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6 Best Membership Website Builders (3 Are FREE) in 2024

Ana Marković Ana MarkovićWebsite Development Expert June 21, 2024
June 21, 2024
Membership websites come in all shapes and sizes, and so do the website builders that make them. For example, not every website builder allows you to create a members-only area – and even if you find one that does, it may not offer everything you need to host a successful membership website. Not all builders enable recurring subscription payments. And while some let you create discussion forums, others don’t.

To make things even more complicated, some of the most popular website builders don’t appear to have membership features at first glance. Usually, they’re available through powerful plugins – but when a builder has a ton of plugins, how do you know which one to choose?

If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. I’ve tested dozens of website builders to find the ones that give you the optimal combination of membership features, ease of use, and price. That said, one builder stood above the rest: Wix offers the widest range of options and tools for membership sites and even includes its robust membership features on its free plan.


Short on Time? These Are the Best Membership Website Builders in 2024

  1. Expert’s Choice
    1 1Wix logo black Wix
    Wix is a popular choice with our readers
    Built-in membership features, including forums and invitations to members-only events.
  2. 1 1squarespace-logo-1 Squarespace Powerful membership features let you offer online courses, paid subscriptions, and more.
  3. 1 1sire123-logo SITE123 A straightforward, low-cost way to set up completely private websites and forums.

What We Look For in the Best Membership Website Builders

For this review, I looked for intuitive, user-friendly website builders with the following membership features:
  • Forum features. Some builders have built-in forum features, while others offer third-party tools or standalone forum templates. These are fantastic for membership sites as forums allow your members to talk to each other, helping you to build a thriving community.
  • Ability to offer subscription payments. Lots of membership sites need to receive recurring payments and create various levels of member access. I’ve only highlighted platforms that make this easy. I’ve also made sure you’ll be able to accept a variety of payment methods.
  • Cost-effective options. Many communities, clubs, and nonprofits will want a budget-friendly builder, so I’ve highlighted free or low-cost plans that include the option to build members-only areas.
  • Easy to use. With some website builders, you’ll have to use third-party plugins to incorporate membership features into your site. I prefer the kind that has these functions built in. My list includes a mix of builders with built-in features you can easily access and those with third-party integrations that are effortless to set up.
  • Marketing tools. You’ve set up your membership website – now’s the time to spread the word around. All the builders I picked have effective marketing features to help you attract prospective members, from social media integrations to email marketing tools.

Wix Community Forum template
Wix’s Online Forum template category offers great designs for membership websites
When it comes to membership websites, Wix caters to a wide variety of needs and budgets. That’s because you can use the Wix Members Area feature on all of its plans – including Wix’s fantastic free plan1. It’s also extremely user-friendly, with comprehensive guides to help you set up login pages, private pages, manage memberships, and more.

In addition, a few apps – like Wix Stores and Wix Bookings – come with a built-in Members Area you can activate so your customers can sign in and view their past activity. Pairing a Members Area with social apps like Wix Chat or Wix Blog can also help improve the user experience for your visitors.

With a premium Wix plan, you’ll be able to use Wix Payments to accept all major credit and debit cards, as well as Klarna, Apple Pay, and more. Wix also supports over 80 different payment gateways, including PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize, so you’ll be able to offer plenty of payment options to your members.

1
Wix logo black

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Features

  • Diverse templates. With over 800 templates to choose from, chances are you’ll be able to find one to customize for your membership website. From blogs and podcasts to conferences and coaching services, there are templates for practically everything (there are over a dozen for forums alone!).
  • Wix Blog. Activating the members-only area on your blog allows your users to create a profile, follow posts, and set up custom notifications.
  • Members Chat. On your blog or forum, you can add a chat box so members can message you or start group discussions. This feature is great for community engagement.
  • Member management. In your dashboard, you’ll be able to see your members and assign levels of membership to each one.
Read our expert Wix review to see more great features.

Built-in membership features
Forum features
Ability to offer paid subscriptions
Paid plans starting from $17.00

Squarespace Bloom Template
Squarespace has dozens of elegant membership templates
Squarespace recently upped its game, adding a suite of robust membership features that make it easy to monetize your website with gated content1. You no longer have to add a third-party integration to design a fully functional membership site – everything you need is now built-in.

