I always get all excited when I accomplish something, but I get extra excited when I get it done and think, “well, that was easy.” As much as I enjoy fiddling with technology, I enjoy reaping the benefit of well set-up technology even more. That’s why I still get so excited about WordPress — I feel so powerful being able to accomplish big things without a huge amount of time and effort.
I had that exact feeling this past month when I was getting WooCommerce set up here on CSS-Tricks (again).
Lemme show you how I’ve got it set up, because I bet there are plenty of you who could do the same thing and make even more use of this setup than what I’m doing!
WooCommerce Powered Membership
Let’s say you want to have a membership site. Perhaps you have a fitness website and you make training videos and you build a membership paywall for pages that display those videos and training regiments. Or perhaps you have a cooking website, and paid members have access to additional features, like saved shopping lists.
Having a system for paid members is a foundational concept for making money online, and is typically no small task. Fortunately, WooCommerce makes quick work of it. Aside from the (free) WooCommerce plugin, you’ll need the ($199) WooCommerce Memberships plugin.
If you’re eying up some paid plugins for WooCommerce, you might circle July 28th on your calendar. That’s WooCommerce Day and there are going to be some big sales.
Once you have that installed, you’ll see a Memberships tab within your WooCommerce area in the WordPress admin. In there is a Membership Plans area where you can set up your plans. We have a very simple one-plan setup: CSS-Tricks Member.
You could have a whole variety of plans if you like (e.g. bronze, silver, gold).
These plans don’t do anything all by themselves just yet —they are just user roles, and the access control stuff comes later. You could make these plans such that only admins can add people to them, that anybody can register for them for free, or that they require the purchase of a product to join. That last one is the useful one for an eCommerce setup!
As a side note, you’ll probably want to limit the time length of the membership. You could make it unlimited, but it’s probably smarter to start with memberships that expire after a set time so you aren’t promising things for life.
Since I’m selling memberships, I’ve tied the Membership Plan to the sale of a product: MVP Supporter.
Buy this product, activate subscription, activate membership
The way to get access to that membership plan is to purchase this product. You’ll also always be able to manually add people to plans as an admin.
This product could have been a one-off charge, which supports the idea of an unlimited length membership, but like most memberships in the world, I wanted to set it up as a recurring billing product. That means we need a little additional setup.
Subscriptions to Memberships
I found this a tiny bit confusing. You might assume a membership plugin would support the idea of recurring billing for that membership, but it doesn’t do that out of the box. We need a second plugin for that: WooCommerce Subscriptions.
The subscription plugin is another $199, making this setup just shy of $400. That’s it for upfront costs though — you only need to renew the licenses next year if you need support and updates (I would). I find that cost to be more than fair for a system that works this efficiently, but you’ll have to do the business math for yourself.
Once you have that plugin installed, any product you create has the possibility of being a subscription product.
Here at CSS-Tricks, we’re charging $20/year for the membership. When someone signs up, they’ll be re-charged the next year at $20. That matches the length of the membership plan, which is an important step. Nothing forces you to do that but it would be weird to place a charge on a different date from the actual renewal.
Membership-Only Access to Posts
Wwe’ve done the two biggest parts of setup:
Created a Membership PlanCreated a product people can buy that subscribes them to that plan
Now for the part that actually gives the members some benefit! I am planning to sell access to a “book” that’s hosted on this site. The book is actually just a collection of posts. They are Custom Post Types we’ve set up called “Chapters.” In the editor for the chapter, below the content, there will be a Memberships area you can use for locking the chapter to a Membership Plan.:
This is in the post editor, underneath the post content.
Again, this example uses a Custom Post Type, but it could be any page or post type at all! It’s literally the flip of a switch to put something behind the membership wall.
There are two “faces” of a post with a content restriction:
What members see: the contentWhat non-members see: an excerpt and message on how to unlock the content
I think that’s a nice system. It shows people exactly what they could be reading if they were a member and shows them exactly how they can become a member.
Now there is some custom CSS happening here, but not much! I just use the default features, see what gets output onto the page, and there is always a sensible class name to hook onto to do styling — just how it should work.
Doing Things Programmatically for Members
In our case, the primary benefit to being a member is probably gaining access to the book, but it doesn’t have to stop there. I think giving as much as possible to a paying member is generally a good idea. And since advertising is the primary business model on this site, it seems fair to remove those ads if you have a paid supporter membership.
There are all kinds of APIs for these plugins to hook into whatever you need, but I like to keep things as simple as I can. For example, in any template, I can check to see if you’re a member or not.
On-Demand Printing & Fulfillment
Memberships and subscriptions are just two of the things I’m doing with WooCommerce. The other is selling physical products, which is something I’ve dabbled in over the years. In fact, we used to hand-fulfill each and every order by taking products to the post office! We’ve also partnered with fulfillment companies in the past, but we still had to physically print up a bunch of inventory ahead of time.
Things have come a long way since then and there are lots of companies that print on demand! One such company (and I have no affiliation with them) is Printify. They sell all kinds of stuff, including what you’d expect from a printing company: t-shirts, hoodies, mugs… and the best part for me is that it connects directly to WooCommerce.
So far, we’ve stocked the store with posters! On the Printify side, I pick the product, upload the art, choose some options, and that’s that!
The last step in the process is to “Publish product to your WooCommerce store” which has worked perfectly for me so far. I trust that it works, as it must be forming the connection between Printify and WooCommerce such that Printify receives the order and fulfills it when they come in.
From there, the products appear on my site and I can edit or customize them from WordPress if I need to (like the copy and such):
Products in my WooCommerce admin
I can check orders at any time and watch as they are ordered, produced, prepped, and shipped:
Order dashboard on Printify
I ordered some posters myself, of course, so I could try it out before putting it in front of other people. The poster came in a nice triangular tube thing in perfect condition on thick bright white paper. I hung it right up next to my office computer:
If you’re like me and get excited to look at how your little store is doing and get notifications for sales, there is a mobile app.
I haven’t had the need to update order statuses or manage reviews and the like, but that’s all in there too.
There is a lot of technology at work here!
But my actual time commitment has been minimal. I’ve spent longer writing this blog post than I have setting up all of this eCommerce stuff. I’m just an integrator here. I’m not inventing anything — just taking advantage of some best-in-class software to make my ideas happen.