Over the past month or so, I’ve made quite a few updates to the website.  Some are easily seen, while others are structural changes that allow for the more public updates to be supported.

Some of the more obvious changes are the Shop page (which was hidden for the last 2 years because I focused on selling memberships), and a new Member Content page for members to have easy 1-page access to everything available to them.  Not only are these pages easily found, but the layout of content on these pages has changed significantly.

Another update that’s easily seen is the new PowerKey of the Month Club, which just launched this past week.  While this doesn’t add anything new for members, this will serve non-members and is a great introduction of the new direction for my work to the general public.

Less obvious are the changes to the navigation menus and the My Account page, which now has a few extra tabs to give non-members links to media they’ve purchased (both on-site access and downloads), and give members a more organized reporting of their membership and course access.  Those accessing the website on phones and other mobile devices may find the overall layout of the website more mobile-friendly.

To support these updates, a whole host of changes needed to be made behind the scenes.  Some were easily done, while others took months to find the right combination of tools to implement.

As an example, the new Member Content page, which lists all products on the website with links to various pages to give members easy access to the relevant pages.  That came about because I was researching a way to implement a system for another website so customers could have an simple list of products they had purchased, including an easy way to play videos and other media directly on the website.  This is incredible important for both less tech-savvy customers and those who don’t want to download large video files before watching them.

After months of part-time research, I found a particular plugin for creating tables, which offered an easy way to list products a customer had previously purchased, and also provided features to include media and links in the table.  This plugin is offered by a company called Barn2 Plugins.  While this was very different from what I originally had in mind, it turned out to be the perfect solution, as I like the way products are presented in a table more than the standard WooCommerce grid layout.

These tables, which are used on the main Shop page, the Member Content page, and also in the My Account area for purchased media for non-members, are publicly visible.  What is hidden is the added database field on products to provide media players or links in the tables.

Building websites is a little like playing with Lego bricks, piecing together various pieces to cobble together what you have in mind.  Rarely will a single piece provide everything you want, and we have to combine the basic tools with other supporting tools to get a working system.

There ARE times when despite our best efforts, we’re unable to find the right combination of tools to fully implement an idea, at which point we settle for certain limitations to use what IS available.  Either that, or we hire a programmer to create the needed tool(s), which can be quite expensive unless your business is large enough to justify the investment.

Case in point, in order to give non-members on-site access to media they have purchased, I choose to implement this with a membership structure that isn’t presented as a membership, using WishList Member as the tool because it provides a direct feature for this.  Certain pages (or even files) can be sold separately from memberships, and the same content can be included in regular memberships as well as a “pay per view” context.

However, if you wanted to sell limited-time access to a piece of content, for 7 days maybe, this cannot be done with their “pay per view” feature, but would need to be set up as a regular membership with an expiration date.  Now, this doesn’t affect me, as I tend to give lifetime access to purchased content, but this WOULD be a limitation for some folks.

Overall, the combination of tools I’ve added to the website over the past month supports exactly what I was looking to do.  Provide an easy way for members and other customers to get access to whatever they have purchased, including simple media players without having to click from page to page to listen to the various audio programs.

At the moment, I am providing links to separate pages for the more complex audio programs because the pages were already been set up, and in these cases, it gives a better presentation than including a dozen different audio files in a single table cell, although that could be done with playlists.

Overall, not only does this simplify things for members and customers, it also simplifies things for me as well, because when I add a new single-track audio program, I just have to add one little bit to the product settings for the delivery of the product, and don’t have to create a new page just for one audio track.

For anyone thinking about starting an online business, I recommend you don’t try to do everything yourself.  Focus on what you’re already good at, and find someone (or several someones) to do those things they can do better.

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