Easy Digital Downloads Review: A Superb WordPress Plugin for Selling Digital Files Online!
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Easy Digital Downloads is a popular eCommerce solution for WordPress that was created to help website owners sell digital products such as eBooks, documents, music, graphic designs and more.
The plugin is free to download, and, as with other high-quality WordPress solutions, its functionality can be extended by many free and premium addons. A host of WordPress themes designed specifically for Easy Digital Downloads are available too. However, the plugin is designed to work with any WordPress theme.
The core version of Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) is a user-friendly plugin that’s suitable for selling digital files on your website and accepting payments via PayPal or Amazon.
While the free version is suitable for creating a simple digital shop, the real power of Easy Digital Downloads comes from the vast number of plugins that are available to add functionality. It’s an incredibly flexible product.
In this article, I’d like to talk about the company behind Easy Digital Downloads, explain what the plugin offers and show you how you can use it to create a professional eCommerce store.
Who’s Behind Easy Digital Downloads?
Easy Digital Downloads was created by WordPress developer Pippin Williamson and his company Sandhills Development. You may be familiar with Pippin already, or have read one of his many WordPress tutorials on his website, Pippins Plugins.
Sandhills Development are well respected in the WordPress world for a number of reasons:
- They have a great reputation for good customer service.
- They develop high-quality WordPress products.
- They’ve published hundreds of useful WordPress development tutorials.
Sandhills Development are also behind other successful WordPress plugins, such as affiliate plugin AffiliateWP, membership plugin Restrict Content Pro, Stripe payment plugin WP Simple Pay and calendar plugin Sugar Calendar.
Perhaps the biggest reason Pippin and his company are so well respected is because of their approach to transparency.
The decision to be so open about major company decisions on their blog has given them a lot of attention. In particular, their ‘Year in Review’ blog posts that reflect on the previous 12 months give everyone an insight into the way their company operates and help them get to know team members.
Other popular articles include reflecting on increasing the cost of addons in 2017 and detailing what happened when they enabled automatic membership renewals. All of their articles give you an insight into how a professional WordPress company operates.
Check out the Pippins Plugins blog to find out more about the people behind Easy Digital Downloads.
What Does Easy Digital Downloads Offer?
The core version of Easy Digital Downloads comes with the basic tools you need to start selling digital products on your WordPress website.
Using the plugin, you can upload any type of digital file to be sold on your website. A shortcode is provided to help you to insert your products into posts and pages.
Discount codes can be offered to customers to encourage them to buy, and you can also limit the number of times a file can be purchased. This is useful for promotions — for example, ‘Only Ten copies left’.
PayPal Standard and Amazon Payments are supported in the free version. However, through extensions you can add other payment gateways such as PayPal Pro, Stripe, 2Checkout, Authorize.net and Coinbase.
Customers can view their entire shopping history with you through their personal account, and you can display this to customers through the use of a single shortcode.
In the back end, website owners can generate reports for any time period and download these reports in CSV format. You can see data for report type, earnings, earnings by category, downloads, payment methods and taxes.
The beauty of Easy Digital Downloads is its simplicity.
You can upload a file and promote it on your website in a matter of minutes. Just like with blog posts, digital files can be placed into categories and have tags assigned to them to help you and your customers find products easily.
Let’s take a closer look at the core version to get a better understanding of how Easy Digital Downloads works.
Adding Digital Products to Your Store
Easy Digital Downloads can be downloaded directly within the admin area of WordPress. Alternatively, you can download the plugin from WordPress.org and upload the files manually.
The plugin is listed as ‘Downloads’ in your main WordPress admin menu. From here, you can access all major pages, including downloads (e.g. products), payment history, customers, discount codes, settings and more.
If you’re familiar with adding posts and pages to WordPress, you’ll feel right at home with adding a new product to your store, since the download post type uses the same interface.
For each product, you can name the download package, add a description, and assign categories and tags to it. You have the option of setting the product at one price or setting up variable pricing.
