Blog / Membership / A Guide to Choosing the Best Membership Site Software

A Guide to Choosing the Best Membership Site Software

Membership Site Software
Alex Denning
Last Updated: 09/11/23

Membership plugins are useful for a range of WordPress sites, but finding the right membership site software plugin for your WordPress site can feel like a daunting task. Perhaps you’re supporting your community with a membership site, you’re a blogger wanting more engagement, or you’re launching an online business? Either way, you’ll need a platform that’s easy to configure and gives you flexibility.

If you’re planning on making money from your membership site, the right plugin can help you realize the benefits. It should make it easy for you to realize recurring revenue, help you with email marketing, and let you sell content to your existing audience, without having to rely on advertising.

In this post, we’ll help you choose the right WordPress membership plugin for your website. We’ll introduce the key criteria for a great membership plugin and help you decide.

What to Look for in a WordPress Membership Site Software Plugin

Unlike a website builder, WordPress makes it easy to set up a membership site. To find the right plugin for your site, you need to know what membership software features you need, and how those will impact on your site.

So start by identifying what you want to get from your site.

If you’re charging for membership, you need to decide if you’ll offer a free plan or trial. You might also offer different membership levels, with different features or premium content.

Being able to send people automated content when they sign up will help engage them: you can use content dripping for this, as well as content restriction to ensure they have access to the right content. And linking to social media will attract people to your site and tempt them to join.

Once you know what you want from your site, it’s easier to evaluate the membership plugins on offer.

So let’s look at some features that will help you create a great membership site platform

Ease of Use and Configuration

A plugin that will run in the background will let you get on with managing your membership site software. And the easier it is to configure in the first place, the quicker you can have it up and running.

Try a demo of the plugin before you buy, or check out online reviews and forums. Check how easy it is to create membership plans and integrate signup forms into your site. 

Flexible Subscription Plans

If you’re going to make money from your membership site software or provide a quality resource for your community, you’ll need tiered membership, taking people right from free (or a free trial period) to your premium plan with the most features.

Being able to link the different plans to user roles and content within your site will mean you can control who gets access to what.

setting up subscription plans with Paid Memberships Pro

As your site evolves, you’ll need the flexibility to edit those subscription plans as things change, adding new features and even new levels.

It’s also a benefit if individual users can sign up for multiple subscription plans. Imagine you offer two subscription types: one for online courses and another for coaching. A member might want to sign up for one or both of them.

Automated Subscriptions and Multiple Payment Gateways

The key to managing a subscription site is automation. You want your members to sign up once and then automatically pay recurring subscription fees.

A good membership plugin will integrate with the major payment gateways and payment processors (like PayPal, Stripe, or so you can use the one most familiar to your audience, making it easy for them to pay with their account or credit card. And it will let you set up recurring payments so you don’t have to waste time chasing or processing payments.

Paid Member Subscriptions configuring payments updated

Other features you should look for include ecommerce integration (even if you aren’t using your site to sell right now), affiliate programs, coupon codes, the ability to upsell, easy checkout, and control over transaction fees.

Email Notifications to Members

A good subscription plugin will let you send notifications to your members. Maybe you’ve added new content or a new feature to their subscription plan. Maybe you want to ask what they think of the proposed new features. Whatever it is you want to communicate, email integration is a bonus.

Email reminders add-on for membership site software

And if you’ll have subscribers in the EU (which will include sites outside the EU), your plugin will need to be GDPR compliant, and let you tell users exactly how you’ll be using their data.

Paid Memberships Pro GDPR

Flexibility and Customization

You need a plugin with the flexibility to adapt to your business and meet the needs of your audience.

This will include the ability to edit membership levels and features, and add flexible content to membership plans.

The content might include blog posts, digital downloads, pdfs, online courses, podcasts, webinars, and video. Being able to attach these to membership plans will help you offer more to your members.

Out of the box compatibility with your WordPress theme and other plugins (including page builders like Elementor or Divi) you have running will save you time and hassle, and make your site more robust.

An All-In-One Solution

If you’re trying to save money on your membership website, chances are you’ve tried a combination of free plugins. A good premium plugin will offer you an all-in-one solution

It will let you manage all aspects of your membership business from one place, including welcoming new members, payment processing, email marketing, landing pages, and a membership management system. And it’ll make you and your business look like a pro.

