June 30, 2010 - 9 comments

Using WordPress for a Password-Protected Membership Site

As the kick-off question for my 30 Days of WordPress Questions, Christina asked a couple of questions.  One of them jumped out at me right away and that's the question I'll be answering first.

Christina Asked:

I’ve stayed away from WordPress because in the past, the CMS didn’t seem to measure up to corporate or ecommerce requirements — a WordPress site always looked like a blog. I’m looking at ecommerce sites built on WordPress, and am impressed by the functionality. But what about building things like password protected membership directories? Say a school or a church wanted to be able to offer a directory to its members, so folks can call for homework assignments or to iron out who’s bringing the coffee cake to the rec hall after church on Sunday? Are there plug-ins for this? I see plug-ins for newsletters, for email subscriptions, etc.

My Answer

The question breaks down into 2 parts.  The first one is Christina mentioning that she's getting more impressed with the Themes and plugins that are coming available to make WordPress more of a full-fledged CMS.  I totally agree and am glad she mentioned it.

The main question seems to be about creating a Membership Site for WordPress that allows you to have a password-pretected member's-only area.  I've had a lot of experience with Membership sites since WordPress Landing Page is run as a membership site.

To create a membership site, I would suggest starting out with Wishlist Member (we have a Wishlist Member rebate if you are interested).  Wishlist Member is an awesome paid plugin that takes care of a lot of the hard work for you.  This is especially true if you want to route members through a payment process before they become a member.

Wishlist lets you do bulk emails, have different levels of access, and do a ton of other nifty things to make a WordPress-powered membership site.

If you want a free WordPress Membership Site alternative...

I don't know of a good plugin that is as full featured as Wishlist Member but WordPress does have password protection built in on a page-by-page basis.  There is an excellent tutorial about making posts password protected here.   Although this doesn't give you a ton of functionality, it is free, easy, and works for a lot of instances that you don't need a massive plugin to handle.

I hope that answers your question, and please feel free to ask your own question for the next 29 days.


June 30, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I’m always surprised at how many of my clients shrink away and shake their heads when I mention using WordPress to build their sites. When I ask why they’re hesitant, they always say what Christina did – that a WordPress site always looks like a blog. So I’ve learned to show them the sites in my portfolio that use WordPress as a CMS and look nothing like blogs at all. Then they’re convinced. WordPress is awesome and powerful!

Glenn Pegden
July 4, 2010 at 4:44 am

If you’re looking for something in the middle. Your Members has a very similar feature list to WishList and is half the price. It also has stunning support and works with WordPress 3 (which I believe WishList doesn’t yet), but I am biased. I’m an Your Members user who became such a fan, I applied for (and got) a job with them.

    July 5, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for the comment. Wishlist is up to WordPress 3.0 as of this weekend, and I’ve never tried YourMember but will certainly consider it.

Stanford Griffith
February 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Hi, Brad.

This may be an old post, I’m not sure, but maybe you can answer a related question: Do either of the two methods above prevent a user from posting a working link to a downloadable, such as a PDF or video? Is there a method to perhaps protect an entire directory instead?

Thank you,


    February 3, 2012 at 7:13 am


    If you are looking for a download manager, I would strongly suggest the Drainhole plugin for WordPress. It is:

    “Drain Hole is a centralized download manager with full monitoring, statistics, versioning, SVN support, and proper SEO download URLs ”

    You can download it here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/drain-hole/

September 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Hi, Brad –

Do you have any opinions on using Premise for creating a WordPress membership site? What is the best option for a school that wants to offer unpaid membership to parents and faculty?

    September 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm


    I don’t have any experience with Premise, so I can’t speak to it. But I really like Wishlist Member and have had only good experiences with it. Premise looks nice, but I’m not overly impressed with the landing page showcase.


January 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm


Thanks for the post. But I’m still unclear as to whether Wishlist Member does what was asked in the original question: can you easily create a member directory that displays selected info of members’ profiles? In my case, there needs to be a private members’ area where contact info and other details from their profiles are displayed. Then I also need to create a public page for certain premium members who want their professional details displayed to everyone. Are there shortcodes or some other method by which such pages can easily be created with Wishlist Member?


    January 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm


    Awesome question. I haven’t used the newer versions of Wishlist for about a year, but I’m 99% sure you can make what you are describing happen with Wishlist. You also would be able to do that without Wishlist if you hired a coder, of course. Email me if you’d like to get any more specifics and I’d love to see if Wishlist would work for you.


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