But with many software options to choose from, it’s a little intimidating to try to find the right home for your membership site. Plus, it can feel like there’s a lot on the line, since picking a membership site software feels a bit like getting married–you’d really love to stick with this thing for life.
So in this article, we’ll talk about how to choose the right membership site platform and give you 14 options. Choosing the right platform will make your life WAY easier as a community Host, and help your membership business thrive.
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What is a membership site?
A membership site is a website that hosts some type of gated content that is only accessible to people who join the membership--either paid or free. Creating a membership site can monetize your content through recurring subscriptions or membership that your most dedicated followers pay to gain access to.
Gated content could be pretty much anything. From conversations to courses, from livestreams to events, memberships can come with tons of great options.
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 scale their income potential for their digital business.
Benefits of a membership site
A great membership site platform can bring some amazing benefits to your brand or business:
- They can create recurring revenue
- They let your business scale with minimal extra work for you
- They connect members with like-minded people & growth opportunities
- They thrive on user generated content
- You can bundle memberships with all sorts of goodies like events, courses, coaching, private groups, premium content, and more.
- You can run a membership site with as little as a few hours a week.
What makes a membership site platform successful?
There was a time when a membership site meant gating your WordPress blog. Anyone remember that?
Anyway, the rise of social media, especially Facebook Groups, gave us a new way to think about memberships. People could meet and chat with like-minded members and form friendships.
But a Facebook group is DEFINITELY not a great place to build a business. With no payment gateways and an algorithm that makes it impossible to reach your followers (try competing with cat videos), a dedicated membership solution was in order.
A good membership platform goes further than a web forum or a Facebook group, giving you the power to own 100% of your digital business. Here's what you should look for:
- A way to bring members together & engage on content
- Flexible content features that match your style, whether a forum, events, courses, livestreaming, chat & messaging, or polls
- A payment gateway that lets you charge in your currency, and options to bundle and sell different kinds of content
- A way to build your membership site and make it reflect your brand
- Native mobile apps for every device & white-label options
- Analytics and moderation features
14 Best membership site platforms
1. Mighty Networks
The best all-in-one membership site platform
Mighty offers flexible Spaces that bring features like forums, courses with pre-recorded or live teaching, live events, live streaming, custom course communities, messaging all members, a ton of content options, plus Q&As.
It lets you bring your website and memberships together all under your brand, and is available on both on web and on a robust native mobile app for iOS and Android. It’s easy to set up, plus you can customize your landing page to make it your own.
Finally, Mighty has something no other membership platform has: Mighty Co-Host™. It's your AI community engine to help boost your creativity and human connections.
Mighty Co-Host™ can generate a community name, a Big Purpose, a brand identity, and landing and sales pages. And it makes it RADICALLY EASIER to run your community, with icebreakers, application assist, automatic course outlines, and our amazing "make it better" features for your posts.
You could be inviting your first paying members in ten minutes.
Mighty Networks features
- Spaces with livestreaming, events (+RSVP), live and pre-recorded courses, discussion forums, chat & messaging, and more!
- Sell memberships, events, courses, private groups, or bundle any of these together
- Build your network to reflect your brand identity + choose light or dark mode
- Mighty Co-Host™ AI features: automatically generate landing pages, a brand, community name, course outlines, and a Big Purpose.
- Creativity boosting tools to help with writing, posting, and conversations
- Charge in 135 different currencies or even with token-gating
- Constant improvement and innovation with new features
- Versatile apps for both iOS and Android
- Tons of free support in the Mighty Community!
"As a host, Gina Bianchini and her team LISTEN!! I'll say that again, THEY LISTEN TO THE HOSTS! So over the last 6 years they have been asking us what we want and making changes to the platform in response to what the hosts, our communities and our members need. Yeah, that's cool!" Verified G2 Review
2. Mighty Pro
Best for membership apps
If you love the features we talked about above, but want to build your membership on your own branded apps, then you need Mighty Pro. It takes the community-building power of Mighty, things like live and pre-recorded courses, customizeable spaces, livestreaming, live events, discussion boards, member profiles, chat & messaging, and more...
And it puts them all in your own app!
Imagine memberships sold through your branded app in the App Store and Google Play Store.
We work with you to create an awesome app your members will love. And you get access to the Mighty Pro team, where you’ll work directly with Account Executives and Community Strategists who have scaled 7-figure creator brands and 8+-figure subscription businesses.
Mighty is the only platform that lets you start from anywhere and grow into your own branded apps--without moving your business.
Mighty Pro also comes with Mighty Co-Host™, giving you the AI assist to make managing your community RADICALLY easier--this includes the Infinite Question Generator, unique to Pro.
We've built membership apps for TED, Fortune, Cambridge University, Adriene Mishler, and more.
Schedule a call with us and we'll show you what we could build together!