Multiple files can be sold and, if you wish, grouped together for sale as a bundle. If you’ve enabled variable pricing, you can configure a unique price for each file.
A purchase shortcode is made available so you can output a purchase link for the product.
Every digital product and bundle you create can be viewed from the main downloads page, along with sales and earnings.
Discount codes can be created as a percentage of the sale or as a flat fee. You can specify the total discount to be applied and whether that’s to all of the items in the customer’s shopping cart or just to specific items.
Other options include excluding codes from certain downloads, setting the date range where the discount code is valid, and setting the minimum purchase that’s required in the shopping cart for the discount code to be eligible.
As you can see, the process of uploading new digital files is straightforward. Modifying existing products is simple too.
Configuring Your Easy Digital Downloads Store
The main settings area is divided into seven core sections: General, payment gateways, emails, styles, taxes, privacy and misc.
Most of these sections have sub-sections, therefore the total number of settings pages in this area is 18 — which is impressive, considering the plugin is free to download.
In the general section, you can define the base country for transactions and the pages users are redirected to when they’ve made a purchase.
Default pages, such as checkout and purchase history, are created by Easy Digital Downloads when you activate the plugin. If you prefer, you can assign the shopping pages to other pages you’ve created.
The current settings page in this section lets you define your store’s currency and whether periods (.) or commas (,) are used for separators and decimal points. There’s also an option to allow users to generate API keys.
In the next section, you can set your accepted payment gateways. You should use the test mode in this area when you’re setting your store up for the first time to make sure it’s been done correctly.
A dedicated settings page is available for PayPal Standard, and you can enter your PayPal email address here along with any API information.
If you activate additional payment gateways through addons, their settings pages will be added to the payment gateways section on their own dedicated settings page.
The next section handles emails. You can upload a logo and define the name and email address that’s used in emails to customers in the general page.
A variety of template tags are available for sending emails for purchase receipts and new sale notifications. It’s all done through the WordPress visual editor, so creating a professional email for customers is a breeze.
Styling options are fairly limited in the core version of Easy Digital Downloads.
There’s an option to disable styling, which should only be checked if your theme includes a custom CSS stylesheet specifically for the plugin.
There are nine button colours to choose from, or you can use text instead.
Unfortunately, these are the only options available.
As I said, styling options are limited; it’s an area the developers need to improve on.
Taxes can be added to purchases too.
They can be customised for specific countries, as well as for states and provinces. You just have to specify the tax rate for each region and confirm whether your product prices are inclusive or exclusive of tax.
The miscellaneous section is divided into six sub-sections: Miscellaneous, checkout, button text, file downloads, accounting and terms of agreement.
In miscellaneous, you’ll find the option to automatically redirect users to the checkout after adding an item to the cart. There’s also an option to remove all data when Easy Digital Downloads is deleted. This is something I welcome, as most plugins leave unwanted data in your WordPress database after they’ve been deactivated.
In checkout, you can enforce an SSL connection, require customers to be logged in to purchase files and enable multiple discounts for customers. The button text settings page is for changing the label for shopping buttons such as ‘Add to Cart’ and ‘Buy Now’.
The file downloads page lets you set a limit on the number of times a file can be downloaded, and you can also set a link expiration in hours.
In the accounting section, you can control sequential numbering for orders. Finally, in the terms of agreement settings page you can write an agreement text and require users to agree to it upon purchase.
The tools section features some other useful options and information.
In the general page, you can ban email addresses and recount statistics. API keys can be generated from this area too, and there’s a system info box that displays information about your server and your WordPress installation.
The import/export page allows you to import your payment history and products in CSV format, and there’s also an option to import and export plugin settings using the .json file format.
For a free eCommerce solution, Easy Digital Downloads gives you a lot of control over how your digital shop is configured. The main area that needs improving is styling customisation.
