membership sites
Project Ignite Podcast by Derek Gehl How To Build The Ultimate WordPress Membership Site
00:00:00 00:00:00
  • Episode  100
  • Nino Alves


How to build the ultimate WordPress membership website. Membership site master, Nino Alves reveals the finely tuned technology stack that he uses to create powerful, flexible and scalable WordPress membership sites for his clients fast, easy and cheap!

Transcription Episode 100: How To Build The Ultimate WordPress Membership Site

Welcome to the Project Ignite Podcast, a podcast designed to skip all the hype, skip all the BS and give you real actual tips and strategies to help you grow your digital business

This is your host, Derek Gehl and today we’re going to be diving deep into membership websites. Now, if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you probably know I’m a huge fan of, well, information marketing. I’ve been involved in information marketing and information businesses in one form or another actually since the late 1990s

Back in the days, when we sold information online it was interesting, we sold the information online, but to deliver the information, this was back in the days when we were using old school media. DVDs, when I started, were actually kind of the technology for sending out information.

I remember the days where I actually sent out audio cassettes and I feel like I’m aging myself, but that being said, we’re now in an amazing place. The information industry online is massive. I love it from a business model standpoint for numerous reasons. Today we’re here to talk about the technology.

We’re in a fortunate place where technology has evolved and we can deliver our information very, very easily online. We’re in a day and time where high definition videos are commonplace, creating videos easy, creating online communities where we can nurture our communities and build followings and leverage this. That all exists and that’s not something that actually existed when I started out online. Back in the 1990s, there wasn’t even a word for membership website

Today, I believe that membership websites are probably one of the most powerful ways to deliver information, training, if you’re a coach, author, expert, or even a business that wants to add an information component to support products. You can not beat a membership website.

build your own membership site

Now, the challenge we have today though, is there’s so many different potential solutions that exist out there. If you’re a non-tech, which most people are, they have their information, they have their knowledge and they want to deliver that online. We go out into the big old digital world and we’re like, “How to build a membership website.” We’re faced with all these choices and all these differences and all solutions.

Navigating that can be really difficult from a non-tech standpoint. That’s what we’re going to dive in to today. Our guest today is somebody that is a membership website expert, but more specifically, really focused on developing and supporting solo entrepreneurs, experts, coaches, businesses that have information they want to deliver online in building wordpress powered membership websites.

I love this topic because right now, all of my information is delivered by membership websites, all of them are using WordPress. I’m a big believer in this, and this is a gentleman I’ve now known for quite a few years and I’ve seen his expertise evolve as he’s supported a lot of people in my communities as well.

Without further ado, I’d like to welcome from well, the most isolated city in the world, Perth. Furthest from anything. Nino Alves.

Nino, thank you so much for being here today.
Hi Derek. Thanks a lot for having me.
For sure. Now, before we get started tell us about you. How did you get into this membership website thing? What’s your background? How did you end up being this membership expert guy that’s helping people manage, run, maintain and start membership websites?
Well, it’s really interesting, when you were just talking about the old times and the little intro there you had, so going back to the 1990s when we sort of dealing in a situation where, as you said, DVDs and video cassettes, those were the only way you could really distribute information to your customers.

You didn’t have the kind of bandwidth that you have today with the internet where you could actually download and stream videos, let alone social media. People can just distribute so easily these days with the technology that we’re so lucky to have right now. That’s where my career started off.

For me, it was actually working around the actual mining industry in Perth and primarily in the IT realm. My work’s a lot to do with integration, to projects where sort of grabbing various bits of technology, you’ve got might be server hardware, it might be networks and various software stuff.

My job, generally over the last 10 – 15 years has been working to bring this all together into a usable solution to bring about an outcome for those mining industries. Specific projects might have been automated trucks and driverless trucks out there on the mine site. They’re managed by GPS, they drive around the mine site. My job and my focus was pretty much bringing in the software and the hardware and the solutions

As time goes on it’s like, I have to say that I’m sometimes, I needed a little bit of a break from IT. On the side, I actually teach piano. It’s really good. It’s a left side, right side brain kind of situation where I have a few piano students and I was looking for a way to augment the kind of support I was giving them.

I see them once a week so I’m thinking some video content could help them when I’m not in contact with them every week. This way they’ve got something they can go online and actually do some extra study to help them on their way with their studies with me

That’s where I branched into the internet world and I mean, I’ve always been in the internet world, but this is more of a kind of psychic to start off with. It’s like, I had my day job at the time and then I thought, “Well, my side business would be just to help people study and learn piano.”

I started looking around for a way to deliver this online. Then I came up with all these different platforms and solutions that were available and I thought I’m going to start by creating a whole collections of video lessons and start storing them online for my students.

