In this introductory article, you’ll be introduced to s2Member’s core concepts, uses for s2Member, and some of s2Member’s shortcodes.

This article is part of the s2Member User's Guide, a series of articles that cover the fundamentals of using s2Member.

Exactly What IS s2Member?

s2Member is a powerful WordPress plugin, actually two of them (the free s2Member Framework and the Pro Add-on), for turning your website into a private online club or community. It does this by both providing free and paid registration capabilities and restricting your content. s2Member builds upon WordPress's existing user database, authentication, login, and registration system, and the WordPress concept of User Roles and Capabilities. It then uses those User Roles and Capabilities to protect your content: displaying it to only the audience you have chosen for each Post, Page, or File Download on your site.

All registered Members of your website are WordPress Users with an assigned s2Member Role. In the free s2Member Framework, you can have Members with levels 1 - 4 (plus Level 0 Free Subscribers if you want them). In s2Member Pro, you can have as many Membership levels as you need.

In addition to s2Member User Levels you can sell and protect content using what we call Custom Capabilities. Custom Capabilities are available in both the s2Member Framework and s2Member Pro. You can even sell access to content without requiring user registration at all, with Buy Now buttons (s2Member Framework and s2Member Pro) and Pro-Forms (s2Member Pro only) which provide time-limited access to specific Posts and Pages.

How Have Others Used s2Member?

s2Member is arguably the most flexible Membership plugin available for WordPress. You can use s2Member to build sites based completely on free registrations while still taking advantage of s2Member User Levels. You can have no free registrations at all and require payment from all Members: using one level or many. Or you can combine free and paid registrations for maximum flexibility between making your content available to the public and restricting the best content to paid Members only.

Another way of providing options for your Members is in the length of time each membership lasts. You decide how long each subscription lasts. You also decide whether that particular subscription type is a one-time sale or a recurring subscription. Both one-time sales and recurring subscriptions can have a set subscription period or be a lifetime membership that never expires. As long as your Members keep paying their recurring subscription, they never need to fill out another subscription form. s2Member and your payment gateway handle renewals silently on the back-end.

You can also use s2Member to protect access to downloadable files and even streaming video. s2Member can even protect content hosted by Content Data Networks (CDN) like Amazon CloudFront or MaxCDN. s2Member can limit the number of downloads per user during a given time period.

How Does s2Member Use Shortcodes?

s2Member makes it easy to create a powerful custom membership site by using shortcodes. Sales forms are created by generating shortcodes for either Buttons (available with both s2Member Framework and s2Member Pro) or Pro-Forms (only available with s2Member Pro). You simply fill out a form listing all of the options available, click a button, and you have a shortcode you can copy and paste into a WordPress Page (or Post, if you prefer). Instant sales (and registration) forms!

s2Member also features many other shortcodes for further customizing your membership site. These include:

[s2Member-List /] for displaying a highly customizable list of your site's Members. NOTE: This shortcode requires s2Member Pro.

[s2If][/s2If] for protecting parts of Posts and Pages.

[s2Member-Summary /] for displaying a summarized profile for the currently logged-in user on any Post or Page. This shortcode can even display a login box if the current user is not logged in when they access the Post or Page. NOTE: This shortcode requires s2Member Pro.

[s2Member-Login /] will display a login box on any Post or Page. It will optionally display a summarized profile for the current user if they are already logged in when accessing the Page. NOTE: This shortcode requires s2Member Pro.

[s2Eot /] can be used to display a user's subscription End of Term (EOT).

[s2Get /] is a shortcode version of the s2Member API function get_user_field() which can be used in customizing PHP template files.

[s2MOP /] can be used to enhance your Membership Options Page (MOP). The MOP is the Page you designate in s2Member to display your membership options. This is the Page where Members and Visitors will be redirected if they try to access parts of your site that are restricted above their access level. NOTE: This shortcode requires s2Member Pro.

[s2Drip /] allows you to drip website content to your Members. Content dripping is the gradual, pre-scheduled release of premium content to paying Members. NOTE: This shortcode requires s2Member Pro.

[s2Stream /] makes it easy to set up protected streaming video links on your membership site.

What If I Want to Customize s2Member with Code?

If you know a little, or a lot, about programming with PHP you can really get creative with your s2Member customizations. You'll need a plugin such as ezPHP for WordPress to use PHP in Posts, Pages, or Text Widgets. You can also use PHP and HTML to create custom templates for buttons, forms, and shortcodes like [s2Member-List /]. You can also dig into the s2Member API for custom tracking, mailing list server integration, notifications, and complex scripting.