Are you looking to create a website that offers members exclusive rewards and access to a VIP community?
If the answer is “yes, please!”, then you’re in the right place. Below, we’re going through our top five website builders for creating a membership site, and looking at where they all stand in terms of ease of use, design, features, and value for money.
Whether you’re offering online courses or special entry to never-seen-before content, creating a membership website is a great way to earn recurring revenue and build that customer loyalty.
Wix is our number one membership website builder because of how simple it is to add a members-only area to an existing site. Squarespace is a close second with super easy integrations, and GoDaddy sits in third place with awesome member profile accounts.
That’s a good question! Here at Website Builder Expert, every website builder we talk about goes through some pretty rigorous testing in our research process. We analyze each builder in six key areas:
- Ease of use
- Value for money
- Design functionality
- Help and support
- Customer satisfaction
Each builder earns a score out of five in each of these areas, which allows us to generate its overall score at the end. To create our customer scores, we interview real people after they’ve used the builders themselves.
What Is a Membership Website?
Before we jump into how to create one, let’s go back to the basics and talk a little bit about what a membership website actually is. A membership website is a private part of your site that offers exclusive access to content for registered users only.
What’s the difference between a subscription and membership website?A subscription website requires users to enter into a financial contract with the site in order to access its content and services. Take Netflix, for example. We’re unable to consume all those binge-worthy TV series and classic films without paying a monthly fee, right?
Alternatively, membership websites don’t necessarily require payment. Instead, users can simply sign up with an email address to unlock rewards, newsletters and whatever else you wish to include.
Best Overall Builder for Creating a Members-Only Area
Best Overall Builder for Creating a Members-Only Area
- Really easy to use
- Dedicated members page
- Plenty of integrations
Free plan available
- Drag and drop editor
- Ability to integrate apps
- Access to community forum
- Have to upgrade for payments
- User logins fairly complicated
Wix’s easy-to-use, drag-and-drop editor makes it a strong fit for creating almost any website, and in this case, it’s also the easiest website builder for adding a members-only area to your site.
While you’re in the process of designing your Wix website, simply head over to the toolbar on the left-hand side of the editor and click on ‘Add Apps’. This will pull up a range of apps you can install onto your site. Search for ‘Members Area’ until you see this icon:
Wix’s Members Area tool gives you access to login bars and user profile accounts. This means every member gets their own dedicated page which stores things like account information, redeemable rewards, and any exclusive content you’ve given them access to.
When creating a membership website, it’s handy to include a community forum as a space for online members to share knowledge, questions and recommendations with each other. It’s a great way for users to connect through your brand, which boosts customer engagement on your site!
You can create your own online community with the Wix Forum app. As the community admin, you can create discussion boards and even post internal news like exclusive job posts.
Wix user Review: Jonathan TianJonathan is the co-founder of a US-based solution provider for software and system errors. We asked him a few questions about the process of using Wix membership features.
How easy did you find Wix’s membership features to use? Were there any features that could have been improved or added?
Wix costs of membership are straightforward; all features are free, unless you require money handling or online reservations. In terms of improvements, it would be nice if members could utilize the login and logout buttons and edit their details easily on the profile page.
Did you manage to achieve what you wanted? If not, how come?
The Members Area is a solution that allows your site members to want their login on your site, allowing you to deliver a better customer experience. I found it was perfect for:
- Stores on Wix: Members may check the progress of their orders, save their information, and handle their payment cards to speed up the purchase process.
- Wix Reservations: Members have control over their schedules.
- Events on Wix: Members can organize their meetings and examine their activity history.
- Stores with Pricing Structures: Subscriptions can be seen and managed by members.
The best part of the Wix Members Area? – It’s completely free to use on any Wix website.
Even if you’re creating a basic website with Wix’s free plan, you’ll still be able to play around with the membership app and add a personal touch to your site.
Wix Members Area is good for:
- Letting members customize their own accounts
- Allowing members to manage accounts from mobile devices
- Providing exclusive access to content chosen by you
- Strengthening brand community and loyalty
It’s good to note that, should you wish to accept payments and enable bookings with your members, you’ll need to upgrade to a Wix paid plan. This is particularly useful information if you’re thinking of providing online classes that members would need to book in for, or if you wanted to charge for any services!
Wix, in general, has the highest customer score out of all the builders we tested, which is proof of how simple and intuitive it is. With one click of the ‘Install’ button, your membership profile will appear on the page and you’ll have free reign over where to place it with the drag-and-drop editor.
With over 800 templates to choose from, Wix offers a lot of creative freedom when it comes to designing your website. Wix scored a 4.4 out of 5 when put through our rigorous testing because of its varied customization features and large app market.
