Different types of membership sites explained

With so many types of membership sites, how do you know which one is right for your website?

The hardest part of starting a membership website isn’t the technical aspects. Most people get stuck coming up with an idea and deciding what type of membership program to build.

Check out our post with nine ideas for your next membership site if you need help with ideas.

But if you already have an idea, keep reading. This post covers the five most common types of membership websites.

Types of Membership Sites

When we talk about types of membership sites, we’re really talking about how you plan to distribute content or services to your customers.

You need to know what type of site you’re building so you can create the correct subscriptions and members' area on your site. An online course requires a different set up than a service website.

Check out the types of member sites below to determine which will work best for your site. Many sites use a hybrid model and combine different elements from several types of membership programs.

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1. Content Library

The content library is the type of site most people recognize. You know how this works if you subscribe to Netflix or other streaming services. Members get full access to the entire content library as soon as they subscribe and immediate access to new content when it releases.

The all-access library model is easy to implement. Put your content behind a paywall and keep updating the member section with new things. One word of caution about this type of site. Don’t let members download all of your content. Otherwise, they could download everything and cancel. Streaming services limit how you download and view their movies and shows. When setting up your content library site, look for features to protect your content.

2. Drip Feed

Unlike the content library, a drip-feed site releases content to members a little bit at a time. Online courses frequently use this model. Members access lessons one at a time, either based on a set schedule or their progress. Drip feeds keep members engaged and coming back for more. The model also works well when launching a site because you can start selling memberships before you finish building out your content library.

3. Community Sites

Instead of buying access to content, members of these sites buy access to the community. From exclusive social media groups to online forums, community sites provide a place for people with a shared interest to connect. Fostering and maintaining engagement in community sites can be challenging. The main advantage is you can launch a community site without investing in a lot of content development.

4. Product Combo

This model combines a product with a membership site. For example, a meal kit subscription could include a members-only section of their website with cooking videos and recipe ideas for leftovers. The product is the main offering for these sites. The membership site content is the bonus to keep subscribers engaged.

5. Service Sites

Service sites allow members to access services such as coaching or graphic design. The subscription pays for the service instead of content. The website’s member’s area includes a way for subscribers to schedule or request services and any supporting documents. For example, coaches might include additional worksheets, ebooks, or tools.

Selecting a Type of Membership Site

The content, services, and products you offer members determine which type of membership site is best for your business.

What is the primary benefit you offer members? If the answer is a product or service, build your members' area around those offerings.

If the content is the main benefit for members, you need to decide between the all-access library option or a drip-feed model. Remember that the drip-feed option allows you more time to create content when starting a new site. Launching a library with only a few pieces of content can cause members to think they’re not getting enough value from their subscription. The drip-feed model keeps members engaged while building up your content offerings and growing your site.

Most membership sites include a mix of different types of content. When building your site, look for plugins that support all the features you want in your members’ area. If you’re unsure about what you’ll need, review this list of what to include in a membership site.

Ready to Build Any Type of Membership Site?

No matter what type of membership site you need, building the site is easy with WordPress. WordPress offers a number of plugins to add membership functionality to your site.

And if you're on WordPress, you'll need an optimized hosting solution to keep it fast, secure, and always available.

Consider fully managed WordPress hosting from Nexcess. It’s optimized for WordPress, and smart monitoring tools are built-in to help you keep it that way.

Check out our WordPress plans to get started today.

Lindsey Miller
Lindsey Miller

Lindsey Miller is a WordPress and WooCommerce expert and Chief Executive Officer of Content Journey, a content marketing agency that focuses on increasing organic website traffic for their clients through SEO and blogging. She knows WordPress inside and out and has been working with WordPress since 2010 when she started her first WordPress blog. Since then she has attended WordCamps all over the world and had the honor of speaking at many WordCamps and other WordPress events such as WooSesh and WordFest. Lindsey has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in human relations, clinical mental health from the University of Oklahoma.

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