Your WordPress theme is the face of your website. It can either proudly and professionally represent your brand or it can make you look like a joke…
Membership sites, in particular, have certain needs that 99% of themes just aren’t built to handle.
At the very least, your WordPress theme should be able to build a great looking member’s area. That goes without saying.
But the member’s area is really the final destination. Because before you even have members, you have prospects. And before they’re prospects, they’re leads…
So your theme should, ideally, enable you to easily build the funnels that take your leads ALL the way through the sales cycle and turn them into paying members.
To properly market your offers you’ll need attractive opt-in pages, professional looking sales pages, a degree of customizability, and of course, the ability to easily run a launch…ideally all under one roof.
Is there a theme that does all of these things and does them well…?
Yes there is! It’s called OptimizePress 2, or OP2 for short. OP2 powers not only dozens of my clients’ websites, it’s also live on this site! 🙂
I like my current theme, can I still use OptimizePress?
One of the features that I’ve loved about OptimizePress 2 from the start is that it comes in both a theme version and a plugin version.
In fact, if you were to view the source code of this very site, you’d see that our main WordPress theme is Divi, while we use the plugin version of OptimizePress for certain pages.
Now, why would we do that?
Well, Divi is a more intricate theme which requires some expertise to really use correctly. Divi gives you full control over the look & feel of your page for each device (mobile, tablet, and desktop).
That’s a lot of work…which is why my business partner Lesly, who’s a brilliant designer, does all of our Divi stuff!
But when it comes to building a membership site, or a quick landing page, or something that I can do by myself without having to bug Lesly, I’ve got OptimizePress ready and waiting for me!
And unlike Divi, it automatically renders the responsive version of your pages FOR you, so you don’t have to muck around with extra settings.
Now before I tell you about OptimizePress, let me state for the record that I have NO particular allegiance to this software. I obviously use and like other themes and page builders.
But Optimize Press just so happens to work better specifically for membership sites than any other WordPress theme I’ve used.
So then, what’s so great about OP2?
Drag And Drop
To call OptimizePress a theme in the way you normally think of a WordPress theme isn’t really accurate.
It’s more of a fully fledged, drag-and-drop interface that lets you build attractive sites even if, like me, you have the design chops of a kindergarten student armed with a box of crayons.
To give you a quick idea of the kinds of pages you can build with OP, take a look at the first landing page for my unlimited membership site support service (opens in a new tab).
About all I can manage to do design-wise is draw a cat with a bow tie. Other than that, I’m not a designer by any stretch of the imagination.
And yet I’ve managed to build a modern, fairly professional landing page for my business by myself using the drag and drop interface. If I can do it, trust me, so can you!
You can see that I’ve made use of alternating rows with background images, testimonial elements, video elements, an FAQ section (built in with OptimizePress), and different row layouts.
These are all drag-and-drop inside of OP2.
For me and most of my customers, OptimizePress shines in its roles as a powerful WordPress membership theme…
BUT it’s clearly versatile enough to handle your front-end and marketing needs, and has a powerful blog component, too.
OP2 = Best WordPress membership theme
OptimizePress really shines when it comes to building great looking members areas, and it works seamlessly with just about any membership plugin (MemberMouse, MemberPress, DAP, etc.)
In fact, one of the highly useful things I’ve found about OptimizePress as it applies to membership sites, is that you can wrap each row or element in the LiveEditor in conditional content shortcodes (called SmartTags in MemberMouse), so you can show / hide content based on membership level or bundle access, like so:
But that’s really a minor point…
I’d say that the MAIN benefit of using this WP theme to set up your membership site is speed of implementation.
Most membership sites are structured in a pretty simple way:
Which translates into a members area that looks something like this:
These screenshots are from a live membership site that my team and I built using a single OptimizePress template, which included the members home page, the module pages, and the lesson pages.
To build the entire members area, all we really had to do is tweak the colors, duplicate as many pages as we needed, add the content, and create the WordPress parent / child hierarchy.
In the past this would have been a royal pain in the ass, but with all of the available OptimizePress templates you can save literally dozens of hours when you’re building out your membership site.
Oh, and they release new templates for FREE each month. Boom!
Ease of Use
Make no mistake about it, there is a learning curve for OptimizePress. It isn’t a huge learning curve. But “drag and drop” doesn’t mean “magically does everything for you”. You still have to tinker around and figure out how to get the look you want.
…Or you can hire someone to do all that stuff for you. 😀
Lucky for you (or the guy setting it up for you), OP2 has a ton of ready-made templates for their users.
These templates are attractive and professional, and cover every important aspect of your marketing:
- opt in pages
- sales pages
- webinar registration pages
- launch pages
- membership pages
- lesson pages
- thank you pages
OptimizePress also has a decent looking blog module that is highly customizable. In fact, as of November 2017 OptimizePress has stepped up their blog component with their much anticipated Smart Theme.