Mighty Pro features
- Premium apps under your brand in the App Store and Google Play Store
- All the Mighty features: courses, discussions, live events, livestreaming, chat & messaging, member profiles, and more
- Work with a dedicated team of Account Executives and Community Strategists
- Constant VIP support and proactive upgrades, before and after launch
- Advanced analytics & reporting
- Premium Mighty Co-Host™ features--run your community in as little as a few hours a week
- We handle your migration from an existing platform (if applicable)
- It's a premium solution. If you're just starting out, start on Mighty Networks
Comprehensive course + marketing platform
Kajabi is a membership site builder that specializes in pre-recorded online courses. It also aggressively emphasizes marketing, so its users can market, sell, and deliver their online courses with features like email campaigns, landing pages, triggers, up and downsells, and more.
But Kajabi has some drawbacks for some users. First of all, one downside to Kajabi is that it’s one of the more expensive membership site platforms on the market.
Kajabi has long had issues with its community platform. It used to be a simple forum, but Kajabi recently acquired the platform Vibely to try to fix this. The result is Kajabi Community 2.0, which adds more community options, including live meetups which gives Kajabi a livestream feature.
While Community 2.0 is a big improvement on Kajabi's old community feature, it's still not much more than a web forum. It doesn't offer the flexibility of a Mighty Network, and is missing Spaces that include courses, activity feeds, chat, events, webpages, discovery, leaderboards, and more. Mighty runs a course and community in the same Space, while in Kajabi course and community are two separate products with separate logins. Kajabi even runs its Kajabi Heros group on Facebook instead of its platform.
Kajabi's focus is primarily asynchronous content. It does well with pre-recorded courses and a you can add a simple community to it.
All this means that Kajabi has the best features for marketing a course, but is missing a ton of community-building features for a versatile membership site.
- Powerful marketing engine built in with emails, campaigns, landing pages, and up- and down-sells
- Solid LMS for asynchronous (pre-recorded) courses
- Charge in different currencies
- AI features for course creation
- Good mobile apps for every device
- Very expensive
- Limited community functions & Kajabi 2.0 needs a separate login
- Kajabi doesn't do native branded apps. If you outgrow Kajabi, you'll have to migrate somewhere else.
4. Wild Apricot:
Membership site platform for nonprofits
Wild Apricot is a membership site platform that caters to membership-based non-profits. The platform uses cloud-based technology to give you membership management options, so your work can go with you no matter where you are.
If you’re someone who is running a nonprofit organization or a national association, Wild Apricot has developed drag and drop tools for creating a website, database management for membership data, and integrated email. Users can also integrate payments and manage virtual events.
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.
The platform is missing advanced, dedicated community spaces where members can connect and collaborate, as well as features like online courses, livestreaming, and AI options.
Finally, as you can see from the photos, Wild Apricot is quite dated as a platform. Many of the features are useful for non-profits and associations, but the UX is clunky.
Wild Apricot features
- Good member management & database features
- Integrated email and payments
- Website builder + local websites (for national organizations)
- Live event management
- Outdated design
- Limited community features & no courses
The best membership site platform for ONLY online courses
Teachable has gained a reputation as a membership site platform for creators and entrepreneurs to run pre-recorded courses. Teachable has an emphasis on multimedia-based content. And with its membership site platform, users can create multimedia lectures, video lessons, offer online coaching sessions, and more.
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.
Teachable is best for those who only want pre-recorded courses. It's missing the depth of features to run live courses, and it can't be used for a robust membership community. Finally, Teachable DOES NOT have an Android App, meaning the 65% of users who use Android devices can't access your course.
- Good asynchronous LMS
- Good marketing options with landing pages, coupons, and affiliate programs
- Lots of options for integration
- Flexible monetization options
- No community functions at all (missing discussion forums, native livestreaming, live events, etc)
- Doesn't work well for a cohort course
- No Android apps
The best membership site WordPress 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 decent membership site platform that can integrate with a pre-existing WordPress website. It makes it possible to sell courses, a basic community, and digital and physical goods.
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.
Memberful lets to create special promotions, discounts, and coupons, to boost sales throughout the year.
- WordPress-based membership platform
- Sell courses, forum access, digital & physical products
- Monetization features
- Limited community function
- WordPress plugins are always complicated & change the feel of your site
- No native apps
Best for building a group of supporting fans
While it takes a TOTALLY different approach to building a membership business, Patreon is a sort of a membership site too. Although fairly limited in features like community options, creating courses, etc., it CAN be a good place to help members of your audience support you if you’re a creator.
But there does come a point with Patreon where, if you’re looking to give your members perks like an active community or an app, you probably want to just start from scratch with a different platform. We talked about this question in this post.
The other serious issue with Patreon is that it works on a percentage-based fee. The platform will take anywhere from 5-12% of your revenue. Imagine selling $5,000 in monthly memberships, only to have Patreon take $250-600 each month. That's a seriously high cost, and for this reason, you're probably better to choose a flat-fee platform.
