Since WordPress has been recognized as the greatest platform capable of building any kind of website, more and more people wish to have a taste of it, so does someone planning to run a membership website. In fact, running a membership program is a great opportunity for people to make a killing in the market, for which brings more traffic and revenue.
If you set about creating a membership website on WordPress, then the following guide is around to help. Here, we give you advices on how to install WordPress on your website and how to set up a wonderful membership site by using Membership plugin. Before everything, we would like to show you a sample site made by referring the steps shown as below.
Let Your Website Work with WordPress Properly
Make sure that you have selected a great domain, which should be related to the website and easy to remember. Anyway, the domain like membership.besthostingsearch.org should be great for you. Once confirming your domain name, you are required to install WordPress via admin area. Since most webmasters trust in cPanel, we are going to complete the WordPress installation via this most popular control panel.
Log into cPanel with your account and go to Software and Services > Softaculous. Pitch on WordPress and click the Install button. Here, you are required to choose the domain name where to install WordPress and then name your membership website properly. Besides, you’d better modify the admin username and set the admin password as sophisticated as possible. Click “Install” and log into your website backend accordingly.
Select an Elegant WordPress Membership Theme
To impress your visitors, you have to try every means to make the membership site professional and fascinating. Fortunately, WordPress has released numerous premium themes for membership website, such as HeatMap AdAptive, Evening Shade, Glowing Amber, and so on. Go to Dashboard > Appearance > Themes > Add New and search for a theme for personal needs.
On account of showing certain members on the main page, we select DW Timeline to bright our membership website. Install and activate this theme and then get started to enable more possibilities on your site.
Install Membership Plugin
After settling down the site appearance, you should set about adding more functions to your membership website. The easiest way to do so is to take advantage of a WordPress plugin. In the following guide, we select the plugin called Membership from multiple WordPress membership plugins.
Go to Dashboard > Plugins > Add New and enter the name of Membership plugin. Once getting the search result, you just need to click Install Now and then activate this plugin to bring it into effect.
And now, a notice reads “The Membership plugin is not enabled. To ensure your content is protected you should enable it” shown on the Installed Plugins page. Click the “enable it” and check if the Membership option is included in the dashboard sidebar.
Set Up Your Website with Membership Plugin
Step 1: If you have successfully enabled this plugin, you are now required to access to Membership dashboard. Select “Standard membership site” option and click the Next Step button to go to the next page.
And then, you come to the next page that requires you to create your levels. You can determine how many levels should be created and select a number from the drop-down list. For instance, we choose “2” levels and then we need to name the 2 levels one by one. Besides, we suggest you to check the option “also create a level to control what non-members can see?” so as to allow everyone to have a taste of your website.
Finally, select a gateway to receive payments according to personal needs and click the Finish button to confirm all settings.
There are other two sections included in Membership dashboard called Members and News. “Members” is where to show you the number of subscriptions, member counts and member breakdown. The “News” section is where to check the latest member activity.
Step 2: Move on to Dashboard > Options to create some pages on your website as needed. There are 7 tabs available for you and the first one is General Options. Because we have selected the option “also create a level to control what non-members can see?” in the previous step, the “Stranger settings” is shown as “Visitors” by default. For the “User registration”, you can select one of the existing levels as required.
Go the next tab – Membership Pages. By default, there are five page options available for you, including registration, registration completed, account, subscriptions and protected content. If you have not created pages yet, you just need to click the Create Page button included in each page option. And then, there are five pages available for you automatically, including Register, Welcome, Account, Subscriptions and Protected Content.
If you have already created some pages for this membership website, you can add those forms to certain pages by using the shortcode following each option. For example, if you need to add the registration form to other page, then you are required to add the shortcode [subscriptionform] to this page.
And then, “edit page” to make it satisfy your needs. Note that, there are two form types available for you, including “Original membership form” and “Popup registration form”. The first option enables visitors complete the whole process on a page while the second option takes visitors to a pop-up. Click “Save Changes” to confirm the page settings.
The next stop is Content protection, which is used to protect certain posts or pages content by including the content in shortcode. The first section called “Protected content message” is where to edit the messages that will pop up when the non-members try to load the protected content. The “Admin only shortcodes” and “More tag default” are optional settings for you to protect certain web content, which can be in use according to personal needs.
