Anne Cocquyt had a passion for hosting live, networking events for women in San Francisco – “I just felt like there really needed to be an actual community space for female entrepreneurs,” she says. “Something that would support the women who wanted to build things and put awesome companies out there.”
She started hosting live, in-person events and built an engaged community of women entrepreneurs. The events struck a chord. People loved them. But the excitement and momentum fizzled in between the live events. So Anne made an important decision. She decided to stretch beyond piecemeal live events and go all in on a full-blown membership community.
The result? The GUILD, a membership community for more than 1,300 entrepreneurial women. It’s packed with valuable member features, like webinars, online courses, premium groups, and – of course – virtual events.
Anne’s story shows the potential of a great membership website, not just for gating off pieces of content, but for building a powerhouse experience around your brand. And that’s what we’re going to talk about in this article: the best membership website builders. If you’re considering a website with a membership section, whether it’s a new-build or adding it to your existing site, here are the 7 best membership website builders out there.
If you want more support in building your membership community, come join OUR Mighty Community for free and meet other new and established community owners! We’d love to meet you. Join for free!
What is a membership website?
A membership website is one that has some type of content that’s gated, protected, and requires log-in to access. Membership websites can be created around things like premium content, courses, or communities. Members have some sort of way of accessing content that non-members can’t access, simple as that. As software evolves, membership website builders are getting more and more sophisticated, adding in things like forums, courses, events, communities, and – of course– payment gateways. We’ll talk about this below.
Why would you create a membership site?
Ok, so obviously there could be a lot of different reasons to create a membership website. But here are some of the most common:
- You want to monetize your brand through a premium offering
- You want to protect some types of content
- You want to protect members’ private information
- You want to offer a better experience for members
- You have different types of users accessing your site who need different things (ie. customers and vendors)
- You want to build a private community (and make it a safe space)
- You want to build a dedicated brand community
- You want a space for customers to ask questions about a product
- You want to build an asynchronous online course
- You want to teach a live course
- You want to capture emails
- You want to offer virtual events
All of the above might be reasons why you or your brand or organization could build a membership website. There are a ton of things you can do with it, and membership sites can be a great way to better serve your audience and open up new revenue streams at the same time.
Here at Mighty, we’re seeing the benefits of ALL SORTS of membership websites launched by brands and creators. For example, Oiselle is a women’s activewear company that was looking for a way to grow its impact and drive sales a few years back. When they launched the Oiselle Volee community, they inadvertently created a space where women could go for more than just running tips – they found friends, inspiration, and a place to belong.
Or, how about the membership website dedicated to the PLANTSTRONG Community? The idea was hatched by Austin firefighter, Rip Esselstyn. Rip’s team of firefighters had a habit of being competitive, and after the typical physical fitness challenges, they decided to see who had the lowest cholesterol. To Rip’s surprise, many of their members’ cholesterol was high. Too high. That’s when Rip started eating a plant-based diet, a turn that would eventually grow into a community of 20,000 others doing the same.
The stories of Oiselle Volee and PLANTSTRONG show that membership websites with courses, community, and premium content can be devoted to just about everything. So if you’ve got an idea for a membership website, welcome to the club!
7 Best Membership Website Builders
When it comes to actually choosing a membership website builder – surprise! – the one that’s right for you will depend on what you need. A blogger who wants to release premium blog posts needs a different option from a company with a customer community. So for each of these options, we’ll talk about who should use them and why.
1. Mighty Networks
Mighty is a powerful cultural software platform that can do everything traditional membership website builders do, and more! It brings together content, community, courses, and commerce, all in one place – with no coding required. And Mighty’s flexible Spaces mix in features like courses, live streaming, forum discussions, premium content options (written and video), live events, member profiles, chat, and more! You can toggle any of these features on and off, giving you total control over what type of membership site you’ll build.
Monetization is super easy on Mighty too. You can create and sell memberships, bundles, courses, and events, all with the click of a button, in 135 different currencies, or even with token-gating. And, unlike many of the options below, Mighty comes with a built-in app for every device.
Best for: brands and creators who want to bring community, courses, content, and commerce together.
- AI Community builder
- Community platform
- Discussion forums
- Gated content
- Live streaming
- Virtual events
- Chat & Messaging
- Member profiles
- Built-in commerce
- Unlimited members, Hosts, and mods
- Mighty Networks app for every device
This set of features is key to building and growing a membership website you can be proud of.
But the most magical part is that Co-Host™ will also instantly generate an entire brand identity for you.
With the power of ChatGPT-4, it will build you:
- A Landing Page
- A Tagline
- Social Announcements
- A Welcome Post
- Starting Community Questions
Type a few words about your community into the box below and watch it go!
2. Mighty Pro
Mighty Pro is the enterprise version of Mighty Networks. It comes with all the great features of Mighty we talked about above, but there’s one important distinction. Mighty Pro lets you create a membership website that’s also accessible on a totally branded white-label app! This means that your members don’t see our brand in the App Store or Google Play Store, they see yours.
