Do you want to build a membership website? For a long time, website owners relied solely on advertising and affiliate revenue to monetize their content.
A membership website allows you to make money online by allowing users to pay for premium content, features, and access to the community.
You will need a platform that has features for managing users, memberships, payments, etc. Luckily, there are some really great membership plugins for WordPress that make it super easy.
In this step by step guide, we will show you how to easily create a WordPress membership site without any coding knowledge.
Creating a WordPress membership website
You’ll need the following three things to start:
A domain name. This will be your website’s address (Example, wpbeginner.com).
A web hosting account. This is where your website files are stored.
A membership addon (It will convert your regular website into a membership platform).
You can set up a fully functional membership website with WordPress in less than 30 minutes, and we’ll walk you through every step of the process.
Step 1. Getting Started with a WordPress Membership Site
If you want to create a website, you’ll need a domain name and hosting plan. I use and recommend Siteground as they are one of the best web hosting services with the best uptime and fastest loading times.
Start by visiting Siteground and select WordPress hosting option.
As you can see, they offer three hosting plans but I recommend you choose the Grow Big plan as you can host an unlimited number of websites on the Grow Big plan.
Select the plan and then follow the steps to complete the purchase. First, you’ll need to choose your desired domain name and then enter your billing and payment details.
As soon as you submit the payment, your hosting account will be created. You can login to your customer area and continue with WordPress and MemberPress Plugin installation.
As soon as you submit the payment, your hosting account will be created. You can login to your customer area and continue with WordPress installation.
Step 2: Install WordPress
As you login to your customer area, you’ll notice an orange button at the top that says Set Up Website. Click that button and then select Start a new website > WordPress.
You will then need to enter another username and password. You’ll use this to login to your WordPress dashboard so make sure it’s different that your hosting login information.
When you’re happy with your username and password, click Continue. Siteground will install WordPress for you and you’ll see a notification in your account area. Click on the Manage Site button to see a login button next to the site you want to work with. This will take you immediately to your WordPress dashboard.
Now, before we move on with the membership site installation, there are a few things we need to take care of first in our WordPress admin area. For starters, uninstall the Starter plugin Siteground installed as you don’t need it. Head to Plugins > Installed Plugins, select Starter plugin, deactivate and then delete the plugin.
Then, go to Plugins > Add New and search for Really Simple SSL plugin. This will fix the error with the browser telling us our site is not secure. Simply install and activate the plugin then click on Enable SSL.
The last step is to go to Settings > Permalinks and change them to Post name. This structure will make your pages and posts more user friendly for the search engines.
Step 3. Choosing a WordPress Membership Plugin
There are plenty of free and paid WordPress membership plugins that you can use. However, each one of them has its own pros and cons. We have a full list of the best WordPress membership plugins.
If you want to sell subscriptions, paid content, or digital downloads, then you’ll need a more robust WordPress membership plugin, like MemberPress.
MemberPress comes with advanced membership features that allow you to accept payments, create membership levels, restrict access based on levels, and more.
Selling online courses can be another possible scenario. In this case, you’ll need LearnDash, a complete WordPress LMS plugin with all the learning management features. If you are interested in creating an online course website, check this Online Course Website: 8 Simple Steps to built it with WordPress.
You can also integrate LearnDash into MemberPress to create a powerful website with online courses as well as membership subscriptions.
That being said, let’s start setting up your WordPress membership website.
Step 4. Setting up Your WordPress Membership Website
We are choosing MemberPress as our go-to plugin because it has all the features we mentioned above, and it works perfectly with third-party plugins necessary for the growth of your business.
First thing you need to do is install and activate the MemberPress plugin. For that , first you need to download the plugin from the MemberPress website..
Then you can go to your WordPress admin area and click on Plugins » Add New.
You will see a screen like the one in the screenshot above. Click upload Plugin and upload the file , you downloaded from the MemberPress website. This will install the plugin.
A WordPress plugin can be installed on your site, but it will not work unless you activate it. So go ahead and click on the activate plugin link to activate the plugin on your WordPress site.
Upon activation, you need to visit the MemberPress » Options page to configure the plugin settings.
Step 5. Add a Payment Method
The options page is divided into different tabs. The first thing you need to set up is a payment gateway because it allows you to accept payments on your membership site.
You can do this by switching to the ‘Payments’ tab and then selecting your payment gateway.
MemberPress supports PayPal (Standard, Express, and Pro), Stripe, and Authorize.net out of the box. You need to select the payment method you want to setup and provide the required credentials.
You can also add multiple payment methods by clicking on the add button to add another payment method.
We typically use two options: Stripe for credit cards and PayPal as a secondary option because some users prefer PayPal over giving out credit card details.
Don’t forget to click on the ‘Update Options’ button at the bottom of the page to save your settings.
Step 6. Creating Membership Levels
The next step is to create membership levels that your users can purchase. Each membership level can have different pricing plans, perks, and access. You can even have a free membership plan.
To create a membership level, you need to go to MemberPress » Memberships page and click on the ‘Add New’ button at the top.
On the next page, enter a title for this particular membership plan and then provide the plan details in the post editor.
