The headline sort of gives away the punchline here... I am switching away from MemberMouse as my membership site platform.
In this post, I am going to explain why.
I have been using MemberMouse for almost 5 years now. It is a royal pain in the butt to switch away from it. And in the end, it isn't as if my site was broken.
So, why fix something that wasn't broken? Why rip that bandaid? Does this mean MemberMouse sucks now?
Let's dive in...
Why I Chose MemberMouse In The First Place
In my 20 years of experience running online businesses, I have used all kinds of different platforms for making sales.
I used 1ShoppingCart for awhile. I used aMember Pro. I used Wishlist Member. I used Nanacast. I used Ontraport (then called Office Autopilot). So, I've been around.
When I selected MemberMouse close to 5 years ago, I wanted something that was self-contained, powerful and flexible. At the time, MemberMouse was (in my view) one of the most powerful membership plugins for WordPress I had seen. It could do one-click upsells, which is something that no other plugin was capable of at the time.
MemberMouse was (and is) very well developed. You can run a full, enterprise-level membership site on this platform. The Developer Tools allow integration with a large range of external systems (even though it is far more geeky than others). So, there's a lot to like.
But, over the years, my enthusiasm waned. But first, let me be clear...
MemberMouse Is Still Pretty Awesome
I know we (unfortunately) live in a very binary world these days. Perhaps social media has done that to us. Things are either black or white, on or off, horrible or best thing ever. We seem to have lost nuance.
So, I want to be clear here...
Just because I am switching away from MemberMouse and have some things I don't like about it does NOT mean I think it is a bad plugin. Not even remotely.
MemberMouse remains one of the most solid, reliable membership plugins I have ever seen for WordPress. It is very capable.
I've said before that I don't know why they called it "MemberMouse" because... this plugin is no mouse. There's nothing small or weak about it. It's a beast. 🙂
OK. So, Why I Am Switching?
There are a few different concerns that I had. These concerns have been sitting out on the periphery for awhile now. I just didn't do anything about it because it is a real pain in the butt to switch.
But, recently, I have decided not to force myself to remain tied to it. While I cannot rip it out of there immediately, I decided to make certain changes so that I have a pathway to removing MemberMouse from my software stack.
Let's discuss what, for me, are the primary reasons for this...
#1 - Speed Of Development
As I said, MemberMouse is incredibly powerful as it is. However, in the 5 years that I have used the plugin, very little has actually changed.
MemberMouse updates happen fairly infrequently. Sometimes you don't even know they're happening because they issue mini-updates behind the scenes and you'll never know about it unless you look at their changelog. The development team, when I asked them about update frequency, seem to be of the opinion that they update often. But, I don't think they see what other plugins do.
I am a very happy Thrive Themes member, for instance. Anybody who has used Thrive Themes tools know that they are actively updating and enhancing their product all the time. I probably upgrade Thrive Architect almost weekly. When you pay a recurring fee for Thrive Themes plugins, they MORE than earn their money. And I am a very happy customer.
Same with other plugins that I use and pay for on a recurring basis. They UPDATE. And they do so with obvious regularity. And while sometimes the changes are bug fixes, I see an emphasis on actual features and usability enhancements.
With MemberMouse, the updates are less frequent. And, with rare exception, the things they update are either "fixes" or behind-the-scenes things few people will notice... or some fairly useless thing on the admin side.
If you look through the release notes to see changes being made, it becomes clear. This chart of major releases shows that in all of 2018, they released 1 update. In 2019, 3 updates. So far in 2020, 2 updates.
If we look at some of the typical release notes, almost all changes are bug fixes or behind-the-scenes adjustments for payment integrations. Anything "new" are fairly mundane things like adding an ID number to a table, or changing aspects of the interface to meet Section 508 accessibility guidelines. What... never heard of that? Me neither! But, that was the big reveal for version 2.3.2.
The actual day-to-day usage of MemberMouse has not improved barely at all in the 5 years I have been using MemberMouse. When I update MemberMouse, I hardly notice a difference.
This begins to rub me the wrong way when...
