When I started one of my first membership sites, one of the only solutions available that worked with WordPress was Wishlist Member. This was way back in 2009-2010 range.
So, I used it. And it did the job. It wasn't anything fancy, but nothing was back then.
I eventually got fed up with it, however. It was a bit of a black box because the code was obfuscated. And it was causing me major performance issues at the time and I had no way to figure it out. I concluded that Wishlist Member was not capable of doing what I wanted, so I jumped ship to another option.
The funny thing is, I ended up coming BACK to Wishlist Member a few years later, only to jump ship again.
So, essentially, my usage of Wishlist Member has not always been on the best of terms. 😉
For all these years, Wishlist Member continues to be one of the leading options for membership site WordPress plugins. It is sort of the "old man" in the room, now. Other options have come along.
My own business is currently operating on MemberMouse. And I've had some of my readers begin the process of building their own membership sites on MemberMouse - primarily due to my recommendation.
The truth is, MemberMouse is overkill for a lot of people.
For many, MemberMouse will be overwhelming. Too much. Too nerdy. Not to mention, it is one of the few plugins out there that charges a monthly recurring fee to use it.
Frankly, as much as I respect the capability and power of MemberMouse, I also find myself frustrated with it because I feel their development schedule is slow as molasses.
Not long ago, I noticed an AppSumo special offer for Wishlist Member. It was a lifetime license. And I decided I couldn't pass it up.
In this post, I wanted to take a fresh look at the "old man" of membership sites: Wishlist Member. And as I look at it, I will also be making some comparisons to MemberMouse (since that is what I use).
How does this thing stack up today? Let's find out...
First Impressions After Installation Of Wishlist Member
I installed Wishlist Member on a test site. The first thing I notice is that they have really improved and professionalized the interface since the days when I used it. Here's the main dashboard:
Right off the bat, this is a simpler and more streamlined dashboard than MemberMouse has. MemberMouse takes up a lot of space on the dashboard quite uselessly with links to the Subscription Entrepreneur podcast and MemberMouse news. I would prefer to be able to remove that crap from the dashboard, but there's no ability to do that. So, +1 for Wishlist Member in this department.
To get a feel for the basic setup, I launch the wizard to get things set up. It is only 5 steps long and asks:
- The name of your first member level
- If you want it to protect all posts, all pages, all categories and all comments
- Whether you want to require admin approval for new members or not
- Yes/no on automatically protecting new content as it is posted
- Yes/no on hiding protected content from non-members
- Name and email address from which to send member-related emails
- Selecting your payment provider and/or email provider
Under the Integrations section, it is clear just how many things Wishlist works with.
Pertinent to most is the fact that Wishlist will work with Stripe and Paypal directly. It also works with numerous third-party shopping carts and order processors.
Also interesting to me is that Wishlist Member has a pretty tight integration with ThriveCart - something that I'm a big fan of and this would make this a seriously powerful combination.
Wishlist works with all major email list providers. And, under "Other Integrations", it has a lot more options:
There are built-in integrations to iDevAffiliate, LearnDash (see review), WP Courseware, EasyWebinar, etc. It also works with Zapier, giving you access to hundreds of app integrations.
Once again, Wishlist is WAY more developed in terms of integrations than MemberMouse.
Now, don't get me wrong, you can get MemberMouse to work with numerous options. I certainly have no issues with this in my business. But, there is a simplicity and elegance to having all these integrations right there inside of WordPress when you're using Wishlist Member.
For sake of comparison, MemberMouse integrates with only 5 email providers. That's right... five. Again, there are always ways. I work with Drip and MemberMouse doesn't list that as an available integration. But, it works fine. I think Drip made that work, through, via the MemberMouse API. Certainly, MemberMouse doesn't make it clear. Their interface is stuck 5 years ago.
Aside from integrations, as I click around the interface of Wishlist Member, I also appreciate how much more streamlined it is than MemberMouse. MemberMouse currently has a sluggish interface. Clicking on anything has this annoying orange progress bar pop up. It slows things down - stupidly.
Wishlist just feels faster. It is easy to make your way around.
Payments & Managing Products/Subscriptions
As I poked through how to actually process payments with Wishlist Member, some pretty clear differences from MemberMouse became apparent.
Let's start with the Stripe integration so you can accept credit cards, here's a big difference:
The Wishlist integration with Stripe is much more simplistic. It works, but there is less flexibility in how it looks. One thing I do appreciate (technically) is that your subscriptions will be managed directly inside of Stripe rather than being tied to MemberMouse. MemberMouse manages subscriptions and this provides a lot of power, but it also ties you into MemberMouse. There is something to be said for the flexibility.
