Cutting-Edge Web

Top 10 Membership Site Platforms + How to Pick the Best 4U

You pause, looking up from your laptop. Your finger hovers over the back button, but you hesitate to press it. Shouldn’t you just stop researching and pick one already?

You need a membership site. That’s what every one of your peers tells you. Coaches, consultants, authors, healers, and speakers all make extra money with a membership site.

But what kind of membership site should you use?

Your research into membership site platforms just got you lost in the weeds.

So many platforms and even more options, it’s maddening.

How are you ever going to make sense of it all? You’re not even sure you need all the bells and whistles. Because what you want is an easy way to deliver the course you’re creating.

Now, what if you had a simple way to narrow the field to just a couple of platforms?

Then look no further, because that’s what you’ll find in this article.

You’ll find everything you need to know about membership sites and membership site platforms and how to pick the one that’ll work best for you. 

But let’s start with the basics.

Are you clear on the difference between a membership site and a membership site platform? Let me clarify, just in case you aren’t.

Membership Site Platforms 101

membership site 101What Is a Membership Site?

When you boil it down to the bare essentials, a membership site is a site where you can create an account. That account gives you access to products or groups of people you can’t get without that account. Sometimes membership sites are free, but most often, you pay for the pleasure.

What Are Membership Site Platforms?

A platform simply is a site where you can build your membership site.

To build it, you receive two things:

  1. You get an administrative area. Here you customize how the platform runs your site, so it looks and behaves how you want it to. It’s also where you do administrative tasks. Such as adding members, keeping up with what they’re doing, moderating conversations, etc.
  2. You get the features to deliver and sell your products.

More specifically, you get:

  • An editor to add pages with your content (or link to it) and a course builder to construct the learning sequence for your customers.
  • Gated content, so you can control who has access.
  • Payment services to receive payments from your customers. Some platforms process payments themselves. But most allow you to use a payment/credit card processor like Stripe or PayPal.
  • Member groups, so you can create smaller communities and enroll students in course cohorts.
  • Reporting and statistics, to keep your finger on the pulse of your business and your students and members.

You’ll often hear these membership site platforms referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS) or a cloud-hosted solution.

What Does a Free Membership Site Get You?

Well, free membership sites are a powerful marketing tool for selling physical products.

Say you’re selling skincare products or craft beers.

Then you probably already provide valuable content on your site to help you market and sell your products.

A free membership site lets you create content only actual customers — people who already bought from you — can access. It’ll make them feel they belong to an exclusive club. Offer some extra perks, like special member-only deals, and they have yet another reason to join.

Doing so gives you a direct channel to people who already know you, like you and trust you. Who’ll happily buy from you again without much sales effort on your part.

Does that Work for Content Creators Too?

As a content creator you want people to buy your products, right? So, a free membership site may not seem to make sense. But a free membership allows you to grow a fan base and get the advantages mentioned in the previous section. The value for the customers of your paid products would be in getting the inside scoop so to speak, and maybe some exclusive content — like your thoughts on trending topics or a journal.

membership site for content creatorWant to know a secret?

Allowing comments on your content means you can spy on what your customers are saying. Ethically. You’ll gain invaluable insights into what’s keeping them up at night. On a blog, the comments often are random and unrelated. In a membership site, people will feel more connected and you’ll often see really revealing discussions.

Why is that invaluable? Because it’ll allow you to create content and products that your customers already crave and can’t wait to buy from you.

What Can You Do With a Membership Site Platform?

The sky’s the limit.

Membership site platforms are very versatile solutions. You can use them to:

  • offer online courses
  • offer free or paid access to content, for example a library of articles
  • offer subscriptions to content, giving access to content delivered from the date of subscription, or to all previous installments as well
  • offer subscriptions to physical products, for example coffee, skin products or fresh produce boxes, that you deliver to your members’ doorstep 
  • organize a community around a good cause, sports club, hobby, location, neighborhood, skilled work, etc.

What’s a Membership Site vs. Subscription Site?

Technically they’re the same.

A notable difference is that you generally pay a monthly or yearly fee to subscribe to a subscription site, while joining a membership site can be free or paid, and the latter can mean you pay a one-time or a recurring fee.

However, the words you use to describe your site and how you charge your members, create expectations.

When you talk about subscriptions or charge a recurring fee, your subscribers will expect you to deliver something regularly. Whether that’s new content, community events like webinars or new products.

