Best Membership Website Platforms and Builders
Membership sites give their users access to a certain type of content, being included in a membership list is paid on a subscription basis. This approach to content production and release allows creators to work harder on reclamation of their skills, and get incentive support from their audience.
Today hardly can anyone imagine life without the internet and unlimited access to various databases. We browse from one site to another in search of the information we need. You go to shopping sites, blogs, social platforms, etc. Membership sites are just one of a kind. Membership sites give their users access to a certain type of content, being included in a membership list is paid on a subscription basis. This approach to content production and release allows creators to work harder on reclamation of their skills, and get incentive support from their audience.
At the very beginning of our journey to the world of membership websites and platforms used to create it let’s figure out what it is, what it is created for, and do you really need it.
Basics of the World of Membership Websites
6 Types of membership sites
Before creating your own membership website you should be familiar with different types of these sites. We’d like to highlight six of them. Each one has its positive and negative sides.
The Continual Content Model
It is the first and most common type of membership site. Being a member of such a website users get access to data as it is developed. This approach allows the site to retain its audience for a long time. Because the longer users keep their membership on the site, the more information they receive.
This type of membership can work as an all-in-one subscription that includes access to all materials, or it can work like a subscription in which the level of access depends on the time that the user kept his membership active.
For example, you run a sewing membership website. In the beginning, you might give users access to information about the most basic sewing machines and fabrics. Then slowly progressing each month you can share new patterns and video tutorials on how to implement them.
The All-In-One Type
It’s a pretty simple and straightforward type of membership. While being registered all users have to pay one fixed amount once a month and are immediately exposed to all the content ever published on your site. Simply put, on a site like this, there will be no division of memberships on levels. Monthly everyone pays a fixed amount and gains access to the database available on your site.
This type of site would work for you if your content is stored in an extensive library and you want to allow users to choose the information or product that they are interested in.
The Freemium Model
Such sites allow users to access their data for free for a short period of time, so-called demo versions that you can use to try the site’s functions and get familiar with the content before paying for a subscription.
It is important to note that by getting such demo access to the site, users can get both full and limited access, which depends on the site. The main idea of such websites is that after seeing all the bonuses that a paid membership gives to users of this platform, they themselves would want to join and get unlimited access to the site.
This approach is particularly well suited for those builders which offer heterogeneous content, different in nature, and therefore easy to segment into paid and free plans.
The Coaching Membership
This type of site is suitable for services based on the coaching model. Each staff member that works for your site has several subscribers that he or she coaches in individual format. This type of membership is applicable to various spheres of services, such as consulting services, teaching, sports programs, and many others.
The rather significant disadvantage of this membership is that the time spent on personal coaching is quite difficult to ration so it is hard to suit all users of the platform. Consequently, the flow of sites with this type of membership is much lower than others.
Therefore, if you are interested in this type of site format, we would recommend mixing it with any other type and apply it to users with the highest level of membership.
The Fixed Term
Moving on from long-term memberships, let’s turn our attention to Fixed Term memberships. Users sign up for a specific period of time and at the end of that time, they either leave your site and access the content, or they don’t.
For example, the digital strategy course offers a monthly course with lessons and webinars, and at the end of it, the users who bought membership have access to all the data for a certain period of time.
The Online Community
The community is a fairly common component of membership sites. It helps members to communicate with each other on the website. That’s an exact place where both informal socializing and collaborative projects happen, whether it’s a wedding dress sewing project or creating an innovative online digital platform. In such cases, membership in your community site helps users to connect smoothly, see progress and help each other.
Working with any of the above-mentioned types, you can add communities as a component of it, thereby increasing the value of your site.
Regardless of the content, users initially come to you for the information you offer, but afterward, they keep their membership because of emotions and endless sharing of knowledge with people with the same interests.
Benefits of membership websites
There is a great variability in the online membership builders market, so firstly you should understand why you need a membership website and what are the main benefits of being an owner of such a platform. If you are still not sure here is a list of the main benefits that you get hosting a membership website.
Regular Income. As it can be understood from the above typology of long-term membership sites. Users regularly pay the cost of the membership to maintain their status or simply to access the data. Monthly revenue streams are great but you should remain on edge as a website host has to be sure that your content is unique and users will want to keep paying for it every month.
