So, you’re looking to create a website to bring together a group of people, and now you need help figuring out what membership site platform is going to work best for you.
Online membership site platforms connect people with common motivations, which is valuable in uncertain times. Think of it as a one-two punch: Not only are membership sites a way to create a meaningful business around a specific interest; but they can also be an indispensable resource for people who are otherwise unable to surround themselves with people with similar goals and motivations.
With your own membership site, you get to sow the seeds that will grow, over time, into a thriving virtual community. And a membership site is nothing without a group of passionate, connected people behind it.
Community is imperative to a successful membership site platform and a successful membership site. When you build a community into your membership site, your members get added value from the connections they make with each other, which in turn gives them the incentive to keep coming back, extending their subscription year after year. To give your members their best chance, you just have to find a membership site builder that lets you offer a paid membership, courses, and community, all in one place.
The good news is that we’re here to help. We’ve researched some of the best membership site software, and below we’re helping you decide which one is the best fit for you.
What is a membership site?
At the most basic level, a membership site is a website that hosts content only accessible to people that become members of that community. So, membership sites are a great way to monetize your content through recurring subscriptions or membership that your most dedicated followers pay to gain access to.
A membership site lets you deliver high-value content and benefits to people who pay a monthly or annual subscription. It’s a way for creators to work smarter, not harder, and up their income potential for their digital business.
Membership sites usually fall under one of three categories: career and professional membership sites; health, wellness and spirituality sites; and membership sites for other important interests.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be an expert to start a membership site. Most are founded by people who followed their passion and wanted to connect people around that interest. But you do have to find the membership site management software that will help you put your best foot forward. Let’s talk about what that looks like.
What makes a membership site platform successful?
The world of membership site platforms has transformed very, very quickly. Until recently, WordPress was the go-to platform for a membership site, even though it was first designed with blogging in mind. Now, companies are shying away from that content-heavy approach and trying to give creators the opportunity to work with a more dynamic product. Long story short: You’ve got options.
Ideally, you’re looking for a membership site builder that offers your members a more integrated experience with a variety of features under one brand—your brand. You’re looking for membership site software that:
- Makes it easy to set up a beautiful, streamlined home for your membership site and market it to the right people.
- Offers exclusive content delivered regularly via organized courses, interactive features, articles, and emails.
- Emphasizes community by giving your members multiple ways to foster connections, from polls and Q&As to a central activity feed and direct messaging.
WordPress: The Best Membership Site Platform for Customization
Many, many membership sites are run with the help of WordPress, a powerful, popular, and flexible membership site builder. By itself, WordPress provides some basic features, including hundreds of themes and the ability to create a mobile-friendly site. But in order to truly build a fully dynamic membership site, you’ll need to rely heavily on third-party plugins (which can get very expensive, very quickly).
Here’s what else WordPress can offer.
Infinite options for setup.
With WordPress, the options are endless (and somewhat overwhelming). To create a custom, dynamic website on WordPress, you have a couple of different options.
If you’ve got the skills, you can choose to brave it alone, but most people will rely either on a third-party page builder, or the help of a designer or development agency. Either way, you’ll have to make an additional investment: limited page builders start at around $100 per website, and WordPress design and development typically costs up to $50,000 upfront, and an additional $5,000 to $12,500 a month for upkeep, maintenance, and new feature development. That’s in addition to your WordPress subscription—plus the plugins you’ll need to make your WordPress a proper membership site platform.
That’s right: In order to turn your WordPress into a membership site platform where you can offer exclusive content and courses, you’ll need an additional plugin. There are plenty to choose from, like MemberPress, a third-party plugin that lets you host an unlimited number of members and drip content to them.
But to make things more complicated, even the WordPress plugins rely on add-ons. With MemberPress, for example, you’ll need to integrate an additional service, like MailChimp or AWeber, for email marketing. So now you’re paying for WordPress, plugins to support your membership site platform, and add-ons to support your plugins. It’s an overly complicated approach, to say the least.
A not-so-effortless approach to community.
To get a network of like-minded, motivated people going on your WordPress membership site platform, you’ll need—you guessed it—yet another plugin. That means if you want to let your members connect via direct messaging, live forums or activity feeds, you’ll have to research an additional paid service that works well for you membership site, which is in turn, another pricey subscription. While WordPress is popular, it can easily get overwhelming because it lacks an easy, all-in-one solution.
Kajabi: The best membership site software for content-only subscriptions
Kajabi is a membership site builder that offers memberships and online courses. It also aggressively emphasizes marketing, so its users can market, sell and deliver their online courses with email campaigns, weekly updates and more. But all of that comes at a price: Kajabi is one of the more expensive membership site platforms on the market.
Here’s what else Kajabi offers.
The ability to strongly market your courses.
Kajabi is a membership site platform that primarily focuses on courses. But it really emphasizes its marketing arm, letting users market, sell, and deliver online courses. Kajabi also provides its users with the tools to deliver email campaigns and marketing landing.
Limited possibilities for content and community.
Yes, Kajabi lets you create your own online courses, and yes it lets you decide when and how your students get access to those courses. But you won’t be able to host events or connect members with each other.