Which Do I Need to Deliver Online Courses?

deliver online courseWith courses:

  • you only charge once (or you offer a payment plan with a fixed number of payments, usually between 3 and 12),
  • and you don’t have the obligation of producing new and upgraded content on an ongoing basis, because online courses have a clear beginning and end.

So the natural choice is to use a membership site to deliver your course.

How Does a Membership Site Help Your Business?

Having a membership site (or program) has many advantages for your business. 

  • A subscription or paid membership program provides you with consistent, predictable income.
  • You need some credibility to draw in members when you start — they need to believe you have value to offer — but as your membership grows, so does your authority.
  • A free membership program allows you to stay connected and build relationships with your customers. You can offer them value beyond their purchase and foster customer loyalty.
  • With a free membership site you have a pre-qualified audience for your marketing messages and for upselling. It’s better than a mailing list because members already know, like and trust you. Making them a tribe of loyal fans likely to buy anything from you and shout about it to their friends.
  • Membership sites are automated and automatable by nature. They scale easily and pose few limits to growth.
  • A paid membership raises the value of your content, even that of your free content. Simply because, as Ramit Sethi learned, people value what they pay for.
  • Kicking off a paid membership site starts a virtuous cycle. Getting paid for your content gives you more time to produce even more valuable content. For example, when you have more time, you can do more research or go more in-depth with your content. You’ll sell more, giving you more money to create even more valuable content. Oh, and creating more valuable content also increases your authority.
  • When you allow comments and allow your members to interact with each other, you get to be a fly on the wall. You’ll learn a lot about them. What keeps them up at night, what they aspire to, what problems they encounter. You can use that to inform new products and improvements to existing products. And this means you’ll be creating what your members are already craving.
  • Members are happy customers willing to spread the word for and about you.
  • Having paying members means you’ll have to keep your material up-to-date and produce new content regularly. Yes, you can see that as a drawback. But actually, it’s an advantage as it keeps you from resting on your laurels, which would allow competitors to pass you. What’s more, adding and improving your content on an ongoing basis increases your membership value. And that’ll increase your authority too!

What Are the Drawbacks of a Membership Site?

membership site drawbacksA membership site isn’t all a bed of roses.

  • Charging recurring fees, means keeping your content fresh and regularly adding new content requires work. Sometimes a lot.
  • When you offer social features or allow user-generated content, you face both the light and dark side of human nature. You’ll have to moderate both the social interactions and the content contributed by your members. That can quickly become more than you can manage alone.
  • The idea that you can generate passive income with a paid content and courses is not 100% correct. Yes, you can automate most of your work, but customers, students or members, don’t get engaged by themselves.

You’ll have to work at it to engage them.

Because, as a teacher, you want your students to succeed, don’t you?

But the sad fact is that only about 3% of people investing in a course complete it. The trick is to engage them and help them succeed, but without the right features to help you (more about that in just a bit!), that can take a lot of work.

It’s similar when you run a membership site to give and get the benefits of a community.

Whether you offer subscription content or courses with a clear beginning and end, you’ll face churn — losing members — every month. The average subscription site loses 5-10% of its subscribers every year. The average course site can expect member churn rates twice as high. Somewhat less if you teach more than one course and students get the results they came for.

In any case, you’ll continually have to attract new members or students to keep your revenue stream steady.

Is an Online Course or Membership Site Better for Your Business Right Now?

I hate to say it, but it depends on the stage of your business.

the 4 stages of business

In what I call the Blue Sky Stage, it doesn’t make much sense to invest in either. You want (and need) to connect with prospects and customers directly to figure out what value you can offer in a specific niche, so I recommend starting with 1:1 coaching, consulting or services to test your ideas, fine-tune your processes and bring your first dollars in the door. If you do want to do an online course, I would limit it to a small group, and I would avoid subscription memberships completely. 

Once you’re at the Call Me Stage (from $30K up), you’ll want to start leveraging your time with online courses and group programs. Investing in a membership site platform to create your first online course makes sense now.

When you first start offering virtual group training or group coaching programs, you can deliver your programs using video conferencing. But you don’t necessarily need a course platform to do this, unless you want to turn your program into a pre-recorded course. There are plenty of good tools out there such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts to name a few.

The same applies if you want to offer your students a sense of community by allowing them to “talk amongst themselves.” If it’s not available in the platform you use to deliver your course content, you can always use Facebook or LinkedIn Groups.

So there are ways to create simple programs without a membership site, but a membership site is essential when you want to scale your offers to more people. Whether you use a membership site to deliver an online course, a subscription program or a community.

