etc.  They predominantly use HTML <tables> which is a rare thing these days.  I’m not a web developer or designer – far from it.  That said though, I’ve personally designed all my own websites in a bid to learn the basics.

However, Digital Access Pass doesn’t provide nice templates for the purpose of the main customer facing pages.  It would be nice if they’d create a backend section to help design these since I feel this is an important part of the experience.

But if that’s my only problem, then I’m happy enough with that.  Everything works as it’s advertised.

Check out the Digital Access Pass website for more information, and of course, feel free to give Wishlist Member a look too.

If you have had any experience with any other membership systems I’d love to hear what you think of them.  Have you had bad experiences with DAP?  Are there more features with Wishlist Member than I realised?  Feel free to set me right, or agree, or just give your thoughts below.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Barnby June 10, 2011 at 13:07

I hear that combining Digital Access Pass with Optimize Press is a great solution.  Optimize Press gives the look and customer experience you are after and DAP is the work horse under the hood in your membership site. I’ve spent days and days researching membership sites for Wordpress that integrate with Infusionsoft. These seem to be a good solution, but I have yet to try it.  I have a call in to Infusionsoft now to get their take on integration with Digital Access Pass, which says it it does integrate. I’ll report back if I have any new info and once I try it for myself.

Thanks for this review!

Linda Barnby


Paul Goodchild June 10, 2011 at 14:23

Hi Linda,

Thanks for the heads up on “Optimize Press”. I’ll definitely give it a look.

I like Digital Access Pass, but as I mentioned in the article, customising the customer front end can be a tedious – I’m thinking to release some CSS and custom templates for public download, but they’re a little bit far off.

I’ll give your recommendation a look, and I’d love to hear back on what you hear from Infusionsoft.

Thanks again for adding to the discussion and sharing what you’ve found.


Access Control October 6, 2011 at 04:38

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