Patreon is a good membership site platform if you're a creator looking to raise support from your biggest fans. If you're running a thriving membership business, you'll outgrow it fast.
- Easily sell memberships to your fans
- Great for a patronage monetary model
- Limited features for building a real membership business (it's missing native options like a community platform)
- Very few creators make it work by itself--usually requires integrations with other platforms
- Expensive transaction fees means that growing costs you
Best alternative WordPress plugin
We talked above about Memberful, but if you’ve got an existing WordPress site you’re looking to add a membership feature too, BuddyBoss is another option. A relaunch of the older plugin, BuddyPress, BuddyBoss helps you add things like online forums or private groups to your WordPress-run membership site. It also integrates with Learndash to gate online courses if you want to provide these for your members.
- Gated content
- WordPress focused
- Integrated with Learndash (an LMS)
- Create profiles and groups
- WordPress plugins are always limited
- Requires complex integrations to get basic features (e.g. an LMS)
- Expect to require some coding knowledge to get it running smoothly
- Expensive (for what you get)
Podia allows users to create and sell online courses, digital downloads, and memberships. It comes build with some basic features such as webinar and community functions, plus the option to link a community to a course specifically.
The best thing about Podia) is probably its drag and drop website builder, but its community engine is fairly simple.
- Sell online courses, digital downloads, and memberships
- Drag and drop website builder
- Integrated email
- Discussion forum
- No mobile app
- Limited community features compared to others
Bettermode (formerly known as Tribe) is a white-label customer community builder that can be added to a company website, giving the ability to create forums for discussion, ask questions, and share content.
Discussions can be organized into different Spaces by interest, making it a good membership site platform for a company that wants a customer service forum.
Bettermode doesn't do paid memberships, and its missing some of the community building features of other membership platforms, things like connecting members by location or online courses. This means it's not the right choice for someone building a membership business. But it's is still a solid membership site platform for corporate users adding a forum to their website.
- Community forum with custom spaces
- Analytics, moderation tools, and search
- Integrates with a corporate website
- No payments of any kind
- No mobile apps
Substack is a little different than the other membership site platforms on this list. It offers a different type of membership: subscriptions for newsletters.
A creator, often a writer, will create a subscription newsletter that members can subscribe to and receive value in their inbox. As traditional journalism has collapsed in the last few years, Substack has been a really important option for freelance journalists to build and monetize their audience for their work.
Substack is strange because it's a decent membership site platform, but a mediocre email platform. It's missing features that MailChimp or ConvertKit have when it comes to segmenting your audience. And with these two adding monetization options, Substack's place as the newsletter boss might be limited.
But for now, it's a great place to create a paid newsletter, share it with the world, and collect payments.
- Great for monetizing a newsletter
- Can build an audience
- Charge in different currencies
- 10% cut on all payments
- No real comunity features beyond a newsletter
Discourse is a membership site platform that is based around an online forum, giving the ability to create discussion boards, moderate and respond to posts, and get notifications about new content.
Although it’s marketed as free, and the code is open-source on GitHub, most people would have to pay for hosting and potentially a developer to get it up and running. But Discourse gives you a basic membership site.
- Online forum with some decent features
- Feels like a reddit or Quora
- Open-source software
- Limited UX
- No features other than a forum
- "Open source" requires coding knowledge OR hiring an expert
Kartra is an online CRM platform that can be used to build a membership business. It lets you host online courses, build pretty comprehensive marketing campaigns, and build landing pages and complex sales funnels.
Kartra could be considered a good alternative to Kajabi in its features, strongest in courses and marketing and weak in community.
- Good CRM functionality for memberships
- Online course platform
- Strong marketing features, build landing pages and funnels
- Booking calendar (for coaches)
- Bad UX design on the backend
- Weak community features
- Extremely expensive
- No mobile apps
Last but not least, we’ll round out this list with one last WordPress plug-in, for those of you still on WordPress. AccessAlly is another option for selling memberships and digital products on WordPress, and it has an LMS built into it that works well for online learning. It gives your students lots of features to track their progress, things like quizzes and video bookmarks, and works well for WordPress.
But it’s expensive, and since there are all-in-one solutions that give you everything and more for cheaper, without needing any other integrations, most users would probably be better opting to build off WordPress. But if you’re a diehard WordPress user with a course to create, AccessAlly might be a good option.
- "All-in-one" WordPress plugin
- Brings together memberships, digital products, and an LMS
- Good course features like quizzes and bookmarks
- Limited community features
Ready to build a membership site?
If you're looking for the perfect platform to bring members together with a TON of native features, come build with Mighty. You can mix courses, content, community, and commerce, and it's the only platform that lets you upgrade to a native mobile app as you grow.
And if you want a TOTALLY custom-built experience, complete with YOUR apps for both iOS and Android, we do that too. Check out Mighty Pro.
If you’re ready to create your own membership site, for free, right now, check out the platform. You can use it for 14 days, no credit card required.