What Should a Membership Site Include?

If you want to build community directly into your program, it’s essential to consider why people join communities. And that comes down to belonging, being part of a group of like-minded people and a sense of community.

Exclusivity is a big part of the appeal, even for membership sites with millions of users. Exclusivity is not necessarily about being in a small group. It’s often about having access to otherwise unavailable stuff or people.

So you’ll want to include at least a couple of the following:membership site include

  • Exclusive quality content.
  • Exclusive access to you.
  • Social features, such as commenting and group discussions.
  • Exclusive deals, live or virtual events, online challenges, etc.
  • User-generated content. From users sharing experiences up to full-fledged training programs.

Exclusive content is a crucial part of most membership sites, so let’s see what kind of content you can offer.

What Content to Offer in a Membership Site?

Almost anything you want:

  • Opinion pieces.
  • Documentary pieces, for example, research and science-based articles.
  • Whitepapers and thought leadership pieces.
  • Comparisons and reviews.
  • Book summaries.
  • Interviews.
  • Drawings and other images.
  • Curated lists.
  • Recipes, meal plans or crafting instructions. 
  • Courses and tutorials.
  • Cheat-sheets and mind-maps to aid learning.
  • Templates, workbooks and action plans.
  • Q&As (Questions and Answers) and AMAs (Ask Me Anything).
  • Coaching and Mentoring or Training.

You can deliver your content in many ways:

  • Written articles.
  • Books, e-books and audiobooks.
  • Videos and screencasts.
  • Podcasts.
  • Webinars.

For user-generated content and community building, you can:

  • Allow members to comment on your and each other’s content.
  • Add forums for discussions unrelated to specific content.
  • Add Quora-like Q&A (Questions and Answers) sections where your members can ask and answer questions and vote on them.

5 Examples of Successful Membership Sites in Very Different Niches

International Living

Everything about living abroad and tons of user-contributed content by ex-pat members.

International Living membership site

Blue Apron

Combines fresh produce delivery with recipes.

Blue Apron membership site

Freelance Writers Den

Teaches members how to make a living writing, plus group coaching and a job board.

Freelance Writers Den membership site

Thrive Themes

Provides access to all their products—plugins and themes for WordPress.

Thrive Themes membership site

Kyle Weiger Handstand Training

Teaches students how to do handstands. Yes. Really. That’s all he does in his course, and he’s making a 6 figure income!

Kyle Weiger Handstand Training membership site

How Do You Create a Membership Site or Deliver Online Courses?

You have three options to create a membership site that you can use for subscription content, build a community or deliver courses.

They vary in what they provide for you and what you have to do yourself.

By the way, many people use the word platform when talking about a plugin for content management or an eCommerce system. But the thing is, they’re not the same as you’ll see below.

Build-It-Yourself Custom Development

A custom-built site will be unique and fully-customized to what you want.

However appealing that sounds, you’d spend over 80% of your money and effort just to build the basics that every membership site needs — a waste. Dozens of membership site platforms will get you the basics for a fraction of the time, energy and money.

Unless you have a genuinely new and unique approach for delivering courses or memberships online, I’d advise you to avoid this option.

Done-for-You Platforms

A done-for-you membership site platform takes away all the headaches of a custom-built site.

All you have to do is customize it, so it looks like it’s part of your unique brand and functions the way you want it to work for your members or students.

The drawback is that customization options can be limited.

Assemble It Yourself With a CMS and Plugins

You’ll find a middle ground when you assemble a site using a collection of software packages.

You start with a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or an eCommerce platform like WooCommerce. And then add a plugin to get the features that’ll turn it into a membership or online course site. (A plugin is a bit of software that adds features to the system you “plug” them into.)

And you’ll add other plugins for everything else you need — for example, your email list, analytics, marketing funnels, etc.

Assembling a site like this requires technical savvy or hiring someone who has it. But you do get the advantage of pretty high flexibility and customization.

How to Choose the Membership Site Platform that’s Right for You

choose membership siteGranted, doing your research to pick a membership site platform or a plugin is time-consuming.

But you want to take that time because it’s a hassle to change once you’re up and running. And who wants to pick a solution with everything but the kitchen sink, only to discover that you need that kitchen sink.

That’s also why you want to do things in the right order. It’s not fun if a vendor’s enthusiasm for their product sweeps you off your feet, and you end up without that kitchen sink.

Below are ten steps for you to follow when choosing your membership site.

