Need More Power for Toolset Membership Sites?

   Amir

August 20, 2018

We want to make it easier to build fully-featured membership sites with Toolset. To do this, we need to know what you need, so we can make it exactly right for you.

Update – Feb 2019

Since WordPress 5 got out in December, Toolset team is spending more time on tight integration with new WordPress features. We’ll return to this and other planned projects later, hopefully in 2019.

Spoiler: our plan is to take the custom code that we’ve created for our own accounts system and offer it as part of Toolset. Our accounts system allows to:

  • Sell WooCommerce products for accounts
  • Check the account level according to the product that you have
  • Upgrade / downgrade between accounts
  • Limit access according to your account state
  • Send renewal reminder emails

We think that what we developed for ourselves could be useful for many of our clients. It’s a big project, so before we embark, we want to learn better what kind of membership sites you are building.

To participate, please complete a short survey.

To tell us anything that’s not included in the survey, or ask questions, add your messages and we’ll get back to you.


Update (Aug/22/2018) – Survey summary and our plan

From the many results of our survey, as well as the feedback that we received in the comments here, we can see that we need to include three major items in this project:

  • Access control according to payments/subscriptions – this will allow to set access privileges according to the payment history and status (the key to everything in this project).
  • Control over both content and downloads – today you can control access to content. We’ll also add control over downloads.
  • Integration with email marketing platforms – we’ll send notifications to email marketing platforms, so that you can add people to lists when they sign-up, cancel, accounts about to expire, about to renew, etc.

Our own sites do exactly these three things, so we know what you mean when you ask for them. We haven’t started this project yet. We’re almost done with an update for all Toolset plugins and we’ll work on this next.

 

Comments 56 Responses

  1. I need to be able to have hourly, weekly, monthly, etc memberships. I need to be able to alert specific administrators on my site when a new member joins. I need to be able to use multiple payment options to buy a membership through.

  2. This is perfect timing. I’m building a membership site for Makeup artists right now. I am looking to hire a developer on contract, but I would love to get some guidance from Toolset so that we can implement things correctly. Can we work out a deal to build my site, and you get exposure, lessons learned, screen caps, etc? I would love to showcase this project and give Toolset an opportunity to guide and help to build my project. Please contact me mayur@stoneandbloom.com. Thanks.

    • I’m a Toolset Lifetime account holder by the way, so I’m “all in” with Toolset already. Would really love to chat with someone about this project more.

      • The best would be to open a support ticket for this. We’ll do our best to help, but we will not be able to give details for implementation. The reason is, we’re working right now on the spec for this project ourselves. It’s not ready for us, so we can also not offer it to you (yet).

  3. it will be greate to have the ability to assign memberhip for posting with payed post using cred woocommerce and recurring payments that can change the post status on monthly subscription

    • Did you use Gravity for the Front-end CPT editing? Curious as I was thinking about this vs the Post Forms function in Toolset. The UI for front-end forms is pretty horrible and I would love to use Gravity for CPT editing.

  4. Hi,
    Membership sites are used for either selling memberships or offering services (nonprofits iike a church). I am interested in nonprofits, so build the standard features (staff, activities, groups, events, podcast, newsletters, etc.) so a site admin can just import into the site and add the meta data.

    Something similar to: https://wordpress.org/plugins/church-theme-content/

    But they require a theme that only works with their plugin… This is where views can come into play.

    I am not a developer or I would just do it all myself. 🙂

    Thanks
    Mel

  5. Whoa… Before you spend another year and a half on your next big project, how are you doing on meeting the actual requests made by your customers in the following post where you asked “How can we make it right for you?”…

    https://toolset.com/2018/04/why-were-not-going-to-offer-any-more-lifetime-accounts-for-toolset/

    Maybe I missed the feature announcements, but I don’t recall seeing any of my feature requests being implemented yet…

    – THE ABILITY TO ADD CUSTOM UPLOAD DIRECTORIES FOR IMAGES/FILES
    – AUTOMATICALLY DELETE IMAGES/FILES
    – SANITIZE AND VALIDATE FIELDS USING CASCADING REGEXs
    – ADD LOOP-ITERATION CONDITIONS TO CONDITIONAL OUTPUT

    You even said one was high on your to-do list.