We’ve built membership apps for creators like Adriene Mishler – YouTube’s best-known yoga instructor with 10+ million followers – and Drew Binsky – who built a travel membership app with 20,000 members that celebrates the love of adventure. We’ve also built membership apps for organizations like TED and Cambridge University. If you want to find out more and see what you could build, book a call with us!
Best for: brands and creators who want to bring community, courses, content, and commerce together on their own branded app.
- All of the above + a branded app
If you’ve built on WordPress and are looking for a plugin that turns a WordPress site into a membership website, MemberPress is a good option. MemberPress lets you gate sections of your WordPress site (that’s WordPress.org, not WordPress.com). Once you do, you can mark sections of your website as members only.
MemberPress comes with some good features for creating your membership website, including the option to add digital downloads and to create simple courses with their LMS. But it’s probably best for premium content. If you want to sell memberships, you’ll need to add a plugin like Stripe that will help you build a checkout feature for potential customers.
If you’re a seasoned WordPress user, you’re probably aware of some of the challenges of building directly into WordPress with plugins. Plugins can clash with each other and with your theme, making it more difficult to get a beautiful, responsive membership website than if you opted for something with membership built-in. But if you’re devoted to building on WordPress, MemberPress is about the best there is.
Best for: Diehard WordPress users
- WordPress plugin
- Members-only area
- Gated content w/ lots of restriction options
When it comes to drag-and-drop website builders, Wix is quickly establishing itself in the space. It lets you create good-looking traditional, page-based websites, and it even has some free options to get started. With templates to choose from, it’s a natural choice for a lot of small businesses that need a simple website, and it works well for these types of sites. It has options for an e-commerce integration if you have a store, and even a built-in logo designer to customize your brand.
It’s not as well known for this, but Wix can also be used to create a simple membership website. Basically, you’d create a section of your Wix site that was gated, adding a “log-in” button to the top. Then, you can build features like premium content or even a basic forum into the members-only section. It’s not as robust as the two options above, but for simple, business-based membership websites, it could be the right choice.
Best for: Small businesses with members-only content
- Drag-and-drop site builder
- Members-only area
- Member accounts
- Exclusive member content
- Business solutions
5. CMS Hub
If you’ve ever heard of the marketing site, HubSpot, you know that it has a reputation for delivering powerful digital marketing tools. But in addition to features like emails, sales navigators, and other marketing options, HubSpot also has a content editor – CMS Hub.
CMS Hub also comes with a drag-and-drop editor, like Wix. It lets you build a flexible website with a bunch of different templates. Best of all, the CMS Hub integrates with HubSpot’s other tools, making it a marketing and sales heavyweight for companies with a large digital presence or even a digital product.
And, of course, CMS Hub also comes with a membership website builder. They market their membership options as best for businesses who have different types of users accessing their site. For example, a big SAAS company might have customers, staff, enterprise clients, and affiliates. CMS Hub lets you create custom content for each type of user accessing your site, and easily connects to HubSpot’s audience segmentation tools.
Best for: Large enterprise sites with huge audiences and multiple website versions
- User-specific content
- Personalized profile pages
- Purchase information
Memberful is another option for building a membership website. Like MemberPress, it has a WordPress plugin, so it can be used to gate content on a website. But it also integrates with a lot of different platforms, acting as a gate for each one. The great thing about this is you can integrate payments right into a WordPress site, podcast platforms, and more. But the downfall is that you’ll need to use other plugins and programs to get the full features of a membership website.
So, for example, if you wanted to build a course with Memberful on your WordPress site, you’d need to add an LMS like LearnDash to make it functional. If you wanted to add a community, you’d have to use a community platform like Discourse. You’ll have to decide if mixing and matching programs is the right choice, especially since community platforms like Mighty Networks literally do all of this and more in one place.
Best for: WordPress creators or those trying to monetize a podcast or newsletter DIRECTLY on the hosting platform.
- Content gating
- Monetization options
- Integration with other platforms and plugins.
Weebly is yet another drag-and-drop website builder that comes with the option to create memberships. When it comes to website creation, it has most of the same options as the other players. You can choose from different templates, picking a website to fit your needs. Weebly does have a lot of flexibility, giving you integrated options to edit the code of your site, improve your SEO, or even add a mobile app.
And, like Wix, Weebly comes with an easy membership website creator, complete with a sign-up window and a login button. This means that you can offer premium content, creating a “members only” area for your business site. With the option to segment members and bulk-upload membership lists, it’s got a lot of flexibility for offering bonus content to premium members.
Weebly lacks a lot of the membership features of a more robust community platform like Mighty Networks, but it would be a good alternative for a business site with premium content.
Best for: Businesses with premium content & member lists
- Sign-up window
- Membership lists
- Gated content (Members-only areas)
- Up to 100 members on Pro sites
In the end, it’s a great time to be building a membership website. There are a ton of solutions out there for pretty much every builder and need, from huge companies to independent creators, and everything in between. We hope the list above helped you clarify which of these is right for you.
And if you’re ready to start, come try Mighty! We’re ranked the #1 online community management software by G2, beating out dozens of other competitors. When you build your membership website with cultural software, you can go beyond just features and actually create a unique experience your members won’t find anywhere else. Come try it and see! It’s free for 14 days.