I know it's crazy to think that you could figure out the best WordPress membership plugin without knowing a specific site's agenda. It's why I always tell people that while I can create a map, the route you take is based on your own destination.
That said, I have spent the last couple of years working with small, medium and very large engagements on membership projects and I've refined the criteria to six core features and two additional dynamics (ease of use, speed to learn).
I spoke about the six core features on WP Sessions, and you can still check it out.
Understanding the 8 Criteria
If you don't get a chance to see the hour-long presentation I created on WP Sessions, here's a five minute version of what the criteria is.
Comparing the top 8 membership plugins
While I have created an infographic, I also put the comparison into a PowerPoint presentation to make it easier for you to take with you. After all, infographics can get really big and hard to leverage on your own sites (hint: you can re-post my infographic or this deck anywhere you want).
Here's the entire comparison in my infographic form. Clicking on it should get you access to the larger image.
What you'll notice, if you look closely, is that the membership plugins in the radar chart section are actually in order of their score. In short, the last one displayed is the one that scores the best, comparatively. That's why the winner, according to my recent analysis is Exchange from iThemes.
Now, to make sure you understand what that means, it's important to understand that all of these are fantastic options. In fact, of the 21 plugins I reviewed, only these eight are really worth regularly suggesting to people. There are really specific situations where another may make an appearance. But for the most part, these eight are it.
I recently worked with someone who needed a very specific integration between their store (WooCommerce) and a membership option (using Groups). Because of those requirements, they didn't even consider any of the other 7 options compared here.
So like I said at the beginning, your route depends on your destination.
But what I can tell you is that if you were going to start out, and weren't sure exactly what you needed, I'd start by looking at Exchange from iThemes.
Want to see how easy it is to use?
If I'm telling you that Exchange should be at the top of your list to check out, it might be helpful to see it in action, via a walk-thru, right?
Well, no worries. Here's my twenty minute video tutorial on how to get started with Exchange.
So go check it out, run it thru it's paces, or test out any of these other plugins and let me know how you like them.