Membership Website Development: A Comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide

How to Build a Membership Website

Most websites on the internet rely on advertising revenue for their sustenance. However, ads can never be considered the best thing for an ideal user experience. Besides, one cannot always rely upon ads for generating consistent revenues. This limits businesses looking to earn through their online presence from scaling their potential. This is why membership websites are gradually becoming a more popular choice, both among users and web-based businesses.  

So, if you’re looking to develop a membership website for your business, know that 70% of global industry leaders think now is the perfect time for you to do so. But before you start with the development, let’s see whether we know everything about what a membership website actually is. 

What is a Membership Website?

In simplest terms, a membership website is a business website with gated content. Here, visitors can only access a limited section of the website, while the premium content is hidden behind a paywall that only registered members can reach. Such websites are built with the objective to facilitate recurring revenues for the business, with content that is either regularly created or is simply stored in the content library.  

Some well-known examples of the membership websites are-

Smart Blogger: The leading membership website in the blogging niche, the Smart Blogger offers multiple courses for members to help them create a business out of their passion for content creation. 

SmartbloggerImage Source

Rock and Ice: Dedicated to rock climbing enthusiasts, Rock and Ice offer training, gear, and exclusive stories to its members. The membership-based website design here looks quite niche, so they found variations in the type of content and membership plans. 

Rock and IceImage Source

Dollar Shave Club: Pioneering in the industry, Dollar Shave Club has gamified their eCommerce store with exclusive benefits that let the members gift freebies to their friends. This unique way of acquiring new members and heightening cross-sells make its membership model a flawless hit. 

Dollar Shave ClubImage Source

All these websites, though with their differences in niches and membership models, use the same workflow. They attract members with irresistible and innovative offerings, keep them well engaged to continue their membership, and use thus built community to grow their reach and membership base further. 

If you have a similar idea to grow your build and grow your membership website concept, then here is a comprehensive guide to walk you through the process. 

7 Steps to Build & Succeed with Your Membership Website 

Building a membership website isn’t as straightforward as building a regular static website. A lot of planning and research is required even to begin the process. And even after that, you will need more time to develop tools to build, engage, and grow your membership base, all the while ensuring you‘re setting up a platform for recurring revenues. Now, this needs proper and comprehensive guidance, and the following steps are aimed to provide just that. 

7 Steps to Build & Succeed with Your Membership WebsiteStep 1: Determine the Niche

Since a membership website, by the nature of it, is meant to be for a set category of audience, choosing a niche becomes the foremost step in developing one. Choosing a niche in the foremost step will also allow you to narrow down your research work. Besides, without a niche, you would not be able to effectively and efficiently market your website to gain members.  

That being said, if you want your website to have more users, going to narrow on a niche can prove to be counterproductive. Ideally, you should take insights from both sales and marketing members of your team. They will help you in creating a buyer persona and all that they are interested in. They will also be able to decide what kind of content they would prefer, knowledge of which can be used in the later stages of the website development. 

To make this step more effective in throttling up the entire development process, begin with the buyer persona and then begin researching what kind of membership plans they might already have. This will enable you to perform competitor analysis, which will eventually help you break down the entire development and marketing process for your membership website.

Step 2: Decide the Type of Content and Create It 

When building a website for members, you need to understand well what kind of content your target audience will be most interested in. For example, if your niche is health and fitness, then instructive videos will prove to be the best kind of content for you. Though written content can work here as well, since your members interest is in getting fitter, they may not want to spend time reading through pages to understand one posture of the given exercise. Similarly, niches like information sharing sound media and written content will perform better with the targeted audience. Other varied kinds of content popular among different kinds of membership websites are-

Written Posts
Written Posts

Written content is among the easiest kind of content to prepare and gate. Articles, listicles, news, financial analyses, scientific discoveries, etc., are best conveyed through written format. You can, of course, add visual aid to improve comprehension. Yet, for such niches, write-ups are the de-facto choice to engage and retain the members.

online-course
Online Courses

For eLearning websites, be it of any niche, online courses are the chosen form of content. Here, the content creation part will need special skills and LMS tools that can help you categorize and segregate different course modules for an organized learning experience.

video
Videos

If your website offers tutorials on a subject, videos are the best kind of content to attract and engage your target members. With instructive videos, your members will have an easier time understanding the complex subjects while seeing things in action instead of reading about it.

download
Downloads

Downloadable content like templates, videos, music, images, etc., can be made available as it is on the website, but with the protection of a paywall. A visitor on such websites can download a sample of the content, and only members will have access to complete the download. Such websites can offer credits to further limit the number of downloads per member.