It may look daunting, because we wanted to make sure you had a comprehensive list. But you don’t need to get hung up on details or cross every t and dot every i. The crucial thing is to do the steps in order.

10 Steps to Pick the Membership Site Platform that’s Best for You

  1. Decide what you want your site to do. Broad strokes will do fine. Use the section below on features to guide you, but don’t fall prey to the fear of missing out. Distinguish between elements you must have (need) and ones that are nice to have (want). It’ll make everything easier.
  2. Decide your budget. What you can comfortably afford to pay monthly or yearly for the membership tool. And, if you’re not very technical, what you can pay to get help with installing plugins and integrating various services. This way, you’ll make a better-informed decision about using a platform or a plugin.
  3. Work through available platforms and plugins and check each against what you need. Throw out every solution that doesn’t meet your must-haves.
  4. If you have more than three candidates, narrow the field to three. Use both what you’d like — your nice-to-haves, and their prices versus your budget.
  5. Take each of those three candidates for a spin.
  6. Try out the features you need and some of the features you want.
  7. Imagine what it would be like to use them every day. Will they make life easy for you? Annoy you? Take more time that you want?
  8. Ask the vendor for help to accomplish something. Doesn’t matter what or if you’ve already done it. The point is to test how responsive, helpful and effective their support is.
  9. Throw out candidates that don’t pass your muster.

10 Trust your gut and make your choice. But be aware that your gut only has a chance of getting it right after working through all the previous steps and trying out each candidate.

What Membership Site Features Do You Need in a Platform?

Membership sites have and need many features. Below you’ll find a categorized list to help you think about what you need and would like. While the list is comprehensive, it’s by no means exhaustive.

Still, bear in mind that many features fall in the nice-to-have category when you’re just starting out. You can do without them, or you can find other ways to do what they offer. For example, if a platform doesn’t send emails for you, that’s fine if it can integrate with an email service provider.

A platform that doesn’t try to be everything to everybody is an excellent choice if it can integrate with other tools. It gives you the freedom to pick the best in class solutions for every aspect of your business. Much better than settling for mediocrity in all-in-one platforms that spread themselves thin trying to do everything.

Basics

  • Good user experience and user-friendliness.
  • A well-designed administration section where you can control every aspect of your site and manage your members’ accounts.
  • Well-designed templates for you to customize. For example, for registration and login forms, content pages and social features such as commenting, forums, etc.
  • Fully mobile-responsive since over 50% of traffic now comes from cell phones.
  • Multiple administrators, so you can have an assistant.
  • SSL to encrypt all traffic to and from your site so that people can feel safe typing in private information.
  • Customization options
    • Branding your site: use your logo, fonts and color scheme on all pages.
    • Branding email messages the platform sends on your behalf.
    • Easy customization and branding. You want to simply flick switches, pick colors, upload images, etc.
    • The ability to edit raw HTML and CSS code is essential when standard customization isn’t quite enough.

Membership Management

  • membership managementAccount management: registration, login, forgot password, profile page, account preferences, notification preferences, canceling.
  • A way to create an account for a group of people so that each individual can sign up under the main account and don’t have to pay individually. Some platforms call these umbrella accounts. They allow you to offer group discounts, for example, for a team or an entire company.
  • Different membership levels, for example, free, basic, advanced and premium.
  • Account administration emails: welcome, up for renewal, canceled, credit card expiring.
  • Custom email sequences, for example, for onboarding new members.
  • Searchable member directory, both for you and for your members to find and connect with people they already know. For privacy, members should be able to exclude themselves from search results.
  • Multiple sales pages, aka landing pages, to target different audiences. These are the pages you’d link to from ads or email campaigns. People often do this with an outside tool, rather than within the platform.
  • Analytics
    • New members and cancellations. Churn rate: the annual percentage rate at which members cancel. And growth rate: the annual percentage rate at which membership numbers increase.
    • Revenue.
    • Lifetime member value.
  • Customization options
    • Registration and login forms.
    • Pages: general welcome, welcome per membership level, ‘protected content’ page, member profile.
    • Including and excluding fields on member profiles.
    • Adding your own custom fields to member profiles.
    • Customizing (changing text of) email messages.
    • Personalization: using member’s account information in email messages.

