One of the first choices you need to make when you’re starting a membership site is, which membership plugin do you use? There are lots of options out there, but after dealing with membership sites and clients for years I only every recommend three outside of the one I wrote.

Let’s talk about them in no particular order.

Restrict Content Pro

Restrict Content Pro is actually my favourite membership plugin to work with. I’ve known the founder of the plugin for years so maybe that’s part of it, but the code is easy to read and use. There have been a number of times when I’ve needed to accomplish something for a client and in communication with the developers had an answer and change to the core code for the next version done in under an hour so we can achieve the features we want.

On top of that, the customer support is awesome. I can’t think of a better company than Pippin’s for providing amazing customer support. You’re in good hands long term here.

Restrict Content Pro has just enough features built into the core plugin to get deal with any standards membership site. For some of the extra features you may want, there is a great selection of official add-ons and a number of 3rd party add-ons as well.

I’ve already mentioned this, but I’ll do it again. As a developer is very easy to dig in and create any custom functionality that my clients need as well.

WooCommerce and WooCommerce Memberships

WooCommerce and WooCommerce Memberships is probably the biggest player on the market. I get the most requests for this setup because that’s what clients feel they need already.

If you want to sell recurring memberships you’ll need to also purchase WooCommerce Subscriptions.

This plugin has some more complexity to it than RCP does but I don’t regularly get clients emailing me asking how the plugin works again because the documentation is decent.

The code under the hood is readable and has many options to customize it and WooCommerce.

Easy Restricted Content for WooCommerce

I wrote Easy Restricted Content for WooCommerce because at the time every single membership plugin for WooCommerce was terrible. They had 12 settings screens and 82 steps you needed to take to get anything setup.

It was a nightmare and my clients always had questions and updates needed and never understood how to use the plugin I had provided to them. This wasn’t good for my clients or for me.

I wrote Easy Restricted Content for WooCommerce to be easy. Purchase the plugin, turn it on and then go to the content you want to restrict and tell the plugin which product or subscription is required to have access to that content.

There are no other settings.

There is no prorating of accounts. It doesn’t figure out upgrades or anything like that. It just only shows content to users that have purchased the product specified.

Just like WooCommerce Memberships, if you want to sell recurring access you’ll need WooCommerce Subscriptions.

Paid Memberships Pro

Paid Memberships Pro is another good option for your membership needs. They have good support and a wealth of extensions available when you’re a paying member.

From the developer perspective, I find the code in Paid Memberships Pro a bit more frustrating than the code in Restrict Content Pro or WooCommerce Memberships. It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s just a step or two below my ideal quality.

Now this doesn’t mean that it’s going to break on you. Nor does it mean that they wrote bad code, I just always end up spending more time working around what Paid Memberships Pro does when I’m trying to extend it than I do with other options.

All the others???

So there are lots of membership plugins I haven’t even mentioned. I’ve worked with most of them and in short, they’re usually a pain. Some try to keep their code secure by doing fancy stuff to make it unreadable. That just makes my life harder as a developer since I have to email support to do anything with the plugin that’s not clicking settings in the admin area.

Others have terrible support that might get back to you 2 weeks after

So how do I decide on a membership plugin?

So, how do you decide exactly which option you should be using. The first place to start is to write down a list of your “must have” features. Then, you can probably trim a few of your must haves, because most people make that list way to long to start.

Then it’s time to look at which of the options solve most of those problems.

If you’re less technically savvy or want something without all the extra options, then look at my plugin Easy Restricted Content for WooCommerce.

If you have a bunch of access options required, then maybe WooCommerce Memberships is right for you.

If you feel like the options in WooCommerce are just too much, then look at a dedicated memberships solution like RCP or PMPPro. I lean towards RCP here, but if PMPPRo solves more problems out of the box for you then it’s the right choice.

If you’ve got any specific questions about your membership needs, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Posted by Curtis McHale

Web developer specializing in membership and ecommerce sites. I like to ride my bicycle.