Building a Membership Site: Creator Courses 2.0

Recently I launched Version 2.0 of Creator Courses, and with a giant new feature: Memberships. We’ll talk about why now, what changes I made, and of-course, the toolkit I used for the site. Let’s get to it! Listen to the episode

Show Notes


Hey everybody and welcome to Creator Toolkit, a podcast about building things on the web. Today I’m coming to you with a case study for a membership site: version 2.0 of Creator Courses.

Why Now?

To be honest, this wasn’t something I had on the roadmap for this year. It’s something I talked about for a long time, but I read a book that gave me a push to launch now: Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller.

While I was reading the book (which I highly recommend), I was completing the recommended worksheets to hone my message and offering. In completing the worksheets, and based on my primary message, I realized that memberships made the most sense for my target audience.

The Homepage

With a new message, I needed a new homepage. I sketched the out with Goodnotes on my iPad Pro, taking inspiration from other “story brand” websites. The next realization came here: the theme I was using didn’t offer me exactly what I needed.

So I decided to change the theme. Between that and adding the memberships as my core offering, I knew I was looking at a full redesign.

The Features (Added and Removed)

Aside from the memberships, and now new theme, there were other changes to the feature set I decided to make.

I enabled Gutenberg on the site (finally) after some testing, and disable the classic editor. I upgraded to LearnDash 3.0, which looks fantastic. And I simplified my affiliate program a bit.

I also removed about 20 plugins I didn’t need. A few bigger ones were related to bbPress. I fulfilled another goal of mine by removing forums from the LMS and marketing site. The forums now live on their own subdomain, and are powered by Discourse.

Finally, I added the plugin of one of my sponsors, Ahoy. I’m happy with it so far – it’s very flexible, and allows for increased engagement, lead generation, and even help with abandoned carts, all in one plugin.

The Process

Now, since this is an active site, with orders, course progress, and actual users, I couldn’t just clone the site, make all the changes, and push them up.

As it turns out, one of the things I found out in doing this is there isn’t really a good tool to do that. So what I did instead was:

  • Create a staging site
  • Build out the new site
  • Remove feature and plugins I no longer needed
  • Note the changes
  • TEST
  • TEST
  • TEST
  • Then when I was ready, put the live site in maintenance mode and recreate the changes from staging.

The Toolkit

With the process outlined, it was time to get to work. The main drivers – the toolkit – are as follows:

WooCommerce and LearnDash

These 2 plugins are still the main drivers of the site. WooCommerce handles all of the eCommerce, and LearnDash handles all the eLearning. Anything else I used how to work with them.

Astra Pro

The best theme on the market right now is Astra Pro, hands down. Not only is it lightweight and flexible, but it works seamlessly with both WooCommerce and LearnDash.

WooCommerce Memberships & WooCommerce Subscriptions

Both of these plugins are required to run an effective membership site through WooCommerce.

They both work seamlessly with WooCommerce and each other. Setting an annually paid membership up was a breeze.

The only stumbling block I had was connecting the memberships side to LearnDash. While other memberships work really with with the popular LMS plugin, WooCommerce Memberships does not. The main issue was I want members to have access to all current and future courses, and I can’t easily add new courses to previously purchased products.

Luckily, my friend Zac Gordon wrote a bit of code to associated a user with a group, after they buy a specific product in WooCommerce. I added that snippet of code to the new site and everything is working great!

Now, when someone buys the membership product, a series of events kicks off:

  • They are made a member of the site, so I can add members-only content
  • They get added to a LearnDash group that grants them access to all courses
  • They are added with the tag “membership” in ConvertKit, and they get a series of emails to help on-board them.

So long ACF

There was one more major shift I made on the site, regarding course content. Because LearnDash 3.0 has added a “Focus Mode,” I want to use the native video progression, instead of the ACF solution I came up with for version 1.0 of the site.

SO I wrote a plugin that, upon activation, would grab all of the ACF video URLs and convert them to LearnDash video URLs. That code is freely available on Github, and I will link it in the show notes for this episode, over at

Plans for the Future

With the initial launch and soft open marketing done, I’m really going to start pushing the memberships, adding more fantastic content, and improving organization.

Specifically regarding organization, I’m going to make sure all of the lessons and topics are properly categorized and tagged, and that there’s no course progression turned on, so you can watch any video in any order.

I’ll also add SearchWP top make searching a lot easier.

Wrapping Up

That’s it for this case study! For all of the show notes, head over to If you liked this episode, please share it!

If you want to get 15% off the new membership, for a limited time you can go to to have the discount automatically applied.

Instead of me asking you a question this week, I want to know what questions you have about the site. Let me know: or on Twitter @jcasabona.

Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, get out there and build something.

Originally published on Creator Toolkit

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