That was where I started delving into this whole online membership type platform environment

Now, you’re a fan of the WordPress membership websites as am I. There’s so many different membership website solutions that exist out there today. I see more and more coming online on a regular basis. One of the big questions that I get and I’m sure some of our listeners are wondering, why would you build a WordPress membership website, instead of utilizing a hosted one. Something like a Kajabi or a Thinkific or whatever those are.

Those seem, if you read their marketing they just seem like click a button and boom, you have a membership website.

You’re focused on WordPress. Why is that?

Yeah, it’s really interesting. I mean, at the end of the day both the hosted platforms and the WordPress are supported platforms. They generally want to do the same thing for the person. People generally want to use these tools to deliver their content, to their customers or their students or whatever you do.

What I found about the hosted solutions is that they have so many different customers and so many different people they’re trying to satisfy with their product.

Generally, you can’t find one that fits everyone. You have to go for the main, core options. What it does is that everyone inevitably comes up against something, the solution doesn’t quite fit me. It gets me 90% of the way there at best but then there’s just 10%, which you know, for what I need it for, it doesn’t actually tick all the boxes.

I try to fuel these platforms and I sign up for the 14 day trial. I’m working on this in my side time after, late at night after the kids have gone to bed and stuff like that. I’m thinking I’m going to work in this, but soon enough, the 14 days is up you know, I haven’t even really scratched the top of this thing, so you know what? I’ve invested a little bit so far, I’ll just keep going. A month later, two months later, three months later.

Okay, I’m now starting to invest a little bit of time. I’ve started to build a bit of content, I’ve started to get used to the platform and then I get to maybe three or four months in and it’d be like, “You know what? There’s something about this that just, it almost gets me there but it doesn’t quite end it up.”

It’s like, I’ll get onto the support and I’ll say, “Look, can you help me with this?” Or “Have you got a solution?” They respond, “You know what Nino? We don’t actually do this, but how about you put in a request and we’ll add it to the list of enhancements that we’re adding. If we get enough people that are asking for it, then we’ll get on implementing it.”

Of course, if you’re motivated to go with your business end trying to get off the ground, these delays can really, really slow you down. Because they’re these proprietary systems that you’re working with, you’re sort of tying up your own business viability to this other company that you don’t have any control of. When that happens, you live and die by those platforms as well

In my situation, I’ve got to this point around about 4 – 5 months in and I thought, “I’m going to have to start on a different platform.” I hadn’t actually gotten to WordPress yet.

I mean, I’m aware of WordPress but I hadn’t actually gotten there yet because at the end of the day, I did IT all day at work. I could sit down, I could start developing and doing these things myself, but I really was just looking for a quick solution, just so I could actually create these lessons and stuff and provide those to my students. I wasn’t really trying to get into this full-time development gig just to deliver something. I was more interested in the outcome

Anyway, I got about four or five months in. I thought, it doesn’t tick all the boxes but there were a couple other, still hosted platforms that I was interested in, so I decided “Okay, I’m going to start up with one of these other ones.” I started up this one I thought, “Okay, now I’ve got to export all my data out of this original platform,” and it’s like now, that’s where I found, you know what? I can’t actually get it out

Not only does this platform not suit me down to the ground, I actually can’t now get all that hard work I put in over the four or five months, I can’t actually get it out again to bring it into this new platform. There’s two platforms they’re, they’re not designed to work together. It’s not in this company’s best interest to make it easy for you to move to another system. While they’re not trying to trap you in the system, it’s kind of the way it works out.

Oh, but they are. They are. That’s the business model
Yeah, yeah. When you look at it that way, it does make perfect sense to get you into their little eco system and keep you there as long as possible.
Everything you just said there really resonated with me because I have that story. When I started my current online community, Ignited Academy, we started that back in the day on Kajabi. I thought, much like you, I’m like, “Okay, I don’t want to deal with all the back end and the tech and stuff like that.”

Away we went, signed up for the Kajabi account and the cost started to pile on. We started to build out the solution. One of the things that I found right away is, because I’m not a techie. I’m fully not a techie, I’m not a developer, I’m not a programmer and I was like, “Oh, I want to get something up fast and not have to worry about that.”

You read all the marketing and it’s like, “Boom, have a membership website,” up today type thing, right? Sounds really good and then I got into it. I’m like, “Hey, wait a second. No, I still need a whole bunch of tech stuff because this needs to speak to this and that needs to speak to that and I want to have this here.”

First of all, if you’re going into it with the expectation of, “Oh, I don’t need to be techie at all,” well, you still have to … Those platforms still require integration and tech

Then the other thing that I found was exactly what you said, was it only got me I don’t even think 90% of the way there. I immediately ran into issues with our courses, because look, if you want to throw up a simple course that has let’s call it 5, 10 lessons, a couple videos, fine, simple

If you want to develop something really meaningful, like we’ve done at Ignited Academy which is a whole series of courses, those courses are then broken down into modules. Those modules may have submodules, within the modules you’re going to have lessons within the sub-modules you’re going to have lessons.