The Downloads/Media tab is where to protect any downloadable content on your website. It enables masked download URL to replace the direct link of a file. Besides, there are three levels of protection methods available for you, including Basic, Complete and Hybrid. Select one of the most suitable one and then click the Save Changes button.
The Membership Admins is used to manage all users on your website, and it is great for some multi-users website. Besides, the Extras tab includes all extra settings of this plugin, such as Payment currency, Membership renewal, Membership upgrades, and so on, which help you improve your website with ease. The Advanced tab is where to verify and repair membership tables to check if there is any problem with your membership website.
Step 3: You can determine which gateways should be used to accept payments. In general, there are three options available for you, including:
- Free subscriptions gateway – It is designed for all subscription free of charge.
- Paypal Express Gateway – PayPal express with subscriptions.
- Paypal Single Payments Gateway – PayPalexpress with single payments.
You are allowed to activate all those payment gateways and customize each of them if needed via the settings page. Fill out the PayPal email properly and modify the left options as required. Note that, the PayPal Email field should include your PayPal account email or the Sandbox credentials.
Step 4: And now, you can try your hand at some further advanced features to enables more functions on your membership website, including Access Levels, Subscription Plans, URL Groups, and Remote Pings.
- Access Levels – This option allows you to manage all access levels of your website. The active levels are the ones that you have created via the Membership Dashboard. You are allowed to “edit” each of them if needed and drag & drop the given rules on the right to “Drop Here” area so as to enable the members of this level to access to those areas.
- Subscription Plans – This is where to manage all subscription plans on your website and add relevant Access Levels to. Because we have created some Access Levels in the previous step and determine to add one Access Level to a new Subscription Plan, we need to “Add New” and name the new subscription plan properly. And then, drag and drop the targeted access level to the “Drop Here”. Finally, click the Add button and then activate the newly created subscription plan.
- URL Groups – This is where to protect a group of URLs which cannot be visited by non-members. Click “Add New” and enter the page URLs to be protected. And then, give this group a proper name and click “Add Group”.
- Remote Pings – This is a great option to send pings to other sites once there is a person signing up an account on your website. “Add New” Ping and enter the details as required, including Ping name, Ping URL, Ping data and Ping method.
This guide includes a comprehensive demonstration on the WordPress Membership plugin and also shows you the way to create a membership website with this powerful plugin. If you have gotten the feel of the above-mentioned steps, then you can make attempts to install and set up this plugin. However, if the Membership plugin is not your cup of tea, we list more recommendations as below as reference.
An Alternative Plugin Option
There is a long list of flexible and easy-to-use WordPress plugins that allow you to add the membership function to your site. In addition to the above introduced one, we also recommend the Simple Membership plugin.
Step 1 – Create the Membership Levels
After the installation, you can find a new tab in your WordPress admin that is named as WP Membership. Here, you need to click it and choose the Membership Levels button in the drop-down to create the membership level. This simply allows you to control what contents your members can check. In this case, when people become a member of your site, they will be assigned to one of the membership levels you have added based on their selection, thus have different permissions to check your words.
After clicking the Add New button in this setting page, you need to decide the name of this membership, along with the WordPress role and access duration.
In our example, we simply create two levels that are named as Free and Paid. Also, you can add more hierarchies such as Free, Silver and Gold.
Step 2 – Configure the General Settings for This Plugin
Here, you need to click the Settings button in the drop-down menu of WP Membership to do some configurations.
Firstly, you need to decide whether to enable the free membership or not. If yes, enter the free membership ID. You can check the ID from Membership Levels. This option is useful if your site also has some common posts that are open for the public.
Next, you need to determine whether to enable the More Tag protection. If you enable it, then all the contents after the More Tag are protected, and the words before this tag are just the teaser content. To be frank, this is a great way to convert the common readers to your paid members. Check the final result when enabling this option.
Then, you should decide some minor settings for this plugin.
- Whether to showcase the special admin toolbar for each logged in members.
- Choose the default status for member accounts among Active, Inactive, Pending and Expired.
- Whether to allow members to delete their accounts.
- Whether to delete the pending member accounts automatically.
In fact, below the General Settings part, you can also find the Pages Settings section for the login page, registration page, join us page, edit profile page and password reset page. These special pages are generated automatically since the installation of this plugin. To make sure that your membership plugin can function properly, you’d better not to make any changes on their URLs and never delete them.
Step 3 – Configure the Payment Settings
If you do not charge your members for some premium contents, you can bypass this step. However, if you want to set up a paid membership site, you need to configure the payment settings. Here, you firstly should click the Payments button from the drop-down menu of this plugin, and hit the option of Create New Button.
