Membership Sites
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Organizing Your Membership Site Content to Best Serve Your Audience

You have all these great ideas.  You know there's value in them. When you present the material you get a lot of great feedback.  (If you haven't presented it, think about your content as if you had.)

Is you audience's response something like this?

  • People listen leaning forward in their seats.
  • They take notes feverishly not wanting to miss anything.
  • They stand up to take pics of your slides.
  • Many come up after you present and ask for more information.

Let's go with the assumption that you have an idea that resonates strongly with an audience.  It's in demand.

So how do you make this great material available on line?  I recommend starting off simple.  It could be that long term you keep it simple as well.  The KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid wins out over complicated every time.

There are two models we've seen work best for the membership sites we build.  The two models are Resource Library and Course.  Let's start with an explanation of a Resource Library first.  Then we'll go over Course.  It could be you what you need is combination of both of these.

Model 1: Resource Library

A resource library is a collection of content where there isn't really an order to it.  Members search through your content for something they need.

Think of a physical trainer's library of workouts.  They make it available to their clients and allow them to pick and choose the work outs they want.  The physical trainer could also send them a weekly email telling them which set of workouts they should do next week.

The workouts could be organized by parts of the body.  One section is dedicated to Upper Body.  Another is dedicated to Core.  Another focuses on Legs. Members can the find the workout they want following instructions sent to them by their instructor.  They could also find workouts based on the part of the body they want to exercise.

In Resource Library sites, search is important.    People might want to search for "quadriceps" to get a list of all the workouts that contain that word.  Organizing your content so they are logically grouped is important.   People may want to look for "Upper Body" then view all the "Bicep" exercises.  You may want to group all the weight lifting workouts in one section and all the aerobic workouts separately.  You may want to consider applying content topic tags to every workout so members can search by topic.

Take a look at the video below for examples of sites organized as Resource Libraries.


Model 2: Course

Any Course you present or make available online has a beginning.  It then has an end.  Then it has all the content in between.  Think of a course like you would a book.   We'll call it a Course, but you can call it something else depending on what it is you are publishing.  Your Course will have sections, chapters, lessons, modules, or something else.  We'll call them sections for now, but it doesn't matter what you call these as long as you are consistent.

Each section covers a specific part of your content.  When it is done, the member proceeds to the next section.

Finally, you should have a final section providing an overview and most likely a recommendation on what to do next.  You always need to be selling.

If your content doesn't flow smoothly section to section, it could be your content is off.  Maybe you need to reorganize it.  It could be you need to create a course and then add resources to different sections like you would sidebars in a book.  It's unlikely, but it could be you have something different and these two models I describe here just aren't right.

When someone arrives at your course, they should arrive at a welcome or overview page.  This displays the course's title, a short description, a video (perhaps) and some information describing what members should expect.  You're doing your members a big favor if you set expectations up front.  This way they know what's coming.  Tell them how long the course will run, the typical length of each chapter, etc.  If each chapter follows a consistent format, tell them that.  There's no sense in keeping your members in suspense.   That could be a distraction and cause them to slow down or stop moving through you content.  That is bad.

All your pages should have a sidebar with a menu listing all the sections that make up your course.  Think of this like you would a table of contents.  In some cases, these sections will be closed so people cannot access them.  You do this to keep them from jumping ahead.   (That's a more advanced topic we'll cover in a learning management system article later.)  Typically, someone taking your courses should be able to skim the sidebar like a table of contents to understand what it is you are covering.  This allows them to quickly sample some content and to get a rough idea of how long it will take to go through your material.

If your content is considerably longer, let's say more than 20 - 30 sections, consider breaking it down into three tiers.  You'll have courses, sections and subsections.   In your sidebar, you display a list of the sections.  You can make those selectors that open up the subsections beneath those.  This layout prevents you from having to display 30+ items in a left sidebar that most people would find overwhelming.

At the end of this article, I include a video showing examples of Course site designs we have seen work well for clients.

Specific Page Layouts

Whether you are using the Resource Library or Course model, you eventually get down to a page with content.  As you probably know, video is getting more and more popular as a teaching tool.  A video on a welcome or overview page is always a good thing, but do consider adding video throughout your content to illustrate points.  It's also good because it adds a voice and visuals to your written content.   You don't have to go overboard especially if this is your first time.

I make use of screen capture videos a lot.  There are inexpensive tools like SnagIt and Movavi that make recording these very easy.  It's a video of a section of your computer display.  You can record a Powerpoint slide deck with you speaking on the microphone (iPhone ear buds are usually good enough) giving a presentation like you would if you were in front of a live audience.   You can also record your screen and voice going through the steps of a process with you clicking through it with your mouse.

If you want to get your face in there, use your phone camera (quality is good enough) or even your computer web cam to get your face and voice recorded.  It doesn't have to be "Hollywood" for you to come across as professional.  Honestly, as long as the audio quality is good, you will like have something your audience will appreciate.  Remember, audio quality in a video is often more than the video quality in most cases.

Then you add copy, make use of images and files people can download for the remainder of our content.

Watch the video that follows for examples showing page navigation and layouts you can consider for your project.