If you’re going to create a multi-level core structure, if you want to create any kind of customization in that, those systems do not handle that. If you want to go even deeper into that and tracking performance and putting in intelligence of what people can see based on what they’ve completed, none of those platforms actually do that kind of stuff.

We hit that wall, and unfortunately, I didn’t figure it out as soon as you did, because I already had a lot of clients on the platform and so, we decided, “Hey, we want to make this switch.”

What I can tell you is exactly what you said is making a switch off a host of platform to a platform like a WordPress is very, very difficult. I always say to people, it may seem a little more painful to start here, but you’re going to save yourself a hell of a lot of pain down the road because moving an active membership community from one platform to another is bloody hard and bloody expensive.

I’ve been down that road and I just, everything you just said there rang really true to me. I think anybody who’s listening to this, if you’re on that fence of where should I build my membership website, I’ve been down that road and the hosted platforms, and you know what? They sound easy, they sound good to get started with but WordPress from my standpoint allows you so much flexibility, customization, once you get over that initial hurdle of the set up, it’s allowed us to do everything we want and more.

Everything you said, I would echo that and 100% agree because I’ve been through that pain.

Now, let’s actually dig a little bit into the technology. When we’re staring down the task of setting up a membership website, on WordPress, I mean, WordPress itself is not a membership website. WordPress is, it’s a CMS.

We need to layer a bunch of different pieces onto it, to effectively make it a membership website. Let’s just walk our listeners, for those of the people that aren’t WordPress people, let’s walk them through the components. We go out, we set up our domain and install WordPress, we now have a WordPress website. First of all, we need a theme, right?

Now, there’s lots of themes out there. Obviously there’s probably tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of themes. Are there any specific themes that you’ve had success with that play well with say, membership websites?

Yeah, you do start off with this platform, you’ve got good host DND and you have your five minute WordPress install that gets you going. As you say, Word Press wasn’t designed out of the box to be a membership website, but as Word Press has progressed, we’re looking at a system now that’s on 30% of the world’s websites.

WordPress has really grown and it’s become a real good viable platform to start landing on these different modules or plugins as WordPress calls them, to actually expand the functionality of your websites including membership websites.

What you’ll find is that you start off, a membership website really doesn’t require that many plugins but it does require good ones, to get the functionality you’re after. With a WordPress Membership website, you don’t start off with a membership plugin. This plugin gets installed to get you going.

At its very essence, a membership plugin basically separates your content on your website into the content that’s publicly accessible and the content that’s not publicly accessible.

Pretty much any website that you see where you can see a log in, that’s a membership website in some kind of flavor. You’ve got Facebook, for example. Basically, you’ve got what you can see when you’re on there and what you get after

The beauty about WordPress is that because it’s so modular, you can add this functionality as you go. You can actually choose a platform membership plugin and installer and then you can actually progress and you can install other plugins as well.

So let’s talk membership website plugins because there are, oh, I don’t know how many there are. There’s tons and tons of membership websites out there.

At its core, a membership website plugin really just handles security. It handles the what can people see and what can’t people see? It handles the database of privileges of what pages are available and what pages aren’t. That’s the basic membership website.

It goes far beyond that, right? I think this is where a lot of people get confused. I say I want a membership website, so they go out and at first they expect, “I’ll find a membership website theme.”

As far as I know, I don’t think there’s any themes that are really handling membership websites. That’s all the plugins. Then they start looking down the road of plugins. You find membership website plugins that handle the security side, but then we get into LMSs, which are the learning management system plugins. Some of those seem to handle the membership and security, other ones more just handle the lesson delivery and you still need a membership website plugin.

Effectively what we need is a literally a membership plugin stack to handle all of these things. Walk us through, if you set up a membership website, what are the core plug ins that you immediately go out and grab? What are your recommended ones?

First you’d start off obviously with your WordPress installation then to start off, you’d have a membership plugin. That would be one category that you would put on your membership side.

Then you’d have your learning management system. Then you would have your theme and then you would probably have a page builder and they’re probably your first four that you, first four pillars of your membership site.

Now, the difference between a membership plug in and say a learning management plug in is a membership plugin will actually control the access to the content.

Difference between that and a learning management system is whilst you could theoretically create a WordPress page and draw, put elements on that and try and present that as a course, what a learning management system is going to do, it’s going to encapsulate that course information into things like courses, lessons and modules.

Then it will package it in a way that’s nice and easy for your students and or your customers to consume. It will package it in a way that they can actually see a logical path of learning. That’s what these learning management systems do.

