Ultimate Member is the newest plugin to join the ranks of WordPress membership solutions after seven months in development. One month after landing in the WordPress.org directory, the plugin is already active on more than 2,000 WordPress sites and has received a 5-star rating from 73/75 reviewers.
The WordPress ecosystem is flush with both free and commercial membership plugins, but Ultimate Member takes a unique approach with its heavy emphasis on frontend community features. The plugin goes beyond content restriction to provide beautifully-designed user profiles and directories out of the box.
It includes searchable member directories and frontend user registration, login, and profiles. Administrators can create custom form fields with conditional logic. The membership features include custom user roles, content restriction, conditional menus, and more. Ultimate Member is compatible with multisite and Mandrill. It was also designed to be developer friendly with dozens of actions and filters for further customization.
Live demos are available for the user profiles, member directory, and user account pages.
Ultimate Member Extensions Sales Hit $1500 in the First 5 Days
Co-founders Calum Allison and Ahmed Elmahd opted to keep the base plugin free and offer additional commercial extensions.
“We decided to use the free core + paid extensions model as we’ve seen how successful plugins such as WooCommerce, Ninja Forms, and Easy Digital Downloads have been with this model,” Allison said. “We want to try replicate this success in the community/user space.”
Initial extension sales indicate that the team has identified a competitive niche. “We’ve had sales of just under $1,500 from our first five days and we hope this will grow as more extensions are built and more people learn about the plugin,” Allison told the Tavern.
Ultimate Member is not quite a BuddyPress alternative, but its founding duo entered the market to provide basic social features on top of membership functionality.
“The plugin is useful for people looking to build a site where users can sign up and become members but are not necessarily looking to create a full-blown social network which is offered by plugins such as BuddyPress or WP Symposium,” Allison said.
Currently, the most popular extensions in terms of sales are the bbPress integration and Social Login extensions. More modular social features, such as private messaging and paid membership upgrades, are currently in the works.
“Longer term we are considering building themes which are designed specifically for the community niche,” Allison said.
In the meantime, the duo is focusing on providing support for all users and have answered more than 400 topics on their community forum and the WordPress.org plugin support forum.
“We made a decision from the beginning that we would provide support for all users of the plugin, regardless of whether they purchased an extension or not,” Allison said. “We feel that providing at least some support to free users means they are more likely to want to purchase an extension or two.”
Ultimate Member is open source and available on GitHub for contribution from developers. Co-founders Allison and Elmahd also maintain a Trello board for mapping the future of the plugin and managing current issues.
With a strong set of core features and solid extensions sales numbers right out of the gate, Ultimate Member is already demonstrating success with the free core plus commercial extensions business model. Even in a seemingly saturated WordPress membership plugin market, a quality product that can zero in on a specific niche has a decent chance of becoming competitive within a short time after launching. The challenge will be keeping up with the level of support they intend to offer for both commercial and free users, while growing the library of extensions.
I’ve been thinking for years that WordPress communities are a great niche yet to explore. Buddypress is way too over bloated, and so weird and complicated that it doesn’t look like WordPress at all (I’m talking both front and back-end).
People want to build communities as much as they want to make blogs, and whatever else people do with WP. But, in my humble opinion, the Buddypress success as more to do with being the only option than with been the best.
This is what you need to build a community on WordPress:
1) Move sign-ups, sing-ins, etc, to the front-end.
2) Move user profiles and profile edit pages to front-end.
3) Let people post within the front-end.
4) Optionally, let people follow each other.
There has been other plugins out there doing 1 and 2 for quite some time, but Ultimate Member is in another level. It’s easy to use, works out of the box, and it has all the features most people would want.
But the last two items on the list are still a pending subject. If Ultimate Member wants to be a Buddypress alternative, as they have stated before, they should include that in the core plugin as soon as possible. Sadly, they’ll probably make one or two extensions to cover that, making it half-core free, half-core paid.
Seriously, Calum, Ahmed, please include a front-end posting feature in the free core plugin so we can declare Buddypress dead already.
Anyway, those guys are doing an amazing job. I’ve been waiting for someone to take this path for years, and when I found UM a few weeks ago I get so exited. I’m already working on a project heavily based on it, with a few more in mind.
 I know there are a few alternatives, but if you have a problem with Buddypress you’re gonna have a problem with those too. Non of them follow the WP clean and easy way of being.
 Ok, maybe not dead dead, but I’m sure most people would rather use a lither option if that option exist.