#2 - Price Of Monthly Recurring Subscription
MemberMouse is rare in the WordPress plugin world in that they charge MONTHLY to use it. Apparently they have an annual option, but they hide it for some reason.
MemberMouse begins at $19.95/month and you can put 1,000 members into the system. The price goes up from there. On the plan I am on, I pay $49/month.
Now, the price is not a problem for me. My business generates revenue, so paying $49/month for the core of the business is no issue. But...
When I'm paying $49/month ($588/year) and I basically get very little for it, that starts to rub me the wrong way.
MemberMouse is billing as if it is SAAS (software as a service). They're billing as if they host it, maintain it, and take away all the heavy lifting. But, they don't. I am hosting it. I do the work to keep the gears churning. This is a WordPress plugin, not SAAS.
Why, for instance, do they increase the rate as my membership grows when I'm the one storing all the data? It makes no difference to them.
If this were a hosted service like Teachable, SendOwl or any number of them, the MemberMouse billing model would make sense. But, for a WordPress plugin that is hardly ever functionally improved? Not at all. With my current plan, MemberMouse is almost double the rate of the most expensive annual cost of any other WordPress plugin I've ever used. And I got more for it with the others.
When I brought this up directly to the founder of MemberMouse, it was essentially met with a question of why the price should matter to me if I'm generating enough revenue.
I think he missed the point.
Another important point about the recurring fee is that you're essentially paying for your RIGHT to use the plug-in. This isn't like other plug-ins where you pay for support and updates, but if you cancel the plug-in still works. With MemberMouse, it will simply stop and de-activate if you stop paying for it.
So, in pretty much every way, MemberMouse is billing as if it is a SAAS service, despite the fact that you're the one doing the hosting and doing the technical work to make it all work.
#3 - An Inefficient Admin Interface
The thing I have been waiting for from MemberMouse is an improved admin user interface. Over a year ago, after a conversation with their development team, I was under the impression this was happening. Over a year later, nothing changed.
My issues with the admin UI have nothing to do with "looks". It has everything to do with speed of work. Let me give some examples:
- Making almost any change to a member profile requires excessive clicks and screen refreshes. Multiple tabs in a member profile require full screen refresh to load. When you make an edit, saving anything brings up this orange progress bar that takes time. THEN a confirmation that I have to hit "OK" on. Overall, it is just a very slow workflow.
- There is no easy ability to mass-protect multiple pages at once. You cannot assign multiple member levels or bundles to a piece of content at once, instead being forced to do it one by one. Then, there's no way to bulk-protect anything. You can imagine the amount of time it takes to assign protections to a new course that has, say 30 lessons to it. In the past, I've literally assigned this task to my VA since I didn't have the patience. And it is all because of their sucky UI.
- Too much reliance on weird popup windows to edit things, all with the orange progress bar. That orange progress bar is stupid since the actual database change takes a split second and a UI refresh could be likewise as fast. And there's ZERO need to make me click "OK" to confirm that what I just did actually happened.
- If you tell a screen to show more than 20 items at a time (like the member list, or product list), the UI does not remember it. So, next time you come back, you have to set it yet again.
I could go on. The day to day use of MemberMouse as an admin or support person is slow and inefficient. It takes longer to do things than it should. And just SIMPLE things like bulk-editing of protections would have saved us HOURS of meaningless clicking on things. But, after 5 years, they haven't managed to change a thing in this regard.
When I brought this up to the team and pointed out how other plugins are so much faster, it was met with a comment about "lipstick on a pig". As if my primary concern was the looks of the UI. No... the looks are fine. It is just a bitch to use!
The interface is old. It is clunky. It isn't standardized, so we're sorta stuck with it until they choose to do something about it. And I've been waiting.
#4 - Leaving MemberMouse Is Hard (And You're Trapped By It)
The above 3 things form the basis for my frustration over MemberMouse.
- It is a pain in the butt to use because of the slow workflow of their UI.
- They don't seem to be doing anything about it.
- And I'm paying a lot for it compared to any other WordPress plugin I have EVER used.