The Kajabi “community” is limited to a, well, limited forum feature. That means there are not a variety of ways for members to engage with each other, especially if they want to do so directly, privately or one-to-one. On top of that, the Kajabi forum is only accessible by web so you won’t be able to access it via iOS or Android (and it won’t be as easy to check in with your online course when you’re not just sitting in front of your computer).
Mighty Networks: The best all-in-one membership site platform
Mighty Networks is a relatively new entrant and one of the best platforms for paid membership sites. That’s because a Mighty Network is designed to deliver membership websites, online courses, and community together, all under your own brand. Plus, it’s the only option out there that really puts your members first.
Here’s what else Mighty Networks offers.
A marketable membership site builder that puts members first.
Mighty Networks lets you bring your website, online courses, and memberships together all under your brand, and available on both on web and on a robust native mobile app, available on iOS and Android. It’s easy to set up, plus you can customize your landing page to make it your own.
Mighty Networks also helps you to market your membership site to the people that matter: your members. It’s one of the only membership site platforms with a serious focus on the power of connecting people.
With a Mighty Network, you can easily connect with your members directly through articles, videos, and events. And more importantly, you can help them connect with each other via direct messaging, a central activity feed, polls, and Q&As that keep them pumped and motivated to keep contributing. And that’s exactly what you want: for your members to be excited about this journey that you’re on together.
The ability to create organized, exclusive content.
The best membership site software gives you a multitude of ways to present your content in an aesthetically pleasing way, from rich-media articles to online courses. Mighty Networks helps you do all that and more, with easy-to-use templates to help you along the way.
An opportunity to nurture your community.
We’ll say it again: A strong membership site relies on the people that it serves. With your own Mighty Network, your members can build real connections with each other over your content, whether it’s taking part in your Mighty Network’s personalized activity feed or messaging each other directly.
Wild Apricot: The best membership site platform for nonprofits
Wild Apricot is another membership site platform that allows creators and entrepreneurs to build and manage an online community space for their business. The platform utilizes cloud-based technology, so your work can go with you no matter where you are.
If you’re someone who is running a nonprofit organization, Wild Apricot has developed drag and drop tools so you can create an aesthetically pleasing membership website quickly and easily.
Automation and management
While this feature isn’t exclusive to Wild Apricot, their cloud-based technology does a good job of making it easy for organizations with large databases to manage their data and keep it up-to-date.
Easily integrate with pre-existing systems
Another benefit of using Wild Apricot as a membership site platform is that their software easily integrates with pre-existing systems at your company. It comes with a robust emailing system that can link with your contact list and send out auto-confirmation emails, as well as reminders to your members. On top of that, it has advanced database search capabilities, target emailing campaign functionality, and the ability to track the analytics of your emailing campaigns.
Teachable: The best membership site platform for multimedia online courses
Teachable has become a familiar name in households around the world and an excellent membership site platform for creators and entrepreneurs passionate about helping others achieve their goals.
On Teachable, it comes with an awesome membership site builder for you to create awesome content, and more importantly, a great looking website.
Robust content creation
One reason that many content creators have turned to Teachable as their membership site platform of choice is because of the emphasis on multimedia-based content. On their membership site platform, you can create multimedia-based lectures, video lessons, offer online coaching sessions, and more.
While Teachable doesn’t offer the most flexibility and customization in the membership site platform space, they do provide a service for many entrepreneurs that is affordable and a great place to get your feet wet. They offer a “Basic” plan for just $39/month as well as more robust “Pro” and “Business” plans at $199 and $299/month respectively.
Many integrations and options for monetization
Another important feature for any membership site platform is either providing native features for people to utilize (which is the better option) or having third-party integration support. Teachable allows for a plethora of integrations on their platform, and that also means they have a wide variety of currencies that they support. This is a great feature for a membership site platform because it will allow you to make paying for your content easy for a wide range of people.
Memberful: The best membership site platform plugin
If you’re a creator or entrepreneur who already has an existing website, you might be turned off from transitioning to a full on membership site platform. While we think that transition is most definitely worth it in the long run, an alternative is using a plugin like Memberful.
Memberful is a solid membership site platform that can integrate with a pre-existing WordPress website.
Analytics for your community
As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. The best membership site platforms will provide you with analytics and data so that you can make the best decision possible for your business.
Many integration options
Since Memberful is built to work best on WordPress websites (although it can work in a more limited capacity on others) that means you’ll get a variety of integration options. You can monetize your membership through Stripe, create transactional emails, utilize a custom domain, accept different currencies, and much more.
Discounts, coupons, and more
It’s no secret that discounts and coupons work for getting people to invest in your products. The best membership site platforms often offer a variety of ways to monetize your business and a great option that Memberful allows is for you to create special promotions, discounts, and coupons, to boost sales throughout the year.
The Winner for Best Membership Site Platform: Mighty Networks
Mighty Networks is the only membership site platform that truly has it all. It lets you offer more than just courses: Your own Mighty Network is an opportunity for you to create a beautiful, streamlined membership site where you can directly market your product to your people; it allows you to diversify your content with courses, interactive features, and more; plus, it helps you to build and strengthen a community by helping your members foster real connections in a world of unknowns. And most importantly, it’s all under your own brand.