Are you looking for the best membership website platforms?
Even though many requested to create a tutorial and list software because they don’t know how to do it, let me tell you a secret:
It’s WAY easier than you think.
And the benefits of running a membership site are many.
You can enjoy a lot better user engagement, increasing time-on-site and decreasing bounce rate.
Plus, you can turn members into (paid) subscribers and take your business to the next level.
We recommend creating yours with a membership website builder because it’s simple.
This post goes over:
- What is a membership website
- Main differences between membership & subscription sites
- How to build a membership site
- 10 Best membership site platforms
- 5 membership site examples
What Is A Membership Website
A membership website is a website that has a special area for members, which, in the majority of cases, comes with benefits.
Note: Even though memberships are usually free (because this is not a subscription), it can sometimes be a paid option.
This is where the question comes: “What’s the difference between a membership and a subscription website?”
Difference Between Membership & Subscription Websites
Because a membership and a subscription page are similar, many users wonder which option to choose.
But it’s pretty simple:
- A membership website unlocks the door to a special members’ area of a website, group, education platform, etc. (Rarely a paid option.)
- A subscription website is based on paying a few for the content, such as online courses, music, movies, workouts, etc. The most popular are monthly subscriptions but other paid-time-periods are also possible (“Get a discount if you subscribe for our annual plan”).
In short: You have free access to a membership website but must pay for the subscription.
Adding a lock to the content you want to restrict is effort-free whether you want to build one or the other website.
You can start from scratch with a dedicated membership website builder or a membership WordPress theme.
But you can also install a membership/subscription plugin if your website is already live.
What’s cool is that this type of software organizes and automates things for you. Which – of course – saves you A TON of time and energy.
Plus, it allows you to focus on the important: Making the best content.
Here’s how to build a membership website for your business (or even for a client).
How To Create A Membership Website
- Think of your membership model
- Create exclusive members-only content & perks
- Pick the right membership site platform/builder or WordPress plugin
- Launch your new members-only area & promote it
You start working on your membership website by first creating an actual website. I know, this is pretty obvious but still.
You can build your page with WordPress or use a website builder that allows you to operate your new business model from one location.
We recommend WordPress if you ever plan to expand your website with exclusive areas, new features and other custom work.
But a membership website builder is even better if you want to keep it simple.
1. Think of your membership model
Even though we’re sure you already know your business model, this is the are for those who don’t.
Yes, it’s important to brainstorm your members’ area before you even start with the building process.
- How will your members benefit from it?
- How much information do you need from them to create a members’ account?
- Will you charge monthly, yearly (or both)? Or will it be free?
- What will be the price (will there be discounts)?
These are a few basic questions you must answer before proceeding.
We suggest going straight to the building if you’re starting from scratch. (You’ll be optimizing your website later because you don’t know yet how it’ll perform and what your members prefer.)
But if you already run a website, it’s first necessary to learn more about your users and how your members’ area will benefit them.
This is essential because it needs to trigger their attention, otherwise, why should they even join.
The best question to answer is this: “Would I join?”
Here are a few examples I experienced from my personal encounters with membership sites:
- A gym could offer special meal preps, pre- and post-workout shakes, workout tips, and more.
- An online store can give birthday discounts or free shipping to all members.
- A member of a coffee shop can collect points and get a free cup for every 10 points.
- An online course platform can show full courses to members, downloadable PDFs, etc.
You can even go one step further and offer multi-level memberships. We still think this is better suited for the subscription model.
Once you have all this in order, it’s important to consider whether you’d be charging for the membership area.
This is where multi-level memberships can come into play. You give free members access to just one part of your website and premium members to all the content.
You can also specify recurring payments monthly, yearly, etc.
Note: It’s you who decides whether to set a membership fee or not (because it’s you who knows your audience best). However, we recommend starting with the free model first.
You can expand with new and better content and offers later and make them accessible only for a fee.
Thus we recommend starting (and sticking) with the single-level membership area.
2. Create exclusive members-only content & perks
You’re now ready to start with the creation of either a membership website from scratch or members-only pages (which you add to the existing site).
But don’t RUSH.
We highly recommend you first have the content or anything else you’ll have in the members’ area sorted out.
