If you’ve been looking for an online course platform, chances are you’ve heard of Thinkific and you’re here to find out if it’s any good, if it’s suitable for your business, and should you splash your cash on this solution, or does a better one exist out there.
In this article, I’m going to cover all of the above and more.
Our team has taken the time to test out the tools offered by Thinkific and I’ve also used its LMS (learning management system) to build, market, sell and deliver.
Now, based on that experience, I’ve compiled a Thinkific review that explores everything from an online tutor’s perspective.
Before we kick off the discussion though, let’s agree on the review formulae. Or, in other words, let’s define the ultimate criteria for analyzing the suitability of Thinkific.
What Should You Consider Before Using Thinkific?
- Web Hosting: Is Thinkific capable of independently hosting websites? How fast are its hosting servers? Does the online course platform come with hosting extras? Does it allow you to register a custom domain? What type of content can you host on Thinkific’s servers?
- Web Design: How do you set up a website on Thinkific? Does it offer a site-building tool? Does that come with pre-built website themes? How far can you customize your web page layout and design? Is the editing process simple enough for non-coders?
- Online Course Building: How do you create online courses on Thinkific? How many courses can you set up? What features does the online course builder offer? Does it support your preferred content type? How does the platform structure its courses, lessons, and curriculum? How far do you get to customize your online courses?
- Online Course Marketing: Is Thinkific capable of promoting your online courses? And if so, how exactly do you get to connect with your target audiences? Can Thinkific automate its marketing campaigns? What promotion channels does it support? Does the platform integrate with third-party marketing solutions?
- Online Course Selling: Does Thinkific offer sales pipeline management? What sales tools do you get by default? How effective is Thinkific when it comes to converting leads? In what packages can you sell your online courses? How does Thinkific process the subsequent payments? Will you be paying the platform any commission from the transactions?
- Customer Support: Is Thinkific generous enough to offer new users some form of onboarding? How many customer support channels