How to Create a Membership Website
If we think back a decade ago, many true professionals in various fields from fitness centers to language schools were limited in who they could teach by their location.
Nowadays, in the era of digitalization, reaching a wider audience with content is easier than ever before. For instance, a great copywriter from Hamburg, who was working only with locals, now can bring knowledge to the whole world.
And one of the most popular ways to extend the audience is by creating a membership website.
Membership services are extremely popular due to several reasons - in the next few years 53% of all revenue in the software industry will be generated from subscription models - but the most important one is a community around each one of them.
Let’s take a look at this research. It states that 57% of membership associates join it to find a community of like-minded people. Additionally:
- 26% are eager to find more information about an industry’s most recent news & best practices.
- 25% want to have access to specialized and premium content.
Besides, it’s quite beneficial for business owners since once created materials can be offered to an unlimited number of people not depending on their location.
So if you decided to develop a membership website for distributing your content or want to learn more about it - welcome!
✅ Thing Worth Attention Before Starting The Development
Before we dive into details of membership app functionality, let’s cover some aspects that require your attention.
These 3 things will be:
- Value (aka membership model).
- Members’ data management & privacy.
Membership Models 😁
First things first, we’d like to talk about how & why people will join your association and what you’ll give them.
In general, there are 6 main membership models used by membership sites. Here they are.
# 1: Regular Updates
This model is one of the most common ones.
Basically, you just provide your members with new materials once in a while (for example, it may be a set of various content 1 time per month).
It’s a good idea to offer various forms of content. Meaning, you shouldn’t offer strictly articles or videos.
You can use:
- Art & Pictures.
- Text-Based Materials (articles, blog posts, reviews, case studies, members’ stories, and so on).
- Webinars, Livestreams & Others.
Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily have to be digital content. There are a bunch of membership services that send their associates snacks, cosmetics & so on.
Take a look at Graze - a subscription platform that’ll send you a pack of healthy snacks based on your personal preferences.
# 2: Library
What happens here is that with the subscription, associates get access to all materials you upload on your platform. Members get value from a collection of content that’s already published.
Normally, content libraries are big enough for a good year of use or even more. Otherwise, there won’t be any sense for people to become members.
It’s a good idea to divide the library into several categories. Take a look at MasterClass.
There are a bunch of sections & topics on their website. Some subscribers may look for cooking classes, others for acting ones.
But it doesn’t mean that they can’t try and do something else since the subscription covers the whole library.
As we said, within their library, there are many classes dedicated to different topics.
Thus, those who initially subscribed to take speech classes can pick up something new since “they already paid for the membership anyway”. It can bring associated additional value & create a feeling of diversity that’s likely to increase their engagement.
# 3: Progressive (Coaching)
This model might fit your case if your services are related to anything that implies payments for a time. For example, teaching, tutoring, or mentoring.
It works in a way that members get a pre-arranged amount of work once in a certain period of time.
For example, if you have meditation courses, you can offer your potential members a subscription that includes 3 private 45-minute lessons as well as access to your mediation guide.
# 4: Community
In this business model, members get value from being a part of a group of like-minded people that share the same interests, values & goals.
There are several ways how you can connect the associates with each other:
- Posts with a certain topic that has a discussion attached to a post.
- Social Media chat.
- Messenger chat & others.
Patreon is a good example of a platform using this model. It’s a membership platform where creative people are paid through subscriptions for creating content.
And while content plays an important role here, many people join it due to a very strong community around the content.
It shows us that membership services aren’t always about the value of content but rather about the value of being part of a community.
# 5: Result Achieving
This model is perfect for services that have a clear result to be reached by the end of a time span.
So what happens is that users subscribe to your services, follow your instructions, guides, etc., and get the promised result if every necessary action was accomplished.
One of the most typical examples is fitness memberships.
People become members for 3 months, per se, to take part in a weight-loss marathon.
🎯 Promised result: — 5kg minimum.
By the way, if your business is in the fitness industry, you might find our article on the general tips for fitness website development useful:
# 6: Mixed
And last but not least — a combination of different modes — this is the most used one.
Knowing what previous models imply is important to understand what you can use. But most likely, you won’t use just one.
For instance, almost every membership website has a community that includes group chats, at least.
If you offer regular updates, you’ll have a content library either way since it’s not reasonable to make previous updates not accessible.
Besides, hybrid models are a great way to bring more value to members and make user-experience diverse.
Finally, it’s not likely that a particular model will fully suit your business needs.
That’s why each membership website is unique & built in a way to represent one's value and approach as precisely as possible.
Subscription Models 🤝
Now let’s get to the point where you need to decide on how & how much you’ll charge your members.
Most likely, you’ll take charge monthly (or annually), but is it going to be the same for everyone or there’ll be various membership levels? 🤔
Well, most companies offer different membership levels. The most common ones are Basic-Standard-Premium or Silver-Gold-Platinum.
It’s also a great stage to sink in members’ memory — try to create something original when naming the subscription levels.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Frequent Flyer — Crew — Pilot.