Everything will flow smoother from then on, dripping content at the necessary frequency to keep your users engaged.
If you’ll be releasing special articles, tips, recipes, how-tos – whatever – have them prepared for at least a few months in advance. (The same applies to super-exclusive emails.)
It’ll make you feel better.
You also need to define pricing (if there will be any) at this stage. You might even create pricing plans for different membership levels where you list each level’s perks.
When you have the material and the pricing, you’re ready to start with the first step in creating your membership website.
3. Pick the right membership site platform/builder or WP plugin
Are you excited yet? I am!
Picking the best software or plugin for your membership site is tedious.
But that’s when we come into play.
We thoroughly reviewed the greatest options for using a membership website builder (scroll down).
But you can also check our list of the best-performing WordPress membership plugins, so you don’t need to research and compare independently.
We made sure that the plugins and platforms we picked feature (at least five of) the following:
Ease of use
This is the first thing we looked at because it’s OH SO necessary that membership site platform or plugin is easy to use for beginners and professionals.
Mostly, there’s no learning curve to master using any of the builders below.
And even if it is, you’ll learn it on the fly, which makes building a membership website even more fun.
Plus, managing and maintaining your members, content and everything else is effortless.
Multiple payment gateways
Another key characteristic of a membership builder is that it offers multiple payment gateways.
Limited payment options mean fewer members.
But if your members-only content area is free, then this is none of your concern.
(Still, better pick a tool that has payment sorted because you never know what the future brings.)
There are multiple ways how you’d like your content to appear when members access the gated area.
But content dripping is our favorite method because it keeps your members excited and ready for what’s coming next.
Releasing everything at once may not be the best way.
Why? Depending on the content, your members may feel overwhelmed and not check it at all.
Another downside of releasing all the content immediately is that a member can take it all and then ask for a refund.
That’s a no-no.
Make it exciting and mysterious, have some fun, and everyone will be more excited.
You can also send out questionnaires during content dripping, asking users what interests them and making them feel part of the process.
Custom members’ pages
Even though keeping things simple is what we always suggest, having custom, branding members’ pages is a big plus.
This also allows you to add any special sections and features that are exclusive to your business.
Make your users feel part of your brand.
Statistics & reports
We know you’re probably already signed up to Google Analytics, which you’ll use for tracking engagement.
Some of the membership tools offer you extra statistics and data that’ll help you further optimize your business for even more success.
Sticking to the single-level membership area is the perfect start, but a plugin will do the trick when you want to add multiple.
Some membership site platforms even has this feature built-in, so you don’t have to seek 3rd-party extensions.
Email reminders (automatic)
Automated email reminders are a must for every membership website.
First, you can send subscription confirmations or a reminder to those who haven’t completed it (aka “pending”).
Second, you can send a welcome email.
Third, you can send email reminders about the upcoming billing.
Fourth, you can get in touch with those who haven’t renewed their membership/subscription plan and try to win them back (with a discount).
Many overlook this but it’s so important to have great support (and documentation) from the membership site software.
Whatever the case, you always know who to contact first. (0 stress!)
Easy and quick help is crucial when your website grows and makes decent money.
4. Launch your new members-only area & promote it
The time has finally come to publish your either entire membership website built from scratch or specific posts and pages.
Making it happen depends on the software you’re using, but it takes one click or a couple. Yes, it’s easy.
This is also when you put your pricing (if any) live, so people can sign up and create a members’ account.
An initial discount (or a person-specific discount) is also a clever strategy to get the hype going.
10 Best Membership Site Platforms
1. Kajabi (Best Overall)
The best platform for building membership website ($119/month)
Kajabi is the complete membership site platform we highly recommend to all users, beginners and experts.
Because it includes everything you need. You don’t need to seek templates, hosting and anything else elsewhere.
Starting a membership site is a piece of cake with all that Kajabi provides. All you need is to create an account and off you go.
We used it on a bunch of online membership projects and LOVED it!
There’s no learning curve, just fun times when starting, building and growing your new online business.
Management tools, reports, analytics, emails, funnels, and (recurring) payments are all built-in for your convenience.