    How many of the requests made by your customers on that post have you added to Toolset?

    Before spending countless hours building features that can only be used with memberships sites, how about you spend that time adding features that can be used on many different types of sites?

    I see you’re doubling the yearly cost of Toolset, I hope this means that you’re looking to drastically increase the number of developers you have so you can accomplish both the membership features and the MANY other features that have been requested at the same time… but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t skeptical at this point.

    • Some of these are coming in the next release of Toolset. We’re adding more output styles to Views so you can easily catch the first and last items in a list and create inline lists.

      • Hi Amir,
        I have also requested a specific feature for more than 1.5 years now : the ability to rotate an image in frontend after an upload in Cred. Like Peter, I think Toolset should first integrate the requested features.
        Regards
        Pat

      • Hi Amir,

        A few questions. Do you know when the next release will be? I am especially looking forward to raw Views output styles (e.g. stripping out new lines) to add in field values when writing inline; hopefully also some more options around images & galleries.

        There’s also a bug related to NOT showing custom fields and custom taxonomy TermMetas of a _linked_ CPT when accessing it with Beaver Builder or other page builders, so I’m wondering if that has/will be addressed as well.

        Are there any plans to creating functionalities similar to two-sided marketplaces (e.g. Thumbtack?) The closest I can think of is Toolset Classifieds, but based on it’s purpose, it sounds actually more like a MarketPlace than just a classifieds?

        Re: to one of your earlier posts, check out reso.org, a standards organization that focuses on the real estate market and the MLS/IDX challenge.

        Finally, I’m curious to know if there are any plans to revisit or review the idea of creating something like Toolset Data Manipulation where you now can not only View, but also interact and change the data? That would be a gamechanger.

        • Views is now in testing. We expect to complete all testing in a few days. Then, we’ll release all of Toolset plugins together.

          If you can find the errata for the bug you’re mentioning, I’ll check its status.

          I think that it’s possible to build a two-sided marketplace with Toolset, but there will be some custom coding involved. Toolset will help you do much of it, but the business logic should be your PHP.

          Thanks for the tip about https://www.reso.org/. I’m adding this to my reading list.

          Toolset Forms (formerly CRED) allow you to create and edit content in the database. What additional functionality are you looking for?

          • Hi Amir,

            Re: Errata – I’m not sure if/where it is captured, but this came up during a video walkthrough w/ Jakub and he was surprised this happened b/c it doesn’t happen in the normal Post Edit page and shows up fine, but when accessing it through Beaver Builder, it doesn’t.

            It was one of the reasons why I had an issue w/ the UX – in order to pull back these values, I had to create a view and go through the entire process just to retrieve _1_ custom field value. It wasn’t conducive when you start adding multiple ones on the same page.

            Re: Toolset Forms – Sorry, what I meant was Data Calculation, not just add/edit/delete. Things like count/aggregation, subtraction, or other ways of manipulating the data once it’s been added or modified in the database, etc.

            • I think that the most straight-forward way to do data calculations is with custom PHP. In the upcoming release of Toolset we’re going to make it significantly easier and we’re also writing documentation with examples on how to do exactly what you describe.

            • That is awesome to hear, I’d love to be able to do more complicated calculations via Toolset.

              Another item that’s quite difficult to calculate is related to dates. Things like date diffs, if something has expired past a certain date and by how many days, or if something is expiring by a certain date and in how many days, timezones, etc.

              Those would also be fantastic use cases.

