If you are an aspiring online course creator without tech or design experience, your online course can still easily become a reality.  Easy-to-use options for course delivery abound.

For newbies, especially, web-based apps that charge a monthly fee are the best avenue to take. In this post, I review Thinkific, one of the best options out there.

Thinkific allows you to quickly create, sell and market your online courses without knowing much about tech or design and without breaking the bank.

Pros:

Thinkific is a robust app with a full array of features. My reasons for loving it are grouped below into three topics: Course Creation, Marketing and Sales, and Customization.

 

Course Creation

 

1. Easy and intuitive

Probably the best feature about Thinkific is how easy it is to use.  You don’t have to know anything about technology or design to create a professional looking course.

It’s super simple to create a new course, add multiple types of content, move things around, and build an amazing course.

After you log on to your Thinkific site, the left navigation bar shows you all the options, and you can easily create a new course.

 

Each course is broken into Chapters.  Under each Chapter, you can add any type of content you want.

2. Use any type of content

Thinkific gives you an entire suite of choices for content type without prioritizing one type over another.  For example, video, text, multi-media, or downloads are displayed with the same level of importance.  (Remember – Use the content type that best accomplishes your learning objective, not the type that is hip).

3. Video hosting (and other files, too).

Keep all your files in one place to stay organized! Thinkific can host unlimited hours of videos you use in your course so you don’t have to use a third-party host. BUT …if you do use Vimeo or Wistia, it is super easy to hook those videos into your Thinkific course.

4. Drip and Drop options

I am a big fan of the dripping content because of its learning benefits.  Thinkific gives you the ability to drip based on various circumstances.  Or, you can just open the entire course upon enrollment.  This flexibility means you can choose the right approach for your students and content.

Sales and Marketing

Thinkific has a suite of sales and marketing features so robust that you don’t need to have a separate website.  I don’t recommend that approach, but it is possible with Thinkific.

 

1. Landing pages and sales widgets

Thinkific provides ??? templates for landing pages so you don’t need to design or code anything.  Many of the templates emphasize videos which are known to improve sales.  If you don’t want to use one of the built-in templates, you can plug a sales widget into your separate landing page and link directly to check out.

2. Upsells and Bundles

Everyone knows that it’s so much easier to sell an additional product to someone who is already a customer than to get a new customer. Thinkific helps you to do that by selling bundles of course or by selling additional courses after check out (upsell). If done well, you can increase revenues substantially with both of these features.

3. Free/paid/membership options

The free course option in Thinkific is one of the most effective ways of building trust with potential customers.  They get a taste of what you are offering and can experience first-hand how valuable the content is. Then, you can offer them a paid course, a bundle of courses, or even join a monthly membership program.  The options allow you to design your school based on what your students need.

4. Integrations

Thinkific has oodles of direct integrations.  The ones I use (PayPal, Stripe, ConvertKit, Facebook Pixel) are unbelievably easy to set up.  Other common ones are MailChimp, SumoMe, InfusionSoft, and Google Analytics.   In addition, with their Zap for Zapier, you will have access to unending number of integrations.

 

5. Affiliate Programs

An affiliate program allows you to pay a commission to someone who sends you paying students.  While a fabulous tool for increasing enrollments, keeping track of it all can be a logistical nightmare.  Thinkific takes all headaches away with their automated system of tracking and paying your affiliates.  Easy-Peasy!

Customization

Success in the online course world requires that you stand out from other courses in your niche.  Thinkific’s customization helps you to do that without knowing anything about design.  Phew!

1. Custom Branding

With Thinkific, you choose your own colors, fonts, images, and other branding assets.  Your brand is associated with both your “school site,” which is where all your published courses are available and with each course or bundle.  You set everything once, and you are good to go.

2. Custom Domains

The premium price packages allow you to create your own custom domain that eliminates “thinkific” from the url.  It’s a nice feature to build up to.  I don’t think it is absolutely necessary for starting out.

 

All of these features come at an affordable price (including a free version so you can start playing around with it) and outstanding customer service.  Every time I have a question, I get a quick response that solves my problem.  Seriously – every time.  Plus, the active community of users on the Facebook Group are an incredibly valuable resource.

 

Cons:

 

Yes, I love using Thinkific, as do many of my clients, but like most things (all software apps), nothing is perfect. Here are five items that I find limiting with Thinkific.

1. Overwhelm

Thinkific is a very robust platform and can be a bit overwhelming at first if you are not very tech savvy.  That said, they have excellent video tutorials.  If you are even a little tech uncertain, take the time to watch them.

 

2 .  The WYSIWYG editor

Say what?

WYSIWYG = What You See Is What You Get

This is the editing box for text content.  It is a bit wonky and requires patience.  It doesn’t always change things when you want, and sometimes changes things you don’t want.  Also, the fonts and colors are limited.  I use the text function often, so this is really frustrating for me.

There are lots of ways to customize if you can code.  However, for the rest of us, we are stuck using the “meh” WYSIWYG editor.

3. Price

You might be wondering why this is under both pro and con.  Simply, the price is reasonable – but with a catch.  Some of Thinkific’s plans include the proviso for a per enrollment fee to Thinkific.  That seems fine for the free version (10% fee), but the Essentials version ($39) includes a 5% fee.  That seems stingy to me. I have by-passed it by using a different cart software (that also eliminates the 2 step enrollment – see below) but technically that is against the rules.

4. Two-step enrollment

New students to your site must create an account before enrolling in your course.  The two-step process can be frustrating for some and might lead to loss of sales.  I have tried to bypass this limitation by using SamCart, but that is another expense, so it really is a trade-off that I don’t like even though I found a work-around.

5. Course Landing pages

This feature also ends up in both the pro and con column. They are great If you don’t have a website, don’t want to pay for landing page software or don’t want to pay for design and development of landing pages on your website.  But the landing page templates are limited, so it is difficult to maximize their sales potential without CSS/HTML expertise.  Thinkific has improved the landing page templates, so things are getting better.  I build my own landing pages on my website using Divi Theme for wordpress and use the sales widget feature that provides a direct link to the signup page, bypassing the landing page.  If that is too much tech for you, then you are stuck with the limits of the landing page templates.

In summary:

You get A LOT for not too much money with Thinkific.  You can go from idea to selling a course quickly and easily, even if you have no tech savvy or design know-how.  There are a few clunky features but nothing that should keep you from trying a free Thinkific account.