Did you know there are over 31,010 WordPress themes out there for you to choose from?
This mind-boggling statistic comes from a 2020 study conducted by Scepter Marketing:
What’s crazy is that even if you spent just 5 minutes evaluating each theme, it would still take you over 2,500 hours to go through all the options available.
Yeah… no thanks.
But here’s the thing:
The theme you choose for your membership site is pretty important. It’ll determine much of the look, feel, and functionality of your site. Because of this, it is important to do at least some research to find the one that’s best for you.
And if picking a WordPress theme wasn’t hard enough, finding one for your membership site adds on a whole new layer of complexity. The thing about membership sites is that you’re not just creating a public-facing website. You also need to create protected pages and private areas that’ll only be shown to your members.
Designing a member dashboard or video course library is a lot different than creating a blog post template or about page. What's more, out of the 30,000+ themes out there, almost none of them are purpose built for membership sites.
That’s why in this article, we’ll share some information with you that’ll help you pick the best theme for your project. We’ll also point out a few themes that could serve as a good foundation for your membership site.
Before we dive in and explore some of the themes you could use for your membership site, there are a few things you should consider in your selection process. If you ignore any of these areas, you could wind up picking a theme that ultimately doesn’t support the vision you have for your project.
More importantly, you might not discover the limitations of a theme until you’re knee deep in the design and development phase. If that happens, you might have to scrap all the hard work you’ve put into your site and start back at square one. We’ve been there and it’s no fun at all. So, before you commit to a theme for your membership site, here are 8 things you should consider first.
This question might sound simple, but what is your vision for your membership site?
How do you want it to look, feel, and perform?
Before you “break ground” and start designing your site, it’s important to have a plan and a vision to guide you. Don’t worry if you don’t have a crystal-clear image of your dream site in your mind. All you need is a basic plan and maybe a few wireframe sketches.
On top of this, we recommend that you create a list of the core, “must have” features you want for your site. For example, do you plan on offering any of the following things to your members?
Once you know these things, you’ll have a concrete list of things to look for as you search for your perfect theme.
The decision of where to host your membership site is a big one. For example, if you have an existing WordPress website, you could simply install a membership plugin like MemberMouse and create your site there. If that’s the case for you, then the theme you’re already using would be what you would use to style your protected pages and member areas.
Or, if you have an existing site but don’t want to use your current theme, you could create a subdomain with a fresh installation of WordPress. If you go this route, you have the option to use a different theme on that subdomain specifically for your membership site. Something like: https://members.mysite.com. This could be a great option for you if the theme you have on your public facing website isn’t well suited to the requirements of a membership site.
Alternatively, you could register an entirely new domain name that’s relevant to your membership and build a new site from scratch. There’s no right or wrong approach here. It just depends on what you want to do.
The next thing you should consider in your search for the perfect membership theme has to do with the difference between public and private pages. What differentiates a membership site from a standard website is that a membership site will typically have private areas with protected content. These are pages that are not accessible to public visitors.
Here’s why this is important:
Just like you need to design all the public-facing pages for your website (like your homepage, about page, blog posts, etc.), you’ll also need to design the pages that are protected in your membership.
A WordPress membership plugin like MemberMouse can help you create and protect your members’ only pages. However, the design of these pages will ultimately be up to you. Most themes have pre-existing, ready-to-go templates for the pages a public website will need. However, very few of them have templates for the kind of pages you’ll likely want to create for your membership site.
This is really important because you probably have an idea or vision of how you’d like things to look when your members log in to your site. Maybe you want a course library or dynamic member dashboard that makes it easy for your members to make their way through your content. As you research the different themes available to you, keep your ideas for your protected pages at the front of your mind. This way, you can more easily identify the theme that’ll work best for you.
Today, most of the top WordPress themes have essentially the same features:
So, it can be tricky to actually figure out what makes one theme unique over another.
That being said, you shouldn’t take any of these features for granted. As you look for the best theme for your membership site, you will want to make sure that it’ll meet your needs now and in the future.