  6. Many membership sites are for online courses, so it would be fantastic to have a way to set different access permissions based on how long a person has been a student. Also, the ability to drip/unlock content based on membership date, or by a specific date would be good. Another huge thing is the ability for email to work in conjunction with membership, as well as content distribution. I will use drip content as an example again … It would be great to have a drip membership that published content on a regular basis, based on the member’s start date … so every week since a member joined, they’ll gain access to content. If they can also receive an email that this content was unlocked, and that email can be customized, it opens a whole world of promotional possibilities.

  7. Pretty much every big site I build with toolset would benefit greatly from some kind of multi/sub user system. I do a lot of stuff where a user will be able to edit their own page (think licensees able to edit the page for their region) which I restrict by author. If we could link users into groups or something like that it’d save them having to share a single login. Hopefully I’ve explained that well enough.

  8. I second peter – I think we all would love to have membership. But there are so many things that need custom coding to do in toolset right now. Sure, I can (and have) hop into PHP and do my own developing. But there are so many SIMPLE things that should be INSIDE of toolset with us having to constantly add code to the functions file. I’d rather see you work there first. I could look back and make a starter list… Just look at your 1 million requests over the years. – And flesh out the front of user-search, and flesh out the custom relationships so it’s properly robust. And grouping which is still clunky. THOSE are most important to get working.

  9. I am looking to establish a church membership site (not selling anything) which provides the ability to add/modify individual records, search and list records and generate reports. Sounds simple, but haven’t been able to find anything that enables me (with my limited coding skills) to achieve this at very little cost.

  10. The dependence on Woocommerce is a major issue for me. It’s overkill in a lot of instances. The cart isn’t needed for most membership transactions. To my mind a cleaner, lighter approach would be lightweight plugins, that work with Toolset, that integrate to some common payment API’s would make more sense. Like the way Formidable Forms or Gravity to it. Toolset has CRED so the comparison to the form builder add ons is reasonable. With a couple of major integrations it should be possible for 3rd party add-ons to be written by the community on an as needed basis, where another payment API is needed.

    • “Woocommerce” requires a user to apply to join a customer group. For example, “Wholesale buyer”.

    • I disagree. WooCommerce is a great ecommerce tool with so many plugins. With some simple customization you can easily bypass the cart issue with Woocommerce. I’ve done this before and it’s simple to change WooCommerce so that the person goes straight to checkout.

      • Also, every template can be modified so it looks nothing like a normal ecommerce shopping cart site.

      • Farrel, I said it was overkill in many situations. Not that it wasn’t a great ecommerce tool. Please don’t represent my words. Removing the amount of bloat in Woocommerce (bloat being defined as loads of code not being used in a site) isn’t the same as disabling functions. I have no problem with Woocommerce support, it’s the dependency to achieve the outcome that I’m referring too. Sheesh!

    • I agree.

      I ran a membership site for 2 years using Woocommerce.

      WooCommerce membership
      WooCommerce Subscription
      WooCommerce Email follow up (never got it to work)
      An Invoice plugin
      An Invoice Pro plugin

      And a lot more plugins I have completely forgotten about.

      And LOTS of custom development to fill out the missing parts which was not covered by the combination of Woo plugins.

      I can’t tell you how much a hassle it was to work with this setup and handle plugin updates. I could not simply trust plugin updates because I often had issues because of various vendors of these plugins. So I ended up spending more time maintaining the membership setup, than creating real value for the members.

      I replaced all this bloat with memberpress. One plugin did it all.

      Woocommerce is great for online shopping carts, but it is way to much overkill if you only want to use it to collect payments / subscriptions for membership sites.

      If Woocommerce is requiered to handle the payments / subscription part, then I think this will fail, and users like my self will continue to use memberpress or equal.

      • What you’re describing makes perfect sense to me and this has been our experience also. In our production sites (wpml.org and toolset.com), we restrict ourselves to as few plugins as possible. Our membership functionality uses:

        * WooCommerce – this allows to just pay for a product (the simplest WooCommerce feature)
        * WooCommerce Subscriptions – allows to sell a product with automatic renewal billing (the straight forward usage)
        * Our own custom code for everything else

        So, the business logic, invoicing, reminders, etc., we implemented ourselves. Our setup is easy and very stable. We have no problems with compatibility and plugin updates. WooCommerce itself and WooCommerce Subscriptions come from the same place and are always compatible. We use their simple features, so there’s very little chance for anything to break.

