What You Need to Create a WordPress Membership Site

By Joshua Althauser November 28, 2016 Articles and Editorials

If you’re reading this article, you already know about the benefits of WordPress and how popular this CMS is. Now you want to make money on the platform. The good news? It isn’t so hard. With the help of a WordPress developer and a few plugins, you can make money on WordPress in no time. Whether you want to run an ecommerce shop or a subscription-based content platform, you will need to create a WordPress membership site to set up a payment system and allow users to have membership profiles that let them access content or purchasing abilities.

So what steps are involved in setting up a membership site, and what plugins do you need to use? Check out the guide below. We’ve got you covered.

1. Choose the right hosting.

The first step to creating a WordPress membership site is ensuring that your website can securely handle payments. To do that, you need a WordPress host that offers an SSL certificate. Luckily, there are numerous WordPress host options to choose from. WP Engine is one of the most popular options. It’s pricey, but reliable and fast. If you’re on a budget, you could try HostGator or Bluehost, both of which offer SSL certificates as well. Do your research and find what hosting platform best fits your needs because each option has their own strengths and weaknesses. Once you establish what host you will use, you’re ready to move onto the next step.

2. Install a membership plugin.

Okay, this one is a bit obvious, but it’s crucial to creating a membership site. You’ll need to install a plugin that allows you to distinguish between visitors and members. Like with hosting platforms, there are numerous membership WordPress plugins, so do some research and find out what fits your needs. Once you install the plugin, you’ll need to create a new user group. Go to the admin page, click Users/Roles, and then click “add new.” What you call this new group is up to you, “member” or “subscriber” perhaps, and make sure that their role capability is set to “read” and nothing more. Once you’ve established this new class, you will now be able to distinguish between different types of visitors on your site and restrict certain content or actions to your “member” class.

3. Create sign-up and payment forms.

WordPress isn’t known for its ability to create aesthetic fields, so you’ll need to install another plugin here. Ninja Forms is a popular and robust choice that uses a drag-and-drop tool to create customizable forms for user registration, payments, etc. If you need a more robust user experience, you can try Profile Builder, a plugin that lets members edit their own profile/account information once they’ve created their account as well as customize your email campaigns for that extra personal touch. In many cases, you may even need both of these features (as Profile Builder doesn’t handle payment forms). Remember if you want to build your list of members, it needs to be easy for them to sign up, and that requires forms that are easy to fill out.

4. Add forums and comment sections.

If you’re creating a membership area of your site, allowing members to comment on your content or even review the products you’re selling is a nice way to create a greater sense of community around your WordPress site. bbPress is a simple plugin that creates forums and allows members to communicate with each other over your content. BuddyPress is a more robust option that allows members to directly message each other and form their own messaging groups, if the intent of your membership site is to provoke heavy member interaction. These plugins aren’t necessary to creating a membership site, but it’s features like these that convert consumers in the first place. Give them the whole package and make sure that your members have everything they want.

5. Create a customized menu.

If you are creating a members-only section of your website, then you’ll need a menu that reflects different navigation for members and for visitors. The plugin Nav Menu Roles allows you to add new tabs to your menu with ease, creating a streamlined navigation experience for whatever site you want to create. The plugin lets you set what menu users see, based on their profile behavior. For example, logged out users can see a “login” and “register” tab in the main menu, and logged in users could instead view tabs such as “profile” and “membership home page.” If you want to include a members area as well as a general content area for visitors, it’s important that you update the structure of your website and its navigation, so that none of these new pages get lost in the mix or your members have a hard time finding what they’re looking for.

Have you created a WordPress membership site before? Share your advice and experience with us in a comment below!

Joshua Althauser

Joshua Althauser Author

Josh Althuser is a tech entrepreneur and open source advocate specializing in providing mentorship for startups. You may connect with him on Twitter.

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