Getting finished is an important part of launching your membership site and being ready for members. But first, you must consider the finer points of organizing your content over the long term. The initial site is very easy to design. In truth, that is the easiest stage because you can see that first phase in your mind. Without a great design, your site will become difficult to manage for you and your members will lose interest.
Consider these important factors before you build your site:
Great membership sites attract interest through articles, videos and training modules that interest many different people. Your ability to create enough content to keep your members interested might be overwhelmed by the importance of responding to your members. Enlisting some good content creators will become essential if you have an active membership. Consider the types of content that must be created at regular intervals. Video production requires more preparation than article writing. How will you use different media to present topics within your niche?
Organizing your content is essential because your members will return to find the latest entries that you offer each week, or month. You might decide to have a “new material” section. Maybe you will decide that all of your newest articles are posted at the top of each section. Easy access to the newest information will encourage your members to return often. Your first release of the site should include enough material for your members to visit more than once before the next batch is released.
A membership site that is completely inaccessible will not gather new members. Some portion of your site must be reachable for the person who finds you on a search engine. Basic information about the topic can be visible to the inquisitive visitor. All of the advanced information, and your interactive material should be within your members area. Imagine yourself as the casual visitor who does not know too much about the niche. Create a progression through your open areas that will cause your new visitor to want to join.
Simplicity is essential in these open areas because people do not like to be locked out of anything. Your open approach to this area offers the novice enough information to build interest. Maybe you offer answers to a few basic questions, but the most important information and all of your “how to” articles are inside that privileged area set aside for members. The tone in this area is inviting and welcoming for the person who is not sure about you or the niche. Consider this area to be much like the open area of a museum.
Expansion of the Site
One visit to a very large membership site will alert you to the importance of planning for the future. Visual appeal must be preserved as your site expands. Cluttered pages are not easy to read, and your members will become frustrated if your content is difficult to find. My preference is to add more pages to the site and use custom menus for various sections. Every part of your site does not have to be visible on the main menu.
As you add more content, you will want to preserve the basic structure of your site. Members will appreciate the ability to discover new sections without feeling lost each time they visit. Your original design can be preserved if you organize the first group of content that you offer. Your members can be alerted to significant site changes at regular intervals. Before you undertake a redesign of your site, figure out which pages are most popular and make those easy to find.
Search Terms & Topics
Countless tools are available to determine which niche-related terms are searched most often. You will want to include these words in your articles and then offer a search on your site. Members will appreciate the ability to find all of the posts related to each subtopic. Optimize your site with SEO techniques that will cause your site to rank in many different search engines. People use many different search engines to look for interesting sites.
Site organization is easier to implement before you have dozens of pages that contain your articles, videos and training materials. Some people choose to use a mindmapping program to organize the site based on ideas from many different sources. My personal preference is a pen and paper that allows me to slow my thoughts and capture ideas as I continue to work on the site. Your methods might be unique because your niche is packed with specific terms that make organization a breeze!
You might be aware of other membership sites in your niche. Visit multiple membership sites and take some notes about each one. Notice how each one is organized and what you like about the navigation through the pages. Your site can have all of the best features of each site. As you continue to investigate, you might be lucky enough to discover a missing piece in every one of the sites.
Your membership site could stand out from all of the others because you addressed this one missing piece. Look for something special about your niche. Visit the forums and notice the questions that people are asking. Your new site could answer those questions. As you prepare to launch your new site, you can return to those forums and tell people that you have found a site just for them.
What ideas do you have about organizing your membership site?
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