        The project that we’re proposing is to wrap up the huge development that we’ve created for ourselves, which we run on our production sites, and turn it into a part of Toolset.

        • I hear you Amir, but all I can say is that having Woocommerce + Subscriptions for somthing as “simple” as taking a payment / subscription, is something I will not go back to.

          Then again, taking payments are not that simple because you have to deal with Tax , VAT, invoices etc.

          But stil I have come to the conclusion that there are other ways to handle this than WooCommerce.

          WooCommerce is a huge plugin, so it really is bloat to use it only for payments / subscriptions, all though I understand your point of view.

          It also gets very frequent updates. Normally a good thing but not so great when the plugin is huge and you have custom code you need to test each time, WooCommerce updates are released.

          All I can say is that I hope you create some simple hooks, so we can exchange WooCommerce with something else, because I will not go back to WooCommerce.

          Its just too much a hassle

            • Thanks for the link to the Stripe addon for Formidable. This is new to me so maybe you can help us with a bit of info.

              Right now, we have integration with our Forms and WooCommerce. WooCommerce sets the product price, currency, checkout flow, receipts, refunds, reports and more. Using WooCommerce Subscriptions it’s also possible to make payments recurring. And, there are interfaces to many payment processors. Indeed, this requires an array of plugins. However, they are all working just fine. In fact, we use all of them on our sites without any problems.

              When you talk about integrating this directly into Toolset Forms, what functionality do you need?

            • The Stripe addon has a hefty feature list. Pretty much everything you mentioned, but it super easy and light to setup.
              WooCommerce is fantastic if you want to set up and online shop, but I don’t and don’t want the complexity if all I want is to accept money via credit card.
              Using WooCommerce just for the payment functionality seems like overkill for me.
              I just built a political campaign site to accept donations the other day and I paid money just so I wouldn’t have to deal with WooCommerce.
              I would have rather paid you that money 🙂

  11. Membership Registration hopes to Integration social login. Sample to FB、Google、Twitter、Linked…. etc. Thank you.

  12. We are building a membership site where the annual membership is bought by a company or college. Having membership privileges assigned by the users email domain name @example.me and/or a IP address pool of the company

  13. A group of members the editor’s capabilities only for posts that have a certain taxonomy. For example, I have managers in different cities, and everyone should manage records about their city

  14. Second sentence: Users can create events as posts, and other users can subscribe to these posts. On the events page, you can create a list of subscribers

  15. Dear Amir,

    Really excellent news and support,here a few things it may deserve your attention:

    1. UX UI enhancement to make it more flexible and user friendly.
    2. Full workflow system capabilities with CRED forms (Multi-step -Multi page).
    – User A open and fill a new frontend form.
    – User B receive the form to complete the steps with email notification.
    – User B can send the form to user A for (change – clarification – rejection)
    – User C approve the final process.
    – Any User can print out the final form as a PDF file with permission from Toolset Access plugin.
    3. Frontend Client Area and Profile with Login/Logout/Change Password.
    4. Deep integration with elemonter 2.0 and Gutenberg.
    5. Step by step getting-started videos as case study web site showing all Toolset features.

    With Thanks,
    ArabsW

  16. Thinking about Membership sites some important things come to my mind:

    1. for the user everything has to happen in the front end. Access to the backend should be made possible to switch off for roles and/or capabilities within Toolset (thinking about a membership settings page in Toolset).

    2. Every user needs an account page. And here is where Toolset comes into play: an admin needs to be able to create any kind of custom fields for an account page that displays on the front end but also needs to be connected to the edit-user screen in the backend. Means all those custom fields should not go into the default edit-user page but instead should be created on a separate admin page in the backend for each user. Something like a second tab in the edit-user screen.

