Now And There
One of my companies is Now And There. The website NowAndThere.com was launched ages ago, and is updated regularly with new blog articles. Currently users come via Google search or perhaps following a Twitter post and arrive to read an article or two. There is no login. Its just a simple blog. I would like to add membership to the site.
This RMC post is a fantastic, thorough tutorial on the before and after of a membership website. It includes text and images here in the post. Below the post there are 3 great HD Screencast Videos (See ‘Member Resources’ below) which repeat what we have here in the post plus much more!
Why Add Membership?
I would like to increase traffic on NowAndThere.com. The 2-prong goal is to get traffic and then keep traffic. Getting new traffic is outside the scope here, but I figure once people visit, I’d like them to stay for a while and even return another day. I think a newsletter (monthly, quarterly, etc…) is a great way to invite current readers back to the site. But, if users are going to express interest in a newsletter and fill out a form (with at least their email), why not keep them as ‘members’? With membership I can offer the newsletter as well as exclusive content. Plus by keeping some content for members only, I can encourage more casual readers to become members (and thus receive the newsletter. I’m rambling, but for me membership + newsletter is the best plan to meet my goals.
1. The Plan
The site currently (See ‘Figure 1′) features no membership. We will change the page layout to provide a membership widget (See ‘Figure 2′). This membership will allow for non-members to log-in/sign-up and allow logged-in members to see their membership information and to log-out.
Membership allows to protect (or restrict) the content on the site for certain members. Its a fairly flexible content. A site could have an entire site that requires membership or just select content which require membership. A site could offer just one level of membership or have multiple levels (at various prices for example).
An analysis of how I would like the site to work is as follows (See ‘Figure 3′). I would like the site’s content to be unprotected by default, but to offer a quick, free membership sign-up to see some posts and in some specific cases to see some parts of some posts. In a broad sense its a 90% unprotected site, with 10% of the content that requires membership. My idea is to encourage sign-up WITHOUT turning away the casual readers. I can always change the 90/10 balance in the future as I see fit.
The schemes shown (See ‘Figure 3′) will work as follows;
- Scheme #0 - Unprotected content. No membership required. (See ‘Figure 5′ for an example)
- Scheme #1 - An unprotected post which gives the gist of the story and then protects the rest (See ‘Figure 6′ for an example)
- Scheme #2 - A protected post. Users will see it listed on the front page, but cannot see any of the post without membership. (See ‘Figure 7′ for an example)
- BONUS - This last scheme is a modified version of #1 where the entire post is unrestricted and only a list of links at the very bottom is protected. (See ‘Figure 8′ for an example)
2. The Process
The Membership Plugin
As mentioned before (See ‘Figure 3′) the NowAndThere.com website was created with the popular website creating tool WordPress. If you are new to WordPress, checkout my complete WordPress: Install & Introduction post which includes HD screencast video. To add membership to NowAndThere we will be using the Wishlist Member (WLM)Wordpress plugin. If you want to know more about the plugin, read my Wishlist Member WordPress Plugin Review post or simply follow along with the tutorial post you are currently reading.
Before You Start
In addition to this post and the 3 HD screencast videos (See ‘Member Resources’ below) I recommend reading the features on the Wishlist Member website’s features section, the showcase of example websites, the support/documentation, and review the extensive Wishlist Member video series.
All of this will help you learn – what is possible, what you want to do, and how to do it.
First, do a complete backup of your website. I recommend that before any website development, especially significant development like this.
Second, you must purchase and download the plugin from the Wishlist Member website. Then access the admin of your existing WordPress site, visit the plugins page, and upload the new plugin. Activate the plugin. You will notice (thankfully) that after activation your site has not changed. This allows you to install the plugin safely without changing your user experience.
Now that the plugin is activated you will begin setting up the plugin. During the course of this process your website will be in limbo. Your user experience will change. For instance you may restrict access to a page but not yet add the widget allowing users to sign-in. So no one can reach that page. This is ok. Its just something to remember. You will want to plan well to minimize the effect on your users. Depending on your familiarity with WordPress and Wishlist Member and the complexity of your site and content protection scheme the entire process may take hours or days of development.
Here is the ordered approach I used with NowAndThere after activating the WLM plugin;
- Access the WLM dashboard within your WordPress admin
- Add licensing information you get via email from WLM
- Follow the ‘Setup Wizard’
- Add the Registration Widget to your Sidebar
- Create Membership Levels (I created just 1)
- Add/Edit Error pages. This is what users see during the sign-up process, sign-out process, and other situations
- Edit the WL Member » Settings » Protection Defaults
- Edit the WL Member » Settings » Protection Defaults » “Text to display for content protected with private tags”. This is what users see for Scheme #1.
- Edit the WL Member » Settings » Email Text. This is what users see during the sign-up process.
Expert Tip: Open two web browsers. With #1 – log-in to WordPress and the WordPress Admin. Open your website too (like a logged in user). With #2 – do not log-in to your website. Open the website (like a non-logged-in users). This way you can easily test the logged-in and not-logged-in experience during your development.
3. The Result
Since starting this post, obviously the NowAndthere website has been updated. It now has full membership integration. Nice!
I have not yet added the newsletter. I will gather some members for a while and then use a 3rd party email system, such as MailChimp.com to send my first newsletter to all my current members next month or next quarter.
Ready to see the results? Great. Remember you must sing-up to NowAndThere (click here) to see the logged-in experience and log-out (use the sidebar widget) to see the logged-out experience. Have fun!
Live Examples of each protection scheme;
- Scheme #0 - NowAndThere – 9.5 Simple Habits to Make Your Life Better
- Scheme #1 - NowAndThere – Considering Sicily
- Scheme #2 - NowAndThere – 2012 Annual Preview Of Goals
- BONUS - NowAndThere – Small Countries Worth Visiting
- Watch the 3 HD screencast videos (See ‘Member Resources’ below). This complete post is explained with commentary and examples.