- Lunar Lover — Stellar Supporter — Galactic Benefactor.
- Sprout Scout — Plant Parent — Green Goddess.
And what’s especially great about such names is that you can kind of guess what services these subscriptions represent, right?
Per se, what a Basic subscription can mean? Literally anything.
But when you see a Sprout Scout membership level, you most likely will think of some sort of gardening activities.
🌌 Lunar Lover? — Cosmos & Astrology
✈️ Frequent Flyer? — Aviation & maybe Travelling
Thus, if you make up something creative as well as recognizable, you have more chances to be remembered.
Members Database 📚
As a membership website, you’ll need a client database (or already have one).
Thus, to manage this database, you might need a Client Relationship Management (CRM) Software.
A CRM Software for a membership service can:
- Automate registration of new members.
- Unify markings of cities & countries (the USA for all members, instead of using the United States, US, etc.).
- Handle & automate accounting and sales flow.
- Check for duplicate entries & remove them.
- Automate content delivery.
- Generate reports, analyze them & others.
There are quite a lot of pre-packaged CRM solutions on the market. And if you aren’t planning on using the CRM for automation & controlling all parts of your workflow, such options may suit you well. For instance, Oracle, Salesforce
But if you’re interested in developing your own one or just want to learn a bit more about it, you could check out our article on a custom CRM development.
⚙️ Features of a Membership Website
In this section, we’ll review the main features to add during a membership site development.
# 1: Sign Up & Profiles 🔐
Our unwavering recommendation for the sign-up stage is don’t ask for too much information.
In the very beginning, you can either don’t ask for any personal details at all or ask for a name and/or email.
Normally, membership websites let their potential associates learn about subscription options before requesting any information.
And during the profile creation, you might need to ask for:
- Full name.
- Phone number.
- Their banking card details (for future payments).
Besides, you should ensure a great level of personalization since it’s quite an important aspect of such services.
To create a personalized experience, you can:
- Congratulate users on their birthdays & other holidays.
- Use names instead of “You” in all messages and emails.
- Try to avoid generalized phrases and offers that create a feeling of being “one of many” & others.
It’s also a great idea to add Social Sign Up since it saves a lot of time for users and automatically gives you opportunities to interact with users’ Social Media accounts.
Such a feature can be implemented by using Social Media SDKs from Facebook, for instance.
# 2: Home Screen 📊
Home Screen is a place where users will access all available content, main features, their account, see the upcoming events, and so on.
But these features are usually available after the sign-in stage. Before that, you should place information about subscription options & your company in general here.
Information about the company can include:
- Contact info.
- Search bar (if needed).
- About Us
- Links to Social Media & others.
# 3: Filtering & Sorting 🔍
To be honest, this feature is quite occasional since not each type of business or membership model would need it.
Conversely, if you use a content library as your membership model, filtering & sorting is just what the doctor ordered.
The types of filters will also depend on what content you provide, but a generalized list could look as follows. So, you could add filters by:
- Date of publishing.
- Topic (sports, tech, fashion, etc.).
- Type of content (video, audio, text, etc.) & others.
Naturally, you should add a search bar — not depending on the type of your content, it’s a kind of must-have for most sites.
# 4: Content Page 📑
So that your platform won’t look too bulky, we recommend you allocate a separate screen for each piece of content.
Once again, a type of your membership model plays a crucial role here, but if we generalize what you might want to do, you can put all your content on a single page where you’ll have a sort of preview.
From here, users would access a full version.
Besides, it might be a good idea to offer your potential new members to learn about the content they’ll receive.
You can do it by either providing a whole list of content with headings or offer a small part of the members-only content for free.
# 5: Calendar 📅
Many membership websites have an in-built calendar where they place all important dates. They can include:
- Upcoming events.
- Scheduled meetings.
- Content updates & others.
Besides, a calendar is a great way to provide additional value to your members.
With an in-built calendar, they could use your website not only to use your services but also to plan their day or whatever — it can positively influence your brand recognition.
# 6: Forum 💬
Many membership websites have their own forums where the community digitally gathers around & shares their thoughts on relative topics, and just communicate.
You can divide the forum into several sections:
- All topics.
- Each topic separately.
- “My replies”.
- Community announcements & others.
To increase engagement, you can add a leaderboard where the most active users are shown & maybe give them some bonuses like discounts, special icons for their profiles, etc.
# 7: Payment Gateway 💲
To be able to subscribe to your membership, users will need a secure, reliable as well as user-friendly Payment Gateway.
User-friendly means it:
- Is consistent with the website and various OS options.
- Allows the usage of popular payment options like credit cards, Google & Apple Pay, PayPal, and so on.
- Functions fast with no delays.
- Strongly protects all financial data.
❗ Don’t forget to inform your members how they can cancel the subscription — it’ll help you create a trusting relationship with them.
# 8: Customer Support 🤖
To help users deal with occurring problems, you can add a well-developed customer service so user experience won’t be spoilt by some easy-to-solve glitch.
