Membership Website Design:
You Might Be Missing The Icing on The Cake
Many business owners choose AccessAlly as their course and membership plugin because they’ve seen beautifully executed websites on AccessAlly.
But if we were to use the analogy of a baking a cake, AccessAlly might be the plate that holds your cake up… while you provide the course membership content (the cake itself) and your WordPress theme is the icing on the cake that makes it beautiful.
Without a plate, your cake will break apart… and a plain cake without any frosting looks unappealing.
COURSE & MEMBERSHIP
There are many ways to add design to your membership portal: from ready-made themes, using a theme builder plugin, to hiring a designer. So let’s talk about the icing and design you're looking for in your AccessAlly website, shall we?
The Value of Design
We all recognize good design when we see it, even if we can’t put our finger on what makes it speak to us.
Design often uses principles of spacing and ease of use that make things more intuitive, and that just click with how our brains work.
In a sense, design cuts out the “extra thinking” that a poorly thought out user experience forces on a person.
That’s valuable in itself.
But what about the hard numbers: does design offer a return on investment, or is it just pretty fonts and colors?
Some studies out of the UK show that for every $1 invested in design, a business can expect over $20 in increased revenue.
Should You Invest In Design Before You Launch?
These statistics apply to many industries and types of businesses, but when it comes to online learning and membership sites… does design pay for itself?
In my experience, investing in branding and design for your membership site will be profitable when you already have a proven product and paying customers.
Let me explain: I don’t think it makes sense to invest thousands in making a beautifully designed course or membership site (or website for that matter) until you have a proven proof of concept that you can scale.
Instead of investing in design up front in these cases, it makes more sense to use that money to build an audience, and bootstrap your first launch offering.
Once you’ve got people on board, and you’re starting to add more paying members - then it’s time to invest in custom design and branding. At this point in time, it will give you a higher return and help you attract even more customers.
But without a product that people are willing to pay for already, working on your branding and design is a form of procrastination that stops you from making money in your business immediately.
Designers vs. Developers
Not every expert you hire has the same skillsets. Some excel at design, some prefer the coding and implementation of websites, and some are able to do both.
Most membership site and online course projects will require both skillsets. The visuals aren’t functional without the website elements, and a plainly coded website won’t look as professional and put together.
- Focus on branding and visuals
- Come up with creative ideas
- Lay elements out visually, using space, colors, and images
- Think about the User Experience (UX) and flow
- Focus on functionality and making things work
- Come up with smart technical solutions
- Implement visual guidelines and mockups into working websites
- Use code, plugins, and theme builders to do their work
The Good, Fast, Cheap Triangle
(you get to pick two)
There’s a rule that applies to all projects (membership sites included!) and it states that:
It can be done fast, cheap, or well - but not all three at the same time, you only get to pick two.
So if it’s cheap and fast, it won’t be very good. If it’s good and fast, it’s going to cost you. And if it’s cheap and good, then it’s going to take a long time.
Keep that in mind as you make your design decisions.
Your Membership Design Options Include:
Good: Do it yourself, using a WordPress theme / builder
Learning to set up the design side of your courses or membership area is the “slower” way, but it’s also the most cost effective.
You’ll likely spend between $50-100 on a WordPress theme or theme builder, and then the rest of your investment will be in learning how to customize things to your liking.
There will likely be a learning curve, but many of today’s WordPress builders make it easier than ever to create the look and feel you’re after.
The biggest drawbacks of this method are that you are essentially on your own: if you get stuck or you want feedback, you’ll need to reach out to the theme community and wait for an answer from their customer support.
Better: Hire someone who can customize a template for you
If you don’t have the technical inclination or the time to learn how to set up or customize WordPress theme settings, then you might want to hire someone to do it for you.
In this case, you’re not hiring a full blown designer so you won’t pay as much as you would for a custom design.
In return, you’ll get something back fairly quickly, and it may not be as unique as you like but it will look professional and you won’t have to do all of the work yourself.
This is a great option to create a proof of concept for your course or membership without spending all of your time mired in the tech stuff, if that’s not your forte.
You might spend anywhere from $1000-$2500 for this option depending on how much customization you want and what theme options there are.
Best: Hire a designer for a fully unique design
This is the option that we all want to go for, right out of the gate - but like I mentioned earlier, hiring a designer prematurely can be a waste of resources if you don’t have a proven product and market.
This is the “good and fast” option, and it won’t be cheap - you might spend $5000 on the lowest end and up to $10,000 or more on a really great designer. (And speed here is relative, it might still take months depending on what branding you already have in place and how quickly you decide on a design direction.)
The upsides of hiring a professional designer or team of designers and developers for your project are that it will be unique to your company, and you will get a finished product you’re really proud of.
You’ll often get a brand guide that you can re-use to keep all of your visual assets on brand, and no one will mistake your brand for someone else’s.
If you’ve already got a successful course or membership site, doing a rebrand with a pro designer can build buzz and help you raise your prices and elevate your standing in the marketplace.
AccessAlly Grows With You, Regardless of Your First Iteration
The bottom line is that AccessAlly will be there with your courses and membership site as your brand evolves and your business grows.
You might start off customizing a simple WordPress theme or builder, just to get your first product selling out into the world.
Then you might revisit your design by hiring someone to up level the look and feel using a customized template.
Finally, when your business is bringing in more money you can earmark some of it to hire the designer of your dreams.
The most successful businesses are in it for the long term, and they know that bootstrapping and re-investing as money comes in from sales is how growth happens.
Hire a Certified Expert
AccessAlly has trained Certified Expert partners who run the gamut: some are developers, some will customize a simple template for you, and some will take on your fully custom design project.