The OptimizePress Advantage
OP2 has quite an impressive feature list. Here are a few of the features that really stand out…
Built in email integrations
OptimizePress allows you to create beautiful opt-in pages using ready-made templates or your own imagination. You can then integrate all of your optin forms with whatever email provider you’re using:
This is exactly what I do on my my ‘free report’ optin page, which is connected to my email marketing app, Drip.
Sidebar: In my opinion, Drip is hands down THE BEST email marketing and automation tool on the market right now. If you’re using Aweber, MailChimp, iContact or any of those “1.0” email autoresponder services I recommend you at least check out Drip to see the insane amount of business you’re missing out on by using one of these obsolete platforms. I actually switched from Aweber to InfusionSoft and then to Drip. Yes that’s right, I ditched big, bad InfusionSoft for a much cheaper tool and I haven’t looked back! Drip > InfusionSoft by a long shot. But I digress…
If, like many of my clients, you’re also using the Digital Access Pass (DAP) membership plugin, you can even connect one of your signup forms for a free product to an optin page. So when somebody signs up through that form, they’ll get added to that product. You’re then able to email members of that free product using the built-in DAP autoresponder. For free.
That’s right, free email marketing with OP2 + DAP. Boomshakalaka!
And unlike with Aweber, MailChimp and most other email providers, you can turn off the confirmation email that requires your subscribers to click a confirmation link before they can receive messages from you (Drip allows you to disabled double optin).
Most of these email integrations happen via API, which means you typically don’t need to mess with any form codes. You simply select your email provider from a dropdown list, and you’re off to the races!
Have you ever heard of LeadPages?
LeadPages is a service that lets you build sexy looking opt-in pages in a drag-and-drop fashion. It also allows you to place links on your site that show a popup optin form when clicked.
LeadPages is pretty popular right now and a lot of folks are using it.
But honestly, with OptimizePress’s recent introduction of the OverlayOptimizer feature, I think most OP users won’t really have the need for LeadPages anymore.
The OverlayOptimizer lets you set up triggers on any of your pages, that when clicked, produce a popup. But unlike LeadPages, these popups can contain not just opt-in forms, but any kind of content you want!
You can’t use the OverlayOptimizer on blog pages yet, but a lot of people are clamoring for this feature so I expect OP to roll it out in one of their upcoming releases.
Update 9/20/15: You can now use the OptimizePress OverlayOptimizer on any page you wish, including non-OP pages!
One cool feature that LeadPages has that OP doesn’t have yet is the ability to natively split test opt-in pages. But I don’t really feel that this is a sufficiently strong reason to use Leadpages because you can easily split test any page on your site using Google’s free Experiments tools or using a free tool like Thrive Leads (which we use on VicDorfman.com). Or better yet, you can outsource all your A/B testing to Testing.Agency.
Edit: OptimizePress now offers A/B testing functionality via their PlusPack!
Sexy, Done-For-You Templates
One big complaint I have about OptimizePress is that the LiveEditor is very time consuming to work with. Even though I bragged earlier that I did the landing page for my membership site support service all by lonesome, it probably took me a good 7 hours in total to get it ‘just right’.
Luckily, the recent availability of high-quality ready made templates can effectively cut this workload in half. Not to mention, there are now dozens of decent OptimizePress designers on Fiverr who actually do good work on the cheap. Just go on to Fiverr.com, search for OptimizePress and a bevy of gigs will pop up.
Let’s say you want to build a sales page. Sales pages are usually fairly long and have a lot of visual elements and text on the page. If you were to build your sales page from scratch, it might take you in the 5-10 hours range.
But if you go to the OptimizePress Marketplace and find a sales page template that you like, you can simply upload that template to your site and replace all the placeholder content with your content. Then make any final tweaks you want in order to give your page a unique flavor, and you’re ready to rock!
This is essentially how I approach building pages with OP2. And because there are so many templates available both in the OP marketplace and inside the OP2 Clubhouse*, there’s absolutely no need to start with a blank slate unless you really want to geek out on your design. Simply pick something that looks great to begin with and then mold it to your heart’s content.
*When you purchase OptimizePress, you’ll be presented with an upsell to join their OptimizePress Clubhouse. The OP Clubhouse gives you access to an entire library of templates, textures, backgrounds, icons and more. They release new templates each month. Membership costs $29/month.
The OptimizePress Launch suite
The product launch approach to releasing a product, popularized by internet marketing megaguru Jeff Walker, is perhaps the most effective way to sell something, whether it’s a service, a product, a book, caoching…anything really!
