Building an Online Membership Site Using WordPress

Last month we shared tips on the best tools for building your membership site. We've built membership sites using numerous different tools but we've found that using self-hosted WordPress is typically the best way to go.

If you're just beginning your journey to generate income selling eBooks, courses, or any other content online with a membership site then hopefully this post will help you get started in the right direction.

Why Build a Membership Site on WordPress?

The first thing to remember is that WordPress wasn’t initially created for membership sites—it began as a blogging system, its roots beginning in 2001. Since then it has grown into an easy-to-use, full-service content management system for many types of sites.

Given the right plugins, widgets, and tools, you can use WordPress to craft the perfect membership site, where your members can explore your premium content, interact with your business and with fellow members, and access exclusive products.

What Is a Plugin, and Why Do I Need It?

A plugin is a software tool you can use to insert, or “plug in” (you’re probably imagining a plug and its outlet, right?), the elements needed to successfully manage and run your site on WordPress.

WordPress has numerous free plugins available, but there are also many commercial plugin products that can enhance your WordPress success and help you build and customize a site specific to your business’s needs.

What Your Membership Site Needs

In order to make the most of your WordPress site, you will want to be sure you integrate plugins, either directly from WordPress or from a commercial vendor, that will make your site more efficient and easy to use.

Here are some membership site “must haves:”

Member Registration and Member Log-in

You’ll need a place on your site for your clients to register and become members. A membership plugin like MemberPress will allow you to build a user-friendly registration page where your clients can become site members.

WordPress already has default user roles built-in, such as administrators, authors, editors, and contributors; and once a client registers, your membership plugin allows you to update them as members.

Once a client is a subscriber or member, they’ll need a place to log in each time they visit your site so they can access premium content. The login is a gateway that protects the premium content, courses, and member-only deals from the general public. The MemberPress plugin has a front-end page where users log in and access their account.

Membership levels can also be managed with MemberPress. This is where you can gate content based on the member package a client has purchased.

Member Profile Editing Capability

In addition to a login and access to content, your members need a place where they can view their account profiles. In MemberPress, members have the ability to edit their profile information, view their payment information and history, and update their credit card information.

Members can also change their passwords in the profile area, allowing them to protect their accounts.

Payment Processing

In order to make purchasing your products user-friendly and also to allow you to bill and invoice accurately, your membership plugin should include the capability to securely process payments through a credit card gateways.

In addition to the ability to simply process one-time credit card payments, your membership plugin should help you create recurring subscriptions for your members so they can receive continued access to your protected content.

Site Management

This is the part that makes building a membership site easy for you—WordPress’s default administration is simple to use, and the MemberPress plugin helps you manage members, levels, subscriptions, transactions, as well as granting and revoking access for posts, pages, categories, tags, feeds, communities, and digital files.

MemberPress also offers a data reporting system so you can track your memberships' and digital products' performance.

Other Types of Plugins to Enhance Your Membership Site Experience

Social and Community Forums

One of the benefits of a membership site is that members can interact with each other, sharing their experiences with your products and creating a buzz about those experiences. They can also interact with you, asking you questions and giving you valuable feedback about your product.

Email Services

Email communication is still important in today’s world, MemberPress works with many email marketing systems, such as ActiveCampaign, allowing your WordPress membership site to be equipped with a top-notch email service with which you can reach out to your members, notifying them of special events or deals that you might be offering. Emails are also a great way to remind members of when their membership renewal is about to automatically charge them.

Event Registration

So you’ve used the email service to notify your members of an upcoming event, but you’d like a way for them to RSVP so you know how many attendees you will have, both for the event itself and for your data and reporting services. There are also plugins available to create registration for your events.

There are many other plugins—free and commercial—that are available for you to incorporate into your WordPress membership site. Now that you know a little about building a membership site on WordPress you should be able to see how it's a versatile platform capable of functioning with plugins that allow you to run a successful and profitable site.

Is there anything we’ve left out? What are your tips for creating a membership site with WordPress? We’d love to know!

Categories: Advice
About Lindsay Flanagan

Lindsay Flanagan is a senior editor and project and social media manager at Eschler Editing. She earned her Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing and spent over a decade working in higher education before joining the Eschler team. She and her husband are the proud parents of two brilliant daughters and make their home in Heber, Utah.