Why Would You Enable User Registration on a WordPress Site? And How

In case you didn’t know, there’s one really basic feature in WordPress, and it has been there since forever (at least as far as I can remember).

I’m talking about user registration, or more accurately, publicly available (free-for-all) user registration.

Just to get the basics out of the way, let me quickly explain the process of enabling this on any WordPress site.

Just go to your admin panel > Settings > General. There, you can see a checkbox labeled as “Anyone can register” (image below).


Well, the label is pretty self-explanatory so I guess I don’t need to add anything here.

There’s also a dropdown list where you can choose the default role for every new user. This is most likely set to Subscriber, but you can choose any other role WordPress has to offer. Although it’s hard for me to see the sense in assigning someone to the role of Administrator, for example.

Once you set your blog to accept new users, your standard login page will display new link inviting people to register:


Now, this is all fine … but what’s the point of enabling this in the first place? And also, is the default solution the best possible one to use? Let’s start with some core info.

Basics of user registration in WordPress

The basic functionality WordPress has to offer enables anyone to register, so there’s not much you can do in terms of restricting access. Basically, if someone is clever enough to figure out the registration URL (which is yourdomain.com/wp-login.php?action=register) then they can get a shiny new account.

The only question here is why.

First of all, there are only two roles that make sense for new users: Subscriber, and Contributor.

The former has basically no privileges at all. The only thing a subscriber can do is manage their own profile (they can access the admin panel, section Users > Your Profile).

The latter allows users to create new posts and then submit them for review. However, once the post gets approved for publication the user can no longer edit it. Also, they don’t have access to anyone else’s content.

Other roles, like Author, Editor, etc. allow users to publish posts on their own (with no supervision). This means that if you enable this free-for-all registration on your blog and assign people to anything above Contributor, you’re in trouble.

Now, let’s talk benefits.

Why would you want to enable this?

There are a couple of reasons why you should consider enabling user registration.

1. It’s a great way to work with guest bloggers

Guest blogging is a fairly common thing to do in the blogosphere. No matter if you’re a guest poster or a blog owner accepting guest posts.

We all know that guest posting requires much time and effort. You have to write a quality post, pitch it to the blog owner, send it and convince that person to publish it.

However, it’s also kind of time-consuming on the blog owner’s part. They have to receive your article, create a new post with it, make sure that the formatting is right, and they have to do all this before they can even examine the content itself.

Enabling user registration and assigning new users to the role of Contributor can help a lot here.

When you do this, you can just create a guest post guidelines page on your blog, list all the requirements there, and link to your registration page. Once someone finishes their post, they can submit it for review and you’ll be notified immediately. Now you can easily review the post and decide its fate.

Then, feel free to ignore other guest posting requests that come through any other channel.

2. You can create a membership site

Maybe not a full-blown membership site, but you can have some premium sections that only registered users can visit. (This can be done when you register users as Subscribers or Contributors.)

Now, WordPress allows you to set any given post to be Private (image below), but this won’t do you any good here because private posts are only visible to other Editors and Admins (also, there’s password protection which is a whole another story).


Despite this small counterintuitive thing you can still offer premium content by creating a simple page template and using this line somewhere inside the template:

if ( current_user_can('read') ) { /* whatever a Subscriber can see */ }

Depending on your site’s purpose, having some simple premium content can be a nice thing. However, if you want something more complex and feature-rich I would advise trying out the WP-Members plugin.

It allows you to turn any WordPress site into a membership site. It’s actually a complete (and free) membership management framework for WordPress.

3. You can offer extra bonuses

This is somewhat similar to a membership site, but the purpose is slightly different. A membership site is about providing premium content usually in big packages or other well thought through forms and formats. Whereas an extra bonus is something a lot simpler.

You might, for example, say that every registered user gets a special code that takes 10% off their order (if the site sells something). Or you can even display special deals that only your registered users can take advantage of. (Can be done with the code mentioned above.)

The whole point of that is not just to let people in on some deals. It’s actually to get them subscribed and included on your list. That way you can contact them whenever you please through email and send even more stuff (stuff as in content, promotions and offers; in that order).

This approach is actually what the last benefit on the list is about.

4. You get a great marketing tool

Contacting people through email or other direct means is one of the best marketing vehicles online – a fact that’s probably just as old as internet marketing itself.

There are many ways you can use a WordPress blog for this. Like, for example, you can sign up to MailChimp and use a simple subscription form on your blog. But you can also include the registration process in the middle of your approach. That way, you’re getting more user interaction and making it easier for them to bond with your site.

Again, I’m just listing the possibilities, the actual ways of implementation can differ a lot, and it’s not certain that everything will work for you, your niche, and site, so feel free to experiment.

Where and how

The how-to part is very simple here and I actually covered it in the introduction. (In a nutshell: All you have to do is enable user registration in your admin panel and you’re good to go.)

The only thing we have to discuss now is where to place your registration form.

By default, WordPress provides a standard form that’s similar to the login form. This can be found at: yourdomain.com/wp-login.php?action=register and it looks like this:


However, you can build a more custom solution that’s probably more user friendly at the same time.

One path you can go is with the aforementioned WP-Members plugin.

You can configure it to display inline (login and registration) forms with content rather than assign them to separate pages.

This way, if someone tries to visit a page that they don’t have credentials for, they’ll be presented with a login/registration form instead. This is a very user friendly solution and it makes things much simpler.

(The plugin also provides a standard login and registration pages, in case you want to be able to give someone a permalink instead of directing them to a premium content page.)

Another plugin I’d like to mention is Theme My Login. This one is for making your login.php in tune with your current theme.

One of the standard usability problems is that the login page is often completely different from the rest of the site. When a new user navigates to such a page it feels like they are in a completely different place (especially for users with no WordPress experience).

The plugin takes care of your login, registration, and forgot password pages. It also provides a custom sidebar widget, which is very handy for encouraging registration right from the frontend of the site.

Additional safety

One final thing you can do when enabling user registration is to force every new account to be manually approved by you – the administrator. This can be handy when working with guest bloggers (Contributors). Not that much when it comes to random Subscribers, though.

Anyway, a plugin called New User Approve can help you with that. Quite simply, it acts as a middleman in the standard registration process.

That’s all on my part when it comes to enabling user registration in WordPress. What’s your experience with this? Have you ever considered using this feature?

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