If you’re planning to build a membership site, it’s important to pick the right membership platform according to your needs.
However, there are many different membership website builders to choose from and they all have something unique to offer, so it can be a difficult task to figure out the right option.
In this guide, I will share my insights into the best membership site platforms that exist in 2021, the key features they offer, their strengths and weaknesses and I’ll also share some tips to help you pick the right one for your business.
In fact, let’s start by discussing some of the key things you should look for in your membership platform before we get into exploring each of the platforms individually.
Best Membership Site Platforms
- Kajabi: Best all-in-one membership site platform
- Thinkific: Best standalone membership site builder
- Mighty Networks: Best for community-based memberships
- Podia: Easiest to use membership site platform
- Teachable: Most popular online course platform
- Wild Apricot: Best for associations and organizations
- Kartra: Best platform for sales & marketing
- Uscreen: Best for subscription video on demand
- AccessAlly: Best all-in-one WordPress membership plugin
- MemberPress: Best standalone WordPress membership plugin
What to Look For in the Best Membership Website Builder?
In order to find the best membership website builder for your business, you need to first understand what to look for in your membership software.
So you need to take stock of things that are considered essential for building a membership site and then you should also consider your specific requirements.
Another thing you need to realize is that membership site vs online course models are very different and so are the feature requirements.
With that in mind, let’s discuss some of the most important things to take into account while choosing the right membership platform:
Hosted Solution vs WordPress Plugin
Hosted platforms are generally much easier to use, plus you don’t need to worry about any of the technical things like hosting, site speed, maintenance, or security.
Building a membership on WordPress, on the other hand, requires you to be much more tech-savvy. However, you also get much more flexibility and extendability in terms of functionality.
So hosted membership website builders work better for the average, non-techie creator, and I recommend that you go the WordPress route only when you’ve got custom requirements that can’t be met by any of the hosted platforms.
Content & Engagement
All the top membership experts including Stu McLaren in his Tribe program recommend you include a variety of content types and delivery formats in your membership, and your platform should allow you to do that.
For example, you may want to just offer a single piece of content every month (or week) or include some online courses as part of your membership as well.
Similarly, you can use a lot of different content delivery formats like videos, audio files, live coaching calls, newsletters, blog posts, downloadable checklists, etc.
Apart from the content, there are a variety of learning and engagement tools that creators use in their memberships, and you may need to use one or more of them:
- Drip Feed: You may want to release your content based on a schedule rather than giving immediate access to all your content.
- Quizzes & Certificates: If your membership is in a certain niche (e.g. cybersecurity), you might want to make use of tools like quizzes, assignments, and certificates.
- Gamification Tools: If your main focus is to drive engagement, it’s a good approach to gamify your membership and reward your members with badges and points.
Creating a community is a great way to boost member engagement, and, in many cases, it is a major selling point for memberships.
While some creators use something like a Facebook Group for their community, many of them prefer to have a community area on their own website.
Plus, many memberships include a private community area as their main offering, in which case you would need more powerful community features.
You need to make a call on which way you want to go and choose a membership platform accordingly.
Membership pricing generally has a few different elements that it’s important for your platform to support:
- Payment Frequency: Does the platform allow you to create a monthly/annual subscription? Does it support additional options like a weekly or a quarterly subscription?
- Membership Tiers: Can you easily create multiple membership tiers and allocate different content to them? Does the platform allow you to easily move users between different tiers?
- Free Trial: Can you create a free (or a paid) trial for your membership site?
- Setup Fee: Can you charge an upfront fee for your membership?
These are some of the common pricing features that successful membership sites use, but you may have additional requirements, so make sure your platform supports them.
Finally, your membership software should play well with a variety of third-party solutions — email marketing services (e.g. ConvertKit), payment processors (e.g. Stripe), and analytics solutions (e.g. Google Analytics).
And, don’t forget to take into account your budget and the level of customer support you need.