Content Delivery

  • Content pages.
  • Content navigation: organizing your content pages in sections or modules.
  • Protected content: designating content to be available for specific member levels.
  • All-at-once content for when you want to make all your current content available to new members.
  • Scheduled or dripped content for when you want to make content available every couple of days.
  • Add new content quickly.
  • A variety of triggers to start new/different content drip feeds, such as when someone has read or watched specific content.
  • Embedded media players for multimedia content.
  • Media bookmarks so students can continue where they left off, or return to specific parts for review.
  • Content packages that you can sell without membership or as an addition to membership. For example, to offer content otherwise only available to higher membership levels. You can then provide more value to members at lower membership levels without requiring them to buy a full upgrade.
  • Multiple sales (landing) pages for content packages.
  • Protected downloadable files. You don’t want the URL of your downloads to leak out and enable people to get their hands on your protected content without signing up.
  • Ability to use content delivery networks (CDNs). CDNs are great to ensure quick delivery to every one of your members, regardless of where they are in the world.
  • Analytics
    • Engagement rate: how actively your members are using your content.
    • Traffic numbers per page or file. Preferably integrated with analytics tools such as Google Analytics.

Course Creation and Management

All features of content delivery, plus:

  • A way to ‘just do courses’ without having to have different membership levels.
  • Course builder for modules, lessons and topics.
  • Unlocking content based on progress.
  • Homework assignments and assessments
    • Multiple types of quizzes.
    • Upload files for manual assessment (or provide a link to an online document).
    • Certificates of completion (automatically generated).
  • Student results
    • Automatically add a tag to a student for achievements and reaching milestones. So you can then use the tags to filter members by where they are in a course or by what courses they’ve completed.
    • Features to improve student results and engagement through gamification — see separate section below.
  • Licensing courses for use by teams, related to umbrella accounts.
  • Having multiple instructors.
  • Statistics
    • Completion and drop-out rate.
    • Time students take to complete a course.
    • Quiz statistics: correct answer percentages, first-time pass rate and retakes.
  • Customization options
    • Personalize content pages of modules, lessons and topics.
    • Brand your certificates: use your logo, fonts and color scheme.
    • Personalize your certificates with the course and the student’s name, of course. But for example, also with an individual license or certificate number.
    • Personalize all emails, notifications and in-site messages.

Improve Student Results and Engagement through Gamification

engagement through gamificationIf you’re offering courses, you want to give your students their best shot at getting the results they came for. That takes engaging them from when they start through to completing your course.

Game developers have had years of experience developing methods to keep players playing. And you can use their knowledge and expertise with gamification features:

  • Points and progress tracking.
  • Leaderboards and contests.
  • Celebrating achievements and reaching milestones by email, text messages, in-site notifications, badges and points.
  • Recognizing social behavior and helpfulness, for example, with badges on their profile avatar.
  • Login tracking
    • to reach out when someone’s been absent for some time (or never logged in)
    • to welcome them back
    • to applaud them for hard work

Community (Optional)

If you’re using a membership site to deliver an online course, you may not need community functionality. Like many online course creators, you can use a Facebook or LinkedIn group for this, which helps you meet your students where they’re already hanging out.

  • Public (within your membership site) discussions.building a community
  • Private messages between members.
  • Creating and joining groups for discussions on specific topics.
  • Joining a peer group for a course.
  • Liking and sharing content.
  • Commenting on content.
  • Liking and not liking comments so members can show they agree or don’t agree with the comment. Similar to the thumbs up on Facebook (or other emojis).
  • Liking and not liking forum messages. Again, like the thumbs up on Facebook.
  • Flagging messages and comments for moderator attention.
  • Moderator features (that’s a whole other article).
  • Ability to appoint members as moderators.
  • Recognizing member moderators with a badge on their profile avatar or an icon after their name.

Payments and Selling (Optional)

You may already have a shopping cart solution. For example, from Stripe, Shopify, 1ShoppingCart, Infusionsoft or Ontraport. In that case, you don’t need your membership site platform to take payments as well, but you do want it to integrate with your current shopping cart.

  • Recurring payments and one-off payments for packages and courses.
  • Discounts and coupons.
  • Trial periods automatically continuing with a paid subscription — requires a credit card up-front.
  • “No credit card needed” trial periods — requires the ability to ‘revert’ to free level after trial expires.
  • Email notifications to customers about their payment.
  • Cart abandonment automation. Sending a reminder to someone that they have items in a shopping cart but didn’t finish the checkout process, helps increase sales.
  • Easily add upsells to products, so the checkout process automatically offers them to someone buying your main product. 
  • Built-in affiliate tracking and easy affiliate payments or at least a report to make it easy for you to pay your affiliates.
  • Protection against, or at least notification of potential account sharing. Note that this doesn’t need to be malice. Someone could have been hacked.
  • Integrations
    • Multiple payment options for customers: Credit card, PayPal, direct transfer.
    • Multiple payment/credit card processors to choose from for administrators.
  • Customization options
    • Personalize all emails, notifications and in-site messages.