One of our favorites is the option to track user progress, which gives you a more detailed look into their behavior.
This gives you a complete business overview, so you better understand its performance.
More importantly, you can optimize it further and enjoy even better results. Everything is just a click away from your dashboard.
But what’s truly next level about Kajabi is its extreme flexibility and capability for expansion.
If you’d ever like to sell online courses and coaching, start a podcast or build a community, Kajabi easily handles it. You can also add different tools and extensions whenever you want.
Note: Before fully committing, you can start with the free trial and see how good the software is. But I tell you one thing: There’s no turning back once you go Kajabi.
- Easy recurring revenue setup
- Ready-to-use templates
- Built-in membership management
- In-depth reports & analytics
- Landing pages
- Email marketing & funnels
- Keeps you super organized
You get a 20% discount if you opt for yearly billing. But feel free to start with the 14-day free trial.
- Basic: $119/mo
- Growth: $159/mo
- Pro: $319/mo
- Website builder & templates
- Easy setup wizard
- Affiliate program
- Excellent help/support
- Limited payment gateway selection
- Could offer more creative freedom
- Hard-to-setup dynamic email sequences
Best for online courses & digital products ($39/month)
Podia is the ideal solution if you’d like to publish and sell courses or digital products (or both). But what’s even better, Podia offers so much more.
You can even start online communities where like-minded people gather, share information, and more. (Yes, you can build your own “Facebook.”)
Podia is one of our favorites because of its many features that are exclusive to anything online learning-related – regardless of the niche.
It takes every user through a simple process of starting their own online project without knowing how to code. It also comes with a cool text editor where you can add extra features and 3rd-party apps.
Note: It only takes ten minutes to build a professional website with Podia!
Everything happens from one location, including building, selling, management and optimization. And hosting is part of the bundle, too!
Remember, you cannot purchase a custom domain through Podia, but connecting it through a 3rd-party platform is easy.
But what if you already have a website, can you transition to Podia? Yes, that’s also an option and they’ll do it for you.
Guess what? You can start for free.
However, Podia’s free plan charges 8% transaction fees. It’s still a great way to test the waters before fully committing.
Another big plus in our eyes is that Podia has an option to launch an affiliate program for your online business. Let others do the marketing for you and take things to extremes together.
We cannot recommend Podia more if you consider diving into the online courses and digital product space. It’s effortless to set it up but the reward can be enormous.
- A complete website with hosting
- Email marketing & live chat
- MailChimp, Zoom, Zapier, etc. integrations
- Standalone & drip courses
- Pre-sells & upsells
- Live preview
- Optimized checkout
- Handles EU VAT
A 17% discount applies for yearly payments.
- Mover: $33/mo
- Shaker: $75/mo
- Earthquaker: $166/mo
- Unlimited courses & downloads
- No transaction fees
- Regular upgrades & improvements
- No free trial
- Course builder’s flexibility
- Basic reporting
Best tool for any members-only section ($29/month)
MemberSpace is something a little different compared to other membership website builders.
This is a great advantage because everyone has their favorite. (We still like WordPress the most.)
We recommend using MemberSpace if you don’t want to have your entire website built as a membership site platform.
In other words, it allows you to gate just one part of your website, a post, a page, whatever.
Moreover, you have full control over everything because the locking happens on your website, so customize it however you want.
What we really enjoy about MemberSpace are 1) their amazing customer support and 2) the free migration service.
You don’t need to be tech-savvy to use the tool, integrate it into your website builder, and put a lock on any part of your site you want. (But their team of experts is always at your service if you need help.)
- 14-day free trial
- Free migration
- Unlimited members
- Easy integration with multiple platforms
- Automatic upsells
- Starting plan: $29/mo
- Growing plan: $49/mo
- Advanced plan: 199/mo
- Great support
- Multiple member plans
- Custom plans & billing
- Solid content protection
- No annual payment
- Transaction fee
- Limited customizations
4. Mighty Networks
Best for community memberships ($33/month)
There’s no other better solution to start working on your online community than Mighty Networks.
What we like about MN is that you can start as small as you want and grow to MIGHTY numbers with it.
Not only can an endless number of members join the community, but you can also expand it with more features and goodies that will benefit them.
