Five Membership Website Mistakes to Avoid

Five Membership Website Mistakes to Avoid

We’re lucky today to have the second in a series from our friends at True Productions. Anthony Cassara is a wizard when it comes to video and membership sites. Previously Anthony did a guest vlog with us teaching his three top recommendations for creating a successful membership site. Today he approaches this topic from the opposite angle and helps you identify the five avoidable membership website mistakes that are reducing the effectiveness of your member site. Take it away Anthony!


Hello, I’m Anthony Cassara, President of True Productions. Today we’re going to be talking about the 5 biggest mistakes you can make when building your membership website.

Let’s dive right in.

Mistake #1: Not asking your users what they want.

We have built many membership websites with a long laundry list of features, only to find out that their users didn’t really need all the extra stuff, they just wanted a good place to grab a few PDF’s.

Sometimes you can be so focused on building something that looks amazing, is colorful, tells your user what the weather is in their area, feeds playlists from their iTunes account, calculates their mortgage or shows them what’s trending on YouTube, that you forget what the original point was for your site.

One of my recent favorite examples of a simple and effective end-user experience is the Nest Learning Thermostat. When I use their site or app, I simply log in, and then I have immediate access to control the temperature in the office. I can see anything that relates to the weather or settings for that specific purpose.

Nest doesn’t give me the ability to see trends in other offices in Chicago. I’m not offered the chance to share my temperature on social media. I don’t see prices on what it would cost to purchase another thermostat. The reason I don’t see these options is because they don’t matter. What matters is that when I need to check on or adjust the temperature at my office or adjust the schedule, I know where I need to go. I can get access to what I’m looking for quickly and then I get out.

A survey is a very simple and effective way to make sure that the features you are building into your membership website will matter to the person actually using it.

In addition to surveys, consider using tools like Hotjar or Google Analytics 4 to track user behavior on your site. These tools can show you what areas of your site are getting the most attention and where users may be dropping off. By combining direct user feedback with analytical data, you can make more informed decisions about what features to build or improve.

Save yourself a lot of time and money and ask your users what they want before you build.

Mistake #2: Not testing your site enough and allowing time for fixes.

More often than I would like, our office phone rings and we have a frantic client on the other end that needs something built today. These clients don’t plan ahead and, therefore, are always chasing their tails in order to get a product live.

You need to understand that a membership site takes time. It takes planning. You need to put yourself in the mindset of your users and make sure that you build a positive experience for them.

Haste makes waste. Rushing through something because you want it now will only give you grief later.

Just today, I walked a client through a new site we are putting together and noticed that the navigation was acting weird. I knew I tested it personally 5 times the night before and it worked. These types of things happen. The key is allowing enough time to make adjustments before your users have to send a contact form to you venting about their frustrations.

Incorporate automated testing into your development workflow using CI/CD pipelines. Tools like CircleCI, or GitHub Actions can automatically run tests on your site every time you make changes, catching issues early and ensuring a smoother user experience. This can save a lot of time and hassle in the long run.

Do yourself a favor and don’t rush a launch. We love the concept of a staging server because you can get all the bugs worked out there and then push them to production.

Mistake #3: Using all cheap or free solutions.

It’s easy to make this mistake because your budget is always going to be an issue, even if you have a large budget. We’re not opposed to using certain and strategic free resources, but if you are relying on them to do everything for you, you’re going to be in trouble down the road.

If you think about it, WordPress itself is a free solution. That’s great! Honestly, that’s one of the reasons we love it. It’s an easy sell to our clients. But the reason we are successful with our membership sites is that we complement WordPress with some seriously powerful tools.

Besides an increased possibility for things to break, using all free resources can look bad to your users. On one of our sites, we used a free print button feature. We tested it, it seemed to work great, so we left it. Next thing I know, I get a call informing me that people are saying that there are ads being placed on their printouts. This makes sense — I mean, the plugin has to make money somehow.

Even though it worked, it wasn’t worth the phone call to have to replace it with something that would not serve ads on the printed pages. Ultimately, I ended up having to do the same job twice.

Other examples include using free themes, free email responders, free lightboxes or fancyboxes, etc. We try to stick to the idea that if it is going to serve a critical purpose for our users, pay for it. This includes our website hosting. Nothing is more maddening and painful than working on orbrowsing a very slow site. There’s a reason some hosting is three dollars per month — it’s cheap. Stay away from it.

Mistake #4: Not protecting your investment.

In your life, you have car insurance, medical insurance, (possibly) life insurance, homeowners or renters insurance, disability insurance, etc. You need to be thinking about website insurance.

There will be times when your site fails. It may be a database problem or an outage or a plugin goes rogue or you get infected with malware — these things happen.

You need to be protected, and we can’t stress enough the importance of keeping daily backups of your websites. Losing a file is one thing, but if you lost your entire FTP directory right now, what would you do? Would you be able to go into a control panel and simply press a button to restore your site back to how it wasa few hours ago?

We can do that now, but we sure as hell couldn’t do that before. We had to learn the hard way. Hopefully, our pain can be your gain.

Beyond regular backups, consider implementing advanced security measures like two-factor authentication (2FA) and using security plugins, such as Wordfence or Sucuri. These tools provide real-time monitoring and protection against malware and other threats to ensure that your site remains secure.

Mistake #5: Using all 1.0 content.

I bet you’ve looked at some content you were going to put on your site and said to yourself, “this is good for now — let’s just get it live and we can come back to it later.”

We hear this a lot and agree with this concept to a certain extent.

You don’t want to fill a site entirely with content that is just “good enough.” You want to know you are putting your best value forward. People are paying to log into your site. They deserve the best you have to offer. This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many times we take over an existing membership site that is loaded with 1.0 content. Even after its been live for years!

It’s easier said than done, I know. Better quality often means more time and more money. At the very least, proofread you work so there are no basic spelling mistakes. Make sure your hyperlinks work. Or, if you are recording video, use a real microphone and not the one built into the camera and don’t shoot video against a bright window — these are the types of mistakes we see and they make us cringe.

If you’re supposed to be a trusted authority on something and people are paying to have access to what you do or what you say, then you need to produce that content in a way that demands the authority you are seeking.

We suggest you try this: for every post, video or product you have, imagine you had to pay for it. Would you feel that you got what you paid for? The answer better be yes.

Invest in multimedia content like high-quality videos, podcasts, and interactive elements. Use tools like Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing and Audacity for audio editing to ensure your content is professional and engaging. Additionally, consider adding interactive features like quizzes or polls to make your site more engaging for users.

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