The Paid Member Subscriptions Plugin

So now you know what a good membership plugin needs to offer. The Paid Member Subscriptions plugin has all this and more. Here are some of the main features.

Quick and Easy to Use

Paid Member Subscriptions has a straightforward interface with only the screens you need. Instead of having to delve into HTML and manually configure user roles and capabilities, you can set up membership plans using an interface a lot like the one you use for managing posts and pages in WordPress.

The documentation helps you get started and grow your membership service over time, and our customer support team will answer your questions.

Flexible Subscription Options

You can add as many subscription levels as you want, including free and paid subscriptions.

You can then link each subscription level to content on your site. So if you’re running a series of webinars for members of your top tier, you can make it available just for them.

When editing content, you’ll have access to advanced Content Restriction settings, so you can specify which membership tiers have access to the content.

content restriction

You can also set global content restriction rules with the Global Content Restriction addon. This lets you set restriction rules to categories, taxonomies, and post types. So instead of manually setting restrictions for each new post, just assign the relevant category, taxonomy term, or post type, and it will automatically be restricted.

Automated Payment and Integration with Payment Gateways

Paid Member Subscriptions makes taking payments easy. Connect it to Paypal (or Stripe with an addon) and set up automated payments from members which will renew without you having to raise a finger.

You can be secure in the knowledge that subscription income is coming in regularly without you having to track it down.

Email Updates to Members

Keep in touch with your members by emailing them when new content is available.

You can combine this with the content dripping add-on to make content available on a scheduled basis to new members.

Content dripping addon

Working like email automation in Mailchimp, this lets you release content to members on a timed basis. So on the day they subscribe, they might get your welcome video. Then on day two they have access to a basic webinar, followed by an intermediate one on day three, etc. You have control over the user experience on joining your site and can provide them with more value.

Account and Member Management

To provide great customer support, you need to be able to manage member accounts and get all the information on members that you need.

The Members screen lets you access information on all of your members. This not only includes information on their membership level and the ability to edit membership details but also logs member activity so you can track payments, membership upgrades, and more.

Members screen

And your members can also manage their accounts from the front end of the site. You can create an account page using a shortcode, giving you the flexibility to add other content of your own to this page. Here, members can see their subscription details, edit contact details, and upgrade.

Integration with E-commerce and Third Party Applications

Paid Member Subscriptions is fully integrated with WooCommerce and lets you offer membership discounts as well as creating products for members only and linking signup to the shopping cart and checkout.

It also integrates with other third-party services including bbPress and payment gateways like Paypal and Stripe.


Paid Member Subscriptions lets you access basic reporting on your members and their subscriptions. Find out when people joined up, what activity they’ve logged since joining, and how many people are joining at what levels.

By analysing this data, you can discover what elements of your site are working best and make customizations to better improve customer service.

Setting up Your Membership Site with Paid Member Subscriptions

Creating a membership site software with Paid Member Subscriptions is easy.

Start by installing the plugin: go to Plugins > Add New and upload the zip file you downloaded from your account. You’ll then see a Paid Member Subscriptions item in your WordPress admin menu.

Go to the Basic Information screen to access the options available to you.

Paid Member Subscriptions basic information

Start by setting up membership plans using the Subscription Plans screen. Here you can define the plans you’ll offer and configure how much they will cost and how members will pay for them.

subscription plans

Then create a signup page using the [pms-register] shortcode in a new WordPress page. This shortcode will generate the signup form on that page for you. You’ll also need an account page using the [pms-account] shortcode so members can access and manage their accounts.

account page

Once you’ve got your membership plans and signup page configured, you can start restricting your content to individual membership plans, so that only users on a membership plan can see the content for that plan.

restricting content

And that’s it! As simple as that.


Creating a professional membership site needn’t be as hard as you think. Unlike a website builder, it’s easy to set up membership site software in WordPress.

The Paid Member Subscriptions plugin includes all the features you need for a membership site software plugin that will grow with your business. And it also makes it incredibly easy to set up, while offering the flexibility and customization options that will help your site adapt over time.

Accept (recurring) payments, create subscription plans and restrict content on your website. Easily setup a WordPress membership site using Paid Member Subscriptions.

Get Paid Member Subscriptions
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