If you want a lot more flexibility in the order process for your member signups, it looks like you would need to go with a third-party cart. Wishlist just doens't have much built-in ability to build any kind of a sales funnel worth speaking of.
I am a massive fan of ThriveCart and it is nice to see that Wishlist Member has a very tight-knit integration with it. A ThriveCart+Wishlist software stack would give you an incredibly powerful and flexibility platform to make a lot of money with.
An Overview Of Wishlist Member Capabilities That Stood Out
As I look around at the settings and options of Wishlist Member, I really respect just how capable this platform has become.
Some things are just obvious and expected in a platform like this. But, as a MemberMouse user, several things stood out to me that are quite welcome:
#1 - Built in Ability To Do Pay Per Post
You can easily set it up so that individual posts can be purchased by members. This could give you the option, for example, to have a paid upgrade to individual posts where they get access to something extra upon purchase - and it all happens instantly and right there on that post.
#2 - Pretty Fine-Tuned Ability To Manage Redirects
You can easily control redirects for after a person registers, after they login, and after they log out. This can be defined per member level as well as per page/post.
While MemberMouse has redirects, Wishlist provides more fine-tuned control. With MemberMouse, all log-out actions redirect to one, main logout page. Wishlist Member allows you to take much more control of it, making your redirect pages much more contextual and relevant.
#3 - Simpler To Manage Emails Sent To Members
For each member level, Wishlist provides email templates built right into the level settings for things like new registrations, incomplete registrations, cancellations, or uncancellations.
It does appear as if Wishlist sends these emails. From a deliverability perspective, that is not ideal so I would recommend you integrate your site with a third-party email sender such as SendGrid to send those emails. Post SMTP is a great plugin for doing just that.
MemberMouse also provides a lot of flexibility on emails, but it is done through the use of Developer Tools and it just feels like a more geeky experience. Wishlist is more user-friendly.
#4 - Easier To Manage Members
As a MemberMouse user, I have long been dealing with their clunky interface where managing members can be a really annoying experience. So, it is strange to find myself a little jealous of some of the seemingly simple things that are so easy inside of Wishlist Member. For instance:
- It is easy to add or move entire member levels. For instance, if I want to move all members from one level to another level, it is easy.
- The speed of the user interface inside of Wishlist blows MemberMouse away.
- I can perform numerous membership functions en mass on multiple members at a time.
#5 - Easy To Manage Content Protection
Under the Content Protection section, you can view all your content and control access en mass. This is superior to MemberMouse (again) because there is no way to manage protections on content in a bulk fashion with MemberMouse. And adding several levels to a piece of content with MemberMouse cannot be done. You must add them one by one.
If you go to individual pieces of content, you have Wishlist settings specific to that content:
You can obviously control protection. Interestingly, I thought it was interesting that you could change the redirect pages for each individual page. In other words, you can control redirects or error messages for each individual page/post. This is much more capability than MemberMouse provides, where all "access errors" point to one, universal page and there's no granularity provided whatsoever.
One thing I didn't care for was that the Content Protection screen for Wishlist presents a sidebar menu of all of your various post types - therefore allowing you to specify protections on all of them. However, it is also bringing in custom post types from other plugins that were never supposed to be listed this way.
I have 4 different instances of "Posts" there, likely because a proper name was not defined for them. And it was even listing internal post types for things like Thrive Theme Builder. So, obviously an update is needed so that Wishlist will ignore those things. Or, they need an option to simply enable/disable protection on post types in a way where it will not appear this way.
Some Big Differences Between Wishlist Member And MemberMouse
There are several things that I think are better about Wishlist. Many of them having to do with the user interface and speed of management.
But, I want to be clear...
MemberMouse is a more capable and flexible membership site plugin. Of that there is no doubt. Wishlist Member is no slouch, but there are several things that I use myself in MemberMouse which simply don't exist in Wishlist. For instance...
#1 - No Bundles And Product Flexibility
MemberMouse has very flexible control via products as well as member levels AND bundles. There can be multiple price structures for any level or bundle. The addition of bundles allows the ability to provide fine-tuned access to anything you want independently of the membership level the user is on.
Now, Wishlist also provides some good flexibility. One key difference is that MemberMouse enforces one member level per person, but that same person can have infinite bundles. With Wishlist, each member can have several different member levels at the same time. So, in a way, this is simply a different way of doing what MemberMouse bundles do.
#2 - No Activity History For Members
MemberMouse provides an activity log so you can see what your members are up to. Wishlist doesn't have anything like that.
