Digital Access Pass (DAP) WordPress Membership Plugin Review

My honest review about this membership plugin from over 6 years of use (and still counting). It does some things well and lacks in others. I’ve written about DAP before here and here. Here are the quick facts, pros and cons.

PROS of DAP membership plugin:

  1. MINIMAL CHECKOUT – this will always and forever be the #1 reason why I chose DAP. It allows your customer to purchase items from you without having to go through a “checkout” process. There are no forms to fill, names or addresses, etc. One just one button, your buyer will go straight to PayPal. This is ideal if you don’t want to add unnecessary screens where users can see cart info, quantity, etc. You simply want them to pay before they change their mind! And the great thing is that you can have a minimal checkout AND sales tracked on the backend.
  2. SPEED – Dap is very fast and will never slow down your WordPress site. It’s isn’t one of those heavy plugins that load a dozen JS/CSS scripts on every page of your site. The database is separate from your WordPress installation and never mucks up your WordPress database. (This actually can be a pro and con in itself.)
  3. FULL-FEATURED – this is a debatable quality depending on who you talk to. For the most part, DAP can do what you need. It can secure your site content and protect files, do “content-dripping”, bundle and upgrade products, coupon codes, integrates well with email services, different payment processors. The issue lies on HOW easy it is to set up everything you need (more on this later).
  4. GREAT SUPPORT – the support I’ve received from DAP and it’s owners Ravi & Veena have been pretty solid. They care about their plugin and put tons of work into there. There’s also a helpful Facebook group you can join. While I can’t say the support was absolutely perfect, they really do try and make you happy.

CONS of DAP Membership Plugin:

  1. NOT A WORDPRESS ┬áPLUGIN – doesn’t integrate with WordPress and is not built/coded in a WordPress-manner. It feels like you’re connecting an entirely different CMS into WordPress and applying htaccess hacks to make it work.
  2. ENCRYPTED CODE – what if you want a feature but DAP doesn’t offer it? Well, unlike other plugins, you can’t hack into DAP because the code is encrypted so you can’t see where and how different files are connected to each other. This is an even bigger problem when you’re getting hacked and have no idea how to secure DAP. Of course, DAP support told me they were 100% sure it wasn’t their plugin. But research “DAP PayPal IPN hack” on Google and you’ll see it’s a common problem.
  3. UGLY DESIGN – ugly design everywhere. Everything from the backend admin area to the frontend forms are ugly and/or require lots of customization to look polished. I can appreciate developers being more focused on functionality rather than design but I expected more from a premium plugin to be honest. Take a look at their website design and if that doesn’t bother you, their plugin is about as the same.
  4. CONFUSING INTERFACE – I hate when you have to “learn” how to use a plugin. Their settings options are full of hidden panels and what not. Some areas are confusingly separated away from others. Some areas are confusingly combined with others. You’ll spend lots of time clicking around and trying to remember where a certain setting was. It’s not SO hard to get used to but can be a pain in the ass every time you create a new product.
  5. CONFUSING DOCUMENTATION – try doing something as simple as “upgrade DAP” and you’ll have to click back and forth between numerous pages. First, you have to read a page to figure out what version you’re using, then you’ll have to update to the next major version, then update to the latest minor version. I wouldn’t mind clicking around if the documentation was laid out nicely, but instead it’s more like a giant page with endless links and buttons and looks like it was designed in the 1990’s. (This is the improved version, mind you.)
  6. PROBLEM WITH FOREIGN CHARACTERS – this is one of the most frustrating issues and quite ridiculous, to be honest. Every time I get a new customer who’s name has accent marks, DAP doesn’t process the order. Then I get email complaints and even PayPal complaints. I’ve told DAP support about this and they never helped beside asking me basic questions to isolate the issue. Anyway…I wouldn’t recommend DAP if you have customers with Spanish, French, or Portuguese names, that’s for sure.
  7. GOT HACKED – in all my 10+ years of using WordPress, I have never had a site hacked until last year via DAP. DAP says their plugin is absolutely secure. 2 high-level programmers told me it isn’t. Just about every other programmer I’ve worked with has told me they hated DAP. One even offered to migrate me to any another membership plugin free of charge.
  8. CONFLICTS WITH PLUGINS – DAP will absolutely not work with all plugins. I don’t know the science behind it but I’m guessing it has to do with not actually being a WordPress plugin and also having conflicting htaccess rules. At this moment DAP’s required Livelink plugin is breaking WPML functionality.
  9. CONFLICTS WITH CDN/CACHING – DAP’s default htaccess rules will work for 99% of you out of the box. But try to enable caching and you’ll realize it conflicts with DAP. Either things won’t work or certain users will see each other’s information, etc. Another issue is that DAP’s htaccess lines may inadvertently prevent your CDN/server from caching certain files. You’ll have to do some extra tuning to get things working right but it is possible.
  10. REQUIRES HTACCESS – DAP will not work on every hosting environment. It requires htaccess, which means a few drawbacks. One is that you have to be manage your htaccess file and make sure it secures things the way you want without conflicting with other plugins. The other thing is that you can’t use faster web servers like NGINX (that don’t use htaccess). DAP will also not work with some webhosts (as expected).
  11. POOR EMAIL COMPATIBILITY – I tried installing a 3rd-party email plugin…NOPE! DAP had taken over the WordPress email function. Support tells me I need to use SMTP through their plugin settings instead…(this is frustrating mind you, because I can’t use my email plugin for the usual WordPress emails)…so I try it and it simply doesn’t work. I entered the SMTP info over and over again with no luck. As a last resort, I followed DAP’s documentation for getting Amazon SES and that worked although it felt like another hack in itself.
  12. LACKS FEATURES – doesn’t have features that other plugins have. This isn’t a fair con since it isn’t DAP’s fault. But I do find other plugins do a better job of offering many different settings/options regarding payment, content protection, membership upgrades, integration with 3rd-party tools, and overall ease-of-use.

 

DAP feels like a giant hack

All in all, I think DAP was very well-intended. And I still use it on 2 of my sites today because it isn’t easy to migrate thousands of users away. I have, however built all my newer sites on other plugins (each with their own shortcomings) and have been much happier.

DAP was ahead of everyone else when I first installed it 7 years ago but now feels like an old car with a new paint job and lots of “repairs”. IMO, it needs to be rebuilt from the scratch but they’ve got too many users to support and too much money being made, so I understand.

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