“Wix has these drag-and-drop options available, and you just need to keep your eyes peeled on what may be most important to the kind of site you are trying to build. Wix’s membership site builder is an excellent option for total beginners, and can definitely set you up for success as a solo entrepreneur” – Sam Shepler, career entrepreneur
As mentioned above, the Members Area app in the Wix App Market is completely free to install on your site. This means that whether you’re creating a website on the free plan, or optimizing a Wix eCommerce store, you can make certain content exclusive for members only.
However, if you’re looking to enable bookings or receive payments from your members, you’ll need to make sure you’re on a paid Wix plan before doing so. Paid Wix plans start at $14 per month when you pay annually and, with 24/7 customer support, the cheapest paid plan is ideal for anyone just starting out!
Wix offers quality in-house features to help you build a professional membership website, and its app market provides access to a wide range of third-party integrations to support your site.
If you find yourself seeking more than just the Members Area app, Wix provides other, easy-to-install apps like Wix Forum (free), Wix Bookings ($17 per month) and Contact Form (free). These apps let users easily sign up to your online community with their personal information, as well as receive automatic notifications to keep members in the loop!
Best for Creating Premium Content for Members
Similar to Wix, Squarespace Members Area is a private part of your website that gives signed-up or paying members of your community access to premium content.
Squarespace’s members-only feature can be added on to your Squarespace site at a cost of $9 per month. If you set up a Squarespace website at the standard pricing of $12 per month, this will bring the price of running a premium online community up to $21 per month.
Squarespace Membership Types ExplainedSquarespace offers three different types of memberships that you can set for users depending on the content you’d like to offer:
- One Time Membership– This is where customers make one payment for lifetime access to the exclusive content
- Recurring Membership – Customers make monthly or annual repeat payments (like an ongoing subscription) to access content. If the payments stop, this access is revoked from their account
- Free Membership – Users aren’t required to financially commit to anything. Just a simple email sign up lets them in on the premium stuff!
How to set up a members-only area with Squarespace:
- Create a Squarespace account and sign up to one of its premium plans
- When editing your website, go to ‘Settings’ on the left-hand side
- Click on the ‘Members Area’ tab
- Press ‘Create Member Area’ which brings you to the members panel
- Hit the + button to create a new member area and give it a name! We’d recommend something nice and simple, like ‘Members Only’
- Then set up your membership type, either One Time, Recurring, or Free (if you’ve chosen a paid membership type, make sure to enter the amount you’d like members to pay)
- Now, a brand new member area has been created!
Creating Premium Content for Your Members
In the members panel, you’ll see a tab called ‘Pages’. Here you can select either a ready-made page layout or a blank page to create something from scratch for your members.
You can choose anything from blogs to portfolios, and even pages that showcase upcoming events! Here’s an example of what the members panel looks like and all the design layouts you can expect to see:
Squarespace scored an impressive 4.7 out of 5 for design, and we feel this has something to do with the huge improvements the builder has made to its user experience (UX). Squarespace offers stunning templates that focus on minimalist design to avoid looking overly cluttered and messy.
Squarespace also provides dedicated, beautifully designed templates specifically for membership websites, so you can really make the most of its wealth of customization features.
We found the process of designing our membership website with Squarespace super beginner friendly and straightforward. This is because Squarespace focuses on built-in integration, so you have everything you need in the dashboard to let your creativity shine through.
Squarespace offers four different pricing plans for you to choose from depending on your site’s needs. The cheapest paid plan starts at $12 per month when you pay annually, and the most advanced Commerce plan reaches $40 per month.
Squarespace is excellent value for money, with unlimited storage and bandwidth up for grabs on even its cheapest plan. If you just want to try before you buy, there’s a free 14-day trial waiting for you – without any sneaky costs to worry about!
To start using Squarespace’s Members Area, you’ll need to be on a paid plan. The Members Area costs $9 per month, which brings you to the cheapest total of $21 per month altogether.
With Squarespace Members Area, you can:
- Review Members Area subscription details such as auto-renewal date
- Review individual invoices from each member
- Cancel a membership subscription if you wish to do so
- Use flexible payment options like One Time, Recurring, or Free
- Enjoy SSL encryption that keeps all payment details and personal information secure
Squarespace is also helpful with social media integration, which lets you announce the release of gated content across multiple platforms – and allows for social sharing!
Want to Know More About Squarespace?Check out our in-depth Squarespace Review that looks at the website builder as a whole.
Alternatively, you can see our top two membership website builders go head to head in our Wix vs Squarespace comparison article.
Ideal for Creating a Quick Members Feature
GoDaddy’s membership builder involves a more manual process than other website builders out there.
Similarly to other email marketing platforms, GoDaddy requires you to add individual members to your site, or upload an existing file of members who have given their permission to be contacted in the past.