A lot is possible with Mighty Networks.
Another fantastic feature is that you can personalize the community application however you want. And everyone will have a blast browsing it.
This is just the beginning.
Mighty Networks delivers a custom landing page and domain, easy access through web, Android and iOS and keeps you covered with migration.
(You can even migrate Facebook groups and take your business more seriously!)
You’ll also enjoy its easy workflow that gives everyone a chance to build their thing, regardless of the niche and industry.
As a community software, Mighty Networks also allows private messaging, beautiful membership profiles and a matching system. And live streaming works very well, too.
It’s time to build a business around a community you’re passionate about!
- Custom website & landing page
- Unlimited members, hosts & moderators
- SEO optimization
- Android & iOS application
- Free trial
- Slack integration
- Events, polls, articles
- Groups & sub-groups
You get two months for free if you pay annually.
- The community plan: $33/mo
- The business plan: $99/mo
- Mighty pro: Custom pricing
- Native course builder
- Recurring or one-time payments
- Charge in local currency
- Great analytics
- Transaction fees
- Lacks support for native video content
- Need Zapier to connect payments
Best for (live) online learning ($39/month)
Building your online learning membership site is possible and fast with Thinkific. As a platform specializing in online courses, you can expect it has everything you need.
Which it does.
Along with sharing and promoting live courses, you can also sell them through the integrated eCommerce system.
Thinkific is more than COOL.
While you do need to have the content and knowledge ready, all the rest happens on Thinkific.
You build the course from scratch with the convenient course builder and enjoy the additional customization functions.
Thinkific also has an app store where you can choose between 80+ tools (we recommend analytics) and extensions to add to your learning platform. (But these are usually paid apps.)
However, they allow you to build a top-notch, professional solution even as a complete beginner. (Yes, they’re worth the extra investment.)
Your students will also enjoy the excellent engagement capabilities that you’ll have available through Thinkific. Discussions, mentions, reactions, and questions, it’s all available for you to include.
And everyone will be delighted when getting a completion certificate. This also makes you, as the owner, more pro.
Before this, students will enjoy increased engagement through gamification and progress bars.
You’re always ready to create and promote online courses with Thinkific.
- Unlimited courses, students & content
- Live chat support
- Custom domain
- Downloadable material
- Quizzes & student surveys
- 3rd-party tools
- Live lessons (Zoom)
- Student discussions
Don’t miss 20% off by paying annually.
- Basic: $39/mo
- Pro: $79/mo
- Premier: $399/mo
- Plus: Custom pricing
- No transaction fees
- Customization options
- Voice over PowerPoint presentation tool
- Multiple sales & marketing solutions
- Limited groups
- Lacks course-specific branding
- Bulk checkout only for Plus members
Best for online coaching ($29/month)
The name reveals it all. If you’d like to teach people at a mass scale, then you better consider Teachable.
As simple as that.
Starting a membership site, building courses and selling them is pure joy when you’re part of Teachable.
Why? Because it’s simple, quick and fun.
Everything starts with a few clicks and you’re already prepared to do your thing. Your personalized courses will shine bright, thanks to Teachable.
And when it comes to payments, don’t worry, that’s Teachable’s job.
It takes care of everything, from checkouts and taxes to affiliates and authors – Teachable was made to save you a ton of time and effort.
Plus, when you grow larger, consider affiliate marketing and grow even LARGER. (We just don’t recommend starting it right away.)
Last but not least, Teachable’s insights will give you a better understanding of how your business operates and performs.
This gives you the chance to optimize and get even more bang for your buck.
Why keep skills and knowledge to yourself if you can share it online and make money with Teachable?
- Create & sell within minutes
- Custom student engagement
- Multiple currencies & payment gateways
- Easy tax management
- Personal support
- Unlimited students
- Custom domain
- Email marketing
Benefit from a 25% discount by choosing annual plans.
- Basic: $29/mo
- Pro: $99/mo
- Business: $249/mo
- Teachable payments
- EU VAT handling
- Recurring subscriptions
- Structured lessons
- Transaction fee for the Basic plan
- Lacks advanced customizations
Best for online courses & training ($24/month)
LearnWorlds is excellent because it easily connects two worlds: students and teachers.
