Made easy: create a free member area in WordPress

Access blocked

In this guide, I’ll explain how to create a Membership Area with exclusive content without having to use paid plugins.

Access for the initiated only. Create a member area without paid plugins

If you only want to offer pages and posts in WordPress for registered users, you have to work with plugins. There is usually a hefty fee involved. In many cases, however, this expense is not worth it. Fortunately, there is also a free alternative that not only works great, but is also very elegant and clear. I will explain step by step how to do this in this post.

Members – you can’t get in here

The first plugin we need for our members area is called Members. It is updated regularly and impresses with fantastic user ratings, which are well justified. Here you can find the download link: Members-Plugin

Create a new profile

After activation you can select Users > Add new Role in the dashboard.

create a new user profilecreate a new user profile

There we give the new profile any name (e.g. reader). After that, we can assign its permissions to this profile. In our case, I choose the points:

  • Read
  • Read_private_pages
  • Read_private_posts

distribute permissionsDistribute Permissions

After that, all we have to do is click on the blue Add Role button at the top right.

Set up an exclusive page

Now let’s create a page that only users with the Reader profile can see. Luckily this is very easy. In the first step we create a normal page, which we give any name (eg members).

If you scroll down to the bottom, you will find the Content Permissions area. There I ticked the admin and our new profile reader. Conveniently, there’s a field just below where I can type an error message for unauthorized users. There could be something like Readable only for registered users.

restrict access restrict access

Now we are basically done. Only those who have an account with a reader profile can visit the Members page. To do this, the corresponding user must log in via the WordPress mask, which can be reached via Domainname/wp-login.php. After that, however, the user ends up in the backend, which of course is not the point. Although they only have access to their profile settings there, we really don’t want them to change their email address or password there. In fact, the user should not even access the backend, which is why we have to install another plugin.

Install forwarding

It would be best if the user landed on the Members page immediately after registering. Luckily, this can be done with the Peter’s Login Redirect plugin, whose good ratings are no coincidence. Download here.

When the plugin is installed and activated, you will find a new (and somewhat hidden) menu item in the dashboard. Choose Settings > Login/logout redirects. There you will find the item Specific roles. From there, select the Reader profile from the drop-down menu. In the login URL, I enter the domain of the Members page. As a logout, I decide to go to the start page.

Set up forwardingSet up forwarding

Now the user is automatically redirected after login. Fantastic. But to make our member area perfect, one last step is missing. The dashboard is still displayed to the user. Theoretically, he could use this to access the backend. To avoid this, we use a clever trick.

Hide Dashboard

Finally, we install the WP Hide Dashboard plugin, whose name is actually self-explanatory. Here, too, the user ratings show that the tool does a good job. The download is available here.

If the plugin is installed and activated, we are very close to our goal. But first, we need to create a user with the Reader profile. This can be done via the menu item User > Add new. Then we can uncheck the tool list item in the settings.

Hide toolbarHide toolbar

So now we’re finally done. Congratulations: your member area is standing and looking professional.

Conclusion:

Do you have text posts on your website that you want to make available only to certain users? If the number of your registered users is manageable and you don’t need online payment options, you can save a lot of money with this workaround compared to the fee-based plugins.