Setting up a website membership area

Tuesday, March 01, 2016 by Richard Howe

Setting up a website membership areaNot everything that’s on your website might be for public consumption. If your site is accessible to staff for example, you might wish to create an area especially for employee access.

And if you already have a website with plenty of free, high-quality content and an audience who are eagerly coming back for more, there could be some financial benefit to having a members-only area of the site.

In this blog post, we look at some of the reasons for having a membership area and the first steps you’ll need to take when planning and setting things up.

Why you might need a website member area

Some of the reasons you might be considering having a membership area include:

  • Sharing documents or work-in-progress to clients.
  • Sharing non-public information with stakeholders.
  • Sharing photos with family or friends.
  • Creating a members-only area to allow VIP access to audio, video, ebooks or other privileged content.
  • Setting up a social platform for members to communicate with each other.
  • Creating ongoing, passive income from a content-drip programme.

Before you start, be sure to carry out some market research with your existing users to find out whether they’d like and use a members-only area. Since this is a large and long-term project, you need to know that it will be worth your investment.

Having non-public areas will enable you to broaden and deepen your website productivity and really encourage interaction from everyone involved, but to get it right requires plenty of forward planning. Let’s look at the different types of membership areas available.

The different types of website secure zones

Yes, the way in which you set up your site will have advantages and disadvantages that you’ll need to think about carefully before selecting a strategy. Crucially, whichever you choose will need to fit your core purpose and audience. Here are the most commonly used solutions:

  • One password for all members
  • Password-protected areas for different groups of people (a different password per group)
  • Personal log-in
  • Personal social log-in
  • Using a content management system (CMS)

One password for all members

Easy to set up and administer, having one password for all members has its advantages, but it’s the least secure option since people are able to share the password with others very easily.

Password-protection for groups

Group passwords allow you to share different pages and resources with different groups, such as running a tiered membership system where different people have a different level of access. Again, passwords can easily be shared or copied, so whilst it’s a practical solution, it’s not the most secure.

Personal log-in

It does take more time and expertise to set up a personal log-in system, but this is outweighed by the fact that users can be added or removed individually, password recovery is available and you can control access much more easily. Content can be provided at an individual level, which can make for a much more personalised experience.

Personal social log-in

Integrating a social login feature gives users the option to sign-up and login with a single click using their ID’s from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or many other networks. This format offers you the control and flexibility of a personal login, but with simplicity for the user to access the system without the need for username and password fields.

Content Management Systems

A CMS can act as a social network for your membership area with a lot of potential features and advantages, from allowing your users to communicate with each other, offering an exclusive environment, privacy level, potential to integrate with email marketing and payments systems, links to existing social media and so on. 

But depending on your choice of provider this might not be cheap, and will take time and effort to set up. What will you need to have in place before you start?

Now that you’ve chosen the type of membership area that would best suit your purpose and audience, you’ll need to plan exactly what content you will be offering and how you will go about presenting it. Typical content might include:

  • Audio and video webinars, lessons or demonstrations
  • Transcripts of audio and video resources
  • White papers, articles or written reports
  • Infographics
  • Photographs and movies
  • Special offers and discounts
  • Sneak previews
  • Ebooks or printed books
  • Checklists and templates
  • Products
  • Wishlists
  • Interviews
  • Ways to interact personally with you (support links, phone conversations, online chats etc.)

Whilst you won’t have all of this in place before you start, you’ll need to have a good amount of content ready to go when the doors to your membership area open. 

You’ll also need to have a clear plan for keeping up with content creation, client interaction and website maintenance. Ensuring that you have the time and the resources to manage the system long-term is absolutely essential for success.

Setting up a membership area on your website can range from a small, staff-only area containing shared documents to a full-on, tiered, paid subscription site for thousands of visitors. 

Whichever type of site you are setting up, making sure that the basics are in place before you begin and keeping an eye to the longevity of the project will help you to achieve your goals and create a truly valuable addition to your existing website.

Your comments

Hey guys, consider using an open source platform like Zenbership to build your membership sites on! Has a million features on top of the standard "content security" stuff :)
preeti das
A secure website is ok, but after that is there any way to hack a website from within the member area?
Richard Howe
Hi preeti, the security of a website member area and the security of a website itself are quite separate. Providing the site has been developed in a logical way, a site shouldn't be any more vulnerable to logged in members, than to public visitors.

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