There isn’t a dominance of one single plugin in the membership domain. That’s because there are several membership plugins in WordPress which are equally good. They all provide all the basic features needed to set up a membership website.
That said, there are certain factors which differentiate these plugins as well. These factors are above the default features membership plugins provide, and are the ones you should be on the look out for, when picking the best membership plugin for your website.
To know more about these factors and their relevance, read on!
#1 Ease of Use
I know ‘Ease of Use’ can be subjective. So let me put this into perspective, your grandma should be able to use the plugin. Okay so maybe I’m exaggerating,
and chances are your grandma’s dead.
So, let me try again.
If you’re a developer, think of your client who’s going to use this plugin. Put yourself in their shoes. Would the plugin be simple to use for them? Would they be able to get around using simple settings? Do they have to use code? Remember, for them, code is scary. Are there too many steps to creating membership levels or restricting access to a post or category?
Choose a plugin which provides easy to use settings. Now, s2Member in many ways is a great membership plugin- but the settings options, for me, are a total let down. I don’t like looking at them. And it’s probably just my perspective- but I don’t often recommend it, because I have to spend a great deal of time explaining how to go about using it.
If the plugin is simple to use, you’re on the right track.
#2 e-Commerce Integration
Who are we kidding- monetization is not an optional feature. In fact the goal of a membership website is to generate revenue by charging user fees to access content.
Any membership plugin you choose will provide you the option to create paid memberships. That’s not a differentiating factor. The problem arises when requirements are more specific, in terms of payment options available or the extent of e-commerce capabilities.
So, when picking a membership plugin look for two things:
- Payment options available
- Possibility to sell products
The payment options you should be looking at are payment gateways– unless you undertake offline payments. You’ll find that most membership plugins support popular payment gateways, either by default or as add-ons. But if you’re looking for a specific payment gateway, you’ll be better off with the plugin supporting it, rather than having to hire a developer to build one. It is the economical option.
So payment gateways are point 1. Point 2 is the possibility to sell products. You might not think of this right away. But say for example you have a membership website which contains e-courses. If you want to extend it, by selling course material, you’d need to integrate an e-commerce plugin. Some membership plugins like Paid Membership Pro provide support for WooCommerce using an add-on, and this could be one such membership plugin which could suit your requirements.
If you think e-commerce integration is an above-all measure, you could alternatively consider choosing an e-commerce plugin like WooCommerce and couple it with WooCommerce Subscriptions and Groups to create your membership website.
#3 Membership Management
Your users like options. And they like flexibility. So while you might think that having the possibility to create several membership levels should be good enough, it’s not. What happens when a user wants to suspend or upgrade his/her membership level? The plugin better not act funny, because it would either take you a lot of customization work, or make you switch to another membership plugin to make this change happen.
So take a look at the features list, try out the free plugin if available or sign-up for the free trial, and test this feature. What you should be looking for are options to:
- Cancel the Membership
- Suspend/Resume the Membership
- Upgrade/Downgrade the Membership Level
#4 Content Availability Management
Restricting a user is blocking his/her access to certain content. Membership plugins are built for that very purpose.
But few memberships plugin allow you to make the content available conditionally. What I’m talking about is Content Dripping or Content Expiration. Those of you looking to add membership to a learning management system would be familiar with this term. Because this is what you’re looking to achieve with the membership plugin- not just restricting access to the content, but also the delivery of the content over a duration of time, or expiring the availability after a set time.
‘Content Dripping is delivery of content over time’
It works like this. You might want a user to be a member for a certain amount of time before you can grant them access to additional content. Say you provide access to all the content when the user registers. The user might download all of the content and cancel the subscription. If you’re looking to release access to content in stages, your membership plugin should allow you to do so.
There could also be a similar requirement to expire the access to the content after a certain time. A plugin like memberpress allows for both, content dripping as well as content access expiration.
#5 Documentation and Support
Many of you will merely focus on a membership plugin’s features. Well, they are of no use if you can’t figure out how to use them because of the lack of documentation or poor support. Documentation shouldn’t end at a “User Guide”. This plugin will be the core of your website. You’ll need all the hand holding you can get.
Now, all good membership plugins are paid. Well, at least the support is paid. So, if you’ll be investing money for support it might as well be worth it. But how do you judge good support? Check out the ratings, read reviews, ask consultants.
Ease of use, e-commerce integration, membership management, content availability management, documentation and support, are factors which can guide you when choosing the best membership plugin on WordPress. It depends on which factor matters the most to you. This could make the plugin the best one to use for your membership website.
If you’re curious as to which membership plugins best address these features and make it to the best plugins list, watch this space for more information!