Audio
Audio

For websites offering audio services in music, podcast, etc., audio is the primary content. Here, the website members will get full access to listen to the audio by streaming it online or adding it to their playlist to listen to it later. Again, visitors can be granted access to a sample part of the audio to encourage them to convert into members.

webinar
Webinars

For websites functioning in dedicated niches, live sessions are the best tool to encourage membership. Such webinars will only be accessed by the registered members, who can also interact directly with the instructor and moderator, primarily via live chat messages.

Forums
Forums

For most membership websites with forums, you will not need to create much content. Such type of websites thrives mostly on User Generated Content or UGC. You will, however, need a moderator to maintain the code of conduct on the platform and perhaps to answer queries that users aren’t able to deduce through their communion.

Step 3: Choose a Membership Model

Once you’ve done all the research required for the chosen niche and have the content prepared, too, it’s time to decide the membership model for your website. Historically, there have been nine models for membership websites that have performed well across the globe-

Content Drip Model
Content Drip Model

Most common among publishing membership websites is the model of content drip. The websites offer fresh and updated content to their users regularly. Visitors, usually, are provided limited access to the content, where they can just get a gist of it. The rest of the content remains gated behind a paywall.

offer
Exclusive Offers

This offer works well for platforms that offer price-based services and products to visitors, much like eCommerce websites. So, the idea here is to offer special discounts and exclusive offers, like pre-sale launch, free delivery, etc., to the registered members.

Coaching Model
Coaching Model

This model is for websites that offer mentoring and personal coaching from influential professionals. Since the website is oriented more towards individuals than groups among users, the membership section here will need to be more personalized with descriptive details on their plans and usage, etc.

online-course
Online Courses

One of the most thriving membership models among websites is that of online courses. Such eLearning websites create niche-specific modules and courses for the users, usually affiliated with registered educational institutes. Members can either pay for unlimited access to a bundle of courses or take a singular course to get a certificate.

Product Based Model
Product Based Model

Product-based models work well for both tangible and online products. Many such membership websites offer exclusive goodies only to the website members, i.e., only the registered people can buy products from the website. This usually works for exclusive brands who sell their products only to select people.

Community Model
Community Model

For users, the model works as a club where they can meet like-minded people. Communication and exchanging information around similar interests and experiences are the major selling points of such a model. The real challenge here is to bring enough interested people on the platform who can create enough value for one another.

Content Library Model
Content Library Model

Unlike the content drip model, the content library model is for websites that already have data collection. These platforms offer registered members access to this existing database, charging them per access or via a subscription plan. Exclusive libraries, publishers, etc., can benefit the most from such a membership model.

Professional Services
Professional Services

This model is ideal for websites offering professional services for recurring demands. The services can be offered either online, like psychotherapy, or in-person, like beauty treatments. Visitors on this website can avail these services whenever required, but members who wish to use them regularly can avail themselves better prices by taking a membership plan.

Hybrid Model
Hybrid Model

Mixing two or more of the abovementioned models is the most popular way among membership websites to ensure recurring revenues. For example, you can offer a professional coaching and eLearning website membership for dedicated courses and then have an add-on professional coaching segment for users who choose a higher package.

Looking To Hire Developers For Your Membership Website

Step 4: Landing Page and Website Development

With your plan ready, it’s time for you to invest in your subscription website development. Since the website will have some paywall and gated content, it becomes vital to pay extra attention to its security and data management configurations. Such compounded requirements need adept skillsets. This is why, when it comes to the development of membership websites, it’s best to hire a reliable team for the purpose. Some of the major features your website must have, include- 

Homepage: Every website needs to have a homepage to give initial information about the business to visitors. For your membership website, you can choose to have a different homepage for the members and visitors. Members can have their account dashboard as the homepage for the website, which will have a different URL. At the same time, visitors can land on the homepage that simply gives information about the business and the benefits of becoming a registered member. This way, you can ensure a more personalized experience for both kinds of users. 

About Us: This section of the website will let users know more about the business, its various stakeholders, and its values to society. The page can also be used to promote the business values and mission to make the members feel more connected to its core cause. You can also use this page to showcase your business’s achievements and other CSR activities it has participated in. 

Pricing Packages:  This page will showcase the different pricing plans you have for your members. This is especially beneficial if you want to create multiple membership tiers for your website, offering varied benefits to your users. If your website and business are new in the industry, make sure to add a free trial among the pricing plans so that new users can try your members-exclusive features before making the investment. 

Member Registration:  This landing page will be responsible for accepting membership requests from visitors. At the front-end here, users will either register on the website or sign in to their respective accounts. At the backend, the page will be integrated with a payment gateway that will allow the users to make a secure payment for new membership registration or the renewal of the existing one. 

