If you need your customers to log in in order to access products, services or other information, then you’ll need to set up a membership site. Membership sites come in many different forms. They are used by video and music streaming services, banks, providers of online courses and retailers. Their main function is to section off part of their content so that it is only accessible to members. If you need a membership site for your business, this post will give you some tips on how to get started.
1. Get the right hosting solution
Before you can even get to work on building your membership site, you’ll need to find a place to host it – and this means finding a suitable web host. A web host provides you with a server, a computer that can be accessed by anyone over the internet, onto which you install your website software and store all your content and data.
Web hosts sell a variety of different hosting packages. Which you opt for depends on the needs of your company. You will have to consider things like the number of visitors you expect your website to get, the amount of data you want to store and the number of websites you want to run. Basic hosting packages are usually suitable for smaller businesses and these can be purchased for just a few pounds a month. When choosing a web host, look for a provider with lots of positive feedback and which has a reputation for being reliable. Make sure it provides 24×7 technical support and offers a range of security features to keep your website safe.
2. Naming your membership site
After finding a web host, your next step is to register a domain name for your website. Every website has a unique domain name (e.g. webhosting.uk.com) and to ensure no two are alike, each one has to be registered. You have to pay an annual fee to register the domain (usually between £5 and £20) and most web hosts offer this service. It is also much simpler to set up your website if you purchase the domain through the same web host that you use for your hosting.
As domains have to be registered, it means there’s always the possibility that the name you want will already be used by someone else. If this occurs you are left with little option but to find an alternative (unless the owner is willing to sell). The good news is that sometimes the alternative can be very similar. If mymembershipsite.com was taken, you might be able to purchase mymembership.site or mymembershipsite.co.uk or any of the other alternatives.
3. Building your membership site
While building websites has become a whole lot easier in the last few years, membership sites are more complicated to set up, especially if you are offering a range of membership packages and charge different prices for each. While you certainly won’t need to go as far as learning to code, you will have to learn the ins and outs of the membership plugin you add to your website software.
By far the easiest and least expensive route is to use WordPress to build your website and then use a membership plugin from the WordPress Repository. The use of both is completely free. Hosting packages like cPanel provide simple 1-click WordPress installation while the WordPress Hosting package comes with WordPress already installed, saving you time and getting rid of the trickiest part of building a WordPress site. WordPress itself offers a simple and intuitive interface to build professional standard websites and installing the membership plugin is simply a matter of locating it in the repository and clicking ‘install’ and then ‘activate’. And with thousands of free themes to choose from and tens of thousands of free plugins to add all kinds of functionality, WordPress offers unrivalled site creation opportunities.
4. Taking payments
Many membership sites charge their customers for products or services. If this is your intention, then you will need to set up a payment gateway in order to carry out the payment process. Payment gateways are third parties that carry out the payment process on behalf of you, your customer and your respective banks. They ensure that payments are authorised, transacted and secure. PayPal and Stripe are perhaps the best known but there are others to choose from. You will obviously need to register with a payment gateway and there will be a verification process to undertake in order to do this. You will also need to install the gateway plugin to your software so that customers can carry out the process.
Payment gateways charge for their services, often this includes both a small fee per transaction plus a small percentage of the monies they handle. You may also have to pay other fees to credit card providers and banking charges to your own bank. All these small amounts add up and need to be factored into your pricing.
As a membership site, you will have to collect data on your members. If they pay, this will include financial data as well. You will, therefore, need to ensure you comply with the various legal regulations under which your site operates. This will include compliance with GDPR in order to protect personal data and possibly with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard to protect online payments.
Compliance means having strict security on your site, using things like SSL Certificates to encrypt transactions and encrypting personal data which needs to be stored in a secure area.
While membership sites can be lucrative businesses, setting them up and operating them demands hard work and high standards. Financial and compliance considerations mean you have significant responsibilities to carry out. Setting your membership site up, too, requires a lot of consideration when it comes to choosing the right web hosting package, registering the ideal domain name, choosing the best website software and the most appropriate payment gateway. Hopefully, the tips mentioned here will make your decisions easier. If you are looking for reliable, secure hosting for your membership site, check out our cPanel or WordPress Hosting solutions.