- updated June 2018 -
Are you struggling to decide between a host of different online course platforms?
In this article we're going to take a look at 5 of the best online course platforms (Teachable vs Thinkific vs Kajabi vs WordPress vs Udemy) and compare some of the most important features between them.
You'll learn how to choose which platform is the best option for you in terms of price, features and ease of use.
Short of time? Skip the article and take our simple 3 question quiz instead to find the ideal platform for you:
Part of the confusion in working out which online course platform is best for you, is the fact there are different types of platform with different degrees of control, feaures and ease of use.
Your course is hosted on a 3rd party platfrom, which aims to bring a mix of easy course creation & marketing features all under one roof. Designed to make the whole process much simpler than doing it all yourself on your own website.
Your course is based on your own website and you use a membership or online course plugin to design and brand your school exactly as you wish, with lots of flexibility to add additional features if you need them.
Your course is for sale in an ecommerce-style marketplace, alongside lots of other courses. The platform handles a lot of the process and promotes your course to it's users, but in return it takes a large cut and often sets some limiting terms & conditions.
There's no such thing as the best online course platform.
The best course platform is completely dependent on you and what you want. To choose the right option for you, it's worth taking a minute to consider some of these important aspects:
If you're just starting out and on a limited budget, you'll probably want to choose a course platform you can afford with low monthly costs - at least until you start to see sales coming in.
Udemy (course marketplace), Teachable & Thinkific (both 3rd party platforms) all have options that involve no upfront or ongoing monthly cost - just a proportion of your sales. I'd advise against building your online course business on Udemy as you have no control over your branding or relationship with your students (plus they take a big 50% cut!).
However, both Teachable and Thinkific are solid platforms with lots of flexibility which can get you started cheaply (Teachable has slightly better features for designing the look of your school).
On the other hand, if you have more budget - you can buy extra flexibility, design & marketing features, and higher potential profits. Kajabi (3rd party platform) and WP Courseware (self hosted WordPress plugin) both offer additional features beyond Teachable or Thinkific.
Kajabi has a library of themes, landing pages and website designs to choose from, enabling you to customise the look and feel of your courses more extensively. It also includes better marketing features such as integrated email marketing and a wide choice of landing pages.
Creating a course on WordPress with WP Courseware enables almost complete flexibility; with the option to use better and more complete marketing software and other Worpress plugins alongside it to get what you want. It will also cost you much less in ongoing fees once set up (around $200-$500/year vs $1300 cheapest with Kajabi). However, you'll need to either be technically able or have the budget to pay a developer to help you get set up and on hand for support.
Put simply; unless you are already competent installing and configuring WordPress plugins (or have the budget to pay a developer to do it for you), then you are best off using a 3rd party platform like Teachable, Thinkific or Kajabi.
These platforms have been built precisely to reduce the tech headache of setting everything up on your own website - leaving you the time and space to focus on creating your online course, and marketing & promoting it.
In my opinion, these activities are what will make or break the success of your course, so why spend time on anything else? Just pick your platform and get to work on the stuff that matters.
If you do happen to be a WordPress whizz kid or want the flexibility it can offer, then you are probably best using a course/membership plugin like WP Courseware, which can create you a very powerful online course platform with endless features and increased profits in the long run.
Having an existing audience will make creating and selling your course a lot easier. You can ask them what they want to learn, you can build interest before launching, and you can start to make sales much quicker and at higher levels.
If you're in this situation, then count yourself lucky and get to work making your course asap! It make sense to throw whatever resources you have at it and get that course built and out there making you an income. Choose the quickest or most complete option you can afford and get to it!
If you don't have much of a following yet, then choose a cheaper option and spend more time building an audience alongside the making of your online course. You could use a marketplace like Udemy to gain exposure with a free mini courses, but you should look to build your online course business on either a 3rd Party platform or your own website if you want to create your own brand, build a following of your own, and charge higher prices.