Top Tip:You can only begin to add members to your site after you’ve created at least one private page. Private pages can be any page on your site except the homepage, and will only be visible to members.
How to add members to your GoDaddy site
- Head over to your GoDaddy products page
- Scroll down to find your list of GoDaddy sites
- Click on the ‘Manage’ button next to the site you want to add members to
- Once you’re in the editor, click on the ‘Dashboard’, select ‘Connections’ > Members
- Select ‘Add Contacts’
- You can now add individual members to your site by filling in their personal data such as names, email addresses, and phone numbers – or add members via file upload
Once you have all your members on your site, you can start creating members-only content and emails to send out. Here’s a visual breakdown of the process with GoDaddy:
GoDaddy Membership is good for:
- Importing contacts individually if you have a small client list
- Managing members-only areas from an all-in-one dashboard
- Creating simple emails to send out to all members
- Easily deleting ‘member status’ from a person’s profile if they cancel their membership
GoDaddy has a simple and user-friendly design layout in place, making it a solid website builder choice for small businesses. From members-only pages to product listings and email campaigns, everything’s managed from the dashboard – so you won’t have to travel far to add an array of elements to your site.
When creating pages for private access, we did find the editor to be quite restrictive. It’s not so easy to move elements outside of their set parameters, and resizing image blocks is a tricky task to overcome.
Ultimately, GoDaddy is ideal if you’re not too sure what you’d like your membership site to look like just yet, and you’re happy to work with something simple and more generic.
- Members Imports – If you have a pre-curated list of contacts from a previous site that you’d like to import into your new GoDaddy site, then you can absolutely do so! GoDaddy lets you import files and spreadsheets to save time.
- Marketing Emails – As soon as you’ve added a member, you can go ahead and create an email straight away to send to them. Members also instantly get an email to help them set up their new password.
- Subscribe Contacts to Blog – Once a new member has joined your community, you can add them as a subscriber to your online blog, so they’ll receive notifications when new content drops.
GoDaddy’s pricing plans start from $9.99 per month for the Basic plan, and reach $24.99 per month for the powerful, feature-rich Ecommerce plan. GoDaddy scored an impressive 4.3 out of 5 in the ‘value for money’ category of our in-house testing. This is because you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck, such as rapid page-loading performance and mobile responsiveness.
As for membership features, you can only add up to 25 members onto your site with GoDaddy’s free trial plan. Anything beyond this will require you to upgrade to a paid plan.
If you’re looking to receive payments from your members, or run appointments and events, you’ll have to choose either the Premium or Ecommerce plan.
We still found GoDaddy’s plans quite affordable compared to a lot of the ecommerce pricing plans from other builders, though – so they’re definitely worth checking out!
Best for Building a Simple Membership Website
Like Squarespace, Weebly offers a straightforward process to integrate a members-only section of any website once you’re in the editor. Simply head over to the ‘Settings’ tab on the top menu, and you’ll be able to access the Members page from there. It’ll look something like this:
You have two options with Weebly – you can either:
- create an entire website just for members
- create a gated section of your existing Weebly site that only members have access to.
A major barrier we found with Weebly when creating a demo membership site was that membership features are only accessible on paid plans, so upgrading your site is mandatory. You also have to keep upgrading your site as the number of members increases.
Anything more than 100 members requires one of the two business plans, which cost $24 and $38 per month. If you ask us, this is a pretty expensive way to go about creating a gated community!
Weebly User Review“The Weebly membership site offers a decent way to create “members only” kinds of spaces of interest. While Weebly does have a lot of competition in the market that may have cleaner performance, it’s still a relatively easy way to dip your toes in the waters of membership-only sites.” – Stefan Ateljevic, former Weebly user.
The good news is, you don’t need any third-party integrations or plugins to get your membership website off the ground with Weebly. With all the features already built in, this builder provides an effective, streamlined way to create an online community.
For smaller businesses or non-profit organizations looking to add a simple membership element to their site, Weebly can help – but anything more complex will be a little harder to implement.
Weebly doesn’t have amazing design features compared to the likes of Squarespace or Wix. In our in-house testing, the builder scored a 2.5 out of 5 for design due to its minimal and bland set of templates.
If you’re on the lookout for more artistic templates from Weebly, we’d recommend choosing from the ‘Personal’ library, rather than a specific industry, as these templates are a lot more playful and visual-centric.
Weebly doesn’t have any dedicated membership templates to choose from, but it’s a great starting point for anyone wanting a quick and simple members-only space on their site!
Weebly offers a free plan, but to get your membership site going, you’ll need to upgrade to any one of the three paid plans on offer:
- Personal plan: $9/month, or $6/month billed annually
- Professional plan: $16/month, or $12/month billed annually
- Performance plan: $29/month, or $26/month billed annually
It’s good to note that Weebly’s member allowance increases as your plan does. If you’re looking to expand your online community beyond 100 members, you’re better off going with the Performance plan, which also gives you a ton of ecommerce features to work with.