It can be time consuming to actually create a course page by page, but there’s quite a few learning management systems. Some are better than others, but the primary goal of a learning management system is to enable you to very, very quickly create courses.

Then you’ve got the other ones like the theme. Now, the themes, there are ones that are more conducive to membership sites than others, but generally, any premium theme is going to work quite well.

The one thing you’ve got to look out for in themes is that they’ve got good vendor support for them. If you’re going to go for a free theme and you run into problems, you’re really left with no avenue to go. I think you’re going with a premium theme, something like thrive themes.

These are all what people would like to call mega themes, that have got lots of functionality. They’re maintained, there’s a massive user base. There’s always resources that you can use to keep on top of it and they’re very configurable, so they’re great for people who choose the WordPress platform because they love that configurability and they can use these themes to their own advantage, to get exactly what they want. They’re very customizable.

That goes hand in hand with that fourth pillar, the actual page builder. What a page builder does is let you, you quickly manage the entire look and feel of your website.

The page builder will let you quickly draw out the actual pages that you’re going to have in your membership website, whether they’re publicly available or whether they’re behind a paywall or they’re gauging content that your membership plugin is controlling access to. They’re the probably the four main pillars of a membership website.

There’s actually not a lot to it. The magic behind a membership website on WordPress is in the integration. That’s with going back to the technical challenge of building a membership website. You say it’s technology, if there’s only four main plugins you need, why is it so hard?

The problem is in the integration. If you ever come across a situation where this plug in doesn’t work and this other plug in doesn’t work and so you contact the developers and they both point at the other plug-ins and say, “Look, you’ll have to take it up with the support for the other plug-in,” you can sometimes be caught in the middle of two developers who have plug-ins that don’t want to work.

When that happens, you’re just sort of like, “Okay, well which one do I go with?” You have to make an educated guess or even it’s just a plain out guess about which one could be right. Or you have to just throw the two away.

When I was building my membership website, after going through and cutting my teeth on all these managed hosting platforms and figuring it out that they just weren’t going to cut it, I moved to WordPress. I had probably a 12 month or an 18 month grind of trying different plugins.

That whole grind was really working out which plugins are going to play nicely together? I get my teeth stuck into these things and I’ve got my tech background and I like IT. As much as I didn’t want to end up doing this, I kind of ended up doing it anyway. It’s more because I don’t really want this to beat me and I know I can figure this out, this is what I do, right?

This is for my living. I’m used to integrating, this is what I do. I’ve done it for 10 – 15 years. It’s what I’m good at doing. I did have something in the background that said I’m going to integrate all these programs without having to write code.

If I have to write code or start doing some custom kind of stuff, I’m really not doing anything else other than making a proprietary system, using other things, other programs. As soon as you get a plug in update or something out there, and you’ve got a custom code there, that update could break it

The least amount of code or custom code you can do, the much better it is and that’s going to be a more robust system.

wordpress code

That left me with one thing, I had to find plugins that work well together. That’s probably the biggest challenge. It’s like, if you ever had a problem with the plumbing and you notice that you call the plumber out and he knocks on the wall three times and he goes, “That’ll be $300, and there’s your problem.” You think, “Hang on, that’s all he did. It’s not very hard,” but you couldn’t figure it out because all it was, you don’t know what you don’t know

That’s the challenge I think most people starting out with WordPress have is whilst the plugins you do need to get you started and to get your membership up and going is actually quite easy, and all you need to do is know which ones they are, know how they integrate, and how you can actually work these all together to produce the result that you want with your membership website.

Let’s get specific here because I think between you and I, we’ve probably tested every conceivable, decent plug-in out there at one point or another.

I’ll share my technology stack of what we’re using and then, one of the things you said there, which is really, really important for everybody listening. If you want to build a good membership website, using these plugins, you want to avoid writing custom code because the beauty of using WordPress and pre-developed plugins is if you can use them off the shelf and they all work together, as those plug-in vendors update the code, everything will just update and everything should work

Once you start having to write custom code, now it’s going to get a far more complex as things change your custom code needs to be updated and it’s an ongoing expense. That’s really important. I think what you just said there, you said you’ve spent a year grinding through, figuring this out.

You put your tech hat on and figure it out, “What works well together.” I think that’s where so many people fall down when they first get started, its’ they’re like, “Oh, my god. I tried this, it didn’t work with this or this conflicted with that,” and it’s a pain in the ass.

Right now, okay, if I look at my primary membership website. We use a theme called Ultimatum theme, which is very, very customizable. If I had to do it again, I would probably actually use one of the simpler Thrive themes. That’s it for my theme

We’re using, now for our membership side of things, we use Ontraport. Now, Ontraport has its own security membership website plugin that handles all of our security, which is fine. That’s what we use to handle the actual security, usernames, passwords, stuff like that

Previously, when I was with Infusionsoft, we used one called Memberium which is very, very powerful. That said, if you’re not using an Ontraport or an Infusionsoft, you wouldn’t use either of those plug-ins. That’s where I’ll get you to fill in in a second.