Now, let’s dive into the 7 best membership site platforms and how they can help you launch an online membership.
Best all-in-one membership site platform
Pros of Kajabi
- All-in-one platform
- Powerful online course builder
- Native community feature
- Free iOS/Android mobile app
- Powerful sales & marketing tools
Cons of Kajabi
- Doesn’t handle sales taxes
- Starting price is steep
Pricing: $149 – $399/month
Kajabi is an all-in-one membership site platform that allows you to build a membership site and deliver your content. In addition, you can build a fully-fledged website for your brand and handle every aspect of sales and marketing on the platform itself.
When it comes to membership site creation, Kajabi has the most to offer for a hosted platform. It allows you to create online courses with videos, quizzes, and other multimedia content. Plus, you can drip-feed your content as well as set pre-requisite lessons.
Moreover, it has 10+ beautifully designed Product Themes that work well irrespective of whether you want to deliver an online course or just offer some standalone training.
It even offers a mobile app for iOS/ Android devices, so if your members often consume content on mobile, they’ll have a much better learning experience.
Another handy membership feature that Kajabi offers is Community which allows you to create a private community area for your members.
When it comes to pricing your membership, Kajabi offers you a lot of flexibility. Your members can pay weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. Plus you have the ability to provide a free trial or charge an upfront setup fee.
And if you’re wondering how easy it is to set up tiered memberships, you’ll be happy to know that creating membership levels and allocating content to them is pretty straightforward as well.
When it comes to analytics, Kajabi has a dedicated subscription metrics report, so you can track your membership site’s monthly recurring revenue (MRR), average revenue per user (ARPU), and churn rate.
Now, Kajabi takes everything to the next level with its inbuilt sales and marketing features. They offer a sales pipeline builder, allowing you to map out your customer journey and build end-to-end marketing funnels.
You can also create landing pages, launch email marketing campaigns, run webinars, manage your affiliate program and automate your entire marketing workflow.
Finally, you can create your front-end website as well as your blog on Kajabi which makes it possible for you to run your entire business on the platform.
When it comes to pricing, Kajabi is one of the more expensive options out there.
Kajabi pricing starts from $149/month and its most popular plan costs $199/month. However, none of their pricing plans charge a transaction fee.
Overall, Kajabi is an extremely feature-rich platform that can help you with all aspects of running a membership site business. It will be an ideal option for you if you’re looking for an all-in-one membership platform.
MORE ON KAJABI:
Best standalone membership site builder
Pros of Thinkific
- Powerful online course builder
- Has a community feature
- Zoom integration for live sessions
- Flexible website builder
- Lots of third-party integrations
Cons of Thinkific
- Doesn’t have native mobile apps
- 2-step checkout process
- Doesn’t track subscription metrics
Pricing: Free – $499/month
Thinkific is another popular hosted membership website builder. However, unlike Kajabi, the focus is mainly on offering the core features, including the ability to host and deliver your content and process payments.
So Thinkific doesn’t offer an inbuilt blogging feature, a funnel builder or email marketing tools and you’ll need to use third-party tools for these capabilities.
Having said that, Thinkific is a great option for creating membership sites and online courses.
It allows you to create engaging courses with multiple content types including videos, PDFs, quizzes and assignments, as well as to release your content based on a drip schedule or create learning paths.
When it comes to the course player, there is just one theme, but it is very well designed from a user experience point of view and it will work well for all types of online courses.
In addition, you have the ability to create custom pages and restrict access to them based on a user’s membership plan, which is really handy if you want to deliver one-off content on an ongoing basis.
As far as mobile learning experience is concerned, the course player is mobile responsive and your users can watch your content in any mobile browser. Thinkific, at this point, doesn’t have a mobile app.
Another useful feature that Thinkific offers for building memberships is the ability to create an online community on the platform.
When it comes to pricing your membership, you can create monthly or annual subscriptions, and you can also include a free trial or charge a setup fee. Plus creating tiered levels for your membership is quite simple in Thinkific.