A Quality Community. Sitting at the headwaters of the community you can influence its development. You can deepen the personal connection between users and you, define a safe environment in which everyone feels comfortable and safe.
Home Office. Having the experience of 2020 and the necessity to work from home, almost everyone has appreciated and agreed with the importance of being able to move their work to home and work remotely at any time. Managing a website makes it possible. It doesn’t matter if the reason is a forced lockdown or a trip around the world. Creating a membership site allows you to work from anywhere in the world.
Expert opinion and Opportunities. Being excellent in a particular field and selling membership to a platform where you share your experience and knowledge, sooner or later you become a pro in your field anyway. As a result, you definitely get more opportunities to develop your business and maybe even enter the offline market.
Monetization of the Content. Producing a unique info product, membership site management gives you not only direct interaction with your fans, but they can also access private information and releases that are available through the various membership levels offered on your site.
These are the main advantages but be sure that there are many more of them. Does it sound appealing to you? Do you want to separate from marketing agents and become closer to your audience? In this case, we recommend you get familiar with platforms that you can use not only to create your own membership website but also to host and develop it.
How to Choose the Best Membership Website Platform
The Internet is a non-stop developing space. There are tones of new software, websites, and platforms that appear. That is why people might get lost trying to figure out what they really need. The same happens with platforms designed to create independent websites. There are many of them so beforehand we advise you to answer the following questions. These answers would help you to navigate through all the platforms offered on the market.
- How do you see it in your head?
- Do you need support assistance?
- How do you want payments to be processed?
- Mobile app, desktop version or both?
- What is your budget?
- Do you want a unique domain?
Now you’ve got some basic information that you can use to choose your perfect platform. To make the process easier we want to cover several issues that you should pay extra attention to.
Important features of the platform
Marketing and management
A membership site is not that easy to manage. So you need to make sure that the platform has all the functionality you need. Email management, management of the sales funnel, implementation of affiliate programs.
Choose the platform carefully, because if it does not have the tools you need, you will have to use third-party services, which may not be compatible with the builder you’ve chosen. If the platform does not have any of the features you need, check with support, they may offer an equivalent.
Payment and the way it’s organized
Membership can’t be free, that’s the whole point. That’s why it is important to think about the way users of the site will pay for the membership. Therefore, the platform you choose should be able to process online payments.
Make sure that payments are available in all possible ways like PayPal, ApplePay, Stripe, etc. Also, a nice bonus might be the absence of platform fees for membership payments.
Moreover, think about whether you need any system of build into the site payments for any additional products, or the ability to donate.
As we’ve written before, the community plays an important role for both users and the membership site host. The community is a very powerful engagement element. Membership with access just to courses and information loses out in popularity to plans that also include access to a community of like-minded people.
Some platforms provide the ability to create entire social networks within the sites you develop, while some deny the possibility of adding even the simplest forums.
At first, think if you need to create a community within your site, and then make a decision on a builder don’t forget about this important tool.
Site traffic metrics, new membership data, unsubscribed memberships, and a number of other analytics. Knowing these metrics can help you assess the progress of your site.
A good professional membership website will give you access to this data so you can track the dynamics of your site.
To make it easier for you we decided to compare several most popular platforms. Let’s review it and try to figure out which one might become a perfect choice.
Scrile Connect is a brand new platform that is designed to create your own community, exchange your experience, or whatever you can imagine.It is designed in a very common way that people are used to. As a result of being familiar with the functionality of the platforms, it is easier for users to subscribe for membership because they are already familiar with the mechanics and they know the steps.
The design editor is pretty simple to study, and if you are a fan of minimalistic design you’ll definitely like it. Though the home page design is simple it can always be upgraded and customized with the special editor tool that is available in Scrile Connect.
The editor is intuitive and you can modify whatever you want right on the page. So you always know what’s gonna be changed and you’ll see the final image straightaway.
Moreover, it doesn’t matter if you are amature with codes and programming or an expert in any other field who needs a membership website but wants to create it on your own. For the first case, it would be a great advantage that in Scrile Connect you have access to the code, so you can change the design and add new features in the way you want. As for those who are not that experienced, the support team is always ready to help with any issue you have.
Here you can see a screenshot that displays the price and available plans.
An important feature that should be mentioned is that Scrile Connect doesn’t take any commission fee for the revenue that you get from the membership or products that you sell through it.
