Trying out new products and services is always a bittersweet experience for me. On one hand, I want to test out and find solutions that could make my life easier or better. On the other hand, going through a trial experience can be a huge investment of time and a test of sanity. But when I do find a product or service worth using, I definitely want to write about it.
I recently launched a new website called Freelancing Success. It’s a startup community for professional freelancers that I hope will be an incredible and valuable resource for all types of freelancers. As a part of this new venture, I wanted to include a membership component to protect premium content and special offerings to community members. I was looking at four potential solutions for this need:
- Easy Digital Downloads with the Restricted Content Add-on
- Paid Memberships Pro
- iThemes Exchange and Membership Add-on
- Cart 66 Cloud
At the time of my decision making process, I knew that iThemes was a few weeks out with their launch but I had to get my site launched quickly, so I had to skip their offering for the moment (I will have a post on iThemes membership soon). This left me with the other three – Easy Digital Downloads, Paid Memberships Pro, and Cart 66 Cloud.
My Cart 66 Cloud Decision and Review
I researched these three main membership solutions for a few days. All of them would definitely work for my needs and each plugin had their pros and cons. I have used Easy Digital Downloads for eBook sales and digital delivery for months and it is excellent. But I wanted more than what they could offer. Paid Memberships Pro is also a plugin that I’ve tested in the past several months on another website and it works great too. The problem for me is that it seemed cumbersome and wasn’t as user friendly for my setup. When I started looking at Cart 66 Cloud I was hesitant because it’s cloud based and I’m not able to install it on my site. I decided that this “drawback” wasn’t the biggest issue for me so I moved forward.
What I Like About Cart 66 Cloud:
I don’t like to read manuals or watch videos on how to use a product out of the box. I believe that most products and services should just make sense without insane documentation. When I find that a company has really thought through the User Experience, it makes me smile. Here are a few reasons why I love Cart 66 Cloud.
Simple setup! Setting up Cart 66 Cloud from the very beginning was absolutely simple. It took me less than 30 minutes to create several products, install and synchronize the WordPress plugin with the cloud, and test the payment gateway with Stripe. I also customized my login page and email responses in that timeframe. Based on this initial experience, I was sold.
No SSL to worry about! Some of you would think this wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m technically challenged at times and I didn’t want to mess with purchasing an SSL Certificate and setting it all up. The biggest selling point for me was that Cart 66 Cloud handles all the payments and the SSL requirements for a safe and secure checkout.
Slurping What? Cart 66 Cloud will “slurp” your existing site or make a snapshot of it and then integrate it with their cloud based app. This allows your checkout pages to look just like your website for a seamless customer experience. It took less than a minute for me to have checkout pages that looked identical to my website.
Creating products was easy! I was able to create two eBook products and two membership levels in a matter of minutes. The most difficult part was determining if I wanted to make my product a subscription with recurring fees or a one-time membership fee. Cart 66 Cloud allows you to do both but you have to decide what works best for you and your audience.
MailChimp integration! I love that I could integrate my MailChimp account with this cloud based app. When a customer goes through the checkout process, they have the option to sign up for my monthly newsletter.
Ability to drip content: You can set your content so it won’t be available for a certain amount of days after a new member signs up. This is a great feature that allows you to time your content and not provide everything all at once.
Plenty of options! Cart 66 Cloud provides you with plenty of options such as payment gateways, tax rates, shipping, customizable quantities, automatic email responders, coupon offerings, and a professional email receipt template. You get the basics of what you need for offering and selling digital or physical products online.
What I Don’t Like about Cart 66 Cloud:
I wish I could say everything was perfect with this solution, but it’s not. There were some roadblocks that I’ve experienced and situations that I would like to see resolved.
Not being able to add new members manually: I wanted to give access to some of my friends and colleagues without them having to go through the new member process. It’s not difficult sending them a free coupon code and having them create their account, but I would have preferred to do this manually myself.
It seems slow for the checkout process: To be fair, this might not have anything to do with Cart 66 Cloud at all and may either be my hosting or Internet Service Provider (ISP). When I click the ‘add to cart’ button it seems to take seven seconds to go to the checkout page. I don’t like this and it should be faster.
The client portal skews your logo: I’ve tried to upload several logos in various sizes and it doesn’t do a great job of placing it in the client portal logo section. Not a huge deal unless you are an anal designer.
It didn’t play well with Flywheel hosting at first: I had issues with the ‘add to cart’ buttons disappearing when a visitor clicked on them, thus making the checkout experience practically impossible. Thanks to Dusty and the Flywheel team for working hard to sort this caching error out. It’s resolved for now and working properly again.
Overall I really like Cart 66 Cloud and how simple it is to use. The current fee of $25.00 per month may seem expensive to some people, but for the hassle-free set up and the ability to sell my digital products and memberships without much customization, it is definitely worth it. You can have your WordPress membership site up and running very quickly with Cart 66 Cloud so you can focus on your content, instead of the technical side of membership sites.
I’m not sure that I will stick with Cart 66 Cloud for a long-term solution. It has nothing to do with the app itself (because it is awesome) but rather that the iThemes new membership add-on is more of what I wanted. Either way, you can’t go wrong!