WordPress, with its user-friendly interface and extensive plugin ecosystem, offers a robust platform for creating membership sites without the need for extensive coding knowledge. In Part 1 of this comprehensive guide, we covered the basics. Now, in Part 2, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of creating a membership site using WordPress. We will set up a blog/news type of website as our test case, and we will add a membership functionality to it. You can see the actual website at https://members.hectohost.com.

Install & Configure WordPress

So now that we have all the theory out of the way, it's time to put in the actual work. At this point, you should have a clear plan of what your membership website would look like, the content you'd be offering and the structure of your membership plans.

If you've decided to host your membership website at ICDSoft, keep in mind that you can have WordPress pre-installed as part of your order. This option is available on Step 2 of the order form. You can also install it at any time via our automated WordPress installer available in the WordPress Manager in the Control Panel.

Once you have a hosting account with a domain name pointed to it and WordPress installed, the next step is to build your actual website. Our builder of choice is Elementor, but we are not affiliated with it by any means, so you are not obligated to use it. You could use Divi, Beaver Builder, or the new WordPress Block Themes based on the recently released and built-in Gutenberg block editor.

If you are new to building websites with WordPress, we strongly recommend that you follow our step-by-step video tutorial on building a hosting company website with Elementor. Obviously, we are focusing on creating a membership site here, but you can use this video as a guide to build just about any website you can think of.

This video will guide you through all the necessary steps needed to create a WordPress website:

  • Installing WordPress from scratch.
  • Setting up an SSL certificate for your WordPress website.
  • Accessing the administrative dashboard.
  • Installing a theme (Astra) and importing demo content.

Once you have your WordPress website live and ready, it's time to add a membership plugin to it.

Reviewing the Best Membership Plugins for WordPress

Again, as we've highlighted in the past, one of the strong suits of WordPress is that there are plugins available for just about any functionality you can think of. And, you guessed it right, there are plenty of membership plugins available. In fact, the difficulty lies in choosing the right one for you. If you go to the official WordPress plugins directory and make a search for "membership", you will get over one thousand results - https://wordpress.org/plugins/search/membership/.

The general rule of thumb when picking between different WordPress plugins for the same job is to go after the most downloaded ones with the best overall review scores. First off, we would like to clarify that we are not affiliated with any of these plugins. We are not looking to sway you into using a particular one, and we are simply sharing our experience here. Feel free to conduct your own research and try whichever membership plugin you decide.

Features to Look for in a Membership Plugin

Ideally, a membership plugin would do the following for you automatically:

  • Create all the necessary pages - user registration, login, logout, password reset, etc.
  • Send out notification emails on account activation (welcome email), password reset, subscription activation/renewal.
  • Easily configurable user roles.
  • Easily configurable membership plans.
  • Built-in payment gateway integration - the plugin should allow you set up popular payment gateways, such as PayPal, Stripe, 2Checkout.
  • Recurring payments.
  • Compatible with the latest WordPress version.

These are some of the main features to look for when choosing a membership plugin for WordPress.

The Ultimate Member Plugin

One of the most popular membership plugins for WordPress is the Ultimate Member plugin. It has over 200k active installations and a pretty good review score of 4.5/5. However, this plugin is not well suited if you are looking to sell membership plans and easily restrict certain content on your site.

There is no payment gateway integration and no option to display excerpts on restricted pages/posts, which would hurt your website's SEO. Also, if you are already using this plugin, make sure to update it to the latest version as soon as possible, because a major vulnerability was recently announced for it.

This is a very serious issue: unauthenticated attackers may exploit this vulnerability to create new user accounts with administrative privileges, giving them the power to take complete control of affected sites.


Paid Member Subscriptions

Another plugin for building a membership website and definitely worth considering is Paid Member Subscriptions. Surprisingly, it's not the most popular membership plugin with just 10,000+ active installations. However, it's under active development, fully compatible with the latest WordPress, and its free version has all the features you need.