Business Freedom and Customization Potential

  • Integrations
    • Email service provider
    • Payment processors or shopping cart solution
    • Website traffic analytics
    • Advertising platforms so you can analyze your ad performance against your traffic and sign-ups.
  • Ability to export all your data (content and member accounts with their personal information and course results)
  • Ability to use your own domain name. 

Top 10 Membership Site Platforms and Plugins

Here’s our top 10 to help you find platforms and plugins to evaluate.

1. Kajabi

Kajabi

Kajabi is at the top of most reviewer’s lists. They’ve been in business for 10 years and have consistently been improving their platform all that time. They help you build, deliver, market and sell courses, gated content, subscriptions and membership sites. However, their customization and user engagement options are limited. 

2. Thinkific

Thinkific

Thinkific is also a well-rounded and established membership site platform. It’s focused on helping course creators succeed with building, delivering, marketing and selling courses. They include progress tracking with automated progress and reminder emails. It’s a good step in the direction of helping your students succeed.

If you care about gender equality, it will please you to know that Thinkific’s leadership team is split 50-50.

3. Xperiencify

Xperiencify

Launched in January 2020, Xperiencify is the answer to frustration with the 97% failure rate most online courses have. It’s well-known that up to 97% of students who sign up for online courses fail to complete them and get the promised results. Xperiencify has unique student engagement and gamification features that you won’t find anywhere else. They claim this will help you improve your student success by 10-30x, which leads to more sales, more repeat buyers and more referrals. 

4. MemberPress (WP plugin)

Memberpress

Memberpress is a WordPress plugin. So you’ll need your own site installed with WordPress to use this tool. Memberpress allows you to gate access to everything that a standard WordPress site offers. It’ll protect your pages, posts and digital files. And it includes the often forgotten category, tags and feeds pages.

5. AccessAlly (WP plugin)

AccessAlly

AccessAlly is a WordPress plugin allowing you to gate access to everything on your WordPress site. It has specific features to create video courses and integrates with popular video hosts, like YouTube and Vimeo. Your students can enjoy the speed of their massive delivery networks. Apart from Xperiencify, AccessAlly is the only other solution to use gamification to improve student engagement and results.

6. Teachable

Teachable

Teachable is a teaching platform that also has specific features to offer coaching sessions from within the platform. It sets you up for easy scaling with its support for adding and paying authors, team members and contributors. And you get to choose what each of them can and can’t do on your site.

7. Wild Apricot (Platform and Plugin)

Wild Apricot

Wild Apricot has a single-minded focus on members and memberships. With Wild Apricot, people don’t register to become a member. They apply! You can use its website builder for your site and gated content, or use its widgets. If you have a WordPress site, you can use its WP plugin to show member-only content to members only.

8. Podia

Podia

Podia presents itself more as a store than a membership site platform. And maybe that’s a more accurate way to think about it because you don’t need a membership site to sell courses, webinars or downloads. Podia allows you to gauge interest with pre-launches and start selling your course before completing it by setting a start date in the future.

9. Memberful

Memberful

Memberful combines the best of two worlds. Running WordPress for your content and using Memberful for your membership management. It does have a WordPress plugin to integrate Memberful’s membership features into your existing site or blog. But it doesn’t cramp its (and your) style by using WordPress’s admin interface.

10. Simplero

Simplero

Simplero focuses on coaches, giving them what they need without the bells and whistles of marketing software they don’t need. At the same time, it’s an all-in-one solution, cutting out the need for other software applications and the hassle of integrations. Its focus on coaches means that you can build online courses and individual or group coaching programs. And of course, information products and online content like all membership site platforms do.

Feature Comparison

Feature / Solution
Kajabi
Thinkific
Xperiencify
MemberPress
AccessAlly
Monthly Fees $149-399 $39-399 $49-499 $12-29*
+wordpress hosting & development fees
$99-129 +wordpress hosting & development fees
Setup Difficulty Easy Easy Easy Hard Hard
Support 24/7 Email, Chat Email Business hours Email Email Business hours Email
Tech Skills Required No No No Yes Yes
Works with WordPress No No No Yes Yes
Gamification No No Yes No Yes
Constant Student Wins No No Yes No Yes
Celebrations No No Yes No Yes
Payments Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rescue Unengaged Students  No No Yes No No
Custom Fields No No Yes Yes Yes
Quizzes No Yes No No Yes

Let Membership Site Platforms Rock Your Business

Kudos to you for making it down here.