As part of the members-only area, these Weebly features also come in handy:
- Member imports – Just like many email marketing platforms, Weebly lets you import a spreadsheet of contacts and creates automatic accounts for each new member. This is a huge time saver, and works out perfectly if you ever want to switch platforms!
- Pop-up logins – Members can simply log in to their account no matter where they are on your site. This gives more incentive for members to check in on their account profiles and see the gated content waiting for them, because they won’t get directed away from the main site.
- Dedicated Dashboard – As the members-only admin, you have a dedicated dashboard displaying all the membership stats like traffic and number of page visits. These metrics help you keep track of how your online community is thriving, and identify areas to improve.
Best for Membership Plugins
This platform allows you to build a membership site with the help of third-party plugins, like Simple Membership and Ultimate Member.
These plugins are completely free to install, and they let you create members-only content which you can charge for or offer to users at no extra cost.
One popular plugin option to help create your membership site with WordPress.com is Members by MemberPress. This plugin gives you full control over the permissions each individual member gets. For example, a member who has signed up for the entire year can access more gated content than a member who’s subscription only lasts for a month.
Bear in mind, the MemberPress plugin has a premium version costing around $150 a year, should you wish to go beyond what the free version has to offer. It’s important to factor in how detailed you want your membership site to be and whether you require added features, like unique permission to access content.
Compared to other website builders out there, WordPress.com takes a little more time to get used to. WordPress came out of our testing with a score of 3.2 out of 5 for ‘ease of use’ because it has a steeper learning curve than other popular drag-and-drop editors.
A simple installation process lets you activate plugins in no time. But still, this blogging platform lacks the sort of streamlined process you’ll tend to find with other builders because it’s not as beginner-friendly.
WordPress.com stands proud as a blogging platform, but this largely limits its ability to create a membership website for any other category. If you want to create a members-only area for your ecommerce store, we don’t recommend WordPress.com for you.
Although it fell short in our ease of use rankings, WordPress.com definitely won us over with its 4.8 out of 5 score in ‘value for money’. For as little as $4 per month, you get to install plugins and extend your site’s functionality, plus make use of premium design options.
WordPress.com prices range from $4 to $25 per month. Be aware, though, that these prices are billed yearly – so it’s wise to check the annual cost against the plan you go for.
Just like us, WordPress.com also loves freebies, and is more than happy to put a free plan on offer. The $0 per month plan lets you play around with themes without breaking the bank.
Which plan you should go for really depends on your budget, and how much you’re looking to grow your WordPress.com site. Just remember that membership plugins do require your site to be on a paid Business plan or higher.
Here’s what you can expect when creating a membership area with WordPress.com:
Social Media – If you’re trying to gather more exclusive members for your site, WordPress.com’s social media integrations will help you spread the word. You can connect your site to various social media pages to get more eyes on your content and, soon enough, more email signups to your members area!
Analytics – You don’t need to worry about hunting down a third-party app to view your site’s analytics – WordPress.com has a handy one built in for you. By simply hitting the ‘Stats’ button in your dashboard, you’ll be able to keep an eye on how your members-only page is performing.
Keeping Your Members Secure – There’s nothing more frightening than personal data being mishandled and payment details being lost. WordPress.com makes sure all sites are encrypted with an SSL certificate. This ensures that all data is protected, and lets you and your members feel super safe when interacting with your site!
Good to Know:One common confusion with WordPress is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org – so let’s go back to the basics real quick to just clear this up!
WordPress.org is the popular CMS (content management system) that works as an open-source software to give you full control over the outcome of your site. The drawback is that you need to host the site yourself, have your own domain name, and take responsibility for all updates and backups.
WordPress.com, however, takes the shape of a blogging platform and works similarly to other, less technically demanding ‘website builders’. It’s an all-around ideal choice for hobbyists and personal bloggers who enjoy heavy customizing, and comes without all the maintenance involved with WordPress.org
Best Membership Website Builders: Final Thoughts
That’s a wrap, folks! We’ve gone through our five best membership website builders and put each of them through some pretty stringent testing, paying close attention to areas like design, features, pricing and ease of use.
Let’s do a quick overview of the fabulous five:
5 Best Membership Website Builders
Each of these website builders offers a plethora of features to help you create an awesome membership site. If you’re looking to make the most of your members-only area and want to interact with users via forms and online courses, we’d recommend using Wix. If you’re focused on elevating the aesthetics of your website, Squarespace is a beautiful choice that doesn’t take away from an effective members experience.
Your site has fans, so why not make them feel special?– Use our guide to create the ultimate membership website for you and your loyal community today.