In fact, these two button types give you two options for charging your members. The PayPal Buy Now button allows you to ask for the one-time fee to check your exclusive contents, and the PayPal Subscribe Now button is for the recurring fees on the weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
Here, we take the PayPal Subscription button as an example. After choosing it and clicking the Next button, you are required to enter the following configurations.
- Button Title – This title is required for the better management of payment buttons.
- Membership Level – You need to choose the membership level you have created in the step 2. In our example, we choose the Paid option.
- Payment Currency – This plugin allows all the popular currencies. Just pick one based on your real situations.
- PayPal Email – You need to enter your PayPal email without any errors. Otherwise, you may fail to receive the fees charged from your readers.
- Billing Information – For this, you should decide the billing cycle, cycle count and the exact billing for each cycle.
- Re-attempt on Failure – This option allows two more paying attempts if the first payment action fails.
It is possible that you offer the trial period for your paid members. If so, you also need to determine the trial billing details including the trial billing period and amount. Note that you can set the billing amount to zero if you want to set up a free trial.
Besides, you can also decide the return URL after the successful payment and the image of your preferred PayPal button.
As everything is configured properly, you can have your button created. After that, you need to check the Manage Payment Buttons section, from which you can find the shortcode generated for this newly-created button.
You simply should copy and paste it to the Join Us page. Check the final result in the following.
Step 4 – Decide the Email Settings
It is highly recommended to decide the content of emails that sent to your members when they finish their registration or have not finished yet, so that they can keep track of their registration process. Also, you should decide the email templates for password reset and account upgrade.
In this case, you need to go back to the Settings area again and click the Email Settings. Here, you can decide the 4 templates easily.
Step 5 – Set the Membership for Your Exclusive Contents
Now, you can prevent your exclusive contents from being checked by some people who are not your members.
To do this, you simply need to open the editing page of your Post or Page. Here, you can find a special box for Simple WP Membership Protection. Click the second box to turn on the protection function and choose the membership level that can check the content. In our example, we should choose the Paid Level.
Also, if you want to protect some of your categories, you can go to the Membership Levels section and click the Category Protection button. Here, you simply need to choose your preferred categories, pick the membership level and click the Update button.
Best WordPress Membership Plugins
Here, we are would like to share the following WordPress membership plugins to help readers create a membership website easily. With flexible membership options and easy-to-use interface, users can simply customize their membership websites into exact specifications.
Paid Membership Pro
Plugin URL: http://wordpress.org/plugins/paid-memberships-pro/
Paid Membership Pro is a useful plugin designed for helping communities add premium memberships to WordPress websites. It includes configurable membership levels so that you can set up it to fit your business properly. You can use it for different membership levels, and offer restricted access to different content including pages, posts, videos, downloads, support, and more. As a result, you can maximize your blog revenue.
With easy to use admin pages and settings, you can also handle the plugin and control the user experience with ease. As well, it also works well with most of the WordPress themes and integrates with the most popular payment gateways.
Plugin URL: http://wordpress.org/plugins/s2member/
S2Member Framework is a powerful and helpful membership plugin specialized for WordPress powered websites. It supports free subscribers and 4 primary membership levels so that you can freely setup the levels for your websites to maximize your profit.
The plugin also integrates with PayPal website payments standard and completely supports recurring billing. As it offers custom pages for registration, account access, and level configuration, you can easily use the plugin for specific needs and match your businesses. In addition to the full compatibility for BuddyPress and bbPress, the plugin also gives users the ability to publish coupon codes.
Plugin URL: http://wordpress.org/plugins/groups/
Groups is an effective solution that offers group-based user membership management, capability and content access control. It is a light-weight framework, offering an intuitive interface and integrating with standard WordPress capabilities and application capabilities. It also comes with helpful features like the following:
- Built-inn access control that enables users to restrict access to posts, pages, and custom content types based on their unique levels.
- Fully control access to content by groups and capability.
- Support an unlimited number of groups and offers registered group.
Plugin URL: http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-members/
WP-Member is a free WordPress membership plugin designed for newsletters, premium content websites, and so on. It restricts content to registered visitors. It puts the registration process inline with the content but instead of in the traditional login page. With rich features like block posts, pages, login, user registration, etc, this plugin is a perfect tool for sites providing premium content to subscribers.