Many of you have asked how to quickly set up a premium WordPress subscription membership site that supports limiting access to content for paying subscribers. The fastest way to go, without doing any programming or hiring a developer is to use a combination of free and premium WordPress tools.
In this How To, I’ll quickly list which WordPress tools I recommend for: controlling access to content and downloads, setting up an online subscription store, setting up payment processing and taking payments, as well as what you need to look for in a theme. It’s not an exhaustive tutorial, but it should be enough to get you started.
So without further ado, here’s what I recommend and why:
- Free – WooCommerce Plugin – The best and easiest WordPress store plugin. It’s simple to install and set up, and best of all, free!
- Premium – WooCommerce Subscriptions Extension – You need this to add support for taking subscription payments in WooCommerce.
- Free or Premium – A Payment Gateway that Supports Subscriptions (I recommend the WooCommerce Stripe Payment Gateway Extension) – you can just use PayPal Standard, which is free.
- Free – The Groups Plugin – Groups supports limiting access to content and downloads and anything else on your site really, to just paying members, and you can have several levels set up, etc. The basic plugin is free but there are premium add-ons like…
- Premium – Groups for WooCommerce Extension – you need this to integrate Groups with WooCommerce and WooCommerce Subscriptions. Together, those three form the basis for controlling access to content to paying subscribers only.
- Premium – Gravity Forms Plugin – Once you go Gravity Forms you’ll never go back, it’s the best forms plugin for WordPress and with all of the additional Add-Ons it makes it possible to extend WordPress way beyond just a blog site. It’s a must have for any WordPress site IMO.
- Premium – WooCommerce Gravity Forms Add-ons Extension – This plugin makes it much simpler to control the process of signing up. It makes it simple to extend WooCommerce’s default add to cart -> checkout process, and to add additional options for subscribers as they sign up. If you can live with the defaults this is probably optional, but if you want to offer a customized signup process, it’s a must have.
- Free or Premium –A theme that supports all of the above plugins. – I highly recommend the Canvas Theme by WooThemes. It has out of the box support for every tool I’ve listed here and it’s easy to extend and customize. It’s important that you select your theme carefully, not all themes will support everything you need.
- Not Free 🙂 –A company to host your site. – There are lots of options here, Google is your friend. Go with someone who’s reputable at running WordPress. I personally like ZippyKid and Page.ly.
Some other useful tools to consider:
Free –Redirection – Manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors.
Free –WordPress SEO – The first true all-in-one Search Engine Optimization solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more.
Free –Google Analytics for WordPress – This plugin makes it simple to add Google Analytics to your WordPress blog, adding lots of features, eg. custom variables and automatic clickout and download tracking.
Free –Regenerate Thumbnails – Allows you to regenerate all thumbnails after changing the thumbnail sizes.
Free –WP Mail From II – Allows you to configure the default email address and name used for emails sent by WordPress.
If you intend to go Multilingual, you’ll also need the WordPress Multilingual Plugin (WPML) (Premium)
If you want to add support for an Affiliates program, you’ll want to consider Affiliates Pro for WooCommerce (Premium).