Below is a short review for each of the 5 best online course platforms featured in this comparison:
Teachable is probably the most used & well know online course platform on the market. It's packed full of features which give you everything you need to create & sell an online course. It's also really easy to use & offers low entry level pricing - making it a natural choice for anyone just getting started.
In particular it offers some great marketing features like customisable checkouts & one click upsell pages, as well as the ability to offer your own customisable affilate program & handle your EU Vat payments.
Teachable also really helps support your success through regular webinars and blogs on useful subjects too do with course creation, marketing & selling.
Highly recommended for anyone making their first online course on a budget.
Teachable Pricing: 10% of sales or from $39/month
Thinkific is a high quality online course platform with a great set of features enabling you to create & sell online courses and is very easy to get started with.
It is very similar to Teachable and to be honest it's difficult to say that one is better than the other, as they both offer very similar features for similar prices. They're both very user friendly & offer all you need to create & sell online courses (i.e. I would recommend them both so don't spend too long deciding - just focus on creating & selling your course!).
The question often comes up, so here's the lowdown:
Thinkific offers better design with a drag & drop course page builder & is well known for having great support & easy set up guide. The most common complaints against it are the lack of customisation for checkout & thank you/upsell pages, and the fact that you need to use a 3rd party integration to handle EU VAT (important if you're selling digital products in the EU).
Teachable has some more advanced marketing & sales features like slick customisable checkout pages & one click upsells, as well as the ability to run your own affiliate program with ease + collect EU VAT payments. The main downside with Teachable at the moment is the lack of ability to change the look and design of your courses area & sales pages (though they are apparantly working on this).
Thinkific Pricing: 10% of sales or from $39/month
Kajabi offer a premium option with more features than Teachable or Thinkific. There's built in email marketing and a library of slick looking course, landing page and website templates; giving you a complete set of resources to promote and sell your course. The look and feel of Kajabi-based courses is very high quality & customisable, and very easy to do without tech knowledge.
The fact it's listed 3rd here is purely because it's more expensive, more comprehensive & so can take a little while longer to get everything set up - i.e. not such a good fit for people just getting started. If you already have an online business & a little more time and budget though, it could well be just what you're looking for.
I personally use Kajabi and believe it is the best online course platform out there if you can afford $100/month+. It takes a bit longer to set everything up than with Teachable or Thinkific, but the end result is worth it. The design of the student course area is better than all other options, giving your students a great user experience, and the large range of marketing features mean you can run everything from Kajabi without the need for 3rd party tools (or you can easily integrate with lots of other software if you wish for full flexibility).
Kajabi Pricing: from $103/month
(Get 15% off your 1st year's fees using this link)
Creating your online course on your own WordPress website with WP Courseware can be a great option if you've got the skills or budget.
It may be a little more fiddly & time consuming to set up, but it gives you complete freedom & control to create what you want. WP Coursware is the one of the easiest and cheapest of the WordPress course/membership plugins, and has a powerful set of features too.
WP Courseware Pricing: $99/year
With 20,000 instructors and 12 million students, Udemy is by far the biggest of all the online course platforms. It's a marketplace filled with 42,000 courses on everything from app development to guitar lessons, dating tips and raising your productivity at work. Udemy will show and promote your course to their large audience, but your course is there alongside all the others, and there is a general focus on discounting and selling low cost courses. Not the best way to build a long-term online course business, but it can be good for exposure if you use it to offer free or low cost mini courses.
Udemy Pricing: 50% of sales
There are now lots of different platforms out there to create and sell an online course, which can make the whole process of choosing one a real headache.
However, I firmly believe that it's a mistake to waste more than a few hours deciding. It's so much more important to focus your time and energy on actually creating your course, promoting & selling it, and engaging & building your audience.
As we've seen there's really no such thing as the best online couse platform - it's more a case of which is best for you. Think through the key points that we've discussed above and which elements matter to you most, pick a platform and get started.
Still not sure? Leave a comment below and I'll do my best to help you out.