What are the best WordPress membership plugins?

Having a membership site for your WordPress website comes with many advantages. When choosing a membership plugin, it’s best to compare the different features that a plugin offers as well as the cost.

What is a membership site?

Creating a membership site is a great way to generate more revenue and increase customer loyalty. Having such a site allows you to offer premium content, stay in contact with site visitors and build a strong community. By requiring a subscription to access certain content, you can also generate an additional stream of income. With membership plugins for WordPress, you can easily manage subscriptions and divide your website into different areas. In this article, we’ll explain how to create a membership site and highlight some of the best tools for doing this.

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What are the different types of membership sites on WordPress?

In the world of WordPress, not all membership sites are alike. There are a number of plugins available that carry out different tasks and cater to various membership site models. Before creating a membership site for your WordPress site, you first need to consider what the added value will be for your customers. This means considering not only what you would like to offer your customers, but what you are able to offer them as well. The following models are some of the most popular:

  • Premium content: Consider using this model if you want to create a paywall for high-quality content on your website. You can use teasers to attract interest for articles or images, but users can only unlock these after paying a fee. If you want to create an online store with WordPress, you can use this model to reserve certain products for members.
  • Course model: This model is especially helpful for those looking to offer online courses. You can advertise a course on your general website and upload the course material to your WordPress membership site. Only after students have enrolled in your course, will they be able to access course material, like videos, documents, quizzes and surveys.
  • Community: With the community model, you can create an additional source of revenue while also cultivating customer loyalty for your brand. While part of your website is freely accessible, only paying members are allowed to comment, use the forums or participate in live chats.
  • Drip content: With this model, you can gradually release content. This can be especially useful for course instructors who want to ensure that participants complete course material in the order outlined in the syllabus. This model also gives you the possibility to release bonus material on a monthly basis.
  • Temporary subscriptions: The temporary subscription model is ideal for a program that is only offered for a couple of weeks or months. Participants are required to pay a fee to access content during this time, but do not have any additional obligations after the program or course has ended.
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What do you need for a WordPress membership site?

Before you decide to add a membership site to your WordPress site, you should think about what it needs in order to be successful. In addition to having enough high-quality content, you also need to think about the technical demands that come with operating such a site. Membership sites are very resource intensive. Therefore, we recommend using managed WordPress hosting and installing lead generation to ensure your site is secure and stable.

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What features should a WordPress membership plugin offer?

Different WordPress membership plugins offer different features. Your needs and goals will determine which membership plugin is right for you. However, we recommend first narrowing your search down to plugins that have the following features:

  • Intuitive profile and member management
  • API access for developers
  • Social logins
  • Templates for course structure, coupons or discount promotions
  • Different subscription models
  • Different WordPress themes
  • Different payment options
  • Email marketing
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The 5 best WordPress Membership Plugins at a glance

WordPress Membership Plugin Pricing
LearnDash From around £130 per year
WooCommerce Memberships From around £160 per year
MemberPress from around £120 per year
WP Members Free (support subscription around£50 per year)
Teachable free (premium from around £285 per year)

Data as of December 2022

A closer look at the best WordPress Membership Site plugins

Similar to WordPress plugins, there are also countless membership plugins to choose from. Since it can be time-consuming to sift through them all, we’ve made a list of the most noteworthy contenders here:

LearnDash

Screenshot of the LearnDash homepage
LearnDash is a comprehensive online learning platform.

LearnDash specialises in the creation and distribution of online courses. With an extensive range of functions, it’s a virtual course instructor’s dream. With this WordPress membership plugin, you can easily set up courses and track students’ progress. However, due to its relatively high price, this tool is best suited to those who are planning to offer several courses.

Pros Cons
✓ Ideal option for courses with templates and other learning resources ✗ Relatively high cost
✓ Quiz design functionality ✗ Slight learning curve with setup
✓ Comprehensive discussion forums
✓ Customisable certificates that can be issued and used immediately

WooCommerce Memberships

Screenshot of WooCommerce Memberships
This market leader offers a powerful solution for membership sites.

While there are alternatives to WooCommerce, the eCommerce platform is still leading the market. The WordPress membership plugin WooCommerce memberships is a powerful option if you want parts of your website to only be accessible to a select group of people. Discounts, locked products and partial restrictions within subpages are all easy to do with this plugin. It does come with a hefty a price tag though.

Pros Cons
✓ Lots of features ✗ Relatively high cost
✓ Great customer support ✗ No add-ons available
✓ Extensive customisation
✓ Clear structure

MemberPress

Screenshot of MemberPress website
MemberPress offers a variety of features for membership sites.

MemberPress is another high-priced yet feature-rich WordPress membership plugin. The tool is not only intuitive to use, but it also boasts many additional features that will make your membership site even more attractive. These include a well-designed access control system, numerous payment options, excellent integration with email marketing software and many optional add-ons.

Pros Cons
✓ Lots of features ✗ Relatively high cost
✓ Thousands of integration partners
✓ Lots of payment options
✓ Tons of optional add-ons

WP-Members

Screenshot of WordPress
WP-Members is a free alternative with a wealth of customisation possibilities.

WP-Members has opted for a different approach by offering users a WordPress membership plugin that is completely free of charge. If, however, you want access to customer support and add-ons, you’ll need to pay a fee. While this tool has a considerably smaller range of features, you can customise it at an affordable price.

Pros Cons
✓ Free ✗ Limited scope
✓ Powerful customisation capabilities ✗ Very little support for the free version
✓ Extremely flexible
✓ Lots of API functions

Teachable

Screenshot of the teachable website
Teachable is a user-friendly option for offering online courses.

If you want to offer online courses on your website, Teachable is certainly one of the best plugins. The intuitive builder is extremely versatile and the different pricing options means there’s something for everyone. From the initial creation to the maintenance and billing of a course, this tool has everything for your teaching needs.

Pros Cons
✓ Tiered pricing model ✗ Programming knowledge required for some customisation options
✓ User-friendly
✓ Intuitive builder
✓ Exceptional design
Summary

When done correctly, a membership site can enhance your current WordPress site, create a strong sense of community in your customer base and generate a new stream of revenue. Since many WordPress membership plugins can be somewhat costly, it’s best to perform a cost-benefit analysis before deciding on one.