The model you decide upon for your membership site is of the utmost importance and the one you choose depends upon your objectives. There are basically two types of membership sites. There are free sites and there are paid for sites. The two types of membership sites have one thing is common. Their memberships are made up of people who share a common need or have a common interest.
You can, of course, buy a domain, set up a website and not charge for memberships but choose who to admit and who not to admit. Or you can just set up a site on an already established network. Two examples of free membership sites are Group sites on MSN and groups on Yahoo. It costs nothing to set these sites up and there is no charge at all for a person to join.
There are no paid administrators or moderators. Each site sets its own rules for how to join and the code of conduct for the site. The site topics are many and varied. There are many “support” sites for those with health problems or concerns and for those who have suffered the loss of loved ones, sites where you can find the best red ginseng supplements. There are sites for those who are passionate about crafts like quilting or wood working. There are sites for those who love to travel. There are sites for different age groups from teens to seniors. The sites include chat software and a limited amount of space for posting pictures, documents and links per member. The free sites do not have such things as access to specialized data or lists. They don’t give access to such things as music lessons.
Paid for membership sites are set up by businesses or individuals with the objective of making money by supplying hard to find information, access to specialized data or lists, or instruction in various fields. Membership sites are owned and operated by people who either own the sites or who are hired by the site owners to monitor and administer them. The topics for paid for membership sites are even more varied than the free sites and certainly more specialized.
Building a membership site can be a great way to have a business based upon topics that you love and love to teach to other people. Membership sites can be extremely lucrative and, if structured correctly, easy to run especially if you tie it together with a content management system like WordPress.
Many people think of WordPress as just a blogging platform but with the thousands of developers that work on it, WordPress can be so much more. One of newer applications of WordPress is to use it as a membership site. There are a number of new companies creating WordPress membership site plugins but they are not made equal. When deciding whether one of the available options is right for you, be sure to filter your choices using the criteria below:
1- Membership Levels & Types: Your membership site can have as many “levels” as you want. So if you want “Silver”, “Gold” and “Platinum”, you can! Now you can charge more for a higher level of access – all within the same blog.
2- RSS Feed Encryption: WP Members allows you to provide members with full content via feeds without fear of non users accessing it. Using specially generated tokens to provide a unique url known only to the admin and the users people can add your sites content into their RSS reader.
3- Download Manager: Downloads in WP Members are protected through inherited permissions, this sounds complicated but it is not. When a download is created and needs to be protected it is assigned an existing page. Who ever can access that page can access the download even though the link to the download might be on hundreds of pages.
4- Payment Gateways: Some plugins work only with Paypal, which is a major limitation. WP Members works also PayPal, ClickBank and WorldPay.
5-Training & Support: Having a strong customer service function is important for any business. If you don’t notice an easy way to get in contact with the developer of the plugin then you should be concerned! Also, there should be training manuals or videos that teach you how to use the plugin.
6- Entire Blog Protection: In general settings in WP Members there is an option to disable access to guests, this will mean a Guest will be asked to redirect whenever they reach a WordPress post or page of any sort including the front page, categories etc. Once logged in the normal partial or full protection can be assigned to separate content depending on account types. This is a very draconian method of turning your site into a complete membership site and not recommended for normal use, instead use full post protection on all pages and posts barring sales pages.
7- Guarantee: Does the developer back their work? At minimum there should be a 30 money back guarantee with no strange and complex rules to get a refund. Beware if you have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get your money back if you aren’t satisfied with their WordPress membership plugin.