During your time as a designer, you’ve probably created a variety of websites for your clients. You probably have a good routine for selecting components, scripts, and platforms for personal and e-commerce websites, but have you ever built a membership site?

Membership websites aren’t frequently requested so you might be caught off guard when a client asks you to create one. Building a membership website where users can access special content isn’t a quick project. Even using WordPress themes designed for membership access require extensive work.

If a client has requested a membership site, here’s how to build it and capture their vision.

Ask plenty of questions

The first part of creating any website design is getting an idea of what the client has in mind. This is arguably the most difficult part of any project. Getting a person to articulate their ideas clearly is difficult enough. Clients without design experience have an exceptionally hard time explaining what they want in a way that designers fully understand.

Clients will always pick apart their project, but these questions can help you deliver a project that gets closer to the goal from the start:

  • Will there be a free membership option? Or, do all memberships require payment in order to create an account?
  • How many membership levels do you envision and what are the unique benefits for each level? If your client hasn’t thought about this yet, require them to consult with their marketing team before you work on the project to avoid having to redo your work.
  • What do you want members to do once they log in to their account? View content or media? Make a purchase? Connect with other members? Your client’s answer will have a major impact on your design options.
  • Do you have a plan for running your membership site? This question is crucial for clients to answer prior to development. Chances are, your client will be new to running a membership site and may not realize it’s hard work to provide consistent, quality services to members.

You can’t ask too many questions; you need all the information you can get.

Require clients to test live examples of membership sites

Your clients will test drive the features of their custom project when each stage is completed. However, don’t wait that long to get them engaged with test driving membership features. Their feedback even for other websites will be valuable.

Require your clients to test established membership sites prior to building their custom site. This process will save you more time than you can imagine. For example, have them test membership sites like Udemy, their online banking account, and even Twitter. Having your client evaluate their experience on any site that requires login credentials will work.

Testing other membership sites helps clients pinpoint what they want

When a client tests other membership sites, they can pinpoint features they love and features they dislike. They also might get inspired to create features that don’t exist on other sites.

On the surface, some client explanations seem clear, but when those ideas are implemented to the letter, clients scrunch their noses and want something different. Clients think they know what they want until they see it in action.

Some clients can’t picture certain features without seeing those features implemented on a live site. Speed up the process by having clients test existing membership sites with the features they want. You’ll avoid having to change the entire project each time they change their mind.

Ask your client what they absolutely can’t stand about other sites

While you don’t want to encourage a complain-fest, asking clients what they can’t stand about other membership sites will make your job easier. If you’re lucky, your client will have strong preferences for what they like and don’t like, and they won’t be too shy to tell you.

Picky clients have a reputation for being difficult to work with, but only as much as it’s hard to implement their specific ideas. When creating a membership website, a client with specific ideas will be a blessing.

Be patient and willing to make changes

The relationship between a client and a designer is unique. The designer is there to implement what the client wants, but the client doesn’t always know what’s possible or realistic. To complete a project, compromises must be made on both ends.

Extend your clients the same patience and flexibility you’d expect from them. Clients know they can’t always get everything they want. However, when you actively look for solutions and replacements, they’ll be happy with the membership site you build.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.