Blogs and news websites are great for sharing information.
But sometimes, you want things to be more organized.
If you want to charge for premium content or build a private community, a membership site is an excellent model to use. Not to mention, membership sites are one of the five most popular ways to make money online.
The collection below includes only the best of the best, so keep reading to find out which plugins made the cut.
Best membership plugins
Below, you’ll find plugins to sell online courses, create discussion groups, and much more.
You’ll be able to create locked content, add multiple membership groups, and charge one-time or recurring prices for access to your site.
Here are my top picks for the best WordPress membership plugins.
MemberPress is a top membership plugin and a common recommendation for people building this type of website. It’s been a popular choice for a long time due to its reliability and the massive number of features included.
With MemberPress, you can create as many membership levels as you want. That means you could have a free tier for people who want limited access, and multiple paid tiers for unlocking more content on your site. You can choose one-time or recurring payments for premium membership levels, and there are a few payment gateways to choose from like PayPal and Stripe.s
MemberPress also includes a wide variety of features for “access rules.” These are the rules that decide what content members can access on your site. Since MemberPress can work with any WordPress theme, you can publish as many posts and pages as you want, and restrict them to different membership tiers easily using the access rules.
I’ve only scratched the surface of MemberPress’ amazing functionality, so click the link below to see screenshots and learn more.
Restrict Content is a free plugin with paid add-ons for additional functionality. While Restrict Content Pro isn’t as feature-rich as some other all-in-one solutions, it is quite a bit easier to get started with.
The free version of this plugin is perhaps best used for a small website that just wants to hide some pages. For instance, a regular blog with gated content might be a great time to use this plugin. You can use simple shortcodes to wrap any content you want to restrict to members.
Like other plugins, Restrict Content has an unlimited number of membership levels and multiple payment gateways to choose from. With the Pro upgrade, you can charge for memberships, create coupon codes, and even integrate your memberships with WooCommerce.
One parting thought, if you’re a developer, you’ll find this plugin much easier to work with than any other option. There are loads of hooks and overridable templates available for customizing various parts of the plugin’s functionality.
Most WordPress membership plugins create a hidden area of your website which is only available to logged-in users with the right privileges. The Password Protected Categories plugin is different and offers a simpler way to create a members-only area.
It works by password protecting categories within your WordPress site. These might be categories of blog posts, pages, or any custom post type. You can add as many passwords as you like, and the content is hidden until you enter a correct password. After entering the password, the hidden content is visible, and you can navigate within the hidden members-area.
Password Protected Categories is easy for you to manage because you don’t have to create a user account for each member – instead, you give them the password. It also makes it easy to show different content to each member because you can create multiple categories, each with different passwords.
The other plugins in this article focus on creating a members area in your WordPress site. The WooCommerce Protected Categories plugin takes this a step further by creating a WooCommerce members-only shop.
Instead of viewing hidden pages and resources, members log in to view and buy hidden products. It’s perfect if you’re building a WooCommerce buying club, discount club, or giving early access to VIP customers.
The plugin is very flexible. You can choose whether to hide the members-only shop behind basic password protection or automatically unlock it for specific logged-in users or roles. Either way, you can sell products to the public and have hidden categories for your members.
Barn2, the company behind the plugin, has published a tutorial about how to build a private WooCommerce members-only shop.
If you’re more interested in building a bustling web community than simply charging for premium content, Ultimate Member is the plugin for you.
This membership plugin is loaded with community development features. Every member gets a robust profile that they can customize. They also have a public activity feed, so members can see what everyone else has been up to. Add in discussion forums and direct messaging, and Ultimate Member is a powerful choice for building a popular membership website.
The paid upgrade for this plugin adds new dimensions of social features. Members can add each other as friends, get realtime notification of relevant activity on the site, and follow each other. When coupled with a forum plugin like ForumWP, Ultimate Member is a top-notch community membership solution.
Is your membership site made for an online course? If so, you can choose a membership plugin made specifically for online courses like LearnDash.
LearnDash calls itself an LMS plugin which stands for learning management solution. While the other membership plugins simply provide access rules for restricting page and post content, LearnDash adds all-new custom post types to your site. This way, you can publish Courses and Lessons separately from your posts and pages.
You can give members complete access to your course (or courses) all at once, or drip the content at a scheduled interval. You can also create pre-requisites for taking certain courses, add private forums, award members points, and add interactive quizzes within your courses.
If you’re really intent on effectively teaching your audience, LearnDash is probably the best choice for building your membership website with WordPress.
The last solution here isn’t actually a WordPress plugin. While I love WordPress and can recommend it for any type of website, Teachable can do certain things better than WordPress.
The Teachable platform was built specifically for selling online courses. If you want to create a community website then a plugin like Ultimate Member will be perfect, but for selling access to courses, Teachable is a great choice. Teachable has gorgeous templates to use for your course, quizzes, course completion certificates, coupons, sales pages, and everything else you could ever want for selling courses.
If you choose Teachable for your course, you can still run your WordPress website to get traffic and direct potential buyers to your Teachable website. Teachable’s student management tools are more intuitive than WordPress’ as well, so it will be easier to keep your sales and students consolidated on their platform.
Which membership plugin is best for you?
MemberPress gets my top vote because it’s so comprehensive. As the most full-featured plugin here, it’s likely to have everything you need to build your site.
Restrict Content Pro is a good choice for a simpler “gated content” website, and it’s also the best option for a WordPress developer.
Password Protected Categories is the best solution if you want to simply restrict access to some content on your site while publishing regularly.
If you want to explore a new platform, Teachable is outstanding for teaching online and charging for access to your courses.
I hope you’re excited to try one of these plugins out, and if you enjoyed this post, make sure to share it with someone else before you go.