Testing Your Store
Once you’ve added your digital downloads and configured your store in the settings area, you should test that your digital products can be successfully purchased.
You can do this by enabling the test mode within the payment gateways tab of the main plugin settings page.
All you have to do is display your items in a post or page, and then enter some fake customer information to test everything. It’s important to do this to check that your digital products have been configured correctly and your store is working the way you want it to.
Testing your shopping cart also allows you to see how orders work. You can go into any order and check the data, and, if necessary, modify it.
In addition to customer information and order information, this page also displays useful information about the customer, such as a log of their file downloads.
The customers page lists everyone who’s signed up to your store.
The six reports on offer can be generated easily. You can set any date range, and there’s an option to exclude taxes.
I encourage you to do what I did and run some reports using your test sample data.
You can download a host of information in CSV format.
This includes an earnings report, payment report, customer list, product lists (downloads), download history, API requests and sales. There’s also a log page that lists when customers downloaded files. Sensitive customer data, such as IP addresses, are detailed here.
In a live store, you could soon have thousands of customers and orders, which is why reports are such an important part of Easy Digital Downloads.
The Core Version of Easy Digital Downloads
The core version allows an unlimited number of digital files to be added to your store, and there are no restrictions on the number of discount codes you create, customers you have or orders that are placed.
You are, however, restricted to two payment gateways, and there’s no way to integrate email marketing services into your store. Of course, extra functionality like this is available through addons.
While the core version of Easy Digital Downloads is sufficient for a simple digital store, it’s also the foundation on which all Easy Digital Downloads stores are built.
As you’ll see, to unlock the full potential of Easy Digital Downloads, you’ll need to take advantage of the hundreds of addons that are available.
Extending Easy Digital Downloads with Addons
The official store has a wonderful variety of addons that focus on everything from accounting to marketing to analytics.
You’ll also find that hundreds of free and premium addons are available from third-party developers; the third-party extensions page on Easy Digital Downloads has a good list of the best.
Many free addons for Easy Digital Downloads are available on WordPress.org — be aware that these plugins do tend to be more simplistic than premium alternatives, though.
All of the Easy Digital Downloads addons extend the functionality of your online store. They can shape your store, and be used to increase sales and retain customers.
For increasing sales, try the reviews addon, which allows customers to review the products they’ve purchased from your store and give them a star rating. You can use email to encourage customers to post a review, and offer them a discount on their next purchase if they do.
Content restriction is a useful addon that could be used when selling online courses and premium content. It allows you to limit content in any post, page, or custom post type to customers who’ve bought from you.
Simple shipping is an addon that helps you sell physical items. This could be used to help you sell T-shirts, DVDs or any other physical item.
Another interesting addon is recurring payments, which you can use to charge customers regularly for particular items. It could even be used in conjunction with the content restriction addon to create a fully fledged membership website.
With so many addons available to Easy Digital Downloads users, the possibilities are endless.
To get a better understanding of how you can unlock the full potential of the plugin, I recommend browsing the official downloads page.
Easy Digital Downloads Themes
Easy Digital Downloads can be easily integrated into any WordPress website. If you’re looking to just sell a few items on an existing website, it’s probably better to just integrate your products and store pages using shortcodes.
Those of you who want to launch a dedicated online store may want to consider one of the many themes that were designed specifically for Easy Digital Downloads.
The design Themedd is a great solution for selling digital products such as eBooks, documents and music. It’s free to download, and comes with custom widgets and multiple sidebars.
The other free designs offered by Easy Digital Downloads are Vendd, Shoppette, Lattice and Quota. They’re all good starting points for your first Easy Digital Downloads store.
Lattice has an artistic feel to it, and is a minimalistic theme that would be a great choice for music or prints. The last design is Quota, which has a simple, clean design and comes packaged with several unique page templates.
The official designs all look good, but are admittedly quite basic when compared with some of the alternatives available from third-party companies.