Members Zone: This will be the gated section of the website that will need an authentication security layer. Here members can choose to log in through social channels or create a separate account on the website itself to log in with. This section will be personalized for all the members and, therefore, must be integrated with APIs that enable cookies. Moreover, since your users will want to access the personalized dashboard from different browsers, you will also need integration with the cloud database. 

Blog: To attract potential customers, it’s essential to have some free and accessible content on your website for regular visitors. You can also add excerpts of your premium content to this section to further encourage visitors to convert into paid members. The blog section will also help you create more shareable content for social media websites.  

Contact Details: Here, you will add all the possible ways a member, as well as, a visitor can contact your business. This would include your organization’s physical address, email address, contact numbers, social media channels, skype contact, etc. 

As is visible, most parts of your website will remain generic and thus can be designed as any responsive website. It’s just the member-only sections that will need unique integration and development capabilities. 

Step 5: Membership Software Integration

You can always easily find third-party membership website solutions to facilitate most of your website’s functions. There are multiple plugins, subscription-based APIs, and complete platforms available over the internet that can take care of your membership settings pretty easily. However, all these platforms come with one or the other custom limitation. This is why, if you’re planning for scalable membership management software at the backend of the website, you should get one developed separately for your website. 

You can make the decision based on your budget, the scope of the website, its niche, and the kind of support you will require to manage and scale its membership capabilities. You will also need to integrate your membership management system with the CRM of your business to be able to offer more personalized services to them. 

Step 6: Enlist Your Website’s First Members

After getting done with the membership website development stage, it’s time to build your first membership base. For this, you can begin by sending out emails to your existing and loyal customers. In case you don’t have access to that, you will have to adopt some major marketing tactics.

Free Content
Free Content

To create your first email lists for the potential members, you can offer free content like templates or research reports to all your website visitors in exchange for their email addresses. When collecting emails, they can opt to receive more marketing content on their emails to open them up for future membership offers.

Membership Trials
Membership Trials

If your membership website offers useful SaaS tools, you will have an easier time getting traffic for them. However, to convert those visitors into members, you will have to leverage membership trials. In this way, your potential members will get to enjoy your services before committing to a paid membership.

Limited Free Membership
Limited Free Membership

If you know your gated content is worth its value and word-of-mouth marketing will be your best bet to get the word out, you can try offering free memberships to the early birds. These new members will get to enjoy your services for free and will be more likely to boast of them. Besides, they can also help you generate a feedback loop to make your services more appealing for your paying members.

Step 7: Engage and Improve Membership Base

Once you’ve acquired your first list of members for the website, it’s time to ensure they get enough value from the membership to stay retained. For this purpose, you can add multiple engaging features. Some practical ideas that work for most membership websites include-

Prime Customer Support
Prime Customer Support

Now, all your website customers are important for your business. However, you need to make your registered members feel more valued. You can do that by offering them exclusive customer support services that resolve their queries more quickly.

Early Access
Early Access

If your membership website caters to registered and regular visitors, you can offer the former early access to the most in-demand products. That way, they will always be ahead of the regular website visitors whenever something exciting comes up.

offer
Exclusive Discounts

From time to time, website members must get exclusive offers and discounts to keep them feeling valued by the business. These exclusive discounts can be personalized to get the best conversion rates from the member-only offers you run.

Fun Content
Fun Content

Since you will have the required data for registered members, you can offer them personalized dynamic content like quizzes. Such engaging content can keep the existing member engaged on the website, even when they are not looking for any exclusive offer or content.

Teaser
Teasers

For websites offering exclusive content or offers to their registered members, it can be useful to let the members know what they can expect from the website in the near future. Sale and content teasers keep them hooked on the website by letting them know they have something great coming their way.

Feedback Loop
Feedback Loop

Since your registered members have invested some amount in your services, they will likely provide better survey insights. Having an optional feedback form around the member-exclusive services/content will not only help you resolve dissatisfactory parts of your website sooner but also make your members more heard.

Have a Brilliant Idea For a Membership Website

How Matellio Can Assist in Building a Membership Website for You 

It is clear that from planning the niche to developing and updating content, you will require a lot of resources. Managing subscriptions and marketing it for improved member count is yet another challenge that you may encounter. With Matellio, you can have all this sorted in minimal time. Our experts in website development, content organization, data management, and business analytics can help you through each of the processes involved. 

Our team can help accomplish all the development steps for your membership websites and add more value to them by applying their experienced expertise in the areas mentioned above. Moreover, our varied staff augmentation model allows you to strengthen your existing team with the required expertise, so you only pay for the services you actually require.

Enquire now

Give us a call or fill in the form below and we will contact you. We endeavor to answer all inquiries within 24 hours on business days.