If you pick a theme that performs poorly on mobile or tablet devices, your site could wind up looking like a jumbled pile of garbage to those visitors. That would almost certainly scare them away from your brand and business.
In a similar vein, if your theme wasn’t created with SEO best practices in mind, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to ranking your site and attracting organic visitors. This is why it’s so important to have a plan and vision for your site. When you know what you want to create and what’s critical to achieving your goals, you can pick a theme that aligns with your vision.
This is a big one.
Before you commit to a theme for your membership site, it would serve you well to triple check that it plays nicely with the core components of your existing tech stack. Go through the “must have” plugins already installed on your site (or the ones you plan to use on your next project) and do a bit of detective work. A few quick Google searches can help you avoid some migraine-level tech headaches down the line.
Plus, a lot of the reputable themes out there have support centers, forums, or teams that can help you with your decision making. If you can’t find any answers through search, you can always pop into a theme forum or ask your questions on live chat.
As a starting point, you’ll want to make sure your theme is compatible with these tools:
Obviously, the list could go on. But you get the idea.
As an entrepreneur who’s building an online business, do you really want to spend your precious time fiddling around with theme code and design elements?
Web design is a specialized skill. There’s a reason developers get paid the big bucks to build sites. Sure, page builders and hosted solutions make it sound easy to get your site up and running in minutes. But the reality is never that simple. If you pick a theme that requires a lot of customization, you could spend an eternity just trying to get your buttons to center on the page.
You’ve got much more important work to do than that.
Some themes are more-or-less good to go out of the box. Some are little more than blank canvases waiting for you to paint your masterpiece. That’s why it’s important to consider how much design, development, and customization work you want and are capable of doing before you pick a theme.
Themes that include a lot of readymade templates are perfect if you don’t want to (or can’t) do a lot of customization work. Sure, you might have to sacrifice a little bit on your vision – but working with constraints can be a good thing. There’s no shame in using a theme with pre-made templates. They can save you a lot of time and hassle. If you have a to-do list a mile long, we’d advise you to go this route.
On the other hand, if you’ve got some design chops, know your way around a CSS file, and actually enjoy the trial and error that goes into designing a site from scratch, you might want to pick a theme with fewer features and more room for customization.
Hold on a sec… what about site speed?
Yes, this is a very important thing to consider when selecting the theme you’ll use for your membership site for two reasons. The first has to do with SEO. The second has to do with user experience.
Without getting into the nitty gritty details about what makes a theme fast vs. slow, it’s important to note that not all themes are created and coded equally. Some are lean, mean, and faster than Usain Bolt at the Olympics. Other themes can be bloated, poorly designed, and slower than a sloth on valium (maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration).
That being said, you’ll generally want to pick a theme with an emphasis on speed and fast page-load times. The reason for this is that you’ll increase your ability to win at SEO and deliver a fantastic experience to your members. This is doubly true if you plan on using blogging or content marketing as the primary way you attract visitors to your site.
Last but certainly not least in our checklist is customer support. It’s important to understand that not all WordPress themes come with customer support. In fact, if you plan to use a free theme, chances are it won’t come with any level of support. That means if you encounter problems or issues as you’re building your site, you’ll have to rely on Google, noisy Facebook groups, or potentially outdated forums for answers.
If you’re an experienced developer or designer, you might not need a theme that provides support to its users. Your knowledge of web design, coding, and WordPress could be all you need to crack open that functions.php file to customize your theme or troubleshoot any issues you encounter.
However, if even the thought of clicking on the Theme Editor link on your WordPress dashboard sends shivers down your spine, we recommend going with a theme that includes customer support. This way, if you accidentally do something that causes your entire site to come crashing down, there's a team of experts you can turn to for help.
While it may be tempting to use a free theme without support, you do so at your own risk. If things go south on your site, a $59 annual fee for support will seem insignificant compared to figuring out everything on your own.
Now that you have a set of criteria you can use to pick the perfect theme for your membership site, let’s take a look at a few themes that could work great for your project.
A quick disclaimer:
This isn’t the “be all, end all” list of themes. We didn’t come down from the mountain with these 9 themes etched in stone tablets. Like we said at the beginning of this article, there are tens of thousands of themes out there for you to choose from. Just because a theme you’re considering isn’t on this list doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.