Best support services include:
- An AI (artificial intelligence) chatbot that’s intended to solve simple troubles & pass the requests to real specialists.
- Live chat.
- FAQs with a wide range of possible questions.
- 24/7 phone support for emergencies.
- A list of contacts that has phone numbers (for different operators), an email address, links to Social Media & messengers like Viber, WhatsApp.
To sum up, we’d like to point out once again that the functionality will strongly depend on the type of your membership model and content.
If you need our help with the development or figuring out what else you might need for your platform, feel free to reach out to us
🧘 Case Study: Motivational Speaker Membership Platform
Once we were reached out by the team of an international speaker & author.
When we were discussing all details, they already had a membership product & wanted to develop an app for it.
Apart from that, their team needed the existing portal to comply with the app & mimic what the app will look like.
Their membership model implies that each month, associates are given one audio lesson on manifestation, one video, one audio meditation, and inspirational art & many other benefits.
Besides, they have access to the content library with videos & audios.
As we can see, they managed to create a well-mixed content base that they wanted to strengthen with a great online tool for delivering this content.
In terms of membership models, they have:
- Monthly updates.
- Content library.
- Community (private Social Media groups).
- Progressive mentoring (a certain amount of live training).
They didn’t forget about the creativity & compliance of the business and subscription when naming it.
We’d also like you to pay attention to the fact that such a type of service isn’t something that you’ll immediately think about as “Wow, that’s the perfect business to create a membership website for!”.
However, as far as we know, they’re doing quite well. So, if you want to have your membership platform, think of what value you can bring to potential associates — your Tech Partner can help you do the rest.
❓ What Businesses Might Look For When Building a Membership Website?
In Gabby’s example, we’ll talk about the most common things that business owners might look for when building a custom membership website.
Retention Improvement 🔙
The retention rate is one of the most important metrics in the online industry.
It represents a number to the percent of those who use your app or Website an X number of days after the installation.
To measure the retention (& a bit more), you could use these metrics:
- % of members, who’ve engaged with the content you provided the first time.
- % of members, who’ve come back to the website the next day.
- % of members, who’ve come back to the 7th day.
- % of members, who’ve canceled their Subscription the next month.
If you’ll find out that your retention rate is lower than you want it to be, here are a couple of ways how you can improve it:
# 1: Provide personal approach
Nowadays, it’s important for a great retention rate to treat each one of your members personally.
By that, we mean:
- Use names instead of “You”.
- Send friendly notifications & wish something nice (like “Have a good day”) when sending an advertising email, etc.
# 2: Accept & consider feedback
It’s of high importance for every online business to know what customers want, like, and dislike about the services.
Taking members’ feedback into account & showing that you’re willing to hear them out, can give a great boost in terms of improving retention.
# 3: Send notifications & reminders
Don’t forget to send notifications to your members when you deliver new content.
Depending on what platform you use, these notifications can be sent in different ways:
- For mobile apps, you can use push-notifications.
- For web platforms, you can use emails or desktop notifications.
- If you have a PWA, you won’t be able to use notifications, so consider doing it via emailing.
# 4: Detect gaps & weaknesses
It’s always a great idea to pay attention to deficiencies of your business.
Thus, after you detect when & where users start to give up using your services by measuring retention, determine the reasons and ultimately strengthen the weak points - this is where your retention rate most likely will improve.
Engagement is also quite an important indicator of how good & interesting your content is to each member.
It’s quite an extendable definition since it applies to almost every action done on the site and beyond.
You might want to track:
- Onboarding email openings.
- Visits to the user portal.
- Engagement with the content (views, clicks, spent time, etc.).
- Social Media metrics (subscribers, chats members, etc.).
One of the most useful tools to increase engagement via a website is gamification. It can include achievements, leaderboards, rewards, platform currency that members can later exchange for certain goodies, merch & others.
Another way to improve it is customization. People are much more likely to be engaged in a certain activity if they’re able to customize it & tailor to their specific needs.
Customization tools can vary from offering to set a unique avatar on a profile to providing several ways of how associates want their content delivered.
Flexibility & Functionality 🤸
Frankly speaking, there are quite a lot of tools that you can use to either make the website on your own using given templates or build it on top of popular frameworks like Wordpress.
But the reason why many business owners switch to a custom one (as it was in the mentioned case) is that it’s not always enough.
One of the reasons might be that the functionality might not be enough to cover your business needs. As a result, you can’t really add new features — the choice is always limited.
In the custom one, conversely, everything is up to you.
As you can see, a membership website is quite an interesting business option. It allows you to be fully creative, make any type of content you want since membership is not something particular — it’s simply how you see it.
Besides, you can make it for almost any type of activity — whether you’re a personal life coach, math professor, or nutritionist.
Let’s briefly summarize what steps you should take to develop a membership website:
- Choose your membership model & what type of content you’d like to provide.
- Name your subscription options & set a fair price.
- Clear up your client database.
- Decide on what features you want to have on your website.
- Find a Tech Partner and start the development journey!
If you need any help with the development or have any questions left, feel free to reach out to us. We’ll find a way to help you!