Ultimate Member: A New Free Community and User Profile Plugin for WordPress

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.

ultimate-member

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

ultimate-member-extensions

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.

28 Comments


  1. 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[1] 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[2].

    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.

    [1] 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.
    [2] Ok, maybe not dead dead, but I’m sure most people would rather use a lither option if that option exist.

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    1. I just dig a bit on the forums and I found this comment made by Calum (UM):

      “Front-end post editor is also planned for future and will have lots of controls over who can post, which roles are pending posts etc.”

      Doesn’t say if it’s gonna be an extension or (hopefully) part of the core, though.

      I’d like to take this opportunity to say that, when I say the front-end post editor (and also the following system) should be part of the core, it’s not because I don’t want to pay for that. I want to give this guys as much as I can to support them. But I think those features should genuinely be part of the core. Not everyone as the same resources, and for someone in a least developed country, and extension can be an expensive obstacle. But if you have all the tools to kick-start your community it’s easier to get some money back to invest in extensions to improve your site; like social login, which I think is a perfect example of what extensions are for in this kind of business model.

      That’s my two cents.

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    2. This is already possible with the WP User Frontend plugin. It integrates nicely with Ultimate Member.

      Another option is to use Gravity Forms and create and edit posts on the front end.

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  2. I just came across Ultimate Member recently and installed it on our WordPress Meetup site to handle our community directory. It’s a great plugin and I look forward to their continued success.

    Obviously I’m pretty partial to the extension model and I think this plugin is a perfect fit. I also think they have the right idea. The core plugin does a lot of great stuff out of the box. Right now I don’t need anything more than it currently has but as our community grows I will most definitely and happily purchase add-ons.

    Great job to the Ultimate Member team. I’m rooting for you. :)

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  3. I really love this plugin … Many paid plugins for having this function are worse than this one … I have a custom made theme and this is the only plugin that keeps looking good no matter how my theme is made … Even plugins that were about 50 bucks a year didn’t look this good … All the others had a css that broke down with my theme so I needed to change my theme all the time … Now I use Ultimate Member I don’t need to update or change my theme just for one plugin anymore … And above all the support and the updates are really good as well … Frequent updates and fast answers on their forum … It shows dedication from the crew and they deserve the 5 star rating in my opinion …

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  4. This seems like an awesome option, I dread Buddy press, now I have a little more hope. I’m going to try it. I also agree Unai, Front end posting and ability to folow users and maybe something like a feed. Do it and we’ll support you. If it works I’ll most def buy the extensions.

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  5. Very nice plugin for membership website. The features looks very cool. I’ve had some problems with BuddyPress and want to find another solution for membership website. I love the way this plugin is built and I hope the business model will give the team success.

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  6. Thanks Sarah. Looks to be a very promising tool.

    By the way, with the new layout at the repository, how does one find new plugins to look at?

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  7. Following Ultimate Member plugin and updates with Calum from almost the very first day it came alive. Good work guys keep it up :)

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  8. Coincidentally I released Restrict User Access only a few days ago which focuses on contextual access control. https://wordpress.org/plugins/restrict-user-access/

    Ultimate Member looks really nice, and I could see the two plugins work very well together and would love to work with the developers to fix any potential compatibility issues. I.e. one can use Ultimate Member for memberships and Restrict User Access for more granular access control.
    It also covers some of the same features as the Ultimate Member bbPress extension though.

    Does anybody want to explain why they find BuddyPress bad/bloated? I think one of the worse things by BuddyPress has been query performance and theme compatibility/templating, but this has gotten a lot better in the recent versions.

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  9. I have only used Buddypress yet and just came across Users Ultra Pro, another promissing community plugin. It looks like Users Ultra Pro has more features out of the box, than Ulltimate Member. But how do all those plugins compare, regarding performance, stability, etc.? Did anyone make a comparison of those plugins yet?

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    1. I still have a “key” to use Users Ultra Pro … cost me about 50 dollars for one year and yet … I’m using Ultimate Members now … I admit that UU Pro has more features but that’s what you pay for … The reason I use Ultimate Members now is because of the cleaner look (and code) and it’s free … It doesn’t break my css like UU Pro did … I prefer Ultimate Member above UU Pro and Buddypress … price, codes and look are just so much better … The only thing I miss with this plugin is an activity wall for users to post status-like posts such as on facebook … But they are new so it will be for the future I hope and I prefer to pay just for extensions I need and like instead of paying 50 dollars for a plugin that breaks my css and for stuff I don’t need as well … It’s just a personal experience I had with the different plugins … (ps: the css that broke was a custom made theme I have, so it depends on the theme) … Hope this will help you a little bit when choosing or buying plugins or extensions …

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      1. Well… Ultimate Member isn’t exactly cheap either.