We’ve taken all of the considerations listed above when we compiled this list. We hope it helps you find some clarity and reduce any amount of overwhelm you might feel about picking a theme.
First up in our list is Divi from Elegant Themes. Out of all the themes out there you could use for your membership site, Divi is the closest thing to a “total package.” Not only is it a robust and flexible theme, it’s also one of the most powerful page builders on the market. If you go with Divi as the theme for your membership site, you won’t have to worry about compatibility with a page builder like Elementor or Beaver Builder.
Divi comes pre-packaged with a lot of great site templates and page layout designs. You can use these “out of the box” or customize them to your liking with their drag-and-drop design features.
Plus, if you plan on using MemberMouse as your WordPress membership plugin, you can download our free Divi layout pack. This gives all your MemberMouse core pages a modern look and feel without you having to design anything. To learn more about our Divi Layout Pack, you can check out this blog post.
Divi Theme – $89 Annually or $249 Lifetime
Next up is Astra – a lightweight theme that packs a punch. Created in 2017, it’s built for high performance and optimized user experiences. Its fast load times, flexibility, and customization features have made it one of the most popular themes on the market today. Astra integrates very well with the WordPress ecosystem. This includes page builders like Elementor or Beaver Builder.
Even if you don’t plan on using a page builder, Astra’s out-of-the-box design features will help you build good looking site relatively easily. What’s great about Astra is that their Pro plan comes with 150+ starter templates you can use to build your site.
Astra – Free
Astra Pro – $59 annually or $249 lifetime
Get an extra 20% Off when you USE COUPON CODE GrowWithAstra AT CHECKOUT
OceanWP is a solid and reliable WordPress theme you can use for your membership site. Created in 2016, it’s fast, responsive, and flexible. Currently, it has over 700,000 active installations and overwhelmingly positive review on WordPress.org.
What’s great about Ocean WP is that you get all its features and functionality with the free version. They do have paid plans which give you powerful extensions and premium site templates. If you’re just starting out and absolutely need a free theme, Ocean WP could be perfect for you.
OceanWP – Free
Personal Bundle – $54 annually or $222 lifetime
By now you’ve heard us mention the popular page builder Elementor a few times in this article. You may have even wondered why they don’t have their own theme like Divi does. Well, they technically do have their own theme. It’s called Hello. And if you plan on using Elementor for your page builder, it’d be worth it to at least look into using their theme for your membership site.
That being said, you should know that this theme is very minimal. If you choose to use it, you’ll basically have to build your entire site from scratch. If that sort of project sounds fun and exciting to you, Hello might be the perfect fit. But, if you’d rather not have to do all the heavy lifting of an experienced developer or designer, we’d recommend choosing a different theme for your project.
Hello from Elementor – Free
What makes the Neve theme unique is that it’s built to be “mobile first.” This means it’s designed specifically to render well on mobile devices. Neve goes beyond standard theme responsiveness with AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) compatibility. If you expect the majority of your visitors and members to interact with your site on mobile or tablet devices, definitely take a close look at this theme.
Another great thing about Neve is that it comes with over 80 starter site templates. You can use these as a starting point for your own site and save the time you’d otherwise spend building from scratch.
Neve Theme – Free
Personal Plan – Starts at $99 annually
What would an article like this one be without mentioning GeneratePress. It’s the ultimate lightweight theme for WordPress. Weighing in at less than 10kb, it’s built for speed and optimal performance. If your mantra is “less is more,” this minimal theme could be perfect for you.
GeneratePress is designed to work seamlessly with the entire WordPress ecosystem. This includes popular page builders like Elementor or Beaver Builder. Plus, they have an impressive site library to make designing your site that much easier. Even more, they’ve developed specific templates you can use with the two page builders we just mentioned.
GeneratePress – Free
GeneratePress Premium – $59 annually or $249 lifetime
AuthorityPro is a beautiful, well-designed theme that’s perfect for “expert” or “coaching” style sites. One important thing to note about this theme is that it’s part of the Genesis Framework. If you want to use this theme, you’ll also need to install the Generate Framework on your site. Not familiar with this framework? You can learn more about it here.
