Comparing WordPress Membership Plugins

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comparing-membership-plugins-wordpressIf we're going to talk a bit about membership plugins for WordPress, we need to start with the most obvious – there are a lot of options out there. Want me to cut to the chase? Let me “bottom-line” it for you. The good news is that unlike a few years ago, many of them have improved to the point where they all offer a lot of the same features. That's great news because it hasn't always been the case. That said, which one is the best? Which one wins?

Your Values Drive the Winner

There is no point (at least in my mind) to score the plugins and tell you which one got the best score (though I did it and have the spreadsheet to prove it). And you know why already. Because what you care about and what I care about may be different. More than that, you may care about different things based on the site you're creating. So it comes down to what you care about most. So what I'm not going to do is give you a sorted order of the best ones. Instead, what I want to do is give you the top two plugins you should check out based on the factor you care most about.

I'm going to cover six different drivers of your decision:

  1. Price
  2. Ease of Use
  3. Content Dripping
  4. Pausing Memberships
  5. Using Stripe
  6. Custom Coding

Sound good?

1. If you care most about Price…

If your pocketbook drives your choices—and seriously, who isn't in that category sometimes—then there is some great news for you today because honestly, two plugins are worth noting.

  1. Justin Tadlock's Members is free. 100% free. That means you can download it for free. You can also review the code for free. You can change it for free. You can install it on 1 site for free—and you can do it on 100 sites for free. That's amazing, isn't it. And it's easy, quick to install, intuitive and all that!
  2. Luckily, I said I would tell you about the top two in any category. And there's another low-priced one you need to know about. This plugin even supports dripping your content, and it's inexpensive and awesome. Check out Restrict Content Pro.

2. If you care about Ease of Use…

If what you want is a simple plugin that will protect your content without needing you to become a guru on membership sites, then you're going to want to check out these two.

  1. The first is free, which most people don't mind. It's by the folks at iThemes—you know, the folks that brought you Backup Buddy. It's called Exchange and you can read more about it here.
  2. When it comes to a second, easy to use plugin for content protection, especially if you're using WooCommerce, I'd suggest you check out Skyverge's WooCommerce Memberships.

3. If you care most about Content Dripping…

Content dripping may be a really big deal for you. Why? Because you don't want to offer all that great content in one shot and have someone pay, log in, and download it all in one day—right before they quit your monthly fee. Right? So if that's what you care about, here are the two you may want to look at:

  1. My favorite plugin that does dripping is MemberPress. Their plugin rocks at content dripping—and it's a fully-featured product. So if you have needs that go beyond the simple stuff, get started with them.
  2. I wrote about it above, but you have to check out Exchange if your needs are simple. Because it does content dripping and it does it cleanly. It's a focused plugin, so if you need more, use MemberPress.

4. If you care about Membership Pausing….

You have a member who wants to take the summer off and you just want to pause the membership and then let them come back and resume as nothing happened, right? Well, turns out not a lot of the membership plugins out there do it.
  1. MemberPressIt's not easy. And I wrote about pausing a bit ago. But Blair Williams said he was up to the challenge and he did it.
  2. The other solution for this comes from the combination of WooCommerce, Memberships (mentioned above), and Subscriptions (by Prospress).

5. If you care about using Stripe…

Wait a minute, is that really a factor? That's what you're thinking, right? Well, let's be honest with each other. I made the list, so I get to pick. Also, it turns out I hate PayPal. If you don't know about Stripe, check them out. So for me, it's always a factor.

  1. Cart66: it's powerful, does e-commerce too, and supports Stripe, along with tons of other gateways. It's worth checking out if you're selling more than just memberships.
  2. Paid Memberships Pro: It's free and supports Stripe right out of the box.

6. Writing Custom Code?

There are times when the plugin you pick does most of what you want. Until you want more. And then it's time to write some additional code. If you're going to do that, I recommend that you extend these three plugins, talked about already:

  1. Members by Justin Tadlock—it's simple and focused but you can build anything on top of it.
  2. Restrict Content Pro by Pippin—he writes code that makes it easy to add your own code to it.
  3. MemberPress by Caseproof— because it's so feature rich, it's a great place to start your own tweaks.

What are you using for Memberships?

I'm sure I missed something. So what's your take? What are you using, and why?

About Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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