Picking the Correct Platform for your Membership Website

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WordPress or a bespoke CMS? Here are our thoughts

Developing a membership website takes time and consideration – especially if you offer gated or exclusive ‘members-only’ content. One of the main factors to consider is whether to use a ready-built platform like WordPress or a custom-built CMS.

Depending on the nature of your business, there are numerous reasons why the WordPress platform will meet your needs more effectively and vice versa. However, although ‘ready-built’ suggests a lack of flexibility, WordPress is quite the opposite. It has evolved into a highly-customisable content management system, without being a headache to navigate.

Here are our thoughts on why WordPress could be the perfect fit for your membership website.

Flexible

WordPress runs around 38% of websites online. Given the sheer volume of content management systems to choose from, this sort of market share speaks for itself. Trusted by designers, developers, and businesses across the globe, the open-source software is praised for its flexibility and user-friendly interface.

With this popularity comes a whole lot of use cases. Although WordPress started as a blogging platform, it has grown to power just about every kind of website known to man. Universities, internationally-recognised news outlets, renowned brands, and a long list of medical organisations use it, to name a few.

The number of options to adapt, develop, and evolve the framework provides you with endless scope to create a unique membership website that meets your requirements.

Customisable

WordPress websites offer full customisation of every last detail. This is crucial for a membership site, as you need to offer unique, exclusive features while still retaining your brand image. Due to the level of customisation available, you can create something that looks and feels unique but is easy for your members to navigate.

A high quality and engaging user experience (UX) is vital on a membership website. If people have a poor experience navigating the site, they may cancel their membership and go elsewhere. The ability to fully customise your site allows you to optimise the UX to its full potential. Not only that, but you can continue making alterations after the site goes live, based on user feedback.

With a host of extensions and plugins available, you can improve the functionality of your membership website with ease. The likes of live chat, help desk software, and discussion forums can enhance the way you engage with members and inform them of new opportunities.

Limitations

When using a custom-made CMS, there is a risk that it will only make sense to the specialist developer rather than the end-user. If you need to troubleshoot issues, you may have to rely on the expertise of an individual or a small team, as it could go beyond your capabilities.

When using WordPress, you can tap into the knowledge of an ever-evolving global community. Thanks to millions of fellow-users, developers, and experts, you’d be hard-pressed not to find a quick solution or in-depth explanation.

Extendable

The WordPress dashboard is infinitely flexible. If you need more than just the standard pages and posts, such as premium or restricted features, there are several ways to add specialised content. Plugins can handle everything from forums and opt-ins to checkouts and event calendars, enabling you to create a powerful and secure membership site.

Think about the purpose of a membership website; it’s a place for your members to access exclusive content. So, what happens when you increase your marketing efforts and members increase? All of a sudden, you need to ensure that your site can accommodate an influx of new visitors. Not only that – what if you want to implement new features based on member feedback? In both scenarios, you need to be able to extend your website. With WordPress membership sites, it is much easier to add new functionality than a bespoke CMS, which may not support new features. In many cases, you either have to accept that you cannot adapt the site to your liking or have to rebuild the system from scratch.

When it comes to WordPress, the plugin market is extensive – you can download a plugin for pretty much any requirement or have it custom-built to suit your needs. You can continually update your site with new features and cater to members’ needs thanks to the vast range of plugins available.

External Support

Making amends and fixing bugs takes time out of your developer’s day and can be a pain if they are busy working on other projects. The last thing you want is problems that you do not have the time (or budget) to fix – especially when it comes to the likes of paywall content that generates sales for your business.

Although a bespoke CMS will be tested by the developers before the system is finalised, there is still room for error. With an open-source program like WordPress, websites undergo in-depth, rigorous tests and receive feedback from thousands of users, meaning the system is more thoroughly tested and built to a higher standard.

WordPress has multiple developers whose full-time job is to make updates and improvements to their system. You are unlikely to find a developer (and team) who are dedicated to ensuring your bespoke CMS is routinely checked and kept up-to-date.

Switching

If you decide that you’ve had enough of the bespoke CMS, it can be a tedious process to switch your site to an open-source provider like WordPress. The worst-case scenario is that you are effectively ‘locked in’ and cannot change company. It’s also important to make sure that you actually ‘own’ the website rather than renting it from the agency. If it’s the latter, what happens if there is a disagreement or you no longer require their services? Suddenly, you’re embroiled in a tricky situation that you hadn’t anticipated.

With WordPress, you have the freedom and flexibility to redesign and amend your website time and time again.

Cost-Effective

WordPress membership websites are the most cost-effective to set up. The beauty of WordPress is that you only pay for what you need. This happens a lot with other website building platforms; you pay for a membership site and end up with loads of features that you never use. In essence, a lot of your money is just being thrown away, so you’re not making the most out of it.

These are just a few examples of feedback we have received from organisations. If you have any questions WordPress development for your membership website, get in touch and we’d be happy to help.

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Author Adam Gibbons

Adam has worked within the Digital industry for over 7 years building websites for various industries ranging from Recruitment to Egg production. Adam has a degree in interactive multimedia and enjoys Gaming and Running, just not at the same time.

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