In May of 2010, I set out to create a WordPress membership site. Are you familiar with the concept? A membership site is a website that has content that must be paid to be used. Typically a person pays one-time or periodic fee, creates a login and password, and then uses that login to access the content. The content could be written articles like you might see on a newspaper site or blog. Or the content might be audio materials, video tutorials, pdf's or some combination of all three.
Why a WordPress Membership Site?
Using WordPress to manage a membership site is brilliant because WordPress already has a great deal of built-in functionality such as a login system and the ability to create users and passwords. And given that Worpress is free and open-source software it can help you keep your costs down when creating your membership site. And for someone like me who creates nearly all of his sites on a wordpress core (ryannagy.com is on wordpress) I figured that using it to also create a membership site would dramatically shorten my learning curve. I was right.
How Do You Set-Up a WordPress Membership Site?
If you already have a self-hosted wordpress blog the next thing that you need is some type of membership site "plugin." The plugin will add the needed functionality to your blog such as the ability to register members, have them pay, and give them access to certain posts and pages.
I searched for many months to find a membership site plugin. There are many great ones out there, for example: MemberWing, WP-Member, DL Guard, Wishlist Member, Digital Access Pass and the latest one that I have found: S2Member.
I will spare you the gory details of my search for the right plugin for my needs. Suffice it to say that though I can program a little and I did have a small budget for my first site, I was looking to do things without having to code and without spending a great deal of money. Have you ever had the experience of buying and using a program only to find that it was missing a function that you needed? And then you bought another program only to find that it too was missing something? Those small mistakes can add a great deal of overhead to a new project.
Sometimes planning can help you avoid those types of mistakes. But for me the whole concept of membership sites was so new that I had a difficult time choosing a plugin and knowing exactly what I was going to need. After a long search, I was happy find S2Member, because its "basic" wordpress membership plugin was free and seemed to have everything I needed to begin. (Later I upgraded to the "Pro" version: S2Member Pro For WordPress)
In fact, after uploading and testing S2Member, I was able to have my first site up and running in less than a week. Well...except for hassling my content contributors to send in their presentations!
The free version of S2Member uses PayPal to process payments and works with any wordpress theme. It also works with BuddyPress and is prebuilt to integrate with several forums such as bbPress.
Some other cool things about S2Member:
1) I know I already said this, but it's free!
2) You can find, install, and activate the s2Member membership site plugin from within the WordPress admin screen just like you would any other WordPress plugin. Just find it via the "add new plugins" menu by searching for keyword S2Member. Caution: The plugin is large and may not always load in shared hosting environments. You may need to upload it via FTP: Download S2Member.
3) It comes pre-integrated with PayPal. I know not everyone likes PayPal, but it works right from the get-go and you can use it with a free PayPal account. No need to upgrade to PayPal Payments Pro.
4) Built-In Integration with Aweber and iDevAffiliate. This is very important for keeping in touch with your members and having affiliates to sell your site.
5) The lead developer Jason Caldwell has created a number of step-by-step video tutorials on how to use the system. Quite frankly, most of the functions are super easy to use and require neither programming nor watching the tutorials. But if you do need a little help, the videos are excellent:
6) S2Member is developing a strong user community and you can get help on its user forum.
I may post more information on this topic later. For now, I am too busy setting up my second and third membership site. If you want to see what a membership site looks like see my NLP Leadership Conference. What I have done there is used S2Member to manage the enrollment of members and delivery of content for an online conference. A subscriber pays a one time fee and gets access to audio files and other information.