Let’s get familiar with Wix. Long story short it is a kind of constructor. It has exact parts that interact with each other to create a worthy membership site. Definite pros of Wix are the library of free templates, the possibility of web hosting, as well as the choice of free and paid domain names.
The main advantage that catches the eye of a new user is tons of templates that you can apply to create your membership site. They range according to the topic. The template search engine requires you to be very specific in your search.
For example, you want to create a membership site for coffee bean brands. So The result would be different if you put “coffee”, “coffee beans” or “coffee beans shop”.
The only drawback of such variability is that it might make an unprepared creator a little bit frustrated, and you really have to choose thoughtfully cause once you’ve chosen a template and you never change it after placing the site.
Studying Wix we liked the editor. It is pretty intuitive. It lets you change the layout of components of pages, and add animation to some elements.
One important feature that should be mentioned is that Wix allows you to create 100 pages. After it the more pages you get the slower your site is. Cutting down on speed might cause users’ negative impression as a result they stop their membership.
Also, you should be prepared that websites based on Wix are not fully responsive. Let us explain what we mean here. Though both web and mobile versions might look good, resizing the browser window the imagery of the site does not change, so a part of it just can’t be seen by a user.
Below you can see available plans with prices and items included.
Kajabi is an example of a builder that provides you an all-in-one solution. So the ability to have a built-in community or forum included in the membership price on the basics is much easier for you as a membership host to manage. For instance, your product is ready to be released and the final thing is to compose membership plans. On Kijabi you can create different offers for membership. So membership level 1 gives access to the content, membership level 2 access to the content and community, and level 3 is a combination of level 2 membership and plus forum.
Though it might be easy to manipulate it has some serious disadvantages. At first, if you want to import your sit somewhere else but Kijabi, it would be really hard. There is no such a function as import, all you can do is only move it manually post by post, membership by membership. It is a real nightmare for a host.
Secondly, it offers nice design ideas, but there is an important issue. Imagine your site has been active for some time, but you decided to change one thing that annoys you on every page. Unfortunately, you cannot do it once and apply it to all pages, you have to do it manually on every page. No need to say that it would take no less than several hours.
Checking the price page there is a nice feature, that Kijabi gives you a chance to try each type of membership for free.
Thinkific is a great website for those who want to design their membership around courses and educational programs. On websites built with Thinkific, you can upload all types of media files whereas other builders upload only text, images, and sometimes video content. With such a great range of file products included in different membership, plans can vary very much.
The choice of templates provided here is fine, and after a deep search, you might find the one you were looking for. But the main problem here is that the design of the site seems to be done back in 2017. In the time of the internet and social media, it is important to have an image that would catch your attention and feel updated.
The price for this builder seems to be fine, but there is a point that makes us think twice before buying it. Though it says that there is no transaction fee, there is a term. Thinkific takes no transaction fee unless it is through a 3rd party processor. In case the membership is paid through a 3rd party processor the fee would be taken. The more expansive plan you use, the higher fee would be.
Weebly is one more modern membership website builder. Like the rest of the builders, it has an attractive editor interface with nice templates for any taste. The editor is easy to get used to but it also has several negative aspects. Though the templates are nice there are not so many of them in comparison with some other platforms of the same price level. A good point of template editing is that you can change whenever you want.
An aspect that might be important for those whose content is in the text there is ho H1, H2, H3 text organization. Well, there is a different size of the text, but it doesn’t help to organize the text.
Should be admitted that there is a built-in market of apps that can be used to customize your website, but if you want to use a better app you should be ready to pay extra money. As we moved to the topic of money we wanted to pay extra attention to the free plan on Weebly. It is great that they have a free option. You can try it to get familiar with the platform, but that’s it. This plan shouldn’t be used by those who want to work with Weebly for a long-term purpose.
On a free plan, there would be 3rd party ads and as it was mentioned you would have to pay for apps on the market.
Our final verdict
Taking into account all the above-mentioned information we would definitely recommend Scrile Connect as it offers a turnkey solution. It is a well developed full-featured platform which is ready for the launch of your own membership website.
It is suitable for both people who are into creating content and people who are community owners. Scrile Connect takes no revenue fee from its owners so every membership payment from your users would go to your merchant account.
To get familiar with the platform it is enough to try the platform for free and sign up in the demo version of it. You can check what functionality the platform has and decide whether it suits your needs.