ShoutMeLoud’s mission is to help you become your own boss, and for this, we do lots of stuff.
We offer free content on our blog, we have eBooks in our store, and recently we launched a video-based e-course (ShoutUniversity) as our membership site.
Earlier, ShoutUniversity was using WordPress + OptimizePress + OptimizeMember. But the new ShoutUniversity is smarter and easier to use with its new platform, Thinkific.
This article is for anyone who is planning to launch a membership site or already has one and is looking to optimize it. I have shared some of my lessons learned after spending countless hours and money on building and migrating ShoutUniversity.
Note: This is only part 1 of our “Building A Membership Site” series; there are more coming soon.
The Hardest Part Of Launching A Membership Site:
When you are an expert in your field, then creating content is not a problem.
The biggest challenge is laying out the structure and building your membership site.
When we planned to launch ShoutUniversity, we looked for tons of platform options, including WordPress-based membership solutions like OptimizePress and independent LMSs (learning management systems) like Thinkific, NewKajabi, Teachable, and Coach to name a few.
Since I’m well-versed with WordPress and wanted to self-host my e-learning site, I picked an OptimizePress + OptimizeMember combination for our membership site.
Also, as we are using our own payment gateway, I thought there’d be no need to give away money to an LMS to host the courses for us.
Another reason for selecting OptimizePress was the control of customization.
Since our idea was to do a pre-launch offer and run special deals during festival times, using a system which offered us more control made more sense.
However, we were proven wrong.
Finally, after working on OptimizePress, my team and I made ShoutUniversity live. The system was looking pretty dashing and everything was working great.
However, one of our lead guys (@Sharatnik) had to spend countless days of work to change simple things. Personally, I was in charge of content, and adding content on OptimizePress was a challenge.
After using it for a month, we realized that OptimizePress is more for internet marketers rather than for a dynamic and evolving coaching program.
In fact, we were researching the whole thing all wrong; instead of looking for a membership-creation platform, we should have looked for a learning management system that let us build a membership site.
We needed something optimized for teaching and learning.
Well, we used OptimizePress for 8 months, and after understanding that the platform was not suitable for constantly updating content (and was not even that great for our course students), we decided to move on to another platform.
The Hunt For The Best LMS Membership Platforms
When you are launching a global membership site, you should really do your homework.
For us, it was a big learning curve. We now had to:
- Find a new LMS (membership builder platform).
- Move the content to the new LMS.
- Build landing pages again.
- Restructure everything.
- Migrate existing students (100+) to the new platform.
Well, this time we made a few things clear in terms of our expectations. Here were the things we wanted:
- A platform which was easy to use.
- A platform which made learning easy. EX: Showed progress, course completion, certifications, etc.
- Something affordable.
- The ability to sell courses individually or as a bundle.
- Something that allowed us to offer an affiliate program to interested users.
- A platform which offered more branding opportunities.
And the hunt began…
This time, I signed up for all popular LMSs as both a student and as a coach. Here are the ones that I tested:
Since most of them offered trial accounts, I signed up and tried launching a course. Two of my team members also joined as students, and we spent about 10 days testing each platform to find out which was the most reliable.
I also took the help of Google Trends to see which ones were gaining traction.
Eventually, I shortlisted Teachable and Thinkific.
Teachable vs. Thinkific
When I started comparing Teachable and Thinkific, both of them seemed equally solid. When two products are so similar in features and quality, it gets really tough to make a choice.
However, there was just one missing feature in Teachable that made us pick Thinkific…
The problem (and we see this as a problem) with Teachable is that when a student clicks on “login”, instead of using the custom domain URL, it shows the Teachable domain URL:
Here is ShoutUniversity on Thinkific:
Personally, I don’t like to confuse people. Since both of them look rock solid on paper and have similar features, we picked Thinkific for this better branding advantage. Thinkific was also a little better in price!
We spent the next week migrating all the courses from our WordPress-based platform to Thinkific.
Earlier, all of my videos were hosted on Vimeo where I was paying $199/year, but now, we were able to host on Thinkific and save some money. Note: Both Thinkific and Teachable allow unlimited video hosting.
It’s now been 2 months on the Thinkific platform, and so far we have been getting a positive response from our members.
Side Note: Changing The Payment Model
We also changed the payment model from needing to buy all the courses to just buying individual courses as per a student’s needs.
This has been helping us get more users on board, as users who are already familiar with AdSense, for example, don’t want to take a course about it. So now, these users can pick only the affiliate course which costs $69 instead of paying $250 for all the courses they don’t want.
And as ShoutUniversity is still a new thing, we are always testing new and exciting ways to heighten our user’s experience.
You can browse ShoutUniversity here.
Conclusion: OptimizeMember vs. Other Platforms
If you are launching an online course or are planning to launch one, I would suggest that you don’t opt for OptimizePress or another plugin that takes away the essence of learning from your online courses.
There are specialized learning management systems out there like Thinkific, Teachable, and Coach that let you launch your online courses without any technical skills.
You should pick one of these platforms and focus on what you are good at- teaching.
Do you have an online course or are planning to launch one in the coming days? Do let me know what platform or system you are using/are planning on using. Share your ideas with us in the comment section below!
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