How to build a membership website in 30 minutes for $30
A WordPress membership website is, or it is traditionally thought, one of the most complicated forms of websites due to all the complex parts that it would take to put one together. You would need, for example, some fairly complex logic to handle each of the following aspects of the site:
- Membership registration, to allow new users to sign up;
- Ability to login, recover password, etc;
- The capacity to selectively limit specific content;
I recently gave a talk at WordCamp Buffalo, then later WordCamp Maine on how to build a membership website in just 30 minutes, for $30 using Pippin’s Easy Digital Downloads plugin, with his Content Restriction extension. When I later gave the same talk at WordCamp Hamilton, and WordCamp Ottawa, I switched it up a little and asked a member of the audience to do all the work, while I guided them through the process.
What is Easy Digital Downloads?
Pippin’s Easy Digital Downloads is a free e-commerce framework written by Pippin Williamson, which allows users to easily add digital downloads to their websites, and accept payment for them through online payment gateways such as PayPal. So, if you have a digital product (photos, PDF’s, MP3’s, or files of any variety) that you would like to sell online, you can simply add EDD to your site, upload your files, and configure the plugin to restrict downloads to people who have paid for the right to download that content.
While there are plenty of free, or reasonably priced, options to offer this type of payment gateway, Easy Digital Downloads is a mature product with an extensive history, and has made it easier for my clients to sell digital goods for many years.
What is the Content Restriction Extension?
For a membership website to work, you’ll need both the ability to accept a visitors payment, and the ability to restrict content on the membership website itself. For that, I recommend using the Content Restriction extension to Easy Digital Downloads which will allow you to, as the name suggest, restrict specific content on your website to specific visitors.
At the time of this writing, the Content Restriction extension cost $29, which means that for less than $30, you can build a fully function membership website by installing WordPress (free), Easy Digital Downloads (free), and Content Restriction ($30), but can you really do it in 30 minutes or less?
How to build a membership website, step by step, in 30 minutes.
If you’re following along on an existing WordPress website, you can skip to Step Three of the tutorial.
1 – Install WordPress
Seriously, we’re going to start this tutorial at the most basic level and install WordPress on a website server from scratch, just to prove that it can be done.
So, let’s start with a blank website directory, and then move all of our WordPress Core files into that directory.
Now that we’ve copied all of our WordPress files into our website directory, we can load a website browser and setup WordPress.
The install process is fairly straightforward, and will prompt us for basic details such as our language preferences, database connectivity, and admin password. Once you’re done setting up a basic WordPress website, you’ll want to move onto step two, installing test data onto your website.
2 – Installing some test data
In order to test that WordPress is working correctly, I highly recommend installing the Theme Unit Test Data, it’s a free download that as I mention in my presentations, will allow you to test the various aspects of WordPress to ensure your theme is working correctly.
Once the test data is in place, you’ll be able to see a fully functioning WordPress website, complete with data of every possible variety.
3 – Install an e-commerce engine to accept payments
In order to accept payments, allow users to create accounts, etc, you need to install a basic e-commerce engine to your WordPress website. Since a membership website isn’t going to be shipping anything physical, I prefer to use Pippin’s Easy Digital Downloads plugin which includes almost everything we need for a membership website right out of the initial install.
Once you’ve installed and activated Easy Digital Downloads, you can add a new download and set the price for that download. As you’ll see in my image above, I’ve called my first download Basic Membership and set a price of $29.95 for the membership.
Next, installing the Content Restriction extension, we’ll be able to see a new settings area in any of our Posts, which will allow us to restrict who can see this specific Post or Page, based on the downloads we set earlier.
Congratulations, you’ve now created a fully functional membership website, in less than 30 minutes, for less than $30.
This demonstration, along with my talks at various WordCamp’s on the subject of building membership websites is just a first step, designed to help website administrators appreciate that building seemingly complex WordPress solutions can be relatively straightforward.
My shameless self promotion of course … if you need a membership website built, are uncomfortable embarking on this process alone, please don’t hesitate to get a free quote for my website design services.