How to Build a Membership Website with WordPress

A cartoon woman is walking by while texting and on a WordPress website in her background

From warehouse club memberships like Sam’s or Costco to the lure of free shipping with an Amazon Prime membership, the exclusivity of “members only” attracts consumers. To help you capitalize on the increasing popularity of subscription memberships, we put together this guide on how to build a membership website with WordPress.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • What a membership website is
  • The business benefits of membership subscriptions
  • The steps to take to build a membership website with WordPress 

What is a Membership Website?

A membership website restricts access to content or services behind a paywall for subscribers only. Netflix is a membership site. It also offers mobile and smart TV apps, but the core business model is the same as a subscription website. Subscribers pay a monthly fee to access the library of TV shows and movies. 

Not all membership websites require a recurring subscription. Some membership websites charge a one-time fee for members to purchase a piece of content instead of access to an entire library. This business model is the same as buying a digital download or premier access to a movie. 

We used streaming examples because they’re one of the most popular membership businesses. But, most website owners don’t plan to start a streaming service. So, what other types of membership websites can businesses launch? 

Membership website categories include:

  • Educational. Next to streaming services, online courses and educational content tend to be the most common reasons people build a membership website with WordPress.
  • Hobbies. Whether sports or crafting, people are passionate about their hobbies. Membership websites help people improve their skills and connect with other enthusiasts. 
  • Templates. People will pay for templates that make work or life easier, from meal planning printouts to graphic design and presentations. 
  • Health and Fitness. Membership sites in these categories include fitness instruction, workout plans, and weight loss programs. 
  • Financial. Managing money doesn’t come easy to everyone. Tips, educational content, and budget tools work well as the foundation for a membership site. 

What are the Business Benefits of Membership Websites? 

Membership websites offer business owners a new revenue stream. Content-driven websites tend to focus on advertising revenue. But, advertising revenue can vary greatly, depending on a website’s traffic. Selling memberships allow companies a more steady flow of income. 

Memberships also help monetize existing content. For example, many life coaches turn live seminars into online courses. They already invested the time and money in developing the content. The membership site allows them to sell the content to even more people. 

Two female cartoon and a one male cartoon people building a website, the two are holding a image block while the other one is holding a file

How to Build a Membership Website With WordPress

WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world. The platform works well for building a membership site. Follow these steps to get your membership site running in WordPress. 

1. Build Your Membership Business Model 

First, you need to decide on the structure of your membership program. 

Questions to answer about your membership site’s business model:

  • What type of content or products will you sell?
  • What types of memberships will you sell — lifetime or recurring?
  • Will you have different membership tiers or levels of access?
  • What types of payments will you accept?

Answer these questions to make sure you find the right membership plugin for WordPress and configure it correctly. 

2. Set Up the Website 

If you don’t already have a WordPress site, you’ll need to set one up. If you’re new to creating a website, consider purchasing a managed WordPress hosting plan to simplify the setup. 

3. Select and Install a Membership Plugin 

The easiest way to make a membership website on WordPress is with a plugin. Use your answers to the question in the first step to see which membership plugin works best for your site. Make sure the plugin supports your business plan and membership options. 

If you’re selling a product-based membership instead, check out our recommendation for the best WooCommerce subscription plugin

4. Configure the Membership Site 

After activating your membership plugin, you need to configure the plugin and your site’s theme. The process varies depending on the theme and plugin you use. 

Basic steps for building a membership website with a WordPress plugin include:

  • Setting up subscription packages and prices
  • Activating your payment gateway
  • Building pricing, signup, sign in, and checkout pages
  • Creating and publishing membership content

5. Test the WordPress Membership Site 

Before launching your new membership site, conduct a thorough round of testing. Make sure the signup process is intuitive and easy. Also, check to make sure your member access permissions are correct. You want new members to find all the content they need. 

Scale Your WordPress Membership Site for Growth 

As membership sites grow, they often struggle to deliver dynamic membership-based content to their users. Many people try caching to fix slow sites, but as we discussed in our guide to caching, you can’t fix a slow site with caching. Caching may help deliver static content fast, but it doesn’t improve the speed of dynamic pages. 

Optimizing speed for dynamic membership sites requires further backend optimization. If you’re struggling with configuring your membership site or the site is loading slow, the experts at Mindsize can help. We offer various WordPress consulting services, including recommending the right plugins and configurations to help optimize your site’s backend for scaling. 

Contact us today to learn about how we can help you build a membership website with WordPress.