At least three times a month I'm on the phone with someone who thinks they need a membership site but doesn't have the time to make it work. I don't know if it's that they're looking to develop the world's best membership site, or if they just don't know how easy it is, but let me show you the three options you have to get something up and running quickly.
The Simplest Approach: No “Members”
The first approach is almost cheating, but it's so easy you can't ignore it. Imagine you have a product you want to offer clients (be it a downloadable PDF, a set of three videos, or some other special content). In this case, one of the simplest approaches (assuming you're using WordPress) is to first create a Page (http://bit.ly/A5Hq7D) and then protect it. Protecting it with a password is really easy.
You click on the visibility “edit” in the Publish meta box and you'll see these options (see the image on the right). Select “password protected” and you're good to go. Just enter a password.
Now, when someone buys your product, reply to them via email with a URL and the password and they're ready to enter your protected page without every needing a full-blown membership site.
Need to protect more than one page? Here's a Free Option.
Sometimes you have more content than just a single page can hold. In that case, you may need something more sophisticated than just a password-protected page. So in that case, I suggest you check out the Members plugin by Justin Tadlock (you can download it here).
As you can see here, once it's installed you can assign which roles have access to any post or page you author in your WordPress site. It really is pretty easy. Assign some registered users to a group, and then give them access to the content they need (or have paid for).
Did I mention this plugin is free? That's nice, isn't it?
The Complete Solution – Still Pretty Easy
Now, if you need much more than that, then there's really only one way to go, and that's to jump over to Memberpress and get their membership product.
But wait, you might be thinking, how do I know if it does what I want it to do. Well, I don't know what you want it to do, but I can suggest you check it out because it's so awesome. Want other awesome options? Check out Restrict Content Pro (by Pippin Williamson) or Paid Memberships Pro (by Jason Coleman).
But wait, there's still one more thing to figure out – Video
One of the most important aspects of the membership sites I get involved with is the need to present video on the site that others can't get to in other ways. In other words, people don't want to upload videos to YouTube, and then charge people to see them inside of a membership site because once they see the video on YouTube, they'll just head over there and watch them for free.
Good news! Vimeo is here to solve all your needs and wants – but it does require that you purchase their Plus package.
The screen below should highlight how easy it is – by letting you constrain which URLs will allow embedded videos (i.e. your membership site). It also lets you make sure that your videos aren't present on vimeo.com. It doesn't get easier than that.