Tutorials

Tutorials »Build a Membership Website Tutorial

With a little bit of work, WordPress.com allows you to build really powerful websites, including membership websites.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a members-only area where users have to signup and login to access the content you’re keeping away from the general public, such as ebooks and more.

Note that this tutorial requires two sites (referred to as “Site A” and “Site B” in this guide), a custom domain name and a subdomain. You’ll learn how to set these in the following steps.

Already have a website with a domain? You can skip to Step 2 directly.

1. Create Your Main Site (Site A)

If you don’t have a site yet, go ahead and click on My Site → Add New Site or go to this link. The purpose of this website is to host your main content, visible to all.

Throughout the setup process, you’ll be asked to choose a theme and a domain name. If you choose a brand new domain name, choose it wisely as you can’t change it after 48 hours! If you already own a domain that was purchased through another company, you can add it and point it to your WordPress.com site.

Once done, go ahead and customize the site to make it your own.

We have several guides available to help you set up a site whether it’s for a small business website or a lifestyle blog. You can see them all here:

Once your main site is setup, it’s time to create the membership area.

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2. Create your membership site (Site B)

This membership area is, in fact, a separate site and this step requires creating another site which will be linked to the main site you created in Step 1.

Go ahead and click on My Site → Add New Site or go to this link. Choose a theme (we usually recommend choosing the same theme as your main website but that’s totally optional).

Adding a subdomain

As a domain, you’ll be entering a “subdomain.” A subdomain uses a word followed by a dot, followed by your existing domain. For example, assuming you registered the domain mysite.com on Step 1, a subdomain would be: members.mysite.com or login.mysite.com

When you’re done, two addresses will be created: a subdomain and default .wordpress.com address. You can see them both under My Sites → Site B → Domains. Take note of the .wordpress.com address as you’ll need it now.

Before you get to customize your members’ area, a final step to configure your new subdomain is required.

Head to My Sites → Site A → Domains → your custom domain → DNS Records and add a CNAME record to the list. You can do so by choosing CNAME in the drop down list, adding your subdomain address as the name and your membership .wordpress.com address as the alias.

You can see the detailed steps in our guide to Map a Subdomain.

Once done, click on Add New DNS Record to save your changes. Both websites now have their own addresses. In the next steps, you’ll be “locking” the membership site so no one but your members can access it.

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3. Lock your membership site

It’s now time to make this membership area private. You can do so by going to My Sites → Site B → Settings. You can learn more about our privacy settings here.

Anyone with a WordPress.com account visiting your membership site will now be presented by a message prompting them to be granted access if they want to see the site and its content. If they don’t have a WordPress.com account, they’ll be offered the chance to create one.

Whenever someone wants to sign up to your membership site, you’ll be sent an email and it’s up to you to accept/decline access for this user.

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Now that your membership area is ready and locked up, it’s time to link it from your main site for easier access.

The best way to do that is by adding a link in your menu. Here is what it will look like:

If you don’t have a menu yet on your main site, you can follow this guide on Custom Menus.

To add a link to your membership section, you’ll want to go to My Sites → Site A → Menus and click on the + symbol to add a new element. In the options suggested, you’ll want to select Link and enter the subdomain created earlier. Make sure to save your changes when you’re done!

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Optional - Customizing the membership area

Now that your membership site has its own address and is reachable from your main site, you can start customizing it.

  • Sharing documents: If you’re planning on sharing content that no one but your members have access to such as ebooks, you may want to read this guide on how to upload and share documents: Uploading Documents.
  • Forum-like feel: our theme P2 has a front-end editing option allowing your site members to start conversations and discuss through smart threads. Learn more about P2 and activate it here.

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