What’s the first thing you do when you want to learn more about an organization? Probably look up their website!

Your organization’s membership website is one of your most visible marketing assets. When it comes to building a membership website, you’ll want to give your prospective and current members 24/7 access to learning more about your organization and how to get involved.

However, 38% of people say they’ll stop engaging with a poorly designed website. Additionally, poor user experience can cause up to 50% of website visitors to end up with a competitor organization.

If you’re wondering how to create a membership website that is effective and well-designed, we’re here to help! Below, you’ll find seven easy steps on how to build a membership website to recruit and retain members.

What Is a Membership Website?

It helps to know what you’re building before diving into the how. A membership website differs slightly from a basic website.

A basic website typically includes public-facing information about your:

  • Mission, vision, and values
  • Organizational history
  • Leadership staff or board members
  • Ways people can get involved
  • Services and programming
  • Contact information to learn more

A membership website includes this information, but also offers gated, members-only content and pages. This could include:

  • Discussion forums
  • Membership directories
  • Event calendars and registration
  • Job boards
  • Industry research and reports

Through a personal login, membership websites allow organizations to provide additional benefits to dues-paying members. Members can access membership benefits easily and conveniently in an online format.

Build a Membership Website in 7 Steps

Now that you’re more familiar with what a membership website is, this section will review the essential steps of creating one.

1. Choose a membership website builder.

To create a membership website, you’ll need a website builder with member login options. Platforms like MemberClicks offer a website builder specifically for membership organizations that lets you create a site with gated content.

Plus, these website builders allow membership organizations to implement other features into their sites, such as:

Starting with the right platform that already has these features built in will save your team time and resources, especially if you don’t have a background in website development. A solution like MemberClicks makes website creation easy for all skill levels.

2. Determine your membership model.

A membership model is the plan for what value your organization will provide your members based on the fee they pay to join. Different types of membership organizations have different membership models. For example:

  • Clubs bring together groups based on geographic areas and/or interests. Members pay a fee for access to related events and opportunities, such as local sports competitions, networking, business discounts, or classes.
  • Associations bring together industry professionals within specific fields, such as writing, culinary arts, or accounting. Members pay a fee for access to relevant perks, such as conferences, networking, or certifications.
  • Nonprofits can create member-based experiences that support their mission. Members provide a recurring donation that lets them access the nonprofit’s resources (such as a museum or park) or community (such as churches or economic development groups).
  • Businesses can increase brand loyalty through membership options. Members pay a fee for bulk discounts on products or services or for benefits like free shipping.

Your membership model will help you figure out:

  • Different membership levels
  • Revenue sources
  • Marketing activities
  • Events and conferences

When you clearly define your membership model, you can craft website pages that are relevant to each segment of your member population.

3. Figure out how members and prospects will use your website.

Once you’ve clearly defined your membership model based on your organization type, consider what type of content your members will expect to see on your website.

For example, if you’re a local softball club, your members likely want access to things like:

  • Regional game schedules
  • Transportation plans
  • Team members’ contact information

On the other hand if you’re a professional writers association, your members might want access to perks, such as:

  • Online workshop content
  • Publishers’ contact information
  • Software discounts

In addition to brainstorming on your own, it also helps to send out a survey to your current members and ask what benefits they most want from their online membership experience.

When you understand what your audience members expect from your website, you can design the site to deliver this content front and center.

4. Include publicly available and members-only areas.

Building a membership website includes organizing content for two audiences:

  1. The public (including prospective members)
  2. Current members

Your publicly available pages include basic website features, such as your:

  • Homepage
  • About page
  • Membership registration page
  • Event calendar
  • Donation page

Current members will have access to members-only areas of your membership website. These pages include elements, such as:

You can also choose to have some content, such as your online directory, publicly accessible or for members only. Consider whether it is more beneficial to make it be a membership benefit or a taste of what prospective members can expect.

5. Prioritize user experience.

Based on their initial user experience, 38.5% of website visitors form their opinion of a business. Additionally, 40% will disengage with a website if it’s too slow.

Therefore, it’s critical to prioritize ease of use for your membership website. As you’re building and testing your website, aim to:

  • Reduce load speed
  • Include ample white space to allow for easy skimming of information
  • Incorporate simple navigation

It always helps to have someone unfamiliar with your organization click through your membership website to offer feedback on any glitches or confusion they encounter while doing so.

6. Follow accessibility guidelines.

Your membership website should be accessible so everyone, regardless of ability, can use it. Accessibility features include:

  • Adding alt text for images
  • Including transcripts or closed captions for videos
  • Ensuring contrasting colors in the foreground and background
  • Excluding flashing or strobing elements

You can learn more about website accessibility by reviewing DNL Omnimedia’s resource, Nonprofit Web Compliance & Accessibility: The Complete Guide.

7. Use A/B testing to help make design decisions.

A/B testing is the process of creating two different versions of your website and comparing them to determine which more effectively meets your goals. Remember, a top goal should be positive user experience.

You can test a variety of features, such as different:

  • Placements for the member login
  • Navigation menu options
  • Imagery and branding
  • Non-member versus members-only content

As you test the different options, pay attention to how design choices:

  • Impact site loads times
  • Improve overall navigation through the site
  • Make your organization’s message clear
  • Encourage visitors to engage with your content

Taking time to A/B test different designs when building a membership website will improve your end result and make it easier to recruit and retain members through the site.

Build a Membership Website to Keep Prospective and Current Members Engaged

Building a membership website allows you to engage with prospective members through a public-facing page and current members through a members-only portal.

Use a platform like MemberClicks to make the membership website building process simple, even if you’re not a professional coder. Keep in mind that user-friendliness should be a top priority as you design your membership website.

Looking for additional resources to help you get started? We have you covered!

Check out these helpful MemberClicks guides for more ideas: