In recent years, I’ve found that more and more organizations want to have a members-only section of their website that contains specialized content. It could be member-related news, documents for an upcoming meeting or even a forum for members to hold discussions.
Thankfully, there are some outstanding WordPress plugins that can help you create a members-only area. Here are a few that I’ve used and recommend:
User Access Manager
User Access Manager allows us to create “groups” of users (i.e.your members). Those groups can be set to access specific content on your website (pages, blog categories, etc.). The general public and non-authorized users who aren’t part of the group will then be blocked from viewing that content. This plugin is very easy to use and can be setup quickly.
Like the plugin mentioned above, WP Members will allow you to reserve certain content for members and keep the public out. It just goes about it in a slightly different way. But the real strength of this plugin is that it will allow new members to register on the front-end of your site without ever seeing the WordPress Dashboard (admin). The registration form can even be customized with as many fields as you would like. You can also choose to manually approve each new registrant. There’s also a handy login form that you can place on your site to allow members an easy way to sign in.
Membership is a bit of a different animal, as it is the only plugin here that a) costs money; and b) allows you to easily set up a site where members register and pay for access to content. It’s quite powerful – giving you a more granular control over the setup of your site. You can create different membership levels that charge different fees (including free accounts). Even better, you can allow users to view specific content based on the level of account they have with you. So paying customers can get access to more than free accounts. Payments can be handled through PayPal or some other select payment gateways. This is a very nice solution if you are looking to charge members for content.
Last but not least, you may want to give your site’s members a place to hold a good discussion. That’s where bbPress, created by the same folks who make WordPress, really shines. Simply install bbPress, create some forums and you’re off and running. You can tweak the settings so that specific members or levels of membership can see specific forums. For example, you may have an Executive forum and a Planning Committee forum that you only want certain folks to see. There are also plenty of add-on plugins that can help bring new functionality to the forums.
There you have it – four plugins that will allow you to easily set aside an area for members to view specialized content! While these plugins aren’t the only considerations in creating a membership area, they are the foundation for making things work. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.