What’s even more exciting is that you can do it all yourself.
This excellent membership and online course membership builder has many perks that we like.
The first thing is the 30-day free trial, which applies to all plans except custom. And we found thirty days more than enough to thoroughly test it and even enjoy some conversions.
The second is definitely the great customization and personalization capabilities. Not only for the course player but your entire website.
Pick from the available themes to save time and add your creative twist to make it more unique.
LearnWorlds’ marketing funnels to increase your conversions are also excellent and effortless to set up.
Upsells, cross-sells, coupons and optimized checkout experiences make you WIN big times.
Another great thing about LearnWorlds is its endless integration compatibilities, like Zapier, Zoom, MailChimp, Google Analytics and Vimeo, to name a few.
And as a delicious cherry on top, you can build a branded mobile app for Android and iOS.
Lastly, LearnWorlds’ team is always at your service, through their academy, blog, live master classes, or personal agent interactions (see cons).
- Custom domain
- Unlimited courses
- Multiple payment gateways
- Live classes & webinars
- White label
- Course insights & reports
- Affiliate program
- Bulk actions
- User segmentation
20% discount applies to yearly billings.
- Starter: $24/mo
- Pro Trainer: $79/mo
- Learning Center: $249/mo
- High Volume & Corporate: Custom pricing
- Easy site-building
- Custom school website
- Mobile application
- Custom user roles
- Transaction fee for Starter Plan
- Personal support can be slow
- Pricey Learning Center plan
Best membership WordPress plugin ($179/year)
Again, this is not a membership website builder but a WordPress plugin. And actually a really good one.
MemberPress is ready to easily turn your existing WordPress website into an online learning management system.
But you can also start from scratch, customizing MemberPress’s ready-to-use templates or do custom work.
Note: MemberPress works with any WordPress theme.
All we can say is that using MemberPress is your best decision after testing and using it for multiple projects.
It has everything to start in three quick steps.
Install the plugin, set payment, add content/products and you’re ready to roll.
Creating and selling courses is easy and only takes a few steps. All the necessary features and functions you need are built-in.
But MemberPress is also compatible with 1,000s of 3rd-party extensions for quick integration.
The plugin offers all sorts of restrictions, even based on different membership levels.
We love it!
Another great addition to MemberPress is the bbPress compatibility, which lets you create forums where users can hang out, gain tips, ask questions and share knowledge.
Yes, it’s possible for coupons, pricing pages, drip content, subscription, and affiliate solution.
Just pick MemberPress if you’re using WordPress.
- Works with any WP theme
- Payment gateways
- Flexible subscription
- Tax calculation & PDF invoices
- No transaction fee
- Automated emails
- Podcast memberships
- 14-day money-back guarantee
- Basic: $179/year
- Plus: $299/year
- Pro: $399/year
- 3-step setup
- Editable content dripping & expiration
- Membership gifting
- Endless addons
- Not as customizable as other builders
- No lifetime purchase
9. Wild Apricot
Best for organizations ($48/month)
Wild Apricot is a fantastic solution for creating a membership website for organizations.
It is a cloud-based software with all the data easily accessible at any time and from any device. We found this a big plus because all team members can instantly access the database.
Everything starts with the practical and user-friendly website builder. It’s the drag and drop tool that simplifies building your membership website by ten folds.
No experience? No problem!
You can also start with the predefined themes, which are great but could be a tad more modern. Luckily, the built-in tools allow you to modernize your chosen theme and make it your way.
Remember, you can also use Wild Apricot with your existing website.
Payment integration, automatic invoicing, financial reports, yup, you have it all in one place.
Wild Apricot also comes with an iOS and Android application for site administrators, so you’re always able to check what’s up.
But members can also edit their profiles and register for events through the app.
- Drag-n-drop page builder
- Easy online payments
- iOS & Android app
- Membership database
- Advanced search
- Email marketing
- Online store (digital & physical products)
- Personal: $48/mo
- Group: $60/mo
- Community: $110/mo
- Professional: $190/mo
- Network: $350/mo
- Enterprise: $420/mo
- 30-day free trial
- Flexibility for different organizations
- Pretty expensive
- Clunky interface
10. CMS Hub
Best all-around marketing solution ($25/month)
CMS Hub is a complete marketing system for everyone with multiple sub-systems. And one of them is creating membership pages.