You will need to set the pricing and expiration for this plan under the membership terms section.
In the example above, we have created a yearly membership plan.
After that, you need to scroll down to the membership options meta box below the post editor. This is where you can customize permissions and membership options for this particular plan.
Once you are satisfied with the membership plan, you can click on the publish button to make it available.
Go ahead and repeat this process to create as many membership plans that you need.
Step 7. Restrict Access for Membership Plans
The next step is to select which content would be available to different membership plans on your website. MemberPress makes it very easy to control access using ‘Rules’.
You can setup rules by visiting the MemberPress » Rules page and clicking on the Add New button at the top.
The rule edit page allows you to select different conditions and associate them to a membership plan.
For example, you can select all content that matches a particular tag or category to be available only to members with the silver subscription plan.
You can also create more specific rules. For example, a single post or page, child pages, or a specific URL.
Below the rules editor, you’ll see the content drip and expiration options.
Drip content allows you to gradually release content to users instead of giving it all away at once. The expiration option makes the content unavailable after a defined period of time.
If you are not sure, then you should leave them unchecked.
Once you are satisfied, go ahead and click on the ‘Save Rule’ button to save your rule settings.
Repeat the process to create more rules as needed for your membership site.
Step 8. Adding Members Only Content
MemberPress makes it super easy to create members-only content using Rules.
In the above example, we created a rule that restricted all content tagged as paid to be restricted. Now all we need to do is to create our paid content and add the paid tag to it.
MemberPress also adds ‘MemberPress Unauthorized Access’ metabox below the post editor. This allows you to select what logged out users (non-members) will see when they reach this content.
You can use the global default settings, or you can show excerpts, login form, or a custom message.
Once you have added members-only content, you can go ahead and publish it. As the page reloads, you will see a success message that this content is protected.
Step 9. Create a Pricing Page
This is the page your users will see when they want to sign up for a membership plan. On this page, users will be able to select a membership plan and then move to the payment page.
Users who try to access the restricted or paid areas of your website will also be redirected to this page.
You can configure this by going to MemberPress » Groups page and clicking on the Add New button at the top.
First, enter a title for the group plan page. This will also be the title for the plans page that users will see.
Next, go down to the ‘Group options’ metabox and add memberships that you want to display on the page.
You can also select a theme for the pricing table. MemberPress comes with few ready-made templates for that.
Once satisfied, click on the ‘Publish’ button to make your plan publicly visible.
To preview your pricing page, click on the ‘View Group’ link after publishing it.
Redirect users to pricing page
Now that we have the pricing page ready, the next step is to redirect unauthorized users to the pricing page.
To do that, first you need to visit MemberPress » Groups page and copy the URL next to the group you created in the previous step.
After that, go to MemberPress » Options page and scroll down to the ‘Unauthorized Access’ section.
You need to check the box next to ‘Redirect unauthorized visitors to a specific URL’ option and then paste the group URL you copied earlier.
Click on the ‘Update Options’ button to save your settings.
Now unauthorized users will be redirected to the pricing plans page when they try to access a members only area.
Step 10. Add Sign up and User Login Forms
Now that you have everything set up, it is time to allow your users to easily find their way around your website.
First, you need to add a user login form so that members can sign in to their accounts.
Go to Appearance » Widgets and add ‘MemberPress login’ widget to a sidebar.
Next, we will be adding the pricing page link to the navigation menu, so that new users can select a plan and register.
You can do this by visiting the Appearance » Menus page in your WordPress admin. From the left column, you need to click on the Groups tab to expand it. It will show the pricing plan group you created earlier.
Check the box next to your pricing page and then click on the ‘Add to menu’ button.
The pricing plan page will now appear in the right column. You can drag and drop to rearrange its position in the menu. You can also edit it and change the link text.
Don’t forget to click on the save menu button to store your changes.
You can now log out of the WordPress admin area and visit your website to see everything in action.
Step 11. Customizing Membership Email Templates
Your WordPress membership plugin will send several email notifications to members. MemberPress allows you to easily edit those emails and make changes to include your own branding.
Simply go to MemberPress » Options page and click on the ‘Emails’ tab. From here you can manage email notifications sent by MemberPress.
You will see all the email notifications sent by MemberPress to members as well as Administrators. You can click on the edit button to customize any of these notices.
You can use a simple text editor to edit the email message with basic formatting options and smart tags to insert dynamic items like names, username, membership level, and more.
Make sure that you click on the ‘Send Test’ button to send yourself a couple of test notifications. This will ensure that MemberPress can send email notifications.
Step 12. Viewing Reports to Grow your Membership Website
To grow any business, you need data to make informed decisions. MemberPress comes with built-in reports to see how your membership website is doing.
Simply go to the MemberPress » Reports page. From here, you can sort reports by monthly, yearly, or all time data.
It will show you the number of active, inactive, free, paid, and total members. It will also show you average member lifetime value and other data. You can scroll below to see more charts and click on a date to view transactions.
MemberPress is a powerful WordPress membership plugin. It allows you to easily grow your membership website.
It works beautifully with LearnDash, which allows you to easily create courses and leave the selling part to MemberPress.
You can also use it alongside BuddyPress and bbPress.