The Essentials of a Great Membership Website

More and more subscription based membership sites are popping up these days. Entrepreneurs in every niche, from crafts to real estate, are finding ways to monetize their content behind member based websites.

Here’s a few essentials tips for crafting a great membership website.

1) Premium Content

The first and most important aspect of a great membership site is providing great content. After all, that’s what people are paying for, so make sure you deliver. People can get free content all over the web, so great membership sites go the extra mile by offering premium content.

For example, if you’re offering video content put some time into the extras, like professional intros and good audio. Or if you offer courses make sure you give users more than one way to learn – i.e. text instructions and video follow alongs. The “extra” effort you put into your content could be the deciding factor on why people choose your site over your competitors.

2) Great Design & User Experience

I’ve seen tons of membership sites that were quickly thrown together by someone non-technical using a free WordPress theme. Sure, they saved some money by not hiring a developer or an agency… but their site looks and works like a primitive blog.

Unless you have technical knowledge, or a high interest in learning web design, find a technology partner to help you build your vision. The cost will be well worth it in the long run, especially if you find someone with knowledge and experience building sites in your industry. Having a site experience that looks great and works well is critical to customer acquisition and engagement.

3) Seamless On-boarding Process

Aside from having great content and user experience, you’ve got to put effort into a great on-boarding process – how a user goes from site visitor to member. This typically involves the following flow:

  1. User lands on homepage or other landing page.
  2. User clicks around until they reach a “Sign Up” page.
  3. User chooses a membership level and proceeds to checkout (pay).
  4. User completes payment/sign-up and gains access to your site.

That’s sounds pretty smooth and simple, but the mechanics of that process are very important. It needs to be fast, easy, and trustworthy. The second you confuse users is the second they bail, so put some effort into a great on-boarding process for your specific audience. This is also something that needs to be nurtured and optimized over time, since there’s always opportunity to improve conversion rates.

4) Member Engagement

The last part of a great membership site is keeping your members engaged. In other words, what’s bringing them back for more AND preventing them from cancelling their membership? Because believe me, members will cancel at the first chance you give them!

Some tips for high member engagement:

Ongoing Content

It’s important to put out new content on a regular basis. This keeps the site fresh and your members intrigued to know “what’s coming next.” Stale content is one of the main reasons members cancel their membership.


Make your members feel like they’re real people, not robots. For example, use friendly tones, refer to them by first name, provide fun “welcome messages,” etc. Making a personalize connection can be the small difference in someone’s day that makes them realize, “I’m glad I signed up for this.”

Marketing Automation

It’s not enough to email your members login info and then call it a day. You need to maintain regular communication, which is easily done via marketing automation – i.e. scheduling sequenced emails and/or text messages. There are some great tools like Autopilot and Active Campaign that can help with this automation.

Feedback Loops

The most engaged members are the ones that feel like their voice is being heard. Not only will they use your site more, but they’ll be your best ambassadors as well. And there’s no better acquisition channel than a free referral. So put some effort into regular feedback loops that encourage members to share their thoughts, both good and bad. More often than not it’s the bad feedback that pushes your product forward.

Those are just a few tips to help you on your membership site adventure! Feel free to contact us with any questions or a free project quote.

Photo credit: Jeff Sheldon

Ali Jafarian

Ali is the founder of MemberDev. He's a serial entrepreneur and software engineer with over 15 years of experience building technology. Ali's spent the last decade focusing on membership websites and the subscription business model. He enjoys helping small businesses with early stage development and growth.

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