Finally, Thinkific offers some other handy selling tools like the ability to build sales pages, process payments, create 1-click upsells and coupons, engage in affiliate marketing, etc.
As far as Thinkific pricing is concerned, you can get started for free. The lowest paid plan costs $49/month, and for that you get all the essential course creation features.
However, a lot of the essential features for memberships (e.g. bundles, subscription pricing, Communities, etc.) require the PRO plan, which costs $99/month.
Overall, Thinkific is quite reasonably priced and if you’re looking for a standalone platform to build your membership site, Thinkific will work great for you.
MORE ON THINKIFIC:
3. Mighty Networks
Best for community-based memberships
Pros of Mighty Networks
- Powerful community builder
- Ability to create online courses
- Zoom integration for live sessions
- Free iOS/Android mobile app
Cons of Mighty Networks
- Website builder lacks flexibility
- Charges a transaction fee
Pricing: Free – $98/month
Mighty Networks is pretty different from all the hosted platforms that we have discussed till now, in the sense that the main focus of the platform is on community design and engagement.
It offers best-in-class features for building an engaged online community, including the ability to create posts, full articles, and polls & questions, organize your content using topics, create free/paid groups within your community, and other features like member directory, direct messaging between members, live chat events, etc.
What I like the most about Mighty Networks, though, is that your members can access the community area using their free iOS and Android apps.
Moreover, you can also create online courses, and it supports essential features like content structuring and progress tracking.
When it comes to pricing your membership and selling it, Mighty Networks allows you to charge a one-time, monthly, or annual subscription, with or without a free trial. Plus, there are different ways in which you can charge for your Mighty Network.
For example, you can keep the larger community free but charge for courses and mastermind groups within it. Or, you can charge for community access and also specify separate charges for courses and groups.
As far as Mighty Networks pricing is concerned, it has a free pricing tier (5% transaction fee) that gets you the most basic community features.
The second tier is the Community Plan which costs $28/month (+3% transaction fee) and the most popular tier is the Business Plan which costs $98/month (+2% transaction fee).
To sum it all up, if you’re planning to create a mastermind group or any sort of community-focused membership, Mighty Networks will work well for you.
MORE ON MIGHTY NETWORKS:
Easiest to use membership site platform
Pros of Podia
- Super easy to use
- Ability to create courses as well as individual “Posts”
- Handles EU VAT
- Ability to send autoresponders
Cons of Podia
- Lacks important engagement tools
- No mobile apps feature
- Basic reporting tools
Pricing: $39 – $79/month
Podia is another online platform that lets you quickly build a membership site. To start with, you can create an online course with videos, PDFs, basic quizzes, etc. and you can also drip-feed your content.
When it comes to course delivery, the course player looks elegant and is very well-designed from an end-user point of view.
Even though Podia doesn’t offer a mobile app, the course player is mobile responsive and users can watch your content on any device.
Another thing that I like about membership site creation in Podia is the ability to create individual Posts for your members.
You can restrict access to these Posts based on a membership plan, and it works very well for delivering one-off content from time to time.
Having said that, Podia lacks some very important learning features like graded quizzes, assignments, learning paths, etc. Also, you can’t build a separate community area for your members.
When it comes to pricing your membership, you can create a monthly/annual subscription and you can also offer a free trial. Moreover, creating multiple tiers and assigning different courses and Posts to them is pretty straightforward.
Finally, Podia allows you to create a sales page, process payments through a well-optimized checkout process, charge EU VAT, and run your affiliate program.
As far as Podia pricing is concerned, it offers two plans. The lower tier is called the Mover Plan and it costs $39/month.
However, it doesn’t include the essential membership features offered by Podia which are only available on the Shaker Plan ($79/month).
Overall, if you just require the basic features for your membership site and are looking for a simple and affordable solution, then Podia should work well for you.
