Memberships are a great way to grow your business and serve more people! But, what membership website platform is best for your community? There are several options out there, and they all have pros and cons to each of them, as well as different budgets.
So many business owners have seen massive success with their memberships: less time working, doubling their revenue, quitting their day jobs, and so much more! It’s important to choose the right membership website platform to give your members a great experience.
How to choose a membership website platform
Before we get into the options, you need to consider what you specifically need for your own membership:
- Do you want a forum or community feature built-in to the platform, or will that be separate?
- Do you want it to be setup like a course?
- Do you want the ability to do live video inside your membership?
- Do you want the ability to upsell within the membership platform?
- Do you need other instructors or coaches to have their own access?
- Do you want analytics available inside the membership platform?
- Do you want different payment or subscription options?
There may be more considerations for you, but these are at least a few of the things to consider for your membership. And while not fun or easy, always remember that you can move to a new platform in the future.
10 membership website platforms
I’ll share some of the best platforms first, then we’ll discuss WordPress plugin options and finally, I’ll share some platform options for having a separate community forum (if you want that).
The Circle platform is like a marriage between Slack channels and Facebook groups, and it’s what I use for The Link. Circle offers the flexibility to create a membership experience that’s truly yours. It’s ideal for subscriptions, gated exclusive content, premium masterminds, paid newsletters, and more.
Some of Circle’s highlights:
- Simple Community Management: Circle eliminates the need for multiple tools by combining the community aspect with content in a seamless experience. This integration is key to creating a thriving community that members can be proud of.
- Powerful Engagement Tools: It offers powerful engagement features like courses, live streams, group chats, and events, enabling members to connect and interact effectively. This is crucial for building an active community.
- Management and Scalability: Circle comes with workflows, integrations, and AI-powered content and analytics tools, making it easier to manage and scale community operations.
- Flexibility for Various Community Types: The platform is versatile enough to support different community types, including brands, startups, customer communities, course communities, and membership communities, offering the flexibility to create a tailored membership experience.
- Monetization Options: Circle supports various monetization strategies, including paid memberships, one-time payments, recurring subscriptions, and multiple tiers of access, giving creators flexibility in how they monetize their communities.
- Feature-Rich Course Hosting: The platform is designed for hosting immersive, personalized courses within the online community, offering features like cohort-based groups, drip lessons, exclusive masterclasses, and live Q&As.
- Integration with Existing Tools: Circle offers thousands of integrations with existing tools, simplifying the process of managing a community and increasing engagement through features like analytics, community insights, and single sign-on.
Squarespace now offers a built-in Members area, perfect for creating a membership community right inside your website. It’s free to build a member site, but you need a digital products plan or a business or commerce plan before your visitors can sign up for memberships.
Squarespace consolidates all necessary tools in one place, streamlining the process of creating, sharing, and managing paid content. This includes selling access to various forms of content, offering flexible charging options (like one-time fees or recurring subscriptions), and providing insights into member management. It also emphasizes content protection, ensuring a secure member experience and preventing the bypassing of paywalls.
The process of setting up a membership site on Squarespace involves creating a website (if you don’t already have one), adding members-only content, customizing the membership landing and sign-up page, connecting a preferred payment processor (if not already setup), and choosing the appropriate Squarespace plan for selling memberships.
You might think of Thinkific as just a course-based platform, but it has the capability to host memberships and process recurring payments as well. If your membership is set up and based around course content that won’t be changing much, this may be a good option for you.
The customization is limited unless you hire a developer to code it for you (and it’s not normal code, so you have to hire someone who knows Thinkific specifically). But, Thinkific does come with landing pages you can use to sell your membership, or you can easily build a landing page on your website and then link directly to the check-out page and bypass the Thinkific landing page.
Thinkific is an excellent platform for creating memberships due to its versatile and user-friendly features. It allows creators to incentivize users by offering access to unique content like private communities, live Q&A sessions, and member-only material. Setting up a membership is straightforward: you can connect to payment processors like Stripe or Thinkific Payments for recurring payments, easily manage learning products, create new memberships, and set subscription prices.
Thinkific supports multiple subscription tiers, enabling creators to offer varied packages like Bronze, Silver, and Gold, each with different levels of access and benefits. This tiered approach caters to a diverse audience, enhancing user engagement and potentially increasing revenue.
Lots of business owners love Kajabi because it’s so versatile with what you can sell, plus it has email automation and funnels included (though there have been some who experience deliverability issues within Kajabi), as well as a full website option.
Kajabi stands out for its membership site capabilities, providing a comprehensive platform for creating and managing membership programs. It offers an all-in-one solution that includes a membership website builder and management software, simplifying the process of building and operating a membership site.
While it is a pricier option, most users find it pretty easy to learn and love that it offers centralized management for everything. They are known for having great support, and even have Kajabi University to help you learn how the platfofrm, which seems more robust than a typical “help” database.
Key features include built-in membership management automations for efficient organization and customer service, detailed subscription-specific reports for tracking important metrics like churn rate and monthly recurring revenue, and the ability to support varying membership sizes. This setup enables creators to offer exclusive content, foster community engagement, and establish direct communication with their audience, ultimately leading to benefits such as recurring revenue, enhanced customer loyalty, and established authority in their respective niches
(Also: people love to pair Circle with Kajabi, which I talk about at the bottom of this post!)