Something that’s nice about AuthorityPro and the Genesis Framework is that it comes with its own page building features that work with WordPress’s Gutenberg Editor. This way, you won’t have to worry about compatibility with other page builders.
One downside of this theme is that there’s no free version available for testing. With that in mind, be sure to do your research and know what you’re getting yourself into before you commit.
Genesis Pro – $360 annually
“Wait… OptimizePress? I thought they were just a landing page builder?”
Nope! Even though they market themselves primarily as a landing page tool, OptimizePress does include a WordPress theme and page building features. However, if you don’t want to use their Smart Theme, you can still use OptimizePress with other themes.
Pretty cool, huh?
What’s great about OptimizePress is that it’s designed to help you build a conversion-focused website. While other themes and tools like Divi and Elementor can help you build a standard website, OptimizePress can help you create sales pages, landing pages, and funnels using templates that are proven to convert. If you plan on testing out a lot of different marketing strategies, OptimizePress could be a great solution for you.
They even include specific templates for membership sites, online courses, and other types of digital product businesses. One thing you’ll need to consider though is that OptimizePress is not a WordPress membership plugin or LMS tool. You’ll need a plugin like MemberMouse to actually protect the pages meant for your members only.
Smart Theme – free with OptimizePress subscription
OptimizePress Essential Plan – $179 annually
Like we talked about at the beginning of this article, there are so many WordPress themes for membership sites. While the following themes didn't make the “official” best-of list, they definitely deserve a mention. If none of the themes above look like they'll work for your project, we definitely recommend taking a look at these themes below:
Hestia Pro — A stylish and versatile theme that doesn't overcomplicate things.
Hive — Want to build a newspaper style site? This could be the theme for you!
Binder Pro — Ideal for online magazines and member supported publications.
YumBlog — Can you guess which business this theme is best suited for? That's right, food blogs and recipe memberships!
Carbonate — If site speed is your top priority, look no further! This theme is one of the fastest on the market.
Meridian Fitness — Building a fitness membership? This might be the theme you've been looking for!
Before we wrap up this post, let’s take a minute to look at custom themes.
Let’s imagine that you’re just not jiving with any of the themes we’ve outlined in this article. Maybe there’s a website out there that you love the look and feel of. Or maybe you want to create something that a template or page builder just can’t do.
In this situation, you might want to consider using a custom theme. That being said, it’s not quite as simple as “using” a custom theme. The reason for this is because you will have to develop the theme yourself or hire a developer to do it. Custom themes are great because they can be built to match all of your design specifications and technical requirements. The downside is that it can cost you a pretty penny to do so.
This way of doing things is definitely the “advanced path” to building a WordPress membership site – the double black diamond, if you will.
However, there are a few ready-made custom themes out there that are purpose built for membership sites. In fact, you can see one of them here on our very own demo site. This theme was developed by the good people over at MemberDev to work specifically with MemberMouse. In addition to built-in templates for standard membership pages, this theme also includes support for courses, community functionality, event management and more. If you’re interested in the look, feel, and functionality of this theme, we highly recommend reaching out to them. You can get in touch with them here.
Another purpose-built membership site theme is called Memberoni. It was developed by the team over at The Membership Guys. Currently, the Memberoni theme is only available to members of their private community. You can check out this page to learn more about what they have to offer.
Wow! How awesome was that to get a big picture look at some of the best WordPress themes available for membership sites. It definitely beats combing through all 30,000+ themes on your own, huh? We hope you have a much better idea of how to select the best theme for your membership site and a short list of themes to explore.
As a parting gift, we want to share a nifty resource with you that we came across in our research. Have you ever stumbled upon a website and simply loved how it looked? Did you with there was a way to figure out what theme they were using without scanning through lines and lines of code? Fortunately, there is an easy way. All you need to do is copy the URL of the site and plug it into WhatWPThemeIsThat.com. It'll analyze the site and tell you the name of the theme it's using.