We won’t go into detail about what CMS Hub offers but will focus on the latter.
CMS Hub offers an out-of-the-box solution to offer memberships on your website. You don’t need any additional plugins, it’s all built-in.
Instead of continuing running (just) lead generation, expand the possibilities with CMS Hub’s Memberships.
Specify who sees what content, lock particular segments, and more. Every membership page can feature your personal branding, even profile pages.
You can select only your top customers and show them super-exclusive content that no one else can access.
Choose the technique and strategy that works for you and your members best. Even if it requires some testing, CMS Hub will be excited to help you.
Let CMS Hub do the hard work, so you concentrate on content creation and the best customer experience.
- Website builder
- Content segmentation
- Custom membership related pages
- A/B testing
- Dynamic personalization
- App marketplace
- Predefined themes
Can start for free. (Annual discount applies.)
- Starter: $25/mo
- Professional: $400/mo
- Enterprise: $1,200/mo
- Complete solution for marketing
- Endless features
- For advanced users
5 Best Membership Site Examples
1. John D. Saunders
John D. Saunders is an excellent example of how to build a solid, modern and successful online business selling online courses.
He specializes in helping startups build profitable websites and does a good job doing it through his awesome online presence.
John made it all happen with the support from Podia and the end result shows how to do things the right way.
There are three online courses at the time of writing, from simple to more extensive ones.
2. Christy Harrison
Christy Harrison is an eating coach and dietitian who gathered her knowledge and build it into two online courses.
What we like about her approach is that she offers a subscription form to join the waiting list when her coaching is closed.
Christy is also selling a book, promotes a podcast, and has a special section for private coaching.
While her website is built with Squarespace, her courses run on MemberSpace.
3. School Of Calisthenics
Tim Stevenson started the School Of Calisthenics some time ago and enjoyed rapid growth when going online.
He decided to pick LearnWorlds as his online courses and membership platform, which paid off nicely. He is handling 40k+ students successfully and his online school keeps on growing.
School Of Calisthenics offers multiple programs, coaching, shop and blog. It’s a perfect combination of everything to ensure the best customer experience.
The more you offer, the less likely they’ll need to get in touch, asking questions. But when they do, a contact form is always available through the SOC website.
Don’t miss checking School Of Calisthenics if you want to dive into the sports industry.
AAGE shows the simplicity of Wild Apricot, which displays how organizations can run a membership website.
There are multiple options with a basic application form that guides the user through a quick wizard.
We wouldn’t necessarily recommend Wild Apricot for some advanced membership websites, but it’s an ideal solution for anything minimal.
Why complicate if you don’t have to?
5. Entrepreneurs On Fire
Entrepreneurs On Fire was started by a successful podcaster, John Lee Dumas. EO Fire runs free and paid courses, taking care of 1,000s of students.
John and his partner Kate saw a nice spike in lead generation when moving to Thinkific. This also boosted their revenue, making $50k in just two months after the transition.
Even though their website is cluttered, it still performs well for John and Kate.
And they have everything, from subscriptions, resources and podcasts to blogs, free courses on fire, and more.
Membership Site FAQ
A membership platform is an all-in-one software that helps build and manage a membership website.
The best membership site software is Podia which allows for building a subscription-based website for coaching, communities, online courses, teams, and affiliates.
The best way to build a free membership website is by using Podia membership site builder. It has a free option for a basic website that you can always upgrade as you grow.
– User-exclusive content like blogs or videos.
– Online courses or other educational content.
– Live webinars.
– Exclusive members download like templates, worksheets, apps, games and more.
– A community section for member discussions.
– Physical and digital perks for members like discounts and merchandise.
Build Your Membership Site
You now have everything you need to start a membership website like a pro (without experience).
Any of the above membership site platforms, tools or plugins will do you well.
You can build niche membership areas, sell courses, drip content, segment users or anything else that comes to mind.
Do great things with little work and take your website’s user experience to the next level.