Using WordPress Membership Plugins To Create Your Own Website Membership
The default version of WordPress includes a user system that allows people to register for an account, manage their profile, leave comments, and more.
Plugins such as User Role Editor allow you to change what users can see and do. Other plugins extend the functionality of the user system. For example, you can create a community using WordPress plugins such as bbPress, BuddyPress, and Simple:Press.
In this article, I would like to speak about the membership plugins that are available for WordPress. These plugins can be used to restrict content to paying members. Many plugins also include additional features such as drip feeding content to paying members, integration with discussion forums, and integration with shopping carts.
I hope you find the list useful
Membership (FREE / $19)
Membership is a plugin from WPMUdev that allows you to restrict access to posts, pages, categories, comments, galleries, downloads, and more. It also integrates with BuddyPress and you can restrict widgets and plugins to subscribed members.
Finite or recurring subscriptions can be set up to expire and renew after X amount of days. You can also tease content to visitors to entice them to subscribe.
The free version of the plugin allows two membership levels and two types of subscriptions. The pro version of the plugin retails at only $19 and allows unlimited memberships and subscriptions.
Paid Memberships Pro (FREE)
Paid Memberships Pro is a great membership plugin that lets you easily set up multiple subscriptions and membership levels. In addition to free and paid subscriptions, it allows you to offer trial memberships to visitors to encourage them to sign up. Discount codes can also be offered. These codes can be set to expire by date or when a certain number of people have used them.
Despite using the word “Pro” in its name, Paid Memberships Pro is 100% free to download. The developers do, however, offer a membership at $97 for those of you who need support and additional tutorials and documentation.
Members is a versatile plugin that I have referred to in previous blog posts. With its built-in role editor, the plugin is a great alternative to User Role Editor.
As the name suggests, Members also offers membership functionality. It allows you to restrict content and add a login form to your sidebar via a widget.
Sadly, that is as far as the membership functionality extends. There is no way to set up membership levels, no way to offer different subscriptions, and no way to accept payment from members. The plugin is therefore suitable for a small private website, but not a commercial membership website.
Restrict Content (FREE / $42)
The free version of Restrict Content offers the same kind of membership functionality as Members. Posts and pages can be restricted to certain user groups via an option box in the post editor. Parts of your content can be restricted using a shortcode and you can customize the restricted message displayed to unauthorized users via the settings area.
Just like Members, the free version of Restrict Content is too limited to be used for a commercial membership website. Thankfully, the pro version of the plugin is packed full of features. Retailing at $42 for a single website, it offers unlimited subscription packages, PayPal and Stripe integration, discount codes, analytical reports, and data export.
There is very little that the pro version of the plugin cannot handle. It is almost unrecognizable to its counterpart on WordPress.org and offers everything you will need for a membership website.
WP-Members is a free membership plugin that allows you to block all posts and pages by default. Visitors are shown a teaser of your content when they view a restricted page and encouraged to register. The length of excerpt that is used for a teaser can be defined in the settings area.
It allows you to easily add custom fields to the registration page and specify whether those fields are required to complete registration. You can also add a CAPTCHA field to cut down on spam.
Unfortunately, the plugin does not include membership levels, subscriptions, or the ability to charge visitors for a membership. Therefore, it is not a good option for a commercial membership website.
Memberful (FREE / $25 Per Month)
Memberful is a membership plugin that places an emphasis on simplicity. To get started, all you have to do is create a subscription plan, add a buy button to your website, and then select the content you want to protect. You can restrict access to posts, pages, videos, and podcasts. There is also an option to protect pages from BuddyPress and bbPress.
You need to sign up to Stripe in order to use the Memberful service as it is the only payment processor they support. The free plan allows two subscription plans and charges 9.9% plus 30 cents for every transaction.
Their Pro plan retails at $25 per month. This plan drops the transaction fee down to 3.9% plus 30 cents. It also adds additional features such as coupon codes, ability to create accounts for staff, support for Campaign Monitor and MailChimp, and an option to build custom applications.
Digital Access Pass ($167)
Digital Access Pass is one of the most feature packaged membership solutions available for WordPress. It does everything that you would expect from a premium membership plugin such as unlimited membership levels, unlimited subscriptions, full and partial content restriction, file protection, and payment processor integration with over a dozen major companies.
Its additional features are what sets it apart. It is, in essence, a complete marketing solution. Content can be dripped to members to encourage them to keep subscribing. Upsells, downsells, and one time offers, can all be offered to members to increase revenue even further.
Email broadcasts can be sent directly through the plugin, or you can integrate the plugin with a third party email service such as GetResponse, MailChimp, or Aweber. Auto-responders are also supported and it features forum integration and a two-tier affiliate program.
All of these features come at a price. Their cheapest option retails at $167. This limits use to one website and does not offer additional features such as social media pop ups and social media shares to unlock content. Their full featured membership plans retails at a whopping $497, however you can choose to pay monthly at $39.99 instead. The monthly plan offers several features that are not even included in the $497 plan; which indicates that they want customers to choose that option.