Retailing at $37, the Marketeer is a creative shopping theme that comes with four home page and blog layouts. It has support for five WordPress post formats, and the colour scheme can be changed using a colour picker.
The theme looks great, and its blog layout templates look fantastic.
If you choose to build an online store with Easy Digital Downloads, you’ll be pleased to know there are an abundance of WordPress themes designed specifically for the plugin. Many WordPress themes designed for WooCommerce have good support for Easy Digital Downloads too. Therefore, it’s worth checking out other eCommerce WordPress themes that aren’t being marketed specifically as an Easy Digital Downloads design.
The Cost of Using Easy Digital Downloads
Easy Digital Downloads addons can be bought individually or as a package. They have four pricing plans: Personal Pass, Extended Pass, Professional Pass and All Access Pass. These retail at $99 per year, $199 per year, $299 per year and $499 per year, respectively.
All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, but be aware that plans are automatically billed every year by default, so you need to remember to cancel your plan if you don’t want to renew.
Their All Access Pass plan at $499 has no usage restrictions, but all other plans are based upon you using their products on a single website.
Value can be subjective, but most online shop owners will know that running costs can quickly escalate if they require lots of addons for their store to operate.
When you consider the price of buying addons individually, the four available plans offer great value.
Take the Personal Pass plan, for example. This plan includes a total of 18 addons. You gain access to all email marketing addons and addons such as PDF invoices, HTML invoices, cross-sell and upsell, and the social discounts addon that gives reduced prices to those who share your products on social media.
Therefore, it makes sense for anyone who’s looking at an email marketing addon to consider looking at the Personal Pass plan, as it adds so much functionality.
The Extended Pass plan at $199 per year comes with a total of 42 addons.
This plan includes all payment gateway addons and other useful addons such as file store for Dropbox, content restriction, and an addon that lets you host your digital products on Amazon S3. The Amazon S3 and Dropbox addons are useful if you’re selling video content, as they’ll greatly reduce your video hosting costs.
The additional addons included in this plan are expensive to buy on their own. For example, the software licensing and front end submissions addons retail at $199 per year. Other addons, such as custom deliverables and commissions, sell for $89 per year on their own.
The most expensive option is the All Access Pass plan. Retailing at $499 per year, this plan gives you access to every official Easy Digital Downloads plugin, and allows you to use them on an unlimited number of websites. It gives you nearly twice as many plugins as the lower-priced professional pass plan.
One of the benefits of using a WordPress plugin that uses a freemium business model is that everyone can download the core version for free and only activate the addons they need. This avoids a common problem in the WordPress world, whereby customers are forced to buy one of the higher-priced plans to gain access to a particular plugin.
The idea is simple: You only buy what you need.
The problem is that many WordPress developers price their addons at a level where it doesn’t make any sense to buy them individually. Easy Digital Downloads is guilty of this.
For example, if a shop owner wants to use the recurring payments addon, they need to pay $199 per year. This addon is included in the extended pass plan that retails at $199 per year, and opting for this plan means you gain access to 41 other addons too.
I appreciate that one of the main reasons WordPress companies do this is to make their addon plans more appealing, and it’s obviously easier to push people towards a plan when they see how much money they can save.
What this means in practice is that, unless you only need one or possibly two cheap addons to enhance the core version of Easy Digital Downloads, you’re almost always better off going with one of their addon plans.
In short, the plans available for Easy Digital Downloads are competitively priced and give you access to much more functionality. I recommend opting for one of these plans instead of buying addons individually.
Easy Digital Downloads Alternatives
If you’re looking for a simple way of selling digital products on an existing WordPress website, Easy Digital Downloads should be top of your list.
The plugin was designed specifically to handle the sale of digital items such as eBooks and features discount codes, order tracking and a detailed report system.
If you’re looking to launch an online shop that sells many items, you should consider looking at alternative solutions. By looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each solution you can make an informed decision as to which is best for you.
