If you’re planning a membership site, you’ll have many considerations such as content, cost, and community. Before you start shopping for the right plugin, it’s best to plan, plan, plan exactly how you want your site to work. There are membership plugins available at a wide range of prices, all with different functionality. Use this guide to think about the features that are available and whether or not it’s something you want or need for your site. (Also see the article, Lessons Learned from Starting a Membership Site.)
Multiple Membership Levels
Do you need multiple membership levels that provide different areas of access? For example, members that pay $10/month might have access to PDFs or videos that members paying $5/month don’t get.
Does the software have easy-to-use access rules? These rules determine who can see what and when they can see it. For example, you might want to make all content of a certain category available to everyone who visits your site, and other content for members only. When you take a tour of a plugin, make sure the access rules screens are intuitive and meet your needs.
Depending on your business model, it might be necessary to use software that allows users to have multiple concurrent memberships. For example, if you are a pattern designer, you might want to have a membership that gives people access to one of your patterns, the corresponding videos, and related forums. If you have 10 patterns for sale, you could have 10 different memberships within your system. It’s therefore important to choose software that allows users to have concurrent memberships so they can join more than one.
Most membership software allows you to set up coupons, but some are more robust than others. Consider whether you need coupons that expire, can be used a limited number of times, can be customized with unique codes, and/or offer a trial period.
Do you want members to be able to manage their own subscriptions? For example, should they have access to cancel their own membership? Do you want them to be able to upgrade or downgrade to another membership level? Do you want them to be able to update their payment method?
Are you trying to attract groups of users to give them special pricing, unique content, or to associate them with each other within your member directory? For example, you might want to set up a group membership for 5 people who work at the same company, or 10 people from the same guild. Some membership software allows you to set up these types of relationships, while others don’t.
Content dripping refers to controlling who gets access to your content and when. For example, you might want users to receive certain content a week after they join, then other content a week later, a week later and so on. You might also want some of your content to expire after a certain amount of time or on a certain date. Check out the content dripping details of a variety of plugins to make sure you pick one that has the features you need.
Integration with Email Marketing Lists
When someone joins your membership site, it’s incredibly helpful if they’re also automatically added to your newsletter list. Unfortunately, not all software offers this integration, and of those that do, not all email marketing companies are supported.
Integration with Forum Software
Forum functionality is not typically a feature of membership software, so if part of your content includes community forums, you’ll need your site to integrate with forum plugins like BBPress or Discourse. Integration ensures that you can selectively protect access to different areas of your forums for different memberships.
Membership software should easily integrate with Paypal and Stripe or another payment gateway such as Authorize.net.
Integration with eCommerce
Do you plan to offer products to your members at a discount, or set up different product prices for different membership levels? You’ll need to make sure your membership plugin integrates with your cart. WooMembers, for example was built to integrate with WooCommerce, but other membership plugins also work with it and other carts.
Last but not least, make sure the membership software you choose supports you, as a customer. Read reviews, ask other customers what they think, and look at the company’s support policy. FAQ is not the same as support, so make sure the software you choose has good forums, instructional documents or videos, AND a way to submit a request for help.