I bet you’re feeling overwhelmed with the information. And that’s understandable. It is a lot to take in.

But remember how you were stuck in the weeds, drowning in all the marketing speak, not knowing what to pay attention to?

There’s no need for that anymore.

rock your businessYou now have everything you need to choose with confidence.

You have our categorized list of features to decide what you need in your membership site (and what you don’t need).

You have our top 10 contenders for the membership site platform of your choice.

You have the exact steps to take to pick the membership site platform that’ll work best for you and your business.

And you also have a comparison of our Top 5 to lighten your load even further.

So I’d like to encourage you to make a conscious choice because, well, just imagine how it’ll feel to get your site up and running knowing you did what you could to pick the best solution for you.

And, if you’re creating courses, just imagine how it’ll feel to see your students succeed using the platform of your choice.

In that respect, be sure to check out Xperiencify and AccessAlly when you do your research.

Their gamification strategies are a tremendous asset. They automatically do what you’ll otherwise have to do yourself to help your students get the results they signed up for. Xperiencify is excellent if you don’t want to be limited by WordPress, which is often slow and has significant security breaches, and want the most cutting-edge gamification functionality available anywhere. AccessAlly is perfect if you’re going to integrate with an existing WordPress site.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Marisa Murgatroyd & Murray Gray (the Founders of Live Your Message) are also the Founders of Xperiencify.

Now go on, take that first step. Get clear on what’s right for you and the features that’ll help you do it.

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Fanny Minnitt

    Thank you, Marisa, for all the information that your company provides. I was getting ready to purchase a software program, but after looking at your article I better slow down and really think about what I really need. InfluencerSoft is the software is offering a lifetime membership, but what good is it going to help me if I am not sure of what I need. I am so blessed to be taking your online course. I have an incredible media coach combining your program and her incubator is really helping me to clarify my business. FINALLY! Thank you!!

    Reply ·
  2. Susan Ross

    Hello, Marissa,
    Its wonderful to enter your world after a meandering path! I decided at 73 to monetize my coaching, done for yrs in a salaried position, then pro bono during 10 yrs caring for my mom – tried to start small biz then, but decided to focus on her: 4’11’ dynamic career nurse/administrator for 57 years (no wonder I instantly liked you!) She passed a few yrs ago at 94 – now instead of going back to being a visual artist, my art continues in co-creating our new world!
    This TOTALLY non-tech newbie signed up for a little GoDaddy website build last Oct (unused so far) Had NO idea what to do next – started trying to figure it out myself – NOT! Did get some great mentoring on basic biz, sales/client/acquisition side & started to work w/ new clients “live”. THEN Covid hit – realized I now needed to pivot into the new virtual world ASAP – which led to numerous rabbit holes! I learned how much I DIDN’T know – spent lockdown & a BUNCH of my savings getting wildly eclectic semi-useful mix of advice/education while mostly overwhelmed/bedazzled/confused by tech.
    Now, FINALLY, THANK GOODNESS, I’ve FOUND YOU – and I’m here to learn & get ROLLING!
    Am now a resilience coach – supporting innovative professionals who see this new emerging future as their opportunity to make the BIG leap into more satisfying/creative/sustainable/compassionate lives! I’m SO grateful to be learning from you and honored to be part of your tribe. Sorry for the long missive – now I’ll go back working on my homework & try to figure out the great info you’ve put together here!
    Yours, Susan Ross Susan Ross CREATIVE LLC

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Wow Susan! Thanks for sharing your journey… while it’s totally unique it’s also a path I’ve seen before. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there and it’s hard to know who to trust or what to listen to. I’m so glad we’ve found each other! 🙂

      Reply ·
  3. Eric Jones

    Hi Marisa – love your trainings!

    I’m starting with 1) small groups for my first courses (probably on Zoom) and a Facebook group. Then I’d like to add 2) recorded courses and additional material posted for my members. And finally I’d like to have 3) a community group to provide continuity and belongingness to those who have gone through my courses. Should I be looking at a main website with one link to Xperiencify for my courses and another link to a platform for the community piece? Thanks for everything – Eric

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Awesome Eric! That sounds like a GREAT place to start. 🙂

      It’s common to have a main website and a membership site for course delivery. Most course creators send people to a Facebook group for the community element.