WooCommerce is not only one of the most popular WordPress plugins on the market, it’s also the most popular eCommerce solutions on the internet — powering around a third of all eCommerce websites. It is, therefore, the solution Easy Digital Downloads is compared with most.
The general consensus online appears to be that Easy Digital Downloads is a better solution if you’re selling digital products, and WooCommerce is better for selling physical products.
For the most part, this is true, but the lines do become a little blurred as you can sell physical items with Easy Digital Downloads using the simple shipping addon.
WooCommerce also lets you sell digital products. In the core version, you can mark products as virtual and grant access to digital files upon purchase. There are addons such as WooCommerce bulk download available too, which help to extend digital product support even further.
Because of the popularity of WooCommerce, you gain access to more themes and more addons. This gives you a bigger catalogue of products to extend the functionality of your store (particularly if you’re selling physical items). You can also use Stripe for a payment gateway for free.
Of course, having access to more themes and addons doesn’t necessarily mean WooCommerce is superior. Depending on your requirements, you may find that Easy Digital Downloads handles your needs better.
With regards to performance, Kinsta CMO Brian Jackson found Easy Digital Downloads slightly quicker, and an overall lighter solution. However, the difference in speed was only around 60 milliseconds.
Comparing the cost of both of these solutions can be difficult, as it depends on what functionality is important to you. WooCommerce has a bigger selection of free addons, and many addons are a little cheaper on an individual basis. However, I feel that, generally speaking, the addon plans from Easy Digital Downloads are more rounded than the WooCommerce bundles on offer.
In reality, there’s no clear winner between Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce. It comes down to what functionality is essential for your online store.
Other Great eCommerce WordPress Plugins
WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce solution on the market, and Easy Digital Downloads can lay claim to second place. However, there are many other eCommerce WordPress plugins you should consider.
Here are some other great eCommerce WordPress plugins to check out:
- WP eCommerce — a versatile solution that can be used to sell digital and physical products. A small selection of premium addons are available for the plugin.
- JigoShop eCommerce — JigoShop is the plugin WooCommerce forked from. It can support digital or physical items, and its premium extensions are fairly priced.
- NinjaShop — a useful eCommerce plugin that includes content restriction, guest checkouts and download expirations.
- MemberPress — retailing from $129 per year, MemberPress is a good option for those who are selling online courses and other digital products where you need to restrict content.
Another interesting WordPress plugin is Cart66. Rather than charging for addons, it includes all functionality when you buy the plugin. Unfortunately, at the time of writing it wasn’t accepting any new accounts.
Non-WordPress Store Solutions
If you’re not looking to integrate your store into an existing WordPress website, you may also want to consider eCommerce solutions that aren’t powered by WordPress.
The following hosted services all have good reputations:
- Shopify — a complete all-in-one hosted eCommerce solution that can be used to create a professional store in minutes. Pricing starts from $29 per month.
- SendOwl — an affordable eCommerce platform that lets you sell digital products from only $9 per month. It has some great marketing features, such as an affiliate system, discounts and upselling.
- Squarespace — a user-friendly website-building service that can be used to create great-looking online shops. Pricing for eCommerce websites starts from $18 per month.
Consider What’s Essential to Your Business
Selecting an eCommerce solution isn’t always black and white. Everyone has different requirements for their online shop, so you have to check whether a particular solution has everything you need.
In particular, check whether a solution supports your desired payment gateway. You also need to review which addons are essential to you and your business — whether that’s marketing tools, reporting tools or whatever.
Once you know what functionality you need, you can review the total cost of using that product with your desired theme and addons. This will give you the true cost of using a particular plugin or service.
Easy Digital Downloads is rightfully regarded as one of the best eCommerce solutions available on the market.
As noted earlier, if you do want to expand Easy Digital Downloads, the best way to do so is by selecting a plan that includes the addons you need. You can buy addons separately, but it’s almost always more expensive to do so.
Used/using Easy Digital Downloads? Thoughts?