A great thing about this particular plugin is that it has a special shortcode that allows you to restrict only certain segments of your posts and make them viewable for paid members. This is good for SEO as the remainder of your post would be fully visible and indexable.

The shortcode in questions is:


Everything after this shortcode would be viewable only by active members, while the rest would be prompted to register. Of course, the "Content Restriction" setting must be activated for the actual post or page. This setting would be visible at the bottom of your post and pages once you install the plugin.

The Paid Memberships Pro Plugin

The other popular WordPress membership plugin is Paid Memberships Pro. It has over 100k active installations, an average rating of 4.5/5, and it's fully compatible with the latest WordPress. Here are some of its key features:

Based on its popularity, features and good reviews, we've decided to go with the Paid Memberships Pro plugin.

Adding Paid Memberships Pro to Our Website

We have an example website at https://members.hectohost.com, and we will use it as our test case for this tutorial. It's a blog/news type of website, and we will add a membership feature to it that will allow paid members to get premium content.

Let's install the Paid Memberships Pro plugin. Go to your WordPress dashboard > Plugins > Add New menu, and type in its name. Then click on Install Now and Activate.

Configuring the Paid Memberships Pro Plugin

Now that you've installed the plugin, the next step is to perform the initial setup. That includes configuring the three most important aspects - membership plans, membership pages, and payment settings.

Setting Up Your Membership Plans (Levels)

You should now have a new menu on the left side of your WordPress dashboard called "Memberships", so click it or hover over it and select Settings. This will take you straight to the page where you can add your different membership levels (plans). By default, the plugin would have two levels - Free and Premium. In our case, we will actually have three plans/levels, and they would be divided by the period of time for which members are granted access to the premium content. The first one would be called Daily Pass providing access for just one day at $2.00 USD, the second would be Weekly Pass for 7 days (one week) at $5.00 USD, and a third one called Monthly Pass providing access for an entire month at $15.00 USD.

So let's delete the default Free and Premium levels, and add our first plan. Once you've deleted all the existing levels, a new button would appear called "Create a Membership Level". Click it and select "One Time - Charge a one-time payment for a fixed period".

On the next screen, you should enter the Name of the plan (Daily Pass), Description, Confirmation Message, Initial Payment ($2.00 USD), Expires In (3 days). Click on the Save Level button at the end, and proceed to add the remaining plans in the same way. You do have the option to set recurring payments for the plans by enabling the Recurring Subscription option.

Now that we've added all of our plans, you can see them listed at the Settings tab with a nice chart showing the registration fee and validity period.

Configuring Your Membership Pages

As we mentioned previously, a membership site requires that you have several really important pages. You should have a Levels (Plans) Page which displays the different membership plans that are available. You need a Checkout page where visitors can enter the payment details. Of course, you also need a Log In and Logout pages. A Confirmation page to show a message upon successful sign-up. And an Account Page where a registered user can see their subscription detail.

The great thing about the top membership plugins for WordPress is that they all come with all these pages ready-made for you to use directly. And you do have the option to replace them with your own self-made pages where all you need to do is add a certain shortcode, or edit the default ones.

In the case of the Paid Membership Pro plugin for WordPress, all these pages are configurable via the Settings menu > Pages tab. There is a handy Edit Page button that directly allows you to modify the existing (default) page using the WordPress builder of your choice. And you can also see the shortcode that you need to add if you are looking to replace the default page with one that you would build from scratch.

We will save ourselves some time and simply roll with the default pages. But if you want to make your membership site look more professional, you should certainly take the time to customize these pages to make them follow the overall look and feel of your website.

Adding a Payment Gateway

The next crucial step in configuring your WordPress membership plugin is to add a payment gateway. Of course, this only applies if you want to be able to accept payments from visitors, so they can become actual members of your site and gain access to the premium features you are offering.

In our case, we will use Stripe as our payment gateway because it allows you to accept payments at your actual website without having to redirect visitors to another website such as the one of your actual payment processor. In other words, users would be entering their Credit Card details at your own site, but fear not, they won't be stored on your end, so there is minimum to no risk in terms of security. Yet, it makes the whole user experience much smoother and your website would look way more professional.