OptimizePress is built for savvy marketers, so of course it has a built in launch suite! You can run launches in real time. And you can also set up evergreen launches, aka “perpertual” launches, which give your prospect the impression that they’re participating in a live launch when in fact the launch sequence is pre-arranged.
You can also run as many launches in parallel as you want.
There isn’t much to say about the launch suite other than it’s easy to use and works the way it’s supposed to.
I personally use the launch suite as a way to sequentially and attractively present the free bonus content that comes with my book.
And in retrospect I probably should have done a launch for my unlimited membership site support service. Although it’s still gaining traction nicely so I can’t really complain.
When OptimizePress 2.0 was first released it was riddled with bugs. I watched skeptically from the sidelines, not quite ready to jump on the hype-filled bandwagon. But what happened next gave me a pleasant surprise.
The OP2 team swiftly, serenely and systematically resolved issue after issue. They released update upon update, and exterminated many of the bugs that plagued the initial releases.
Not only that, but they continued to add new features and integrations at a rapid rate (and they’re still going!)
It’s safe to say that OP2 basically won me over through good old fashioned hard work, and dedication to their product and to their customers. They impressed away my skepticism. And at only $97 for a 3-site license, I finally handed over my precious credit card info.
I’ve been using OP2 for over 2 years now, and almost every time I login to my WordPress dashboard there’s a new update to the theme waiting for me. That’s rad. It shows me that these guys are on top of their game and are in this business for the long haul.
I, in turn, feel comfortable building out my personal sites and client sites on OP2 because I know they’ll continue to stick around and improve their product for some time to come.
What about OPMember?
When you buy OptimizePress you also get their membership plugin, OptimizeMember, for free.
I don’t particularly like OPMember. I find the layout to be convoluted and unintuitive.
In terms of functionality, OPMember is fairly solid. But I prefer – and many of my clients prefer – to use Digital Access Pass for the membership component of their site, and OptimizePress for the theme.
In my experience, you want to choose the best possible membership plugin right from the start because migrating to another platform at a later date is a hassle you really don’t want to go through.
Most membership site owners choose to move either because:
A) Their old plugin doesn’t have the features they need to continue growing their business, e.g. 1-click upsells, integration with a vital 3rd party app, poor support, etc.
– OR –
B) Their old plugin causes various problems for them and their members, e.g. administrative issues, content protection problems, access problems, welcome emails not being delivered, etc.
The pain that comes with migrating to a new membership plugin is usually acute enough to keep membership site owners begrudgingly married to their current platform, even if it puts a ceiling on their growth.
So what are some of the pains of migrating to a new membership plugin?
- Uprooting your current members and importing them to your new system
- Issuing new login credentials to your members (new username/password)
- Migrating their payment profiles from your payment processor to sync with the new membership script (if it’s even possible. It often isn’t.)
- Setting up and integrating your new plugin with all of your 3rd party apps e.g. Aweber, Stripe, Paypal, Mandrill, etc.
- Learning the new system
…and other pains in the gluteus.
Truly, when it comes to membership plugins, an ounce of prevention in choosing the right plugin from the start is worth a pound of cure in saved headaches. Not to mention hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
What About Speed, Vic?
I’ve heard some people protest that OP2 is slow to load for visitors. But I haven’t really found this to be a significant issue.
There are things you can do – should do – regardless of which WordPress theme you’re running, to improve load times on your site.
Why…? It’s a question of user experience.
Did you know, for instance, that Google uses page load speed as a ranking factor in their search results? That means that ignoring load times on your site will hurt your SEO(!)
Secondly, have you noticed that the whole freaking world is becoming completely AD-freakin’-D? More than ever, your landing page is a battlegrounds for already-fickle attention. And if your page loads just one second too late, POOF! Your prospect gets bored and clicks off the page.
Here are a few quick and easy ways to improve site speed:
- Install a free image-compression plugin like Smush.it
- Host your static content on a CDN like Amazon CloudFront.
- Cache your non-membership pages using a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache
- Upgrade from your crappy GoDaddy hosting already and go with a professional solution like CloudWays
- Deactivate any WordPress plugins that you aren’t actively using (load times are partially dependent on how many scripts your site has to load).
- Use fewer scripts, images and and other external resources.
…we do all of these optimizations for you via my SpeedKills.io managed WordPress hosting service.
OptimizePress probably isn’t for you if your primary goal is to blog, to build a WordPress-based eCommerce store, or to build a highly custom website that would require substantial development work.
But if you need an attractive, flexible and functional WordPress theme for your online marketing and membership site efforts, OP2 is a clear winner.
If you have some questions that I didn't address in this post, please leave a comment below and I'll personally reply to you! Thanks for reading!