So, when I am feeling that way, it makes it a bit of a kick in the nads that it is so difficult to move away from MemberMouse. And that is because...
It holds your subscriptions hostage.
MemberMouse does not work with Stripe in a way which uses Stripe's built-in subscription management. MemberMouse is the point of billing for every transaction. No MemberMouse.... no renewals.
Now, there are no shady intents behind this. Doing it this way is what gives MemberMouse so much capability. It can do 1-click upsells. It can do pro-rated upgrades and downgrades. It also has a pretty cool ability to allow members to purchase follow-up products without re-entering their credit card info. That's pretty cool!
It does all this very well and the technical trade-off for this is that it has to handle the billing. So, I get it.
However, I do believe that there is still an unnecessary element to it that makes it particularly concerning for the end user. If you cancel your MemberMouse account, all of your recurring billing simply stops.
Seeing as this is a WordPress plug-in that you host yourself, the fact that they've programmed this thing to shut down your entire business if you don't pay them is, truthfully, really freakin' annoying.
They say it is because they use their own server to trigger subscription renewals so that you're not reliant on WordPress's built-in scheduled tasks. This is a weak excuse. Most membership plug-ins make use of built-in CRON jobs. Worse case, just set it up so that you can set up your own CRON job and not rely on WordPress CRON. But, there is no technical reason why they must engineer this the way they did.
It does start to rub me the wrong way feeling like I'm trapped by something that is not improving. It starts to feel like a dead end. That doesn't help my positivity. 🙂
It is like salt in the wound when they tell me I have to continue paying them just to have the subscriptions that I host and use my own Stripe account for continue to take place.
This is the catch-22 of MemberMouse. It is a VERY powerful platform. I just feel like development has slowed to a turtle's pace and the things they spend their time on are irrelevant to material daily usage.
With most WordPress plug-ins, your license renewal fees are for support and updates. With MemberMouse, you're paying for support and updates (what there is, anyway), but also your RIGHT to use the plug-in at all. Because, it will stop functioning the moment you stop paying monthly for it.
This leaves a sour taste in my mouth. No doubt about it.
My Final Thoughts On MemberMouse
I remember when I used OptimizePress for landing pages on WordPress. I thought it was awesome. At the time, it was the most advanced such editor for WordPress. But then...
Better things came along. Elementor came out. Thrive Architect came out. The power and speed of work in either of those platforms makes OptimizePress look bad. Today, I would never recommend OptimizePress to anybody. The competition outshined it.
MemberMouse risks something similar in the world of membership plugins for WordPress. Yes, it is very powerful. But, the competition has gotten better. MemberMouse is no longer the most powerful plugin available. Even something like Wishlist Member has aspects (mainly in the admin UI) that smoke MemberMouse.
MemberMouse is getting surpassed. It feels old now. It isn't keeping up.
Whatever developers are spending time on with MemberMouse is not on anything that presents a competitive advantage to MemberMouse. It is falling behind on integrations and speed while the things they DO spend time on matter to very few.
I have been told that I don't know the full picture of what's going on behind the scenes. I have no doubt that is true. But, that is not an issue for me. It is an issue for the MemberMouse team.
So, I will be moving out of MemberMouse. It is a tough project to do such a thing and I knew that going in. But, I figured if I didn't rip this bandaid off at some point, my frustration is probably just going to get worse.
In a series of followup posts, I will talk more about where I'm heading and the software choices I am making for the new platform.
I will also talk about some of the considerations that went into it. So, more to come!
But, after almost 5 years with MemberMouse, I have decided to make the hard decision to move off it. I need to remain a paying customer for some time longer since previous subscriptions are held hostage by MemberMouse. But, I'm making this pivot now so that I'm not always tied to it. I want to stop feeling like I'm on a dead end.
I hold no bad feelings toward MemberMouse or the team behind it. They've actually done an incredible job with this product. I just feel like it has stalled and I need to move on now.
And truthfully, given this, I cannot honestly recommend MemberMouse to anybody if they're starting a new membership site. I think there are better ways to go now.