As requested by readers, here are my thoughts AFTER trying the latest version.
I’ve written off this plugin time after time for the past 5 years. It’s become one of those plugins that I don’t even check the latest version before writing it off.
Naturally, that kind of automatic dismissal doesn’t sit well with some readers. And so I gave the latest version a try to see if I still felt the same about it.
Did I actually deploy it and test with real members for months? No. I only clicked around for a good 2 hours, read documentation, created a basic membership and checked out different options. But I’m quite certain of how I feel…
NOTE: WishList’s Co-Founder (Tracy Childers) left some helpful comments on my Youtube video. I’ll add them in my article below.
I still don’t like the Wishlist UI
What I really want to say is that I hate it. But I don’t think that’s fair. Here’s the thing…if you’ve never used any membership plugin before, you’re gonna think Wishlist is super friendly-looking. You’re gonna think it’s cute, well-designed, and super helpful with its setup wizard. That’ll be appreciated by beginner users.
But if you’re like me….have thousands of members and know what you’re doing, you’re going to find Wishlist annoying as heck. I’m speaking relatively…(compared to other membership plugins).
Let’s cover some usual setup tasks:
- Set up name of your business, payment gateways.
- Configure setup options, user redirections.
- Set up registration settings, account pages, login forms, messages for non-members.
And then membership-setup tasks:
- Create memberships – choose name, pricing, access duration.
- Create rule/s for your memberships – decide which posts/pages to allow access under those rules.
- Create membership registration pages – fill in title, description, custom fields if needed.
With MemberPress, you only have one “Settings” area to access all your settings. And only one panel to deal with. With Wishlist, every parent link in the main panel opens up a sub-panel with like 5-15 more links.
Also with Wishlist, there’s no such thing as a “Settings” page. It’s flippin infuriating. You either dig through “Setup” (which should be called “Memberships”), or “Advanced Options” (which should have just been called “Settings”). What the hell is advanced about it, anyway?
They also have a place called “Administration”. What the heck is that? If I had to guess, it has to do managing your members. But that doesn’t make sense because there’s already a section for “Members” already. Oh look, they put the email broadcasting and backup/restore options in here. Why the heck isn’t this put into the general “Advanced Options” area???
Then there’s “Content Protection” vs “Content Control”. The first one lets you decide what to lock. The second one lets you choose how the content “expires” from access and dripping options. The greedy UI designer in me would have tried to combine these two.
Wishlist makes you click back and forth through different screens in different areas. The sub-panel makes it feel like so much more work and traveling than it really is. MemberPress feels like 5 minutes worth of settings. Wishlist feels like 30 minutes worth of settings.
Wishlist doesn’t have (global) coupons options
I’m about ready to flip my desk over at this point. How the heck does Wishlist not have coupons options?! What if I want to give promotional rates to some members? Or trial rates? Ok…I’m pretty much done here. Wishlist didn’t have the features I needed 5 years ago and it still doesn’t have them now.
UPDATE: Tracy told me they do have coupons but it’s implemented through the payment gateway instead of through Wishlist. That isn’t good enough for me as 1) it sounds like more work if you’re using multiple payment options, and 2) I still can’t manage all coupons from one place, preferably the WP dashboard.
More (critical) features missing
Man, I never realized how much I took for granted. I was just clicking around until little by little, I realized how much Wishlist was missing.
- Reports – where the heck is the reports function? Where can I see sales, and breakdowns by different membership types sold over a period? Or how many refunds and coupons used? Don’t they know successful membership sites need to file their taxes?
- Transactions – where can I see all the transactions? (Need this to do refunds or manually add transactions.)
- Refunds – how do I refund people? (Probably only from the gateway.)
- Upgrades – how do members upgrade themselves to another membership? (Great for upsells.)
- What else are we missing? I stopped trying to look.
Readers, if I missed something because I don’t know this plugin…please correct me!!!
Mixed feelings about the cute UI design
I like that it feels friendly and warm. But I know it’ll be annoying in real-world use. When you have tons of members, you’ll want to see as many as possible on one page (like an excel sheet) rather than have to scroll through all the vertical spacing.
UPDATE: Tracey said he liked my idea of having thinner rows and will have it implemented soon.
Wishlist DOES have features that other membership plugins don’t
- Pay Per Posts option – I love the idea of this a lot and wish other membership plugins had it.
- It has more form styling options out of the box. Of course, it’s nothing you can’t do with other plugins.
- Nice list of all the post types you can protect. Aside from posts, pages, products, it can also do forms, templates, elements, and probably other CPT’s as well. (I remember Wishlist couldn’t protect forums back then, but it can now.)
- Cache exclusion cookie prefix – handy for those managed webhosts that don’t give you granular control over what gets cached.
- More styling control over member emails and data privacy pages.
- More payment gateways – WishList offers way more gateway options including some that are common in affiliate marketing. Additional thoughts below.
Yes, most of its unique features are only superficial UI features. And despite my constant criticisms of the UI, I do feel it makes some aspects nicer but overall, it’s still inferior to MemberPress and RCP. They need to rethink the logic behind this plugin instead of only spraying a new UI coat over it.
My thoughts on their payment gateways:
I feel WishList came from the traditional affiliate marketing era…not like Amazon Affiliates…but ClickBank and Commission Junction (now called CJ Affiliate)…the era when you needed special gateways that collected money and then automatically paid out to affiliates after a specified time.
Due to the nature of those kinds of gateways, it required WishList to be BEHIND the transaction instead of IN FRONT of the transaction. What this means is WishList doesn’t actually collect any money or facilitate any transactions. It simply records that a transaction took place and controls who has access.
And since it doesn’t control the transaction, it’s hard for it to report sales, refund transactions, or manage coupons. It has fewer built-in options but Tracy says many of their customer base built their whole business model around these payment systems.
VERDICT: I still don’t like Wishlist.
Bad UI and missing key features.
I’m sorry…cumbersome UI and page-flow, messy setup process with unintuitive settings labels, and too many important features missing (reports, coupons, transactions).
The only thing I did somewhat appreciate was its “UI cuteness” but ultimately felt that would be annoying due to having more space to scroll through on large membership sites.
I don’t know how other people are giving Wishlist A-reviews…it’s completely subpar for me. And I say this as someone who’s ran successful membership sites since 2012. Everyone that insisted I give this plugin another try, I want my money back! Hahaha (kidding). Special thanks to umm….”someone” for letting me try his copy. I’m running back to MemberPress now if you don’t mind.
Here’s my “wishlist” for Wishlist:
- Clean up UI – give me one “Settings” area. Shove everything into as few settings areas as possible. Get rid of unnecessary subpanels. The only sub-panel I liked was the content protection one.
- Coupons (from admin) – it’s 2020. No excuse not to have that.
- Reports – need to at least see my sales by month.
- Transactions & Refunds – because this is important! You’ll always have people who “Hey, I forgot to cancel! Gimme my money back!”
- Upgrade/Downgrade – in every service out there, users can easily change their subscription themselves. I don’t see this in Wishlist. (Tracy said they’ll add documentation soon to show how it can be done but it’s dependent on the payment provider.)
Could Wishlist work for you?
If you’re doing that kind of old-school style affiliate marketing, I think yes. But if you’re looking for a host-it-yourself type of membership site. I think other plugins like MemberPress or Restrict Content Pro are better.
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