There are dozens of WordPress membership plugins available at the present moment. So how do you choose the right one for a particular project? Here are nine key points that you must make a judgment call on, plus some additional points to consider, depending on your specific project.
At the end of this post I will give some advice on what I think are the best membership plugins for different scenarios, and I will choose a couple that I feel are overall winners.
Ten key questions to help you choose the right plugin for your project:
- How easy is the plugin to use on a day-to-day basis?
- How good are the support and training materials?
- How easy is it to learn and use?
- How is its payment gateway diversity?
- Does it have good e-commerce support?
- Does it allow sequential delivery/drip content?
- Does it provide multiple/concurrent accounts (e.g. for an office with 3 to 20 users)?
- What are its options for up-selling and down-selling?
- Does it allow for prorating charges?
I will give much more information on these 10 key points in the first of a series of four podcasts we doing on WP-Tonic, discussing WordPress and membership plugins in 2015.
Here a list of some of the things your plugin might NOT do!
- Create a directory of members.
- Create a special page for each user.
- Offer an import feature for your 2MM members.
- Integrate with your payment gateway.
- Support pro-rating or pausing of a membership.
- Provide event management.
- Support a downloads area.
Paid Membership Pro:
This membership plugin has a limited number of payment gateways that it works with. However, it has a number of free and paid micro-plugins that somewhat extend the functionality of the product and gateways. Despite some limited gateway options compared to others on his list, if you are looking for a rock solid solution with great support and a large user community, you can’t really go wrong with this plugin.
By the way – if you are a bit of coder, Paid Membership Pro offers a large list of hooks and filters that allow you to do some amazing stuff.
I’ve used this plugin on a number on personal and client projects, and found it to be flexible and powerful. On the free plugin, the documentation is limited; but the company does its best to provide support on WordPress.org plugin forums. In truth, if you are using this on a semi-basic membership website, you really shouldn’t need that much support: the setup and key functionality are comparatively easy to use.
Price: Free, but support is $97 per year.
Restrict Content Pro:
Has a limited number of gateway integration options for the standard plugin. However, you can buy a number of micro-plugin extensions that increase the gateway choices. This is a similar situation as with Paid Membership Pro: even with these micro-plugins, the number of gateway providers is still limited compared to some of the other plugins in this review. Micro-plugins come with a yearly subscription.
Restrict Content Pro comes from one of the most respected WordPress coding shops, and from a really respected chief developer, Pippin Williams, who has published over 100 WordPress plugins.
Personally, I’ve used this plugin on a couple of client websites and it’s been rock solid. It’s a really well coded plugin that has some excellent extensive documentation.
Prices: Single $42, 2 to 5 sites $86, unlimited $132.
This plugin has limited gateway integration with the standard version. The developer version has more choices, but compared to some of the membership plugins on this list the choices it is still slightly limiting.
That said, this is a very powerful and flexible plugin with an excellent, stylish and easy to use interface. It has great coupon functionality, and reporting that’s built into the core of the plugin.
I personally have never used this plugin myself on client projects, but it looks like an excellent plugin with a number of powerful key features that some of the other plugins don’t offer—as an example, it has an built-in affiliate program.
Prices: Business edition $99 or developer pack at $199 per year.
This plugin supports loads of different payment gateways. It’s difficult to find a gateway that the plugin doesn’t support, and it probably is easier to list the ones it doesn’t support.
Magic Members also has loads of functionality, with great general and video training support materials. This plugin is really powerful, with a number of key features that some of the other plugins don’t have. Its interface is very impressive and it is also very easy to use for both developers and owners.
Prices: Single $97, 3 user pack $197), or unlimited $207. Support is paid yearly.
This plugin integrates with a number of payment gateways (though not as many as Magic Members). It is one of the oldest membership WordPress plugins on the market at the present moment. It’s very well documented and the support is generally quite good.
I have used this plugin on a couple of client jobs over the past 18 months. I personally don’t like it as much as some of the others; this is mostly because it has a lot of options that take quite a bit of time to learn and use effectually. Some of the other plugins use a simper central plugin, and then give you the choice to add to the core functionality by using micro-plugins.
One of the jobs I had to do with this plugin was to integrate it into a forum that was using a popular third-party forum WordPress plugin. It did work; however, the client found it quite hard to administrate the site due to WishList Member’s extensive options.
I personally feel that there are number of better WordPress solutions available now. Nevertheless, WishList Member is still a quality membership plugin that a lot of other third party WordPress plugins work with it (meaning that in some situations you have no choice but to use it).
Prices: Single site $97, multi-site license $297
This looks like a very impressive membership plugin that also gives you the e-commerce functionality of iThemes Exchange. Here’s a list of its key functionality.
- Sell paid (or free) membership access to your WordPress site.
- Protect content based on membership.
- Add multiple membership products.
- Delay (drip) individual content items based on membership.
- Add members-only digital downloads.
- Assign membership hierarchies for membership product tiers (parent and child memberships).
I personally have never used this—neither Exchange nor its micro-plugin Membership—however, by what I have read on a number of independent review websites, it does look like a great plugin membership system. That said, it doesn’t support a large number of payment gateways compared to couple of the other plugins. It has a number of additional micro-plugins, which are quite expensive.
Price: 2 sites $97, unlimited sites $150, Pro Pack (all Exchange add-ons) $197
both for free on WordPress.org. However, you need a micro-plugin for them to work together and this is not free (see prices below). I have built a couple of websites using this system, and it has its strengths and weaknesses. I could write a whole article on just this, but I will only be covering the key points here.
1) It’s part of the WooCommerce family, so you get integration with WooCommerce. So if you are considering building a membership section of an existing website that already uses WooCommerce, it’s probably the right direction to go.
2) The number of micro-plugins developed for this platform, from WooThemes and from third party developers, is impressive. One of the main ones you probably will need to get is WooCommerce Subscription Download plugin.
3) WooThemes has a secondary plugin called Sensei, which is built to help organize online courses.
1) With all the micro and other plugins, it can soon become one of the most expensive solutions on this list.
2) Like with WishList Member, there a lot (and I mean a lot) of configuration options.
3) The basic documentation looks very extensive; however, after you start working with the code base, you soon realize that the official documentation is not correct. I understand that this situation has recently been improved, however, and there are a lot of third party advice and blog articles to help you.
Price: Single site license $79, 5 sites $99, up to 25 sites for $199.
Summary: which of these membership plugins is the best overall?
We have a difficult decision here. You have seven really good WordPress membership plugins solutions that will all do an excellent job for you—no real dogs here!
However, if you have a gateway provider that you have or want to use, you need to be careful connected to what plugin you choose. If your gateway provider is not PayPal or Strip, you need to check and make sure that your membership plugin supports this provider. There are two on our list that provide the most flexibility connected to gateway choices:
If you are building a membership website yourself and it will have a need for some detailed functionality for upselling/downselling or concurrent accounts, but you are not in need for a particular gateway provider, I would look at these three plugins:
If you are looking to build a simple membership site yourself and cost is a consideration, I would look at these three:
Paid Membership Pro
Restrict Content Pro
If you are looking for membership that integrates into eCommerce, I would look at these two:
For a powerful membership plugin that has great general functionality and flexibility, you can’t really go wrong with iThemes Exchange/Membership. However it’s not cheap and you really will be committing yourself to the iThemes (i.e. you probably will get your theme and all the other additional micro plugins from them).
If you’re just looking for a cheap, well coded and supported, basic membership WordPress plugin, I don’t personally feel you can go wrong with Paid Membership Pro.