Amember is the membership software that I am currently using to handle memberships on Rise Forums; so I have a lot of experience in using it.
Amember works as a standalone script, however it integrates with your WordPress website. It can also integrate with other platforms such as forums, affiliate scripts, help desk software, email systems, and image galleries. It supports unlimited membership levels and subscriptions and allows you to promote your website using discount codes. Content can be dripped to members and there is an option to protect files too.
The software also supports every payment processor you can think of and has a built-in affiliate program to help promote your website.
A license for Amember retails at $179.95 and comes with six months of updates and support. Subsequent updates and support can then be purchased at a price of $80 per year.
s2Member (FREE / $69)
s2Member is developed by the same people who released Quick Cache; a useful caching plugin that I reviewed recently. Their s2Member plugin has a similar interface with each individual setting having a long explanation about what it does.
The plugin allows you to restrict posts, pages, tags, and categories. A complex download system is included with the plugin to ensure that unauthorized users cannot download restricted files. Audio and video files can also be streamed privately.
It uses PayPal to accept payments and can also be used in conjunction with bbPress to create a premium discussion forum. The free version of the plugin supports four membership levels, however s2Member Pro allows unlimited membership levels. The only other major difference between the two versions is support.
Wishlist Member ($97)
Four or five years ago, I ran a WordPress theme store, and we used Wishlist Member to handle memberships. I recall us having some difficulty integrating the plugin with our website as we wanted permissions set up in a specific way; however on the whole we were pleased with what it could do.
The plugin can be used to create unlimited membership levels. Customers can be offered free, trial, or paid memberships. Content can be dripped to members slowly through their sequential content delivery feature and you can use popular payment processors to charge for memberships.
Wishlist Member retails at $97 for a single license and $297 for use on unlimited domains. Both licenses come with a year of updates and support.
Magic Members ($97)
Magic Members is a premium membership plugin that offers unlimited membership levels and full control over subscriptions. It integrates with email marketing services to allow you to set up an email auto responder. Every major payment processor is also supported.
Content can be drip fed to members and you can reduce the price of memberships using coupons. It also comes with a download manager and allows audio and video to be streamed privately through Amazon S3. Forum integration is available with Simple:Press and Mingle forums too.
A single license for Magic Members retails at $97. The plugin can be used on unlimited domains if you spend $207 on their unlimited plan.
Member Mouse ($19.95 Per Month)
Member Mouse is a powerful membership plugin that allows you to protect content, files, images, videos, and software. It can automatically lock accounts that have been shared with other people and you can drip feed content to members to discourage them from cancelling their subscription.
It also supports upsells, downsells, trial offers, coupons, email marketing, split-testing of prices, and an option for members to gift memberships to others. Most popular payment processors are supported as well.
Email notifications are automated to save you from having to email clients directly. It also allows you to create accounts for employees who handle sales and support.
Member Mouse is one of the few membership plugins that charge exclusively on a monthly basis. Their basic plan retails at $19.95 per month and allows up to 1,000 members. This increases to $39.95 per for 5,000 members, $59.95 per month for 10,000 members, and $99 per month for 50,000 members.
MemberPress ($99 Per Year)
MemberPress is a membership plugin that lets you restrict access to posts, pages, categories, tags, and files. Content can be dripped to members and you can integrate the software with most WordPress forum plugins.
It integrates with all major payment processors and with email marketing services such as Aweber, GetResponse and MailChimp. Coupons can also be offered to customers. The developers of MemberPress also developed Affiliate Royale and have included the affiliate platform with the MemberPress package.
A single license for MemberPress retails at $99 per year while their unlimited plan retails at $199 per year. Both licenses come with one year of updates and support.
WP Member is a premium membership plugin that offers unlimited membership and subscription levels. It allows you to protect all your content, including posts, pages and downloadable files.
Content can be teased to visitors to encourage new subscriptions, and you can display an error message or redirect unauthorized visitors. You can also drip content to members over time. The plugin allows you to receive payment via PayPal or Google Checkout and it can be integrated with bbPress.
A single license for WP-Member retails at $47 and includes one year of updates. A multi site license retails at $97, while the developer license at $147 offers lifetime updates and support.
WarriorPress offers unlimited membership levels and subscription plans. It supports content dripping and integrates with many popular email marketing services. Five payment processors are supported including PayPal, JV Zoo, and Clickbank.
It is a popular choice with affiliate marketers as it is optimized for upsells and autoresponse sequences.
WarriorPress retails at $77 for a single license and $247 for an unlimited license. Both licenses offer free updates and support for life.
Fast Member ($97)
Fast Member is a premium membership plugin that promises to create your membership website in minutes. It has an impressive list of features including content restriction, content dripping, and coupons for offering members discounts. Visitors can also sign up for a free membership so that you can sell upsells to them.
The plugin supports multiple payment gateways and comes packaged with an affiliate program for promoting your website. Email marketing services can also be integrated to allow you to send email broadcasts to members.