Now, for our actual course layout, we’re using an LMS which is Learndash, which I’m a big fan of because it allows us to create all the modules the courses, all that. It’s organized, it’s amazing, rather than trying to have it manually creating all these pages. That’s our LMS. I’m trying to think of anything else that I’m missing in there, that would be core to the setup.

Oh, one of the things, we also use BB Press so we put a forum into the back end so we can create community. If I had to say my technology stack, ideally it would be a thrive theme. Obviously, we’re using our proprietary membership Learndash and oh, Page Builder. Thrive architect for me, I love the thrive architect builder. That can do our custom pages, stuff like that.

What is your recommended, if I said to you, “Nino, build me a membership website right now that could integrate not with just Ontraport but any kind of CRM. I need an LMS, I want to build a community.” What would be your recommended technology stack, plug-in wise?

That’s an interesting line up you’ve actually got there. You say Thrive themes and Thrive themes is actually what I use for my clients. Mainly because as you say, the thrive architect, the page builder, they’re both made by the same company, so you’ve got this already tight integration going for you right out of the box.

A Thrive theme, they offer about ten different themes and they cover just about the whole gamete of what you may need. When you’re just starting out, they’re perfectly fine and sometimes less is more. The less you configure, the less can go wrong.

That’s great for clients who are, they want their membership site built for them, they want ease of use, that’s why they’re coming to you in the first place and they want that nice, easy way I’ve done it. The beauty about it, as you’ve said, Thrive Architect is an amazing piece of software.

It’s perfect for the person who doesn’t want to get their hands dirty with code. You can pretty much just grab all the elements you want to form, just drag it on there. If you want a picture, you can just drag it on there and you resize it on your mouse, on the screen, as you go. What you see is what you get.

It’s a real what you see is what you get. There’s a lot of page builders where you tweak this box here and then you open up another webpage, and then you hit refresh and you see what it looks like. Then you go back and you tweak it a little bit more and then you go back and they say it’s what you see is what you get, but there’s still this disconnect in between. When you’re sitting there for a few hours designing a page, that gets old pretty quickly. Yeah, I’m probably, on the stack I’m probably with you on the theme, I probably choose a Thrive theme. I’d definitely choose Thrive Architect.

For the page builder, for the learning management system, I’ve actually tried Learndash as well. I’ve tried one called Lifter LMS, I’ve actually flipped back and forth between those two. I actually found learning management system plugins actually some of the best plugins that were out there. They all worked quite well.

The issue was getting with various other membership platforms at the time that it was testing, that weren’t playing nice with the learning management systems. That was where I had to actually choose one or the other and then go the other one and then test one and it didn’t work.

For the actual membership platform that I’ve settled on, and it was after about testing two or three different ones, including free, it was a paid membership program, which is like a free, not a free one but it’s like a … It’s a relatively cheap one but there were some integration issues with this. I’ve now settled on one called Digital Access Pass.

Now, Digital Access Pass has been around for about eight or nine years that I know of, possible longer. This is just a really, really good robust plug-in. I’d have to say that the developers, I don’t think they sleep at all. They just sit there and they just develop on this thing.

They really do. Just to jump in there, I’ve actually had Ravi, the founder of that on our show. I use his podcast plug-in. If I didn’t use Ontraport and I wanted an independent membership, I would totally use Digital Access Pass. Amazing company, great people, amazing support. I just wanted to throw a little plug in for those guys. Again, I’ve had them on this show, he’s a great guy.
Exactly. Yeah, his partner, she’s the figurehead pretty much for DAP as you say, and she’s got her own Facebook group. Her customers are, they’re just, I’ve never seen so many fans of a particular piece of software. It’s a really robust system because along with this, along with the membership platform, they also have another product called Smart Pay Cart.

What this does is this integrates tightly with the membership platform and allows you to package your membership levels, or products, as they call them and be able to hook it into a payment gateway like Stripe or PayPal or AuthNet, They also brought in, crypto payments as well. You can actually sell your product using any crypto coin you want to use.

Oh, cool.
There was only about three people that asked for it in their group and they went ahead and they developed it. I believe they have got a deal. Digital Access Pass and Smart Pay Cart is probably the primary two plugins there.

You’ve got the Thrive themes, the page builder, the Thrive architect. You’ve got the membership plugin which is Digital Access Pass and Shopping Cart. Then for the learning management system, I use a product called WPEP, W-PEP if that’s the way you pronounce it. This was probably the third one I actually tried.