#3 - No Custom Fields
MemberMouse provides custom fields for each member - and they do not have to be seen on the registration page. Wishlist can only show custom fields if originally asked for at registration.
#4 - No Apparent PHP Function Access For Themes
Every SmartTag (aka shortcode) in MemberMouse has a PHP version which can be used to create very custom experiences directly within the theme. This is very geeky, but it provides a LOT of flexibility and this is something I make heavy use of. Wishlist Member has an API (so does MemberMouse) that would allow a developer to access Wishlist data using PHP code. But, the way MemberMouse enables this is just easier.
#5 - No Coupon Codes
MemberMouse is designed to serve as it's own shopping cart. It is much more self-contained in that regard and that, of course, means that something like coupon codes is totally supported. Wishlist Member focuses primarily on content protection... leaving the payment stuff to third-party integrations. For this reason, it has essentially no built-in capability to deal with things like offer coupon codes for your products.
#6 - No Upsells, DownSells, Etc.
One of the best things about MemberMouse is a lot of built-in flexibility for the sales process, including the ability to assemble full sales funnels with upsells, downsells, and one-click purchases. Wishlist Member has none of that. You would need to use something like ThriveCart to have anything like that because, once again, Wishlist is not designed to be a full top-to-bottom solution.
Overall, it is clear that MemberMouse is more of an enterprise-level solution. While the user interface on the backend is not as good, the power of MemberMouse cannot be denied.
Could I Build THE LAB On Wishlist Member?
I have a lot of members who have used THE LAB and see how it works. And, of course, that whole setup is quite custom and built on top of MemberMouse.
All of my sales are processed through MemberMouse. All upsells. Free registrations. The theme for the LAB has a lot of programmatic access to MemberMouse to provide a lot of flexibility. I make use of custom fields for things like the credit system (where members can buy strategy session credits that stay on their account until use). I make use of the API to automate various operations.
To be honest, it is a little complex.
So, the question is... could I run something like this on Wishlist Member?
I could get pretty close, but some things would be a little tough. For instance:
- Some of the theme hacks would need to be done using the Wishlist API and that's a little harder than MemberMouse's built-in functions
- I'd have a LOT more member levels to deal with because Wishlist doesn't do bundles. So, selling courses individually would entail a lot more levels.
- Since Wishlist has a pretty lightweight ability to handle orders, I would most definitely run everything through ThriveCart. No question about it. This would obviously change the structure and look of my sales funnels and member accounts, but it would work just fine. Probably be simpler in some ways, actually. 🙂
But, here's the main point...
YES, it could definitely be done. Some things would look different, but it would work. Which brings me to my main takeaway here about Wishlist Member....
My Final Thoughts On Wishlist Member
Wishlist Member is not the most powerful membership plugin there is. But, it is quite capable. MUCH more so than it was years ago when I used it in my business.
It has numerous built-in integrations. In many ways, it is less geeky to deal with than MemberMouse. So, what it comes down to is this...
For MOST of my readers and students who are looking to build membership sites, Wishlist Member will totally do the job for you and do it very well. You do NOT need to get something like MemberMouse simply because I do it. It is overkill for most people, frankly.
Wishlist Members handles content protection. It is weak when it comes to processing orders and the sales funnel stuff since it defers to third-party tools for that. But, that's not a bad thing since those tools are great.
Personally, I think the most powerful combination would be:
- ThriveCart (can literally do almost anything to power your funnels. This software is great - and available for a one-time payment instead of recurring)
- Wishlist Member (to control access to all the stuff you sell).
That combo right there is very powerful - and is actually going to be more powerful and simpler to use than what I have built here at the Blog Marketing Academy.
If I were starting over, I would totally look at that exact combination. I would not pick MemberMouse. It isn't because I don't like MemberMouse, but I see the power of the ThriveCart/Wishlist combination and I see how it would make my life easier.
It is also pretty cool that I have lifetime accounts with both of those tools, so I would have ZERO recurring costs associated with a humongous chunk of my business.
Now, if you don't want to use a powerful solution like ThriveCart, you have other options with Wishlist Member. It can even work with Stripe and Paypal directly. But, you will lose a lot of power of upsells, downsells and coupons because Wishlist just wasn't built for full-funnel capability.
In the end, my opinion of Wishlist Member has changed.
I sort of bashed it around there for awhile. I told people it was a weak solution, based mainly out of my own experience. But, it is clear that they've made a lot of improvements since then.
I think Wishlist Member is a solid membership site platform that will serve most membership site owners well - if coupled with a capable shopping art solution such as ThriveCart.