Squarespace allows you to embed a variety of content, from online courses to paid newsletters, video series, podcasts, and more. You can upload videos, audio files, or downloadable documents to your website and then turn them into members-only content. Offering your members virtual events, shared event calendars, and group workshops are appealing group activities that can help you build a vibrant membership community.

All in all, Squarespace is a great platform for membership sites – with a couple of caveats. Unless you upgrade to a plan with e-commerce functionality, you’ll have to add Digital Products (starting price is $9.00 per month) to collect payments for membership fees or members-only content. There’s also no free plan, but If you want to try Squarespace out before committing, there’s a free 14-day trial.

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Features

  • Flexible payments. You can set up your website to accept one-time or recurring billing or multiple payments, as well as offer free membership trials. This feature is ideal for selling classes and content subscriptions.
  • Responsive design. Squarespace is mobile-friendly, so your visitors will have a smooth user experience no matter what device they’re on.
  • Public previews. Offering a public preview is an effective marketing tool you can use to demonstrate your expertise and entice potential members to sign up,
  • Tiered pricing. Squarespace lets you customize your paywall with a headline, welcome message, and two pricing plans. Visitors can review the plans and choose the option they prefer.
See what else this builder has to offer in our expert Squarespace review.

Built-in membership features
Forum features
Ability to offer paid subscriptions
Paid plans starting from $16.00
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SITE123 Business Template
SITE123’s business category templates work great for selling digital products
SITE123 is easy to use1. It turns out that this goes for membership websites, too. You can add a forum page to enable community discussions, create a gated Client Zone to offer your best customers exclusive benefits when they sign up or restrict site access to “members-only.” What’s more, you can do it all with one simple click.

The catch for “members-only” site access? This applies to your entire site. Any non-members who access your website will be prompted to sign up for an account. This is ideal for certain community websites – for example if you need a place to post information for apartment residents or students. It also makes SITE123 a safe platform for clubs, associations, and nonprofits to discuss private business.

To use the Members Only feature, you should subscribe to either the Professional or Gold plan. The Client Zone tool is available for free if you add a Forum or Blog page to your website. It’s also available on Booking, Store, and Online Course pages, but these pages require integrating a payment gateway into your website, which you can only enable by upgrading to SITE123’s premium plans.

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Features

  • Extra security. Choosing the “confirmed members only” option allows you to vet all new members before giving them access to your site.
  • Forum insights. Site admins can monitor comments in the forum dashboard and see member engagement with different topics by day or week.
  • Recommended discussions. Visitors will be shown relevant forum threads based on their past engagement. They can also jump to the discussions they want to see using the forum search feature.
  • SEO tools. SITE123 gives you control over meta tags, sitemaps, and 301 redirects so potential members can find your homepage on Google.
See how user-friendly this builder is in our SITE123 review.

Built-in membership features
Forum features
Ability to offer paid subscriptions (only for blogs and online
courses)
Paid plans starting from $12.80

Webador Online Store Template
It’s easy to add a membership program to your Webador online store
Fast and simple website building is what Webador promises, and that holds true for adding exclusive members-only content to your website. It may not offer all the advanced features you get with Wix, but what it does provide are easy-to-use membership features that help you drive customer loyalty, which can help you build a steady revenue stream.

To create members-only content for your Webador site, all you have to do is set up a “hidden,” password-protected page for products or services you sell and then restrict access to visitors unless they sign up for your membership plan. For example, you might want to offer paid access to an exclusive product catalog. Or you could design a membership program that offers free product samples or reward points.

Webador offers different pricing plans tailored to various needs, including a free plan for basic use and several very affordable paid plans. These plans all include features like a professional email address and linked mailbox and unlimited pages, storage, and bandwidth.

Features

  • External tools for membership sites. Using Webador’s Embed Code element, you can add extra functionalities to your membership site, including custom signup forms, promotional pop-ups, animated banners, and other marketing tools.
  • Tools to analyze performance. You can track and analyze your website’s performance to help you understand your audience, optimize your member offerings, and boost signups for members-only features.
  • Sell member subscriptions and digital products. To sell member subscriptions or digital content, you can simply add a button for Stripe to collect payments. As with other types of gated content, you’ll create hidden password-protected pages using Webador’s beginner-friendly editing tools.
  • Social media buttons and feeds. Webador allows you to add X (Twitter) feeds, Facebook Like and Share buttons, and more. This can increase engagement with your visitors and enhance your membership site’s online presence​​.
See more about features in our expert Webador review.

Built-in membership features
Forum features
Ability to offer paid subscriptions
Paid plans starting from $5.00

5. IONOS: Build a Basic Membership Site for Cheap1

IONOS Hairdresser Website Template
IONOS doesn’t offer many templates, but they’re all modern and mobile-responsive
IONOS MyWebsite is a decent beginner-friendly builder, particularly because it offers some of the lowest-cost website builder plans on the market. You can make a membership website for only $6.00/month. If you’re just starting out and you don’t have a huge customer base yet, IONOS’s cheap plans are fantastic.

With that being said, you get what you pay for. IONOS’s membership features are limited to password-protected pages. While you can sell memberships on your website, you’ll have to manually email new customers to give them the password. There’s no exclusive members’ area either, which isn’t ideal if you want to build a community.

Depending on your business, this might not be a dealbreaker. IONOS is great for small businesses that want to lock information like scheduling links or unlisted YouTube videos behind a password. However, if you want to sell courses or have different membership tiers, you’re better off with Wix or Squarespace.

Features

  • Sell via social media. You can connect IONOS to your Facebook and Instagram business tools. This allows customers to add items to their shopping cart directly from your Facebook or Instagram posts.
  • Plenty of payment options. IONOS connects to 50+ different third-party payment systems, including PayPal and Stripe. You can also set up manual offline payments to allow your customers to pay via bank transfer, over the phone, or in cash.
  • Custom website solutions. For a larger monthly fee, if you need more membership features IONOS will build a custom website for you, offer training for you, and provide unlimited maintenance and updates.
  • Automated SEO. IONOS integrates rankingCoach to assist you in enhancing your SEO through text and video tutorials. It also conducts automatic keyword research and suggests new keywords to boost your search result rankings.
See more pricing information in our in-depth IONOS review.

Built-in membership features  (password-protected pages only)
Forum features (using embed code)
Ability to offer paid subscriptions
Paid plans starting from $6.00

6. Shopify: A Wide Set of Membership Apps and Marketing Tools1

Shopify Clothing Online Store Theme
Shopify has top-notch theme designs, but they can be pricey
Though Shopify has limited built-in membership features, you can find anything you need in the Shopify App Store, a robust marketplace with over 8,000 free and paid integrations. There’s a great selection of membership apps, with some specifically built for Shopify, such as the Subify Subscriptions App and Mega Community. These tools let you easily create community pages, sell subscriptions, and offer member perks like shipping benefits.

Shopify also has a robust set of marketing tools to help you attract prospective members. You can offer gift cards and discounts, sell on social media, and create personalized marketing campaigns with Shopify’s built-in email marketing tool.

Shopify’s plans fall on the pricier side, and its 3-day free trial isn’t particularly generous. But if you’re serious about selling digital content and growing your community, Shopify is a worthy investment.

Features

  • Versatile themes. Shopify’s themes are good-looking, mobile-responsive, and include useful features, such as an event calendar and promo pop-ups. Also, if you need more options, you can browse through thousands of third-party designs.
  • Shopify Email. Shopify’s native email marketing tool has pre-built templates designed with your store’s colors and branding to help you promote your brand image. You can send up to 10,000 free monthly emails to stay in touch with your community.
  • Variety of payment methods. Shopify lets you integrate 100+ payment gateways. Depending on your location, you can also use Shopify’s proprietary payment processor, Shopify Payments, which eliminates transaction fees.
  • Shopify Inbox. This free tool lets you chat with your customers as they shop and give recommendations or offer discounts, creating a personalized experience.
Find out more about Shopify in our expert review.

Built-in membership features
Forum features (through integrations)
Ability to offer paid subscriptions
Paid plans starting from $29.00

How To Build a Website With a Member’s Area

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to know anything about code to build a membership website. All you need is a great website builder, a few hours of free time, and a can-do attitude. Oh, and my handy step-by-step guide:
  1. Make a membership plan. Before you start building a website, choose a membership model that works best for your needs. You’ll need to decide on the type of content you’ll offer, whether you plan to have different levels of user access or time limits, and how much you will charge for it, if any. 

  2. Pick a website builder. Overall, I recommend Wix. While other builders lock membership features behind more expensive plans, you can use these features on any plan – even the generous free plan.

  3. Add membership features. Keep your members chatting with a members-only forum, or add a scheduling tool that makes it easy for your members to book exclusive services.

  4. Connect payment methods. Based on your business plan, you might have to gather monthly fees from your members. Therefore, you will need to introduce various payment options that let members organize and handle their regular payments.

  5. Choose your domain name. A memorable domain name improves your brand’s (or club’s) legitimacy. Most website builder plans offer free domain names, so make sure you take advantage of this!

  6. Promote your membership website. You can use social media and email marketing to reach your audience. Getting started can be challenging, but you can try offering discounted membership prices for a limited amount of time or specific age groups, such as students.

Which Builder Is Best for Your Membership Website?

Membership websites offer an excellent opportunity to enhance revenue and cultivate strong relationships with your most esteemed customers. You can establish uncomplicated password-protected pages for your registered clients or create a community featuring online courses, forums, and personalized services.

All the website builders on this list are intuitive and reliable, but Wix is my top recommendation1. It offers the widest range of membership features and the largest selection of themes, so it can meet the needs of almost any membership website or business.

If Wix doesn’t have the exact combination of features you need, it’s worth checking out Squarespace1. It’s got a suite of powerful new features for membership sites, a great selection of templates, and robust marketing tools to help you build a dedicated member community.

Or, if you’re looking for the quickest and easiest way to build a membership website, SITE123 is a great option1. With just a few clicks, you can add forum features and offer exclusive deals for select customers.

Here’s a quick comparison of my top choices for membership website builders.
Free Plan Best Feature Best For Starting Price
Wix Offers the most membership options and templates across all plans Building a community among your members $17.00
Squarespace Member sites with public previews, recurring payments, tiered access, and more Easy-to use advanced membership features $16.00
SITE123 Allows you to
create fully
private websites
with very little
hassle
Building
community
websites or other
online spaces for
free
$12.80
Webador Set up exclusive member programs for online stores Merchants that want to offer membership perks to build brand loyalty and boost sales $5.00
IONOS Build a basic membership website for only a few dollars a month Budget-conscious businesses that need private pages for clients or customers $6.00
Shopify Plenty of
third-party
membership
apps
Online stores
looking for
efficient
marketing tools
$29.00

FAQ

What is the best membership website builder?

This completely depends on your unique needs and the kind of website you’re building. However, Wix tops the list because it has the largest variety of membership options on any plan. Other notable features are its ease of use, customizable design, and accessible pricing.

What can I do with my membership site?

The possibilities are endless: you can publish blog posts and podcasts, provide downloadable files, or even create complete online courses and webinars. If you’re running an online shop, you can also offer member features like coupon codes and exclusive discounts.

How can I make a membership website for free?

You can make a membership website for free with Wix or SITE123. Even though these free membership plans have some limitations (for example, your website will feature the website builder’s branding, and you can’t choose a custom domain name), you can still use them to create a fully functional website.

Are membership websites profitable?

Membership websites are a great way to make money online, but as with any business, you need to carefully consider how much it costs. You’ll have to pay to build and host your website as well as regularly provide new content to keep your members happy. If this is your first time building a website, read our step-by-step guide to creating a website for some valuable tips.

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Chas Gowing
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I went to Site 123 for help and couldn't find a template that featured forums. SITE123 chat support says this is outdated (in only 6 weeks?) and they now charge for membership features. They also were not very helpful at finding a template with features I was looking for
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Brent
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Thanks for sharing your idea this was very helpful to us. I like everything about this site. This is really great article
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Website Planet Team
Hi Brent, we appreciate your feedback. Glad you liked our article! 
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anonymus
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Zoho sites/com has a membership option that doesn't need expertise to set up because it's built into the website builder.
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Sam
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Hi Louisa, would love to see you review Pory :) You can build membership websites using Airtable as a content management system.
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