I did go back and forth between Learndash and LMS. I found that what really made me gravitate towards W-PEP was the speed at which I could actually build courses. They advertise on their site, build courses at mouse click speed. They’ve got a cool little sales gimmick. I’ve installed this thing it’s like, “you know what?” I’m just going click, click, click, click, creating module after module, course after course.

Literally, and because I’ve already had my course framework all ready built out, I probably created it and recreated it about 15 different times, since I tested all their different plugins over those two years that I was trying to build my pianos lessons website.

I pretty much just built out the content in about 10 minutes. I just grabbed the content then dropped it into there. Then you just put a short code on one single page and then suddenly it’s just built out your index.

It’s built out, that whole hierarchy of that lesson structure that you’re looking for, completely mapped out for you. What’s more, it also has an integration with the membership plugin. This was a really key thing for me. This is moving more into the marketing sort of thing, which I definitely have to bow my head in your direction on the marketing side of things.

There’s one thing I’ve learned and that’s, if you can present some courses that are available under a certain membership level and then you have some other courses which are not available, but they are available in a higher level.

It’s like an upsell. Particularly integration actually grayed out certain courses that weren’t available under the existing membership. It created a bit of an interest. Something that you don’t have yet, and a way to sort of bring people up, the model.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s really interesting. We never found WPEP, and that’s where when we were starting the choices for us were Lifter or Learndash. Does that plug-in from an LMS standpoint have all the ability to add quizzes and full learning management as well?
It does. It has the four quizzes and it also integrates with external email marketing platforms so that when students actually reach certain milestones in the courses, you can actually trigger events to go to your marketing so you can actually talk to the people and say, “We just noticed you finished Lesson Four, how are you going? Do you need any help?” Or, maybe they haven’t hit certain time. You can actually have certain prerequisites. Say, “This course comes available as soon as you finish this other course.”

They’ve also brought in recently a new, almost Facebook style page. Basically it creates this page on a per member basis and allows you to conduct more of a one on one coaching environment for that person. If they log in, they get all the access to all of their courses. Then they click on their own member’s home and then they’ve almost got this to and fro chat between you and them.

Probably another feature which has only just come out. This is where they can actually embed your course on third party websites. Someone can actually click on that and they’re immediately doing the course on your hosted website, but the link to it is embedded on someone else’s website.

That just a whole different way of delivering something like that. That’s literally just came out in the last couple of weeks.

Man, dang it, now I’m totally geeking about it. I’ve got plug-in envy because I mean, Learndash has been good but what I’m hearing from you, and this is for everybody listening, this is the value you get out of this is we’re testing ahead, telling you what’s working, and how we’re using it. You get to skip the hundreds of hours and money and time we’ve got invested into this.

The problem with the Learndash and the Lifter LMS, many of these plugins were developed with more traditional academic learning institutions in mind. They’re very, very powerful from the tracking, structuring courses and tracking peoples progress and testing and stuff like that.

Where they fall down a bit is where the WPEP plug in you’re talking about really shines is more on the marketing side of it as well, which is very, very, very cool.

Okay, so now, as we’re starting to wrap up here, I think we’ve shared that the technology stack there. We’ve both kind of shared okay, I think we’re both on the same page for Thrive themes, both on the same page for Digital Access Pass, from the membership management standpoint and I love everything you said about that.

My only caveat to that would be if you’re using a certain CRM or system like a Ontraport or a Infusionsoft or whatever to manage all your customers, double check and see if they have that membership plugin because when you can make that integrate directly with your CRM, that’s great. If you don’t have that, great Digital Access Pass and then what was it you said, Smart Cart?

Yeah, so that’s another product they offer as well. It’s called Smart Pay Cart.
Smart Pay Cart. That sounds like a good way for actually taking a payment, which is a very important thing, if you want to actually make money you need to be able to take payment.
Actually, it does remind me. There’s actually a lot of automated, you can actually create your own funnels within Smart Pay Cart. You can have someone that if they buy product A, they can then be linked to product B, you can offer, they’ve got upsells and there’s unlimited upsells, downsells, side sells.

You can actually create complete funnels with this Smart Pay Cart. There’s probably not enough time, you’d need like an hour just to talk about the functions you get in that plugin as well, if you really want to get into the plugin.

That’s interesting you bring that up because what I love about the team at Digital Access Pass is they grew up … I mean, they’re developers, but they grew up more on the marketing world as well, right? They’re really in tune with what we need as marketers.

Whereas a lot of software comes purely from developers and they don’t necessarily look at it from the marketer’s standpoint. When I had a big software development team in my last company before I sold it, that was unique about our software is we were marketers, so we built the software for us to actually use in our business so it was very practical in how it worked.

I believe they kind of work in their own way. They have their own membership websites, they have their own stuff. They build it for them, knowing exactly what the client needs, which is really, really awesome. I’m going to have to ping Ravi when this Podcast goes live and let him know we totally gave him a glowing review.