This is done at the Memberships menu > Settings > Payment Gateway & SSL. Of course, having an SSL certificate installed and activated for your WordPress website is an absolute must, and we already covered that in Part 1. Now, let's go ahead and configure Stripe as our payment processor.

Make sure that the Payment Gateway dropdown menu is set to Stripe. Press the blue "Connect with Stripe" button.

This will take you to Stripe.com where you would either have to register for a new account (free of charge) or sign in with your existing one.

The process is super easy. Once you have logged in (either as an existing user or after creating a new account), you just need to enter a new business profile or use the existing one created during the sign-up, and press the Connect button.

If everything is correct, this will automatically redirect you back to your WordPress dashboard under the Payment Gateway & SSL tab where you should now see a sign saying "Live Mode: Connected" highlighted in green next to the Stripe Connect Settings section.

Email Settings

The final step is to configure the email settings. Switch to the Email Settings tab, where you would see that the default From Email address is [email protected]. It's certainly a good idea to change that to an email that exists under your domain. In our case, we would enter [email protected]. You should also change the From Name to match the name of your actual website.

Restricting Access to Your Premium Content

Now that you've configured your membership plans, membership pages, and payment gateways, the very last step is to restrict the access to your premium content. It should only be available to your paid (active) members, while regular users would be prompted to sign up.

Typically, you would want to leave a good portion of your site freely accessible. Those free posts and pages would build up your audience and sort of promote your actual premium content. That's why it's never a good idea to completely restrict access to the entire site. There are much simpler ways to accomplish that in case this is what you are looking for. For example, you could password-protect your entire site via the Protection tool in our Control Panel.

With the Paid Memberships Pro plugin, there are two ways to restrict access to your premium content - by category, or by single post/page. For example, we can have a category called "Premium" which would hold all the posts that would be restricted to just our active members that have signed up for one of our three plans - Daily Pass, Weekly Pass, or Monthly Pass.

To restrict access to all posts in an entire category, go to the Membership menu > Settings > Levels > Edit Level (plan) > Select a given category or multiple categories > Save Level. Note that a single category can belong to multiple plans. In our example case, we will restrict access to our "Premium" category for all three of our plans.

The other option is to restrict content access per post or page, and that's done via its Edit menu. You will then see a "Require Membership" section on the right side.

Testing the User Experience on Our Membership Website

So now that we are fully ready with setting up our WordPress membership website, it's time to put it to the test and see what the experience would feel like for an actual user. This will also give you a better understanding of how this process works.

When a visitor comes to our site, and they click on a post that has been restricted to our membership plans, they will only see an excerpt of the actual post along with a notification and prompt for them to sign up (a "Join Now" button).

You can see the sign - "This content is for Daily Pass, Weekly Pass, and Monthly Pass members only." If the visitor clicks on the "Join Now" button, they will be taken to another page where they can select their desired membership plan.

Once they select an actual membership plan, they would be taken to the last step of the sign-up process where they would have to enter their account details and payment information.

Don't forget that you can easily customize the look of all these pages using the WordPress builder of your choice.


And that's it. We just built a fully working membership website based on the WordPress platform hosted at ICDSoft. With its user-friendly interface, extensive plugin ecosystem, and robust membership management features, WordPress provides all the necessary tools to transform your website into a profitable membership platform, or to quickly build a new one from the ground up.

Don't forget the importance of marketing and promotion. Make sure to implement effective strategies to attract and retain members, such as offering valuable content, exclusive perks, and engaging community interactions. Leverage social media, email marketing, and SEO techniques to drive traffic and grow your membership base.

With dedication, creativity, and the right tools at your disposal, your membership website can become a thriving online hub where like-minded individuals connect, engage, and access premium content. So, go ahead and embark on your journey of building a membership website with WordPress, and unlock the potential for both financial success and community building.


A web hosting provider since 2001. We host over 58,000 websites for customers in over 140 countries around the globe.