How to create a membership platform using WordPress

If you need a unique way to deliver premium content to your visitors, you should consider WordPress as a membership platform. WordPress has tons of membership plugins, both free and paid, and we selected the best among them in our best membership plugins for WordPress article, definitely worth a look through!

In this article, we’ll explain how to create a membership platform on WordPress using the free, WP-Members plugin.

If you have digital content you want to share with your audience, WordPress can act as an ideal platform to provide proper control to offer up your content to paying members.

We chose the WP-Members plugin for this article because it’s a freemium type of plugin, which means that the core functionality is free.

If you want Pro features you’d need to purchase extensions to add advanced functionality.

With the free version, you can set up the membership aspect of your website, while you’ll need to purchase extensions to:

  • Sell memberships through WooCommerce
  • Sell restricted content through Paypal
  • Protect downloadable files
  • Integrate with MailChimp
  • Gain access to the security features bundle
  • Track what users are visiting on your website and when
  • .. and so on.

If you’re running a community website, then you don’t necessarily need to purchase extensions as you’re not selling content.

In contrast, access to these extensions is excellent if you plan to sell your digital products. Who doesn’t love making money online.

Let’s start!

Login to your WordPress Dashboard and head to Plugins > Add New option. In the search field, input wp-members and click the Install Now button in the plugin window, then Activate the plugin.

Once the plugin is activated, you  need to create the three important pages to get things started. Head to Pages > Add New, and create the first page called Login:

Make sure to paste the following shortcode into the body of the page:

[wpmem_form login]

And click the Publish button once done.

Use the same method to create two more pages with the following names and shortcodes:

Profile[wpmem_profile]

Register[wpmem_form register]

Head to Appearance > Customize section, then select Menus option > Main Menu and add three new pages to the menu via the Add Items button:

Click the Publish button once done.

Now go to the Settings > WP-Members section to configure the plugin. By default, the plugin sets posts to be automatically blocked. We advise changing that to “Do not block” and then individually set permissions for each new post you create (if it should be available to everyone or only registered members).

Scroll down to Pages section, and select the three pages we’ve previously created for each page:

Next, we recommend setting up the following options on that settings page:

Click on the Fields tab, and set up the fields you want members to fill in during the registration process:

You can even add your custom fields if needed by clicking on the Add Field button. You can learn more about the functionality of the fields in the official documentation here.

Next, click on the Dialogs tab and customize automatic messages to send to your members. If you’ve enabled the registration approval option in general settings, make sure to customize the “Registration completed” notice properly.

In the Emails tab, you can configure each email message that is automatically sent to your members. The plugin allows you to customize the following emails:

  • Registration is pending approval
  • Subscription is approved after moderation
  • Password reset email
  • Forgot username email
  • Notification from the administrator

Optionally, you can set a custom email address and name from which these emails are sent. The plugin also provides tons of useful shortcodes you can use in these emails, and you can find them here. A general user guide on email options can be found here.

Lastly, if you’ve enabled the Captcha option in this plugin, click on the Captcha tab to insert your custom site and secret keys. We have a handy guide you can use to obtain these here.

Now, head to Settings > Discussion option and enable the “Users must be registered and logged in to comment” option.

Next, go to Settings > Reading section and change “For each post in a feed, include” option to Summary instead of Full Text.

We’re done with the plugin setup now!

You can see the plugin in action if you go to Posts > Add New and try to create a new post. You will see a new Post Restriction option in the top-right corner which allows you to restrict content only to registered users or everyone:

In our case, we set up the plugin to unblock content by default, but if you’ve configured it to block posts by default, all you need to do is add the read more tag and only the excerpt of the post will be shown to non-registered users. At the same time, the rest of the article will be available only to registered users.

If you’ve enabled membership products in the general settings of the plugin, you will see another option in a left frame called Memberships. Here you can add “products” that define if the individual members that have access to that product can access the specific post or page. Head to the Memberships > Add New option and add a product.

You can define if the product is assigned to all members, if it requires a specific role and if it expires at some point in the registration setup.

If we go to create a new post, we’ll see that we can limit the post to be shown only to members that have access to certain products:

This functionality allows you to fine-tune who can access the posts or pages on your website based on their subscription. Very useful if you have paying vs non-paying membership tiers.

If you haven’t selected a product to be assigned to the member during registration, you can always change this via the Users > All Users option.

Edit the desired user, and scroll to the bottom of the page to find membership product option:

You can also integrate community forums for your members, the bbpress plugin is a popular forum plugin, bet there are many more.

That’s it! At this point, your website turned membership platform is ready to accept its very first members!