    3. Thinking about such an account page we need to take into account that users should be able to upload, edit and delete images. So if an image is deleted, it must also be deleted from the server. There should also be an option to give the user access to his/her uploaded images where they can manage their uploads.

    4. Toolset should have a feature to enable avatars for each member. This avatar needs to be cropped to a certain dimension. Square size would be needed and dimensions should be defined by the admin for each uploaded image. I am thinking about a modern cropping tool made with js where the user can upload a bigger image and crop out a certain part of the image. The cropped part needs to be saved in the database and the bigger image must be deleted then.

    These are the first things where I believe that Toolset should take over in terms of building membership features. If I could wish for something then each of those features should be made optional. For the admin to decide if it is needed or not.

    • Forgot to add:

      (2) The front end account page should offer the user to have an edit screen for his/her public profile page where they can define what is publicly shown to visitors. Means there should be an edit page and a public page for each user profile.

      (3) I was talking about images. But let’s think in general about uploaded media like pdfs, excel files etc. There should be a media section for each user on the front end where they can manage all of their uploads.

  17. You really got me thinking … 😉 and here is something that should be addressed as a first step in Toolset Types and Views:

    We need a way to restrict file sizes and file types for uploaded media. Right where the custom field is set up.
    This is one of the most important features for membership sites in my eyes.

  18. What Brian said. And of course, automated e-mail notifications have to be sent to the member as well, like 1 month before their membership expires, one week before etc (admins should be able to set multiple custom e-mails with whatever timing they like).

    Of course, it should be possible to automatically generate and sent a new invoice (PDF of course) for the new period.

    But I guess those things are in your own system as well.

  19. Well I use memberpress for membership sites. Why because it has

    Subscriptions
    – the user can pause or cancel or upgrade their subscriptions.
    Payments
    Coupons
    Multiple membership per user
    Rules for what is protected.
    Subscription to mail lists
    Email members – before renewal, before card expires etc.

    Basically if I had to implement this in toolset I would look to what is possible with a plugin like memberpress.

    If I could build this with access, types and views, I would.

    I have used WooCommerce memberships / subscriptions but I needed so many plugins in order to get what memberpress can handle with a single plugin.

    so buy a license to memberpress and start to find inspiration there.

    • If toolset development team really serious this time sure they can develop better than Memeberpress because in the end all basis available just need focus and tuning.

      • We identified 3 major components that clients need to build complete membership sites with Toolset:

        * Control for access, according to what members paid for
        * Access control for downloads (not only pages)
        * Integration with email marketing platforms

        We’re planning to include all 3 in this project. The good news is that we know exactly what we’re doing, because we already have it implemented for our own sites.

        • And you need to be able to handle subscriptions and emails to the member. Like “your memberships is about to be renewed” or “Your credit card is about to expire”, welcome/onboarding emails.

          WooCoomerce is not so great for this. I was using WooCommerce / subscriptions / membership, but it does not handle the emails, and marketing, and honestly I replaced 13 woocommerce plugins with memberpress when I switched to memberpress.

          And another thing that is better with memberpress, is that the onboarding experience is much better than it was with WooCommerce.

          The “Add to cart” way of handling this in WooCommerce, is not so great for conversions. This is better in Memberpress, but it could even be improved.

          Because of that I am planning on implementing Thrive Cart with the membership site, to handle payments. But right now it does not have the greatest integration with memberpress. But if this improves, I will implement it.

          So while you are planning. Please consider the onboarding process and payment process as well.

          Perhaps you should take a look at ThriveCart.

          https://support.thrivecart.com/

          • Thanks for your feedback. Indeed, the “add to cart” functionality in WooCommerce doesn’t make much sense for membership sites. On our site, we skip the cart. We’ll include this functionality in our development product as well.

