Best WordPress Membership Plugins
One of the things that are very important with any WordPress membership plugin is how easy it is to use day-to-day.
The workflow–how easy the software is to manage all of the different functions–becomes very important when you use it a lot.
Cumbersome or dysfunctional workflow becomes very frustrating because you end up taking more steps than you need to get things done.
If it becomes too difficult to perform simple functions like adding members or uploading content, you will quickly become frustrated.
Another important factor for membership plugins is good support and documentation.
It’s also desirable that the software has a supportive community of users.
This is where some established software programs have an advantage over newer programs.
They have developed a community over time and have a robust support system.
This is good because the members have already run into the challenges you may face, and add an extra helping hand.
Their knowledgebase has built up over time, and often a simple search in Google or other search engine provides you with the answer you are looking for.
Good documentation also plays a big role in making software user-friendly.
Some software has sketchy documentation because the developers don’t have time for it.
Great software overcomes this challenge, and has thorough documentation available.
Often it is located on their software group’s website, so they can easily update it with new information and details.
In that spirit, there are several membership programs that meet the criteria we just discussed.
What you’ll find is that each of these packages has a different business model.
Some have a low or no entry fee and yet charge for service, while others charge more upfront but offer free or low-cost service and support.
The Right Model For You
Which model works for you depends on your current cash flow, technical knowledge and whatever level of support you need and can afford.
Some people want everything to be free, but consider that the support fees and software investments go to help the developers continue to add new enhancements and functionality to the software.
Paid Membership Pro
This is a plugin from developer Jason Coleman. Jason offers the software for free, and charges for support on the backend.
This is a good option if you have technical skills in setting up and operating software.
It also helps if money is short. The support investment for a single license is $97 at this writing.
Another plugin with excellent workflow is Member Press.
They offer plenty of useful options and have found a nice balance between ease of use and number of features.
It is a little pricier than the others–the investment is $99 per year.
This package charges up front to use—a single-site license is $97. However, it includes support right from the very beginning.
Magic Members has very easy workflow and is a pleasure to use.
It’s nice to have support from the start so that you don’t have to think about getting your questions answered, increasing your productivity.
Magic Members is interesting in that the user interface is part of WordPress, but is separate. The menus are easy to use and the workflow is simple.
They have an excellent content management system that makes it a breeze to provide new content to members on regular basis.
WishList Member has been in business for many years. The current investment is $97 for a single site, which includes unlimited support and updates for one year.
With more than 20,000 customers, it is a very popular package, especially among Internet marketers. It works well and offers lots of menu choices.
The downside of its wide selection and variety of options is that a newbie can get overwhelmed. WishList Member is extremely functional.
It easily creates different levels or recurring periods of membership.
You can quickly create a continuity membership–for example, maybe you want to offer training that is dripped out over 12 months.
WishList Member does this like a snap. The developers behind the program are constantly working on it and creating new features, functionality and innovation.
There is a very strong community to offer support.
Again, it cannot be stressed how important a good community and ecosystem is, because you will definitely be asking questions at one time or another, no matter how good the software is.
WishList Member has plenty of options and payment gateways. They have found a good balance between good design and solid functionality.
For example, advanced users can set up individual Cron jobs. The content distribution is a little bit odd in WishList Member.
You create different levels of content dripping.
WishList has a robust number of payment gateways including Google checkout, PayPal, Authorize.net, 2checkout and more.
Used to be called Studio Press which was mostly used for creating landing pages. They built the membership plugin Premise on top of that.
Utilizes short codes Design is not as attractive as some of the other plugins on the market, and there are less payment gateways.
Premise is a package designed by the people behind Copyblogger, an uber- successful copy and marketing blog.
It is very business friendly and appeals to marketers. Premise allows you to quickly set up download sections, forums and other areas.
It has several features the other packages don’t offer. It has an excellent landing page maker and allows you to build sophisticated funnels.
Premise uses short codes extensively, giving you plenty of flexibility in setting up your site.
Short codes are text snippets you enter in a post or page which add different features to the page.
One example is a list of posts from a designated category like “Recent Products” or perhaps “Most Popular Posts.” At $165, it is not inexpensive.
The good news is once you purchase the package, there are no further investments and you can use it on unlimited sites.
However, the bad news is that at the time of this writing Premise is closed to new members.
Check the site when you are ready to move forward with your membership site to see if it is open again.
Premise does not have as attractive a user interface as WishList member, but it offers very specific levels of membership.
You can break it down by different levels for example new member, invents member, senior member, pro member.
Or you could break it down by the type of content they get or the number of days they are a member.
One of the most popular and established membership platforms available.
It serves non-WordPress websites, though its functionality and styling resemble WordPress.