Searchie is a newer platform, but has huge fans already! Searchie stands out as an excellent platform for building and managing membership sites, offering simplicity, flexibility, and powerful features. It enables users to start, grow, or scale their membership sites with ease, even for those without technical expertise. What makes Searchie different (and better) is offering transcriptions right within the platform! With this functionality, Searchie also makes it possible for your members to search through all of your content and find every video, audio, etc. that mentions that keyword.
The platform provides customizable templates for creating professional-looking membership sites and allows tailored content experiences for members at different stages. Setting up a membership site with Searchie can be done in just a few hours and involves straightforward steps like adding content, customizing design, and sharing with an audience.
Additionally, Searchie integrates seamlessly with other platforms, supports payment collection through various systems like Stripe and WooCommerce, and offers features like auto-generated transcriptions, captions, and searchable media. These capabilities make it a robust solution for creating accessible, engaging, and easy-to-manage membership sites
Mighty Networks stands out as an excellent choice for membership websites due to its unique approach and comprehensive features. It allows users to unify courses, memberships, and offers into a cohesive community under their own brand, accessible on iOS, Android, and the web. This platform centers on creating exceptional member experiences that transcend typical online interactions found in chat apps or social media groups. If the community aspect is important for your membership platform, Mighty Networks might be your best option. There are so many ways to structure your content! While it may be tricky to set up on your end, even the non-techie users out there find it easy to use as a member.
Mighty Networks also offers the flexibility to start with a free community and then add paid memberships or design online courses, complete with features like dedicated course communities, events, and livestreaming. A distinctive aspect of Mighty Networks is the ability to upgrade to your own branded mobile apps and website, providing a consistent brand presence in major app stores without the need for custom development.
Additionally, it supports communities of varying sizes, from a few dozen to hundreds of thousands of members, personalizing the experience for each member based on their interests and interactions.
Kartra is another good platform that offers the option for both courses and memberships, as well as the ability to drip content. Membership owners boast the ability to get rid of many other softwares and really streamline the experience with Kartra.
One of the downfalls of Kartra is that the lowest plan does have video and email limits, which may not be enough for your membership, and you will need to pay more. If you are wanting more of a robust funnel, Kartra seems to have the advantage there.
Podia is a simple platform, but does have limitations: only one membership, no customizable home page for members, and does not have a funnel option. But, they do not charge any additional transaction fees on top of Paypal or Stripe, which is great!
Many compare Podia to Thinkific in terms of being best for course-oriented membership communities. Similar to Kajabi, you can have a full website built within Podia. Talking with other business owners, Podia is a great “starting” platform for membership owners, or those who may have a smaller community.
MemberVault is a great platform if you have multiple offers to sell and want to create a “marketplace” of your offers. Plus, they have gamification features which can help keep your members and customers engaged with your products!
One of users favorite features about MemberVault is the ability to drip content with a variety of options: as each individual user progresses, based on a specific date, or after a certain amount of time. What’s really nice is that MemberVault has a free plan with up to 100 users. So, you can get your feet wet with a membership and try it out!
New Zenler is another popular all-in-one platform and really positions itself as being built for sales and marketing. It comes with some great features like live webinars within the platform, community management, blog options, and funnels. The big thing it seems to be lacking in right off the bat is advanced email functionality.
Although it is an all-in-one platform, New Zenler does seem to also lack some design functionality as well, so you may be limited in what you can do, or need to hire help for customization. As of this post, it’s still a relatively young platform (in the grand scheme of things), so new features will likely continue to be added.
Other membership platform options:
WordPress membership options
As a web designer, I love WordPress for the flexibility and the ability to have multiple offers, create unique experiences, but if you try to do it yourself you won’t be able to achieve what web professionals can achieve. That’s why people say that WordPress is hard and complicated. It’s not, it’s just powerful and when left to the hands of someone new, you can find yourself spending weeks and months with nothing to show for! Not everyone is meant to be a WordPress expert, and that is 100% okay.
Sure you’ll always have people that DIY their site and will tell you it was easy. But most won’t. So WordPress is more flexible, yes. Membership platforms are more limiting but it depends on what you need, but they are usually easier to setup.
So with that being said, here are some WordPress membership plugin options:
- Paid Memberships Pro
- Ultimate Member (free!)
- Wishlist Member
- Restrict Content Pro
Membership forum options
One of the main components of a membership website is the community or forum aspect. Members love to be able to talk with others in the community who are learning the same thing alongside them. Some platforms or plugins have a community option with them, but not all. Or, some people don’t like how the community feature is setup and want to use something else. So, here are some of the best options:
- Facebook groups (free!)
- Volley (depending on the size and structure of your community)
I’ve heard it said that you have two ways to approach your membership website platform: you either pick a platform, learn what the platform does really well, and design your program around that and you won’t get frustrated. Or, you design your program and then you find the tools to make it happen.
Hopefully, this post gave you a good overview of the platforms available!
*There are affiliate links within this post, and I will earn a commission if you sign up through my link. Thanks for supporting my small business!