Most popular online course platform
Pros of Teachable
- Super easy to use
- Powerful online course builder
- Has a product for 1:1 Coaching
- Well-optimized checkout process
Cons of Teachable
- Not easy to create multiple tiers
- No community feature
- Doesn’t track subscription metrics
Pricing: $39 – $299/month
Teachable is an extremely popular online course platform that allows you to create online courses and memberships under your own brand.
What I like about Teachable is how easy it is to create an engaging online course. You can create an online course with videos, audio files, PDFs, quizzes, etc. and you can deliver it professionally through the inbuilt course player.
Moreover, it supports features for graded quizzes, dripping your content, creating certificates, course compliance, 1:1 coaching, etc.
However, all your content will need to be delivered through online courses as you won’t have the ability to create individual posts or pages.
Even though Teachable doesn’t give you the option to create a community area natively, it does integrate with Circle, a specialized online community platform.
When it comes to creating multiple membership tiers, the process isn’t very straightforward. You’ll need to create multiple course bundles and do a lot of workarounds to offer different levels for your membership.
Having said that, Teachable offers some useful selling tools for your membership which include a sales page builder, well-optimized checkout pages, EU VAT support, affiliate marketing tools, etc.
As far as Teachable pricing is concerned, its Basic plan costs $39/month (+5% transaction fee) and it includes all the essential features you need to get started.
So Teachable is a great platform to start with if you’re on a tight budget. However, their Professional Plan, the most popular tier, sits at $119/month (0% transaction fee).
In conclusion, if your membership basically involves a bunch of courses bundled together and you want a more affordable solution, Teachable will work well for you.
6. Wild Apricot
Best for associations and organizations
Pros of Wild Apricot
- Powerful membership management tools
- Useful events management features
- Mobile apps for members & admin
- Flexible payment & pricing options
Cons of Wild Apricot
- No LMS functionality
- Can be an expensive option
Pricing: Free – $600/month
Wild Apricot is a hosted membership management platform designed to help organizations such as associations and NGOs manage their membership programs online.
With Wild Apricot, you can create membership directories that can either be public or only accessible to your members, create membership application forms, and set up a fully-fledged website as well.
You can also create members-only pages, add blogs, and set up discussion forums within your membership site. Moreover, you can limit access to certain parts of your site to specific membership levels or groups to create a multi-tiered site.
On top of that, you can create event listings on your site and even send confirmation and reminder emails for events to your members. Plus, the platform allows you to send regular email blasts and newsletters to members to keep them informed and engaged.
What I like the most about Wild Apricot is that it offers two separate mobile apps — one for members to access your site and another for admins to manage your membership.
Finally, it gives you the flexibility to price your membership and process payments through a variety of providers. You can even set up donation pages on your website for specific fundraising events or campaigns.
The only thing you should keep in mind is that the platform doesn’t include a learning management system, since it is designed for an entirely different purpose.
As far as pricing is concerned, Wild Apricot has a flexible pricing model which increases as the size of your membership grows.
The Starter plan comes at $40/month, with higher plans going up to $600/month, and the plans vary based on the number of members they support. Wild Apricot also offers a free plan, but it lacks essential features like email blasts and payments.
Overall, the platform is ideal for organizations like associations and not for profits as it has all the features they are likely to need while setting up their membership program online.
Best platform for sales and marketing
Pros of Kartra
- All-in-one platform
- Powerful sales & marketing tools
- Native helpdesk & scheduling tools
- Robust reporting & analytics tools
Cons of Kartra
- Not so easy to use
- Lacks important engagement tools
- No mobile apps functionality
Pricing: $99 – $499/month
Kartra is an all-in-one online business platform that also comes with the ability to build a membership website.
Kartra’s membership site builder lets you create online courses as well as add standalone content like video, audio playlists, text, etc. You can further drip your content based on a schedule.