            The reasons I like WooCommerce is:

            * The backend reporting is great
            * There are many payment gateways
            * There are subscriptions (via a separate but working plugin)

            Overall, it would require several “not very cheap” plugins to build a membership site with WooCommerce. For our sites, it was worth it. The cost of these plugins was a lot less than the value we’re getting. I agree that this will not be a perfect fit for all sites.

            • I agree Amir, Woocommerce is hands down the best ecommerce option for WordPress.

              Its so easy to customize. The people commenting about how it’s a fixed system have obviously never done any customizations for WooCommerce.

              With the vast array of useful plugs like Subscriptions and hundreds of others you cannot beat WooCommerce for any site. Plus it’s simply to customize the look and feel of the site with the templates.

              I also bypass the cart and it’s not an problem to setup. I also only allow one product to be purchased on the membership so you can’t go wrong and end up with two different memberships.

              You also have so many hooks for after the order has been paid or submitted you can do unlimited things to the user’s account.

            • I also think there are two different needs out there. Some people like myself prefer more control and don’t mind how many plugins are needed or what mods are needed.

              Other people want a more self-contained system with almost everything built in like MemberPress.

              What it seems like you are offering here are the tools the first group wants, not the second group.

  20. I’m really afraid about “next big steps”.
    We’ve built sites using Toolset. Sites are big: tens of different post types, views, forms etc. Since now we are working plugins with versions that are about a year old. Why?
    Because there is no good support upgrading plugins’ versions.
    For instance. To take next Forms plugin version, we need to manually update 70+ CRED forms. But the site is alive and we cannot take it down for a day. So how to do that without automatic migration? But who’s task is to build the automatic migration between plugins’ versions? The biggest lack of functionality/support we see in this.

    I’m sorry to interrupt your good mood while dreaming about new features, but the real life takes place at the moment, trying to survive within current issues, plugins upgrades and security monitoring.

    We were thinking good about Toolset years ago, but while using it with clients, we see that Toolsets plugins overall quality/stability suits well for quite small and not critical sites, which need few special views and forms (not many) etc. Toolset today does not have so good stability to use in large membership sites.

    If you have a membership site, with hundreds of daily active members, would you like to take the site down for few days to update plugins versions and manually migrate the code/content?
    Sorry, but that’s the question we suggest you to start.

    • Sorry, but there should not be problems updating the plugins. If your site needs manual work to update our plugins, we’ll help with it. Please create a support ticket, explain the problem and we’ll assist. If you can add a link to your ticket as another comment, I’ll follow-up on it.

  21. Membership really needs a calendar option. You can’t run a chamber of commerce, business directory, sports league, fan site, any membership or event site without one. I know you have a lot on your plate, but the one thing I feel that Toolset is missing is a calendar.

    • There are great calendar plugins for WordPress, which work well with Toolset. These are pretty large and complex plugins. Besides the cost of such plugins, what’s the advantage of implementing a calendar with Toolset?

      • Hi Darryl. I’m down in Vancity. Would love to know if you are available to hire for a project I’m doing right now? Hit me up mayur – at – stoneandbloom – dot – com

  22. Primarily so your custom posts can be included into calendar events instead of having to use something else (as well as having to pay for something else). It can also be used for cred forms entries. With the current cost of Toolset I am sure that someone looking to build a membership webiste would have some considerations about purchasing Toolset if it didn’t include a calendar and so adding more cost to the project. On the subject of projects, a calendar would have so many possible advantages, such as project management and training sites etc. If you build lets say a training site for a company you don’t want them to have to use another plugin or program to display other parts of the information you want to show. You want to be able to show dates of classrooms booked, which instructors are busy or available during a period, returns for equipment, rental of equipment, inspection dates and many other things which Toolset is not able to provide because a calendar can show a quick synopsis of all that info. I have tried to do this and most can be achieved with simple cred forms, but the display is always by text only, whereas managers want to see it in a calendar view. That’s what stopped me from getting the gig! The power of Toolset is fantastic but the calendar is missing unless you can somehow work with a third party provider to help us display this info on their calendar.