I'm in the process of setting up a membership portal on the Kea Sigma Delta website. It's for the membership program that I've been hinting at (link). So those of you who thought it was going to be Patreon are wrong. I've got my own platform, and it makes sense to use it. Here's what I've done so far...

The Goal

I want a membership portal that enables members to:

  • Access exclusive content and courses
  • Keep track of their progress
  • Chat, network and collaborate with each other
  • Be easy to use

This translates to the following website features:

  • Subscriptions at different levels
  • A private members only portal
  • Courses, where members can track their progress
  • Social interaction tools, such as private forums

I'd also like members to be able to log in using their Google/Facebook/social accounts if they want. Social logins reduces friction by saving people from the hassle of having to create yet another username and login. This is a "nice to have," not a "must have."

This website uses WooCommerce (on the ecommerce side), and WooCommerce doesn't have memberships and course capability built-in. This means that I've got quite a bit of work to do.

WooCommerce's Plugin Bonanza

One of the great things about WooCommerce is that there are plugins for almost everything. This also has its downsides because:

  • Plugins have a very wide range of code and design quality, and that can cause nasty problems, including conflicting with other plugins
  • You also tend to need a lot of plugins, and that can get expensive very fast

WARNING FOR PLUGIN DEVELOPERS: The more you jack up the prices and require more and more plugins for basic stuff, the more and more you make all-in-one platforms like ClickFunnels look like a really good deal. Seriously, ClickFunnels has subscriptions, memberships, and courses all built-in. It even has email marketing.

I still use WooCommerce for various reasons, but don't push it too far, okay. I'd already recommend the less technical to consider using ClickFunnels.

Going Plugin Hunting

Choosing the right plugins is a tedious process, but very necessary. Here are some things I pay attention to when evaluating plugins:

  • How well does it fit my needs?
  • Is it being actively updated?
  • How many users? Many users usually indicates that it's pretty good, albeit not guaranteed
  • What's the average review rating?
  • What do 1 & 2 star reviews say? Any recent ones? Are their any with legitimate complains
  • What's it like to use? Try their demo,if they have one

After scouring the plugin directories, this is what I've come up with:

I was thinking about installing BuddyPress and Youzify too for members to network with each other, but Youzify is another $199USD/yr, and would be even more work to set up.

Done is better than perfect. Repeat after me: "Done is better than perfect."

Installing & Testing

Okay, decision made, sort of. I still need to test everything. First, I upgraded the website's server because it was rather under-powered. The extra traffic to the membership portal might overload it. Fortunately, Cloudways made this ridiculously easy, and I had a faster and more responsive server within 10 minutes. It's always nice when things work better than expected...

Next it was time to:

  • Buy all the plugins
  • Set up a staging website to test everything out on

I don't want to use this actual website for testing, because a bad plugin could break the website, and leave the website unusable for you guys. With a staging clone of the website I can experiment away. And if it breaks, no harm done. Creating the staging site was also pretty easy (again, thanks to Cloudways).

Next, I installed the plugins onto the staging website, and set up some test membership subscriptions. Setting up forums with bbPress was relatively easy.

I did encounter issues between the currency switcher and subscriptions plugins. After a few hours I discovered that the I needed to install an add-on to the currency switcher plugin for it to work (a plugin to a plugin). I wish they had bundled everything into the plugin itself, because that would have saved me a few hours of troubleshooting.

Integrating OptimizeMentor and WooCommerce

Here's where I paid the price for deciding to use OptimizeMentor instead of buying yet more plugins. The OptimizePress team doesn't provide integration with WooCommerce because they have their own payment system called OptimizeCheckouts. OptimizeCheckouts is pretty good, so if you don't need WooCommerce, then just use that.

For me, though, I have WooCommerce, it has more payment gateways than OptimizeCheckouts, integrates with my accounting software, etc. So, using OptimizeCheckouts isn't an option.

Ideally we'd have a proper integration between the two. The OptimizePress team aren't keen, and I don't have time to whip one up myself. So I go for option b: integration via Zapier and OptimizeMentor's own API.

It took me about a day to figure out how to stitch the two together, and I'll share how I did it in a separate blog post.

What's Next

Everything I need is installed and working... on the staging site. Now I have to repeat the process on the main website, and then review boring things such as the privacy policy and terms & conditions. Once that's done then I can finally set up the actual portal.

I'm working hard to get everything set up. Click here to sign up to the waitlist, and you'll get a shot at being a founding member (at a special price).

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