The default members’ area is nicely designed and you can customize it further to match your brand and meet your requirements. Moreover, your members can access your content on all devices, including mobile.
However, Kartra hardly has anything to offer in the way of member engagement, so you can’t create quizzes & assignments or build a community area inside Kartra. The only thing you can do is interact with your members through the comment section.
As far as the mobile learning experience is concerned, their course player is mobile-responsive, but they don’t offer a mobile app at this point.
However, where Kartra really shines is its sales and marketing capabilities.
It gives you a lot of flexibility for pricing your membership site. So you can create weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual subscriptions, including a free trial, or even charge an initial fee.
Moreover, you can easily create multiple access levels for your site and offer exclusive content to subscribers in a particular tier.
On top of that, the platform allows you to create landing pages, set up a fully-fledged website, launch email marketing campaigns, and manage an affiliate program.
When it comes to pricing, Kartra’s Starter plan comes at $99/month and it includes all the features the platform has to offer. The most popular package is the Silver plan and it costs $199/month.
Kartra is pretty reasonably priced given everything it has to offer. Plus, the pricing plans vary based on things like the number of contacts, so you will only need to switch to a higher plan when your business grows.
Overall, if you are looking to build a basic membership site but you need more powerful sales and marketing features, Kartra can be a good option for you.
MORE ON KARTRA:
Best for subscription video on demand
Pros of Uscreen
- Flexible video catalog builder
- Native live streaming feature
- Supports OTT apps for mobile and Smart TVs
Cons of Uscreen
- Puts a limit on video storage
- Charges a per-subscriber fee
Pricing: $149 – $499/month
Uscreen stands out from other hosted platforms on this list as it is designed to help you create a subscription-based video-on-demand business under your own brand.
So you can use the platform to create a video-based membership site to teach your audience a useful skill or start your own entertainment streaming service like Netflix.
The platform allows you to upload your videos and categorize them to create a well-organized video catalog and you can also add filters and tags to the catalog to make it more user-friendly.
Plus, you can group your videos into playlists and chapters using the ‘Collections’ feature, which can be quite useful for creating online courses.
To further engage your audience, you can even create and stream live events, which are automatically recorded and made available for publishing.
However, where Uscreen really shines is the fact that it lets you launch your own OTT apps for users — not just on iOS and Android devices, but also for various smart TV devices like Roku Box and AppleTV.
When it comes to sales and marketing, Uscreen offers a few useful features including the ability to build a brand website.
When it comes to pricing, you can create monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, and yearly subscriptions for your membership site, plus you can easily set up multi-tiered subscriptions.
Apart from that, you can create coupons, sell gift cards, and follow up with abandoned cart users, in addition to tracking all the important subscription metrics.
Uscreen’s starting plan comes at $149/month and gives you most of the essential features the platform has to offer. The most popular plan is the Amplify plan which costs $499/month.
On top of the cost of the tier, Uscreen also charges you a subscription fee of $0.50 per active subscriber per month.
Overall, Uscreen is one of the best platforms out there for established creators to build a subscription-based video-on-demand business.
MORE ON USCREEN:
Best all-in-one WordPress membership plugin
Pros of AccessAlly
- Inbuilt LMS functionality
- Powerful engagement tools
- Easy member management
- Useful sales & marketing features
Cons of AccessAlly
- Lack of extendability
- Expensive for a WordPress plugin
Pricing: $99 – $250/month
While the hosted platforms work great for a majority of creators, they aren’t the best option for you if you want more flexibility in terms of functionality and customization options.
In this case, you should use a self-hosted platform like WordPress along with a membership plugin like AccessAlly to build your membership site.
AccessAlly is very different from a traditional WordPress membership plugin as it doesn’t just offer powerful membership management and selling tools — it also includes inbuilt LMS capability.
Not only does it allow you to create regular WordPress posts and pages in your membership, but you can also create online courses with quizzes, assignments, certificates, etc.