All right, now one question that I do always get about membership websites, and that is particularly with videos. I think most days, nowadays, most membership websites are delivering videos. We upload our videos, whether it’s to an S3 or to a Wistia or whatever, we embed them in our pages.

The big question I get from people that are just starting out is how do you protect people from just scraping all that? Downloading your videos, saving them, giving them away?

Yeah, the Wistia’s actually one of the best, in my opinion, one of the best video hosting platforms out there. For a while, they’re pretty much stood well ahead because of this ability to protect the videos. In the actual configuration on the Wistia website, you can actually, well you embed the code that presents your video.

Say you go to WordPress page, you would put in a little bit of code from Wistia that Wistia gives you and when you implant that code there, it places that code there so when the student comes they’ll see and study your video.

Now, what stops that student or somebody putting that code in another website is that Wistia actually knows which website you’ve put that code on. They program it on their end so that their video simply won’t appear and it won’t even play on any website, other than on your particular website. Your business dot com, that’s the only domain, it’s the only one that it can work on.

As a second level of protection, something like Digital Access Pass, actually goes the next step and even stops someone from looking at the page. Unless they’re a paid member or a free member who has access to that page, they won’t get to the page in the beginning, and then once they get to the page, they can see the video there, but they can’t be seen anywhere else.

I think Vimeo is actually doing it as well. They’ve got the domain level security, that’s what they call it when they lock it down to that website. In Wistia, you can not just lock it down, you can actually choose which domains you want it to work on.

It really locks it down. That being said, Wistia, I love Wistia, I use Wistia for all my videos but Wistia, I mean, when I first started it had some pretty good entry level packages. Now, I think for the person that’s just getting started out, Wistia is a pretty pricey platform. It starts at $99 US a month, right? That’s their entry level. I think when I started, I think they had a $15 or $20 plan, right?
Look, I’m so jealous of you for that plan. When I jumped on, it was exactly that. It was like $100 and you get 500 videos. I only, I filled it up with probably 150 piano training videos out of the gate. I had those all ready to go, uploaded them all and it worked fine. It was $100 a month.

When you’re just starting out, you’ve got every other cost that you’ve got to associate to do it … I think now for the person starting out, Vimeo is really, really, really cost effective. I would certainly recommend Vimeo. I actually use Vimeo now for all of mine.

Do you, yeah?
Wistia’s got a lot more customization options, what you can do with the video player. Hey, you can present it, you get little call to actions in your video if you want to get really exotic with your marketing. It really is a great marketing tool, but if you’re just starting out.

If you’re testing the water and you’re getting your feet wet, Vimeo is definitely the way to go. Then, as your needs progress and as you’ve got that … Your online business starting to pull in the money and you can start to afford the Wistia probably definitely be the next level after that.

Yeah, and I mean, there’s still the option where I started and even now, because I’m pushing so much video bandwidth through, it’s starting to really add up on Wistia. Well, let me rephrase that, Wistia I think, I will always use Wistia for my marketing front end videos, because they’ve got so much functionality from a marketing standpoint, which is great.

For just pure content and training, where I want to actually go back to, I think Vimeo’s a good option but I think the most cost effective is still an Amazon S3 solution, where we can upload to S3 and utilize one of the now many S3 video player plugins that allow that same security functionality and embedding.

S3 I think is a pretty, pretty cost effective solution as well for video hosting.

It is and S3 is actually something that is very useful for not just hosting videos but also other source of content. If you’ve got a membership site, and you want to protect … rather than storing it on your WordPress site, which is not really designed to be furnishing your customers through that with big data and heavy downloads, you put it onto Amazon’s S3 and you can actually link to that for eBooks and videos.

Actually these services like Wistia, like Vimeo, on the technical now, they probably are hosted on the Amazon AWS website anyway because Amazon hosts so many massive big services. What Wistia and what Vimeo have done, they’ve repackaged these underlying services into an easy to consume, added all the functionality and they’ve made it really easy.

If you’re technical enough, sometimes you can just bypass these guys and just go straight to the source and use it. Amazon S3 it is a solution. I would probably say it’s a little bit more technical.

It is, than Vimeo, for sure.
For the beginner. I guess it just comes down to that balancing act. Just YouTube it up, it’ll tell you how to do all this stuff, if you really want to. It’s a play off between how much you want to spend, versus how much you want to save. Usually one’s going to equate to more time on your part and one will be quicker.
Agreed, agreed. Yeah. That’s always the balance, right? You can save $20 going with S3 but it’s going to save you a couple weeks to set it out.
20 hours to figure it out?
Yeah, exactly, right? Alright, now just to wrap things up, I know you support solo entrepreneurs, small businesses, coaches, experts, helping them get their membership websites online and supporting them. Becoming that silent membership tech partner, pulling it all together.