A single license for Fast Member retails at $97 and comes with one year of support and updates. The plugin can be used on up to five websites for $197 and an unlimited number of websites for $297.
MemberWing-X is an interesting membership plugin that offers content restriction, unlimited memberships, an online store builder, and auto-responder integration through Aweber and MailChimp. It allows you to accept payments through a number of payment processors such as PayPal, ClickBank, E-Junkie, Google Checkout, and Authorize.net.
The plugin is available from $139.95 for a single license and $199.95 for an unlimited license. They also let you test a full working version of the plugin as an evaluation. The only restriction is that it only works with ten members or less and displays advertisements.
I tested the plugin on my test website and was surprised at what it offers. Firstly, I was surprised by how many features and configuration options the plugin offers. Secondly, I was surprised at how ugly the settings area was. It is awfully unfriendly. Technical users may feel right at home with the way Memberwing-X handles things, but most WordPress users will struggle to find their way around the interface or the manual that complements it.
WP Member Champ ($97)
WP Member Champ is a basic member plugin that can restrict content to part or complete posts and pages. It allows you to offer subscription trials and can charge members a one off free or a recurring subscription. Payments can only be accepted through PayPal.
It is quite limited in many respects. For example, it can automatically add members to your Aweber email list; however it does not support other email marketing services. Likewise, it does not offer multiple membership levels.
If you use Aweber, it is worth checking out for its email marketing opt in feature; however at a cost of $97, there are better alternatives out there for restricting content.
InstaMember is a membership plugin that has been designed with affiliate marketers in mind. It comes packaged with its own two-tier affiliate program and upsell and downsell functionality so that you can push offers to members. It works out of the box with popular affiliate services such as JV Zoo, DigiResults, and Clickbank. Payments can also be accepted via PayPal and Warrior+.
The plugin can handle unlimited products, subscriptions, and membership levels. Posts and pages can be added to your private member area, and the plugin comes with its own unique membership theme to get you started.
A single license for InstaMember retails at $47, while an unlimited license will set you back $97. Worth checking out if you are looking for a membership plugin that handles upsells and downsells.
PrivateContent is a WordPress plugin that can restrict part, or all of your website, from non-members. Multiple subscription levels can be set up so that members can access different areas of your content.
This is a basic membership plugin that does not allow you to charge for subscriptions. It is therefore better suited to small membership websites. You can purchase the plugin from CodeCanyon for $17.
WordPress Premium Content lets you protect all of your content, or only certain parts. It features a built-in registration form that lets visitors sign up using one-off payments or recurring subscriptions.
Multiple membership levels and subscription plans can be created. The plugin lets you accept payments via PayPal, however no other payment processors are supported. It is available from CodeCanyon for $35.
WP Premium Members ($20)
WP Premium Members is another membership plugin from CodeCanyon that exclusively accepts payments through PayPal. It allows you to protect content and configure one-off payments or recurring membership plans.
The plugin can work in conjunction with the developer’s other plugin WP Pre Post Advertising so that advertisements are not displayed to paying members. WP Premium Members retails for $20, while WP Pre Post Advertising retails for $10.
UserPro is a community plugin that offers stylish member profiles, login, and registration forms. It lets you create unlimited custom fields for profiles and has great social media integration. It also offers members file uploading, badges, photo uploading, and more. MailChimp and bbPress are also supported.
The plugin also allows you to restrict content to members. While UserPro does not come with functionality to charge visitors for memberships, it does support WooCommerce, therefore you could set up premium memberships through that. A license for UserPro retails at $30 from CodeCanyon.
User Profiles Made Easy ($28)
User Profiles Made Easy helps you create enhanced profiles for your website. It allows unlimited custom fields and beautiful login and registration forms. Content can be restricted in posts and pages using a shortcode and you can restrict the viewing of profiles to certain user roles.
Like UserPro, User Profiles Made Easy does not allow you to charge for memberships directly; however the plugin supports WooCommerce, therefore you should be able configure it that way. The plugin can be purchased via CodeCanyon for $28.
I have used three of the plugins discussed in this article on live websites and tested all available free plugins on my test website. Due to the nature of membership plugins, it was not practical for me to test all plugins on a live website.
All of these plugins have their strengths and weaknesses; and these do not usually become apparent until you have used the plugin for a number of weeks on a live website.
It is also important to note that everyone is looking for something different from a membership plugin. I have used certain membership plugins that were perfect for my own project, but would never have worked with another website I owned.
I hope that this article helps you locate the most suitable membership plugin for your project, however it is still your responsibility to do diligent research beforehand. This means extensively testing the plugin if it is free to download and asking the developer of a premium membership plugin important questions before you buy. Do your research and ask as many questions as you can and I am sure you will choose the right plugin.
As always, if you have any questions regarding this article, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer them. And if I have missed out any great membership plugins, please feel free to share them below
Article thumbnail image by Jane Kelly / shutterstock.com