Moreover, you can grant access to your content all at once, release it based on a schedule, or even unlock content based on a user’s progress.
As far as membership pricing is concerned, you have a lot of options. You can create one-time, monthly, or annual subscriptions, offer a free/paid trial, and create multiple membership tiers.
It also offers some very powerful membership management tools which allow your members to cancel, upgrade or downgrade their membership plans. As an admin, you can also pause someone’s subscription or let them skip payments.
Moreover, AccessAlly offers you some handy selling tools like well-designed checkout pages, coupon codes, sales taxes, order bumps, and 1-click upsells, cart abandonment tracking, inbuilt affiliate tracking, etc.
When it comes to plugin cost, AccessAlly has a steep price tag. Its Essentials option is $99/month; however, if you want to gain access to the premium course creation features, you need to go for the Pro plan, which costs $129/month.
You can see that AccessAlly is pretty expensive from the standards of a WordPress membership/LMS plugin.
In fact, when you add the cost of your website hosting, video storage, and things like website themes and other plugins, you’ll actually end up paying much more than even what the hosted platforms charge.
Having said that, AccessAlly is the most feature-rich yet easy to use option for building a membership site on WordPress, and if pricing isn’t an issue for you, you should give it a try.
Best standalone WordPress membership plugin
Pros of MemberPress
- Pretty extensible
- Inbuilt LMS functionality
- Flexible access rules
- Powerful member management features
Cons of MemberPress
- No native community feature
- Overall setup can be difficult
Pricing: $149 – $349/year
MemberPress is one of the most popular WordPress membership plugins and it is very different from an “all-in-one” plugin like AccessAlly.
To start with, it covers the basic requirements of a membership site like content protection, handling subscription payments, and creating tiered membership levels.
With MemberPress, you can protect your WordPress pages and posts, restrict access to them based on which membership plan a user has purchased, as well as drip your content.
If you want to offer online courses in your membership, you can do so using their Courses Add-On. However, it lacks some essential features and so you’ll be better off using a third-party WordPress LMS plugin like LearnDash.
When it comes to pricing your membership, you have a lot of flexibility which includes the ability to set custom time periods for recurring payments, create free/paid trials of any length, limit the number of payments, etc.
Finally, MemberPress offers some very handy features for reporting and membership management.
As far as the plugin pricing is concerned, MemberPress is significantly cheaper than the other options above, but then it also has a lot less to offer.
The Basic Plan costs $149/year and gives you 1 site license while the Plus Plan costs $249/year and gives you 2 site licenses.
If you’re planning to build a fully-fledged membership site, MemberPress won’t be the best option for you unless you want to patch together a lot of third-party plugins.
However, if you want to quickly turn your WordPress posts and pages into a membership site, MemberPress is all that you’ll need.
In my view, these are the best membership site platforms available on the market. There are a few other options that some creators use but I haven’t mentioned them in this guide because I don’t recommend you use them.
For example, it’s possible to create a membership site using platforms like ClickFunnels, Squarespace, and Wix but I don’t recommend that you try this because these platforms lack a lot of the essential features you’ll need.
Best Membership Site Platforms – Final Verdict
There are many different options when it comes to membership site platforms and the vast amount of choices can make selecting the right platform challenging and overwhelming.
That’s why I recommend you keep things simple! First, explore the hosted membership software as these are much easier to use and will work well for a majority of creators.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one membership site platform to run your entire business, you should check out Kajabi.
On the other hand, if you already have your marketing funnels in place and you’re looking mainly for a platform to host and deliver your membership content, you can go with Thinkific.
The third platform that I recommend is Mighty Networks which is a great option if you’re looking to build a community-focused membership site.
However, If these platforms don’t meet your requirements, you would probably need to go the WordPress route and rely on a combination of plugins, depending on your requirements.
I hope this guide helped you make a decision. Do you have any questions about any of these membership website builders? Which platform do you think will work best for you and why? Please leave a comment below and let me know.
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