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A Simple and Free Membership Theme for WordPress

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livsstilsivaerksaetter bootcamp membershipNot long ago I wrote about the building blocks I use whenever I setup a professional looking membership site.

The component in charge of the visual appearance of the membership site is the WordPress theme Optimize Press.

I’ve used version 1.x of the theme for several websites and of course also bought 2.0 when it came out. However I’ve found Optimize Press 2.0 way too cumbersome to work with when it comes to membership sites, so right now I’m only using it a bit for squeeze and sales pages. And even here I’m considering moving to Lead Pages that everyone seem really happy with (I just don’t like having to pay a monthly fee :)).

But don’t worry this post won’t turn into a huge rant about Optimize Press 2.0. I’m still using Optimize Press 1.x for the member part of a membership site because the design looks nice and clean.

If you want to get the full Monty on this, head over to my other blog post.

In this post I want to explore a simpler way to get a professional looking membership site by using a free membership theme for WordPress. For the membership functionality I still recommend Wish list Member and while a lot of people think it’s a server resource hog (and I’m one of them), it’s still a damn nice plugin that

  • integrates really nicely with WordPress
  • is easy to use
  • does what you expect it to do

Now and then I’m toying around with alternatives, but I keep coming back to this workhorse of a plugin.

But instead of installing Optimize Press for the visual part of my membership site, I wanted to try something different this time around.

A Free Membership Theme for WordPress

I’m doing a small membership site with the video recordings from a two day boot camp I did in 2013 and after installing the latest version of WordPress I also got their latest “default” theme Twenty Fourteen.

Twenty Fourteen #1

It’s really designed for online magazines but although I tend to prefer “lighter themes” with white backgrounds, something about this dark theme with a lot of contrast caught my eye.

Twenty Fourteen #2

The past couple of WordPress themes have always had a really big top banner. Something that is just wasting space in a membership site. But this new one had only a small narrow top banner (although you can make it higher through styling if you want).

So I decided to create this new membership site using the Twenty Fourteen theme.

And I must admit I’m feeling quite good about it. One other thing about this theme that I like over just installing Optimize Press as I usually do, is that it’s very fast. Optimize Press (1 and 2) has never been fast, actually quite the opposite. And when you do membership sites you can’t really use a caching plugin, so this has something to say when it comes to user experience.

Now please notice that I’m building this in Danish so you might not understand all it says, but you’ll probably have a pretty good idea about the site from this screenshot.

livsstilsivaerksaetter bootcamp membership

I’ve basically just use the theme as it is, but I’ve also tweaked it a bit.

Settings

  • I’ve used the top menu downloads, bonuses, support and stuff like that, and then the left menu for the actual content (in “modules”).
  • I’ve added a Wishlist Member widget to the widget area for simple log in.

Tweaks

  • I installed the plugin Custom CSS Manager (http://wordpress.org/plugins/custom-css-manager-plugin/) in order to be able to tweak the styles a bit (without creating what is known as a child theme in WordPress (http://codex.wordpress.org/Child_Themes))
  • Widening the content area: The standard content area of a page is a bit narrow for my liking (too much white space) so I added the following custom styles to get a wider content area

    .site-content .entry-header,
    .site-content .entry-content,
    .site-content .entry-summary,
    .site-content .entry-meta, .page-content,
    .site-content .comments-area {
    /* Original max-width: 474px */
    max-width: 80%;
    }

  • Centring the content: The theme is left aligned which I don’t quite like. You can set a background image but when you can only see a bit of it in the right side, the whole thing seems a bit tilted. So I wanted the site centred with the background image showing in both sides.
    So I added the following custom styles

    #page {
    margin-left: auto;
    margin-right: auto;
    }

And that was about that.

So if you want a simple membership site I would recommend that you:

  1. Installed WordPress on a separate subdomain used only for your members (like members.yourdomain.com)
  2. Buy Wish list Member and run through its setup wizard
  3. Use the default Twenty Fourteen theme
  4. Setup a PayPal account if you don’t already got one, and you hook it up with Wish list Member

A simple recipe and then you just add your content.

For videos I tend to use the plugin Video.js – HTML5 Video Player for WordPress. It’s simple to setup and use and the player looks really good (something that’s important now you got yourself a really styled and cool looking membership site).

Are you also using the Twenty Fourteen theme for membership sites? Or perhaps for something completely different? Let me know below 🙂

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10 Responses to A Simple and Free Membership Theme for WordPress

  1. Rasmus, thank you for this excellent write-up. I’ve been scouring the Internet for a good theme for a membership site and you’ve shown me that maybe the best one is the default, free one!

    I don’t see a link where we can see that in action–is it possible?

    Also, what do you use for landing pages to sell people on the membership? Have any examples of that?

    I’m currently using a theme from ThemeForest with PaidMembershipsPro, but it seems a bit clunky. You’ve caught my interest. 🙂

    Chris

    • rasmus says:

      Hey Chris

      Thank you for your comment.

      Regarding a demo, sorry I don’t have a demo version. The screenshot is actually from a live membership site (in Danish though). However I’ll shoot you an email with a link to a demo membership site I setup with another really simple theme 🙂

      When it comes to landing pages I’ve been trough a lot of products. I started out with OptimizePress 1.x and also bought OptimizePress 2.x as it came out.

      However these days I really use LeadPages.net for landing pages. You can see a sales page from LeadPages.net on my Lifestyle Business Mastermind product page here: http://LifestyleBusinessMastermind.com/join

      • Thanks! I appreciate your help.

        LeadPages looks great–I didn’t know about that one. I may jump to that once I get some momentum. Price seems a bit steep for landing pages, but if you can do them fast, may be worth it.

        • rasmus says:

          It has something else going for it…. You can sort the templates after conversion rate!!!

          This means that you can select the templates that are working the best for all the other thousands of customers that LeadPages has.

  2. Winum says:

    Tusind tusind tak Rasmus. Har ledt vidt og bredt efter dette.

    Var tæt på at gå så vidt, at jeg ville gå ind i membership wordpress theme branchen, men så kommer du med den total simple løsning her. Tak igen.

    Winum

    • rasmus says:

      Selv tak da

      Har før brugt andre løsninger, men til mit nyeste site synes jeg egentligt det her funkede helt fint 🙂

      /Rasmus

  3. Glenda says:

    Great Article. I’m implementing your ideas.

    Wondering how you get the nice spacing of the items in the left column (the primary sidebar). I am using the pages widget there, and this doesn’t seem to allow for blank spaces between the parent pages.

    I suspect you may have used a different widget. Can you please tell me how you achieved the neat (spaced) layout of the items?

    Thanks

    Glenda

    • rasmus says:

      Hi Glenda

      I’m not using a widget for the left menu, I’m using the standard menu functionality of the theme.

      The theme has two different menu placements. One in the top and one in the left hand side.

      So create a new menu on:
      http://YOURDOMAIN/wp-admin/nav-menus.php

      and remember to add it to the right theme placeholder (checkboxes in the bottom below the menu items).

      I’ve also formatted each menu item a bit, using the following html:

      <em>Module 1</em><br/><strong>Introduction</strong>

      (also see screenshot below)

  4. Natalie says:

    This was very helpful. Been stressing about themes and I have 2014 theme, May as well rock with it for simplicity huh? Thanks!

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