I’ll go over the PROS and CONS of the top 3.
Top 3 membership plugins
These are the top 3. I don’t want to hear about the rest. I’ve tried dozens over the years and also lost time in many shitty ones. If you’re trying to make a serious membership site, please pick the best one! Do not try to save money. Do not try to use “free plugins”. Because you’ll pull your hair out and kick yourself when you have to re-configure everything with another plugin.
It’s what I use. And I love it. Why? Because it’s so easy-to-use. Tons of features. Just enough integrations to cover everything you’ll ever need. The price is cheap as heck. It’s no-frills, drama-free, perfect membership plugin for me. I can manage thousands of users (and their records) with only a few clicks. I’ve also created my own add-on plugins for MemberPress. (Try MemberPress.)
Slow development. I do appreciate that it’s stable and bugfree. But many little features I’ve been asking were dismissed. The form styling is also very plain. I don’t mind this since I can style things nicely myself but other users may prefer something more styled out of the box.
- Member search function from dashboard – I’ve begged for so long and got tired of waiting, so I created my own plugin (WPJ MemberPress Dashboard Search). It also allows you to use the [ENTER] key to search from the Members page.
- Better reports – the default reports is really limited. I wanted to include more date ranges and more detailed breakdowns. I also got sick of waiting here and created my own, (WPJ MemberPress Pro Reports).
ADVANTAGES OVER OTHERS:
- Centralized rules control – see all your contention protection rules in one place. Other plugins require you to click on each post type/category to set protection.
- More sign-up options – each product can (easily) have customized sign-up fields, form styling, sales description, etc. Also more control over what non-members see when visiting protected pages.
- Zapier integration – useful for automated triggers. Your creativity is the limit.
- 7-Day Reports on Dashboard – this is a nice WooCommerce-like feature showing recent 7-day activity. Sales, refunds, and also abandoned carts (useful for converting people on the fence).
- Most popular membership plugin – if you care about popularity. This is the most popular membership plugin (among legit sites) for me.
MemberPress is incredibly powerful and easy to use, despite having more built-in features than other membership plugins. It’s the winner for me because of the centrally-located content protection (“RULES”). I can click to one place and see all the rules. This makes it so much easier to add or delete available content across different memberships.
When you have a large site with many members and tons of products and content with overlapping rules, and also occasional users complaining that they don’t have access, being able to see all the rules in one place is essential! Otherwise, you’ll have to click back and forth figuring out where and which item settings are locking out users or even worse…which items are giving users too much access and they’re getting stuff for free that they shouldn’t have!
- See my detailed MP review.
2. Restrict Content Pro
RCP is designed very nicely and works well. Built by the respected Pippin of “Pippin’s Plugins”. The pricing is really fair for all that you get and secretly, I think RCP is probably more polished than MP now. If I was starting a membership site today, I might consider RCP over MP. Especially since you can grow into bigger features like download management with their EDD plugins. Also that they have a more detailed reports function out of the box.
Nothing, really. I felt their features were too simple a long time ago but it’s improved a lot since. Not as popular and widely used as MemberPress (if that means anything). I’m guessing it’s because their company doesn’t focus purely on RCP.
I don’t use RCP because of not being able to see all content protection rules in one place. It’s not a big deal if you only have like 20-30 pages and 2-3 different membership levels. But if you got 300 pages? 10-15 membership levels and overlapping “packages”….and thousands of members? Oh yeah, you’re gonna have a much harder time keeping track of them all. But do keep in mind that I only make a big deal out of this for myself. I still recommend RCP highly to everybody else!
- Centralized rules control – like what MemberPress has.
- Ugh, I can’t be judging Pippin’s work like this. I’m sure they got it under control.
ADVANTAGES OVER OTHERS:
- Simplest interface – can get up and running faster and easier than any other membership plugin. Fewer settings screens to click through. Their design is most mature and tiny UI things makes things so easy to do.
- Limit number of connections per user – so they can’t share their account with friends/family.
- WooCommerce discount integration – create wholesale membership where members get discounts on your WooCommerce products.
- Extensive built-in reports – you can see sales broken down by week, month, year, custom range, by product, etc.
I love RCP because of it’s super super squeaky clean UI. Super matured. Everything feels so easy to do. And it’s built by the legendary Pippin of “Pippin’s plugins”. They’ve thought of many clever little things, in UI and also in function. The plugin has nearly every feature I want.
- See my detailed RCP review.
- UPDATED – RCP now bought and owned by iThemes (who I don’t like and haven’t done much with it).
3. Easy Digital Downloads
Uhhh, if you don’t know who EDD is you bettah recognize!!! They’re just about the default favorite plugin for selling anything other than physical products (WooCommerce). By “favorite plugin”, I meant for legit developers and giant respectable WordPress companies. The plugin is super polished (sexy frontend/backend design), hundreds of of extensions for every possible use case. Very professional, backed by a reputable agency, and with lots of development/updates. EDD is like the “default WooCommerce” for many WordPress theme/plugin companies. Btw, EDD is also built by the same company as RCP.
Most-pricey. I don’t want to say “expensive” because it’s unfair to compare price when this one can do so many more things that the others can’t. But nonetheless, the price is higher. Similar features cost more with EDD than with other plugins. The other issue and the only reason why I haven’t used EDD yet is that its PayPal checkout requires a “PayPal Business” account. This is annoying for small sellers because once you turn your PayPal account into a business account, you can’t accept low-fee Friends & Family payments. Or you can but with limitations (only from certain countries, etc).
ADVANTAGES OVER OTHERS:
- Shopping cart – users can buy multiple items at a time.
- File download logs – can see when and by which IP when items are download.
- Tons of extensions – all the ones you need and many cool ones I never thought of. See available extensions.
EDD is an entirely different kind of plugin. More like download management than membership management. But being that many membership sites sell downloadable content rather than access to hidden posts, EDD might fit your business model better.
- UPDATED – EDD is now bought out and owned by Awesome Motive…who I don’t like. They haven’t done much with it.
What about the others?
Yes, I’m aware of many others and even had personal experience with them. Most are just yucky (ugly UI and bloated), lacking important features, or inferior in critical functions. Just install them yourself and you’ll see why within 5 minutes. I wouldn’t take the risk to use them because you’ll waste so much more time and money when you eventually switch to one of the top 3.
- ArMember – I think this one is way over-stylized and too unlike WordPress for my taste but I can see some people liking the design or thinking that it feels friendlier.
- Digital Access Pass (DAP) – it’s honestly not even a WordPress plugin. Just its own PHP script hacked to load through WordPress. Terrible UI and insecure. It gave me so many headaches for over 5 years. The latest version is only a prettier “skin” on top. This thing needs to be rewritten from scratch. I hate DAP.
- Memberium – don’t like their vibe. They seem to cater to the make-money-online crowd (instead of developers) and I don’t respect that.
- MemberMouse – bloated, expensive, cluttered UI, frontend JS/CSS conflicts.
- PaidMemberships Pro – hell no. Just a mess. I remember poor UI and annoying modular business model. I’m sure the new version is better but I’m scared to even look at it.
- s2Member, ThriveCart, Ultimate Member – no, no, and no. (I’m sure they’ve improved since then….but no.)
- Wishlist – this one’s another “no” from me but readers kept asking me to test a recent version. I reviewed it again MAR 2020…and it’s improved a whole lot but still bad UI and missing many critical features.
- WooCommerce Subscriptions – hahaha. I’m pretty sure the goal in life is to avoid WC if you can. Perhaps useful if you combine your memberships with physical products, but avoid it otherwise.