      Reply ·
  4. iris

    What is your perspective on Kartra? I was surprised to not see that included here. Or is it in a distinct category?

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Kartra is an all-in-one-solution and there are certainly pros and cons of that. I find that the all-in-ones can do a lot but don’t do anything well.

      Reply ·
  5. Topoyame Moremong-Nganunu

    An excellently written article!

    Thanks very much Marisa. This information came at an opportune time for me. I have been thinking of Thinkific. I am now glad to have more options. For what I do, Xperiencify would be the best. I am grateful for such valuable information. Your article has given me good insight into different platforms.

    Thanks! xx

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Wonderful Topoyame! Glad this was insightful!

      Reply ·
  6. Amira

    Dear Marisa,

    Your analysis to each platforms was really detailed and accurate ,even many of these sites were like a discovery for me ‘I never knew about them except from you’, .
    it seems like you gave me hope for any obstacle, and a solution for every problem.
    Thanks so much.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Aww thank you… I’m happy to be your hope-bearer in the world!

      Reply ·
  7. Jim Brown

    Thank you Marisa. Great timing. The questions were buzzing in my non-tech brain about what Xperiencify oould do beyond the gaming aspects. I still have WordPress from a blog I was writing years ago for my real estate business, which provided me with 2000+ emails from readers. My niche now and then is downsizing retirees moving into smaller homes or retirement communities and my client attainment process is 1:many with videos, blogs, social media and perhaps eventually webinars. Historically real estate income is an end product with the sale of a residence and to a lesser degree, referral fees from retirement communities and/or out-of-state sale referrals to other brokers. I am looking forward to working with EPM and the delightful Jennifer as a coach to accomplish the development of my business.

    Reply ·
    1. Leslie

      Thanks for this message. Did you look at NewZenler?

      Reply ·
      1. Marisa Murgatroyd

        Hey Leslie! This article is focused just on the Top 10 platforms… there are dozens!

        Reply ·
    2. Marisa Murgatroyd

      You’re welcome Jim! I figured it would be opportune timing considering everything I’ve been talking about for the last month! 🙂

      Reply ·
  8. Susan

    Hi Marisa,

    Isn’t Xpiencify your company? If so, why aren’t you forthcoming about that?

    Btw, love the gamification aspect of it! 😊

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Totally Susan. We weren’t trying to hide this at all and I just added a disclaimer just in case. 🙂

      We don’t keep this a secret and our audience knows we’re also the team behind Xperiencify, though it is a different company.

      We had this specific article written by a third party writer and our goal here is to be as impartial as possible and give our audience the lay of the land when it comes to membership sites, without making a specific recommendation. That’s why we include our competitor Access Ally 🙂

      Of course we do talk about Xperiencify everywhere since we believe we’ve created the best tool on the market for people who want to gamify their online courses and programs!

      Reply ·
  9. Katrine Rustad-Renshaw

    WoW Marisa, the synchronicity of your article is startling! I had just discovered ‘Thinkific’ for myself for the first time yesterday after purchasing some PLR – I inadvertently ended up on their platform. I really love the look of the platform (& their leadership equality) but will also check out ‘Xperiencify’ as you included it in your recent webinar. I’m looking for a platform to host our ‘Ecological Learning Programme’ and not convinced WP would allow for future growth. Thanks for your article, exactly what we needed & the price comparison table too – all the info in one place. Cheers, Katrine

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Awesome Katrine! WordPress is DEFINITELY limited. Thinkific and Xperiencify are both great non-Wordpress options…

      Reply ·
  10. Margaret Dwyer, PhD

    Dear Marisa, our non-profit “entrepreneurial” organization has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years since our founding in 2018, largely because of what we’ve learned from you about business building via email.

    Thank you!

    Margaret Dwyer, PhD, Executive Director
    The Energy Medicine Research Institute, Inc.
    http://www.emrinstitute.org 1-248-677-3272

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      So happy to hear this Margaret! So glad I’ve been able to help your organization grow… xoxo

      Reply ·
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About the Author Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes, and the creator of Start With You where she helps people just like you to discover the business they're meant to build, not just the business they can build. At 4’11 and a quarter, she’s called the shortest woman in marketing — and that doesn’t stop her from having huge ideas. She’s the “go to” brand builder for industry luminaries and heavyweights such as Justin Livingston, Callan Rush, Danny Iny, Alexis Neely and Susan Peirce Thompson. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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