It has the feature of scheduling your content, which means that your content gets released over time; only those who remain subscribed to your site get access to that content when you decide to release it; those that drop their subscriptions before that time don’t get access to it.
This well-established membership platform works for both WordPress-based and non-WordPress-based membership sites.
It was reportedly the first membership platform to allow “content dripping,” or where you release your content a little bit at a time.
It also provides built-in file and download protection of content you only want specific members to have, as well as Amazon SES integration and the ability to process payments via PayPal, Stripe, or credit cards directly.
This WordPress membership plugin is a full eCommerce solution that enables you to sell both products and memberships.
This easily enables you to restrict content based on membership level, making it a perfect option if you are offering varying levels of membership.
You can also easily set up a recurring billing program, whether it would be monthly, bi-annually, annually, etc.
In addition, you can drip your content with this plugin and even send out notification emails whenever new content is added to your site.
This WordPress membership plugin offers many tools, including a fully automated membership system that allows for easy payments, upgrade notifications, and cancellations.
You can choose what type of content can be viewed by your customers, including categories, pages, posts, or comments.
This plugin also allows you to create unlimited memberships, plus it allows you to see a member’s membership level, payment status, and more.
This plugin allows for partial content display, which can entice lower-level membership users to upgrade their memberships to see more of your content.
It also allows members to bookmark specific pages within your membership site so that they can access them later more easily.
Like MemberPress, it also has the ability to pause memberships and then resume them later.
The cost for this plugin is just $59.95, relatively low for a membership site plugin.
The above packages stand out. Every package is powerful and feature rich. These stand out due to the natural workflow and ease of use.
Other membership plugins you might test include s2member, MemberSpeed, MemberGate, Member Mouse and DL Guard.
As you can see, there are many plugins with different levels of initial investment and support offerings.
Whether you pay up front for the full package, or pay for the back end service and support depends on your goals and level of technical knowledge.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many developers will consider contract work for a fee.
That means if you have a specific requirement or custom design that you need set up, you can contact them directly.
This option generally takes a bigger investment but there is a solid return on investment is there, it is something to consider carefully.
What Are Your Goals
So which WordPress membership plugin is best for you? It depends on your goals. Do you intend to make money and deliver content?
Will you charge every month or a single fee in the beginning? Do your members get access to all of your content at once, or will you release it over time?
All of these questions factor into which plugin works best for you. It cannot be stressed how important workflow is.
You’ll be using it a lot–you become one with the program.
That’s why it will benefit you to test different software programs to determine which one feels right.
Every person is different and, like buying a car, if you don’t find one that feels good you will be uncomfortable every time you take it out for a spin.
Roll Your Own
All of the plugins we’ve looked at so far have built their software on WordPress—it is designed with many of membership functions “out of the box” including roles and permissions.
That means that if you have programming ability, you can “roll your own” membership site.
If you can code, all you need to do is familiarize yourself with the roles and permissions within WordPress to create your own system.
For the purposes of this report, we are not going to get into do-it-yourself options. But, if this describes you, be aware that WordPress has plenty of power by itself.
The membership plugins we describe here are designed for normal people who want functionality and features without the need for programming skill or knowledge.
Another option is to create a basic membership site with simple password protection.
You may not need a full-blown membership plugin with content dripping and various membership levels.
Perhaps you just want to build a following by registering members on your site.
This can be accomplished with the password system that is already built into WordPress.
Then you can decide what content members are allowed to see. You can even use the built-in WordPress email system to start your mailing list.
Additional Recommended WordPress Plugins
Google XML Sitemaps
Creates a “map” of every post and page which helps search engines more efficiently index the site.
The new successor to the great and now discontinued Ultimate TinyMCE, WP Edit adds extensive functionality to the basic WordPress editor.
Lets you create a custom author “bio” box that can be added below posts and pages.
JetPack by WordPress.com
A plugin for self-hosted WordPress sites that adds many of the great features found on blogs hosted at WordPress.com.
Includes stats, social networking comments, email subscriptions, easy embeds from Youtube and Vimeo, direct posting from email and much more.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
YARPP adds scours the database and presents related posts alongside or below each post displayed on your site.
Simple and powerful, it is maintained by the same team behind “WordPress SEO by Yoast.
- WordPress is the most successful website creation software in the World.
- Plugins extend the functionality of the core WordPress.
- Look for plugins with easy over-all use. You’ll be using the program every day.
- Good community support makes a big difference.
- Plugins vary in their initial investment costs and support.
- Not ready to jump in the pool? Most membership plugins offer 30-day trial periods.
- Look for plugins that have features that match your membership goals.
- Technically proficient web users may want to build their own site. Most people should steer clear of this idea.