Rather than them having to figure it all out, deal with all the plugins, they just come to you and you make everything just magically work behind the scenes. Where can people find out more about that, get in touch with you? Where do they go?

Look, if you’re interested in finding out a bit more about the WordPress platform, I specialize in the WordPress platform and these plugins that work so well on this platform.

You can go ahead to The link’s there at the top of the page there you can just follow it. You can look at the build option. I’m offering two different ways to do it. One where, I’ll actually give you some training. I’ve basically built this website exactly the way as the one I built for my client.

The offer I’ve got there is I’ll help you build your website and I’ll provide the training and pretty much as we’ve talked about it today, we’ll take you through how to actually install those plugins, how to do the integrations, and how to do that. This is great for the person that’s, you know what? I’m not scared of tech

I’m happy to go and do all this stuff and I really want to learn about it and I don’t mind getting my hands dirty. Seeing what’s under the hood and really finding out more about this membership platform and how I can leverage it to suit my online venture, my online business.

Then there’s the other solution, which is a done for you solution which is where you come to me and you say … We sit down, we have a chat, we work out exactly what your needs are and then we’ll say, “Look you know, we’ll build this platform for you, here’s the plugins that you’ll need. Here’s the integrations that you’ll need with your marketing solution or your email solution,” and we connect it all together.

My expertise comes in with integrating it for you so that you don’t have to do the running around and find which plugin works with the other plug in. That solution I’ve built basically builds that engine. I teach people how to create that engine that people can then leverage to do what they want. It doesn’t actually so much build all the pretty colors and the icons and stuff. It creates that engine that you can go and dress up the way you see fit.

It’s great for people who, they want to market, they want to build the pages themselves and that’s very easy to do with the page builder. It’s pretty much set, a little tan case solution. Here is your website, now go run. You’re ready to sell as soon as you’ve got your sales page up and you’ve built that out.

That’s great. For anybody listening, look. I’ve been down this road too many times to count. You can spend all your time trying to figure out everything that’s going to work together. Reinventing the wheel, making the same mistakes that we’ve all ready made for you, or you can just reach out to someone like Nino and tap into that experience, and get that membership site off the ground without all the aggravation, without all the headaches, so that you can focus on doing what you’re good at and that’s delivering whatever your information is, right?

Don’t fall into that trap of, this hosted proprietary solution may seem easier upfront. May be a little bit easier, but in the long term, it can be very, very difficult. Here’s one other thing I just want to finish up with, just to really drive that point home. WordPress, as Nino said, right now is the number one website building platform in the world. Over 30% of the internet now is running on WordPress.

When you build your membership website on WordPress, you own that and you’re not tied to anybody. You can take it from web host A to Web host B, you can swap things in and out. You’re not dependent on one platform entirely.

If you go use one of these proprietary solutions, and you subscribe and you build it using their technology and then that company sells or disappears or goes out of business, where does that leave you and your membership website? That’s the kind of thing that keeps me up at night and that’s why I don’t like being totally dependent on a single organization

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 20 years doing this whole internet thing, is there’s one thing that’s certain is things will change.

online membership website

If we look back at the companies that were big ten years ago that are here today they’re very, very different. Things change. Having that flexibility to move around but also not being dependent on one organization I think is really important when you’re building such an integral piece of your business.

Nino, thank you so much for being here. One more time, your website is …

Awesome, again thank you so much for taking part and for sharing all the hard lessons that you’ve learned over the years.
Thanks again Derek, it was a pleasure to be here.
Fantastic. Alright everyone, that was Nino Alves and as always, any of the links mentioned, and we talked about a lot of different pieces of software, plug ins, stuff like that. Anything we mentioned here, we will link to and you’ll find that in the show notes. As well as an entire transcript of this interview. That will be over at

If you haven’t done so already, you can get every episode, future episode of this podcast automatically delivered to your smart phone or device if you are an apple user, an iPhone user just head over to iTunes and either search for my name Derek Gehl or Project Ignite and click the good old subscribe button. If you use Android, you can find us on the SoundCloud app.

While you’re there subscribing, if you like what you’ve heard, please leave me a review. Rate us on iTunes, rate us on SoundCloud. Your feedback is the fuel that gives me the momentum to continue to bring you guys awesome guests like Nino who are going to share with you real actual tips, strategies that you can start using, today, to build your businesses online.

Now, it’s time to take all of the membership building tools, tips, strategies that Nino shared with us today and apply that one ingredient that will actually make them work for your business, and that ingredient is action.

Go forth and take action, guys. Apply what you’ve learned and stay tuned for more info packed episodes of the Project Ignite podcast.

This is your host, Derek Gehl signing off.

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