        Extensions are up to $40 per year for just one site, and that doesn’t even include taxes. If you want to use a few of the extensions, that can get quite pricey. I’d prefer if that prices were for-life, instead of just yearly license.

        I know, they have to eat too, and they deserve it, but with that prices they are practically limiting it to commercial sites only. None can complain about that, it’s their business, but it’s a shame nonetheless :/

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      2. It’s not cheap if you want all of them. It has it’s price with extensions, but otherwise you just take what you need … The social login is something nice, but I combine Ultimate members with a free social login plugin for the moment due to the price of the extension … But if I look at the style I really love the extension for it’s appearance … The extension I’m willing to pay for is the bbpress extension … And I hope they will add a wall extension as well (but I’m hoping that will be in the core of the plugin itself) … It has it’s benefits but it has a price … For now I only use the plugin itself in combination with other free plugins … And once my site brings some money in my pocket I would love to buy the extensions as well …

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  10. From what I read the price BUYS you the plugin to keep forever but you will lose support and upgrades after a year? Looks pretty cool to me ;-)

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    1. Yep, that’s how it works. But without upgrades most extensions are close to useless. Social Login, for example. If any of the social networks change their APIs or whatever, and you need and update, you’ll have to buy the extension again to get the upgrade. So it seems to me like a yearly license or nothing at all. And $48 a year for just one feature is a lot for a non-commercial site. It’s a shame that one can’t divide between commercial and non-commercial sites when selling a plugin, but there’s no right way to do that really.

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      1. Hi Unai,

        Just want to clear a couple of things up. Yearly licensing is very common amongst plugins. I can understand why you would want lifetime licenses but it is not sustainable business model which is why pretty much all plugins charge an annual license. Everyone who renews gets a 30% discount of the price of the extension.

        Unfortunately new VAT laws means we need to charge VAT on where EU consumers lives (EU countries have different VAT rates). So these new laws mean people in some EU contries have to pay more but users outside of EU do not have to pay any tax. So for many users who wanted to renew social extension it would be $28 rather than $48.

        I totally understand some of your points but the most important thing is that we run a sustainable business which ensures Ultimate Member is supported and developed for years to come. That means having a business/pricing model that will allow us to do this.

        Thanks

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      2. Thanks for the response Calum. There’s definitely a big difference between $28 and $48 for a renewal, that makes a lot more sense. And I totally get that you need to be sustainable. I just get frustrated, cause I’ve so many projects in mind to help people communicate better, but they are all non-commercial, so there’s no way I an afford it.

        I hope you guys the best. Maybe one day, once the plugin grows and gets more popular and profitable you can afford shipping cheaper extensions (:

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      3. Calum is absolutely right. The only sustainable model for long term plugin health are yearly (or perhaps bi-yearly) maintenance and support licensing. If you’d like the plugin you bought to wither on the vine, then pay only once.

        I think yearly licensing fees shouldn’t be more than 1/2 the price of a plugin though. A second year user is likely to need a lot less support.

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      4. I’m happy to support the developers to ensure that the plugin is continuously improved and supported.

        For example, MyCred is one of the best plugins ever made but it doesn’t look like the developer has done a great job of monetizing it and unfortunately can’t provide much support.

        It’s a shame when this happens because there are thousands of people who would be happy to pay for extensions.

        Keep up the awesome work UM and maybe consider hiring some help to speed up the development of add ons.

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  11. Just found this. Looks interesting so will try UM out.
    Would like total customization of profile forms and member directories, as many of each as site needs.
    Add searcheable keyword cloud compiled from in-form checkbox selections during profile update.
    Upload videos to profiles plus small profile portfolio gallery

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    1. This plugin has a feature that can block your backend access. I also suffered this problem.
      You can delete this plugin directly from your plugins directory. Then you will get back your backend access. After that, install the plugin again and change settings carefully.

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  12. Ultimate Member is not free. To an extent it is but limited. It is paid for what you want that buddypress has. That isn’t saying much though. For what is free on Ultimate Member is nothing compared to buddypress unless you pay for the extensions and that means it isn’t free really at all.

    If you want just a few features with Ultimate Member then use it but to use with bbPress you need extension and pay. If you want certain other features its paid. As much as they charge for the extensions, it is expensive for a site.

    Just too bad that buddypress developers want to keep theirs basic styling. If I was made out of money which I am not. I would get this plugin on my website and buy the extensions. To say it is free is kind of over doing it.

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  13. It didn’t take me long to get frustrated with trying too customize the look and feel of Buddypress….i won’t go into that here, but it’s why I’m here.

    One thing I am sort of baffled by is that groups was an after thought for ultimate member. If everything was free…I still cannot switch because groups is so integral to my use. I suspect there are many like me.

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