With the plethora of membership plugins out there, you’d think that the first question you should ask yourself when starting a membership site is which membership plugin should you use. Though using WordPress with a membership plugin is the most popular way to start a membership site, it is not the only way. The hosted membership platform has been around for quite awhile, though not as popular. Here are just some reasons why and why you shouldn’t dismiss it just yet.
This is probably the number one reason why a self-hosted WordPress based membership site is so popular. You get complete control over your membership site. You can pretty much do anything you want with it. If you’re not happy with the plugin, just switch to another. If your web host is giving you a headache, pick a new one. If you’re not happy with the design, then upload a better one. Plus, it’s a good feeling to know that everything is on your server and you’re doing everything you can to keep it safe.
With a hosted solution, you may find yourself kicked to the curb for reasons that are beyond your control. They may decide to remove that one feature that is critical to your membership site or go out of business and leave you in the dust. That’s an extreme example but you get what I mean.
A hosted membership platform drastically diminishes the flexibility you get with regards to the features on your site. You are limited to whatever features they offer you. Not only do you have to be okay with it when you sign up but also for as long as you are subscribed to their service because there is no guarantee that they’ll introduce new features in the future.
With a self-hosted WordPress membership site, you’d be amazed at how many features are available to you. Here’s just an example. Using Wishlist Member plugin as the base membership plugin, you can add the WP Courseware plugin to create more of a course-like feel to your membership site. Or you can add the myCred plugin to reward your members with points for activities they carry out on your site. You can even integrate both WP Courseware and myCred together and reward your members with points for completing a course, a module or even a lesson. This is a great way to make sure they complete your course.
With so many plugins out there, you can pretty much get a plugin that will do anything you need it to do. And if there isn’t one, you can always hire someone to create a plugin for you.
With all the flexibility of a self hosted membership site though, you’re going to have to figure out how to maintain it all. There is no such thing as set it up and forget it in this case. The more features you have, the more work it will be to maintain it. Though some things can be automated, like making backups, others need your personal attention.
Not only do you have to make sure that all the different plugins are up to date, you also need to make sure that they continue to integrate with each other seamlessly. There is always a chance that one of the plugins in the mix will just disappear from the face of the planet and you’re stuck with having to look for an alternative. The good news is, however, as long as you stick to really popular plugins with a good following, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
This is where a hosted membership platform excels. All updates and maintenance are taken care for you. You don’t have to worry about keeping everything in sync with each other. Unless you’re looking for a rather unique membership function, you’ll find that most hosted membership platforms will have everything that you need. And if they want to remain competitive in the industry, they will continue to add popular features requested by their customers.
Finally, there is the cost. Having everything taken care for you comes with a price. A price that you have to pay monthly and continue to pay for as long as you want to use the platform to run your membership site. This price normally includes the hosting of your membership site as well.
With a membership plugin, you’d normally make an upfront payment for the plugin followed by a much cheaper yearly fee for any updates and continual support. Though the annual fee is optional, I highly recommend it. The updates will ensure that you get the latest features and security updates. You also have to consider the cost of hiring someone to maintain your membership site if you don’t want to do it yourself.
So Why A Hosted Membership Platform?
With all that said, you’d think that everyone would want to use a self-hosted membership plugin. With all the flexibility, control and not to mention the cheaper cost, who would want to use a hosted membership platform?
Well, if you don’t have any dire special requirements for your membership site and you don’t have a tech person who can maintain your site for you, then I’d go with the hosted solution. It’s less of a headache. One less thing for you to worry about. You can sign up to a hosted membership platform for as little as $67/month. Considering that we ourselves offer membership maintenance packages starting at $97/month, I’d say the $67 is quite affordable.
The trick with choosing a hosted membership platform is to make sure that it has all the features that you need. With them introducing more and more features, you should be able to find one that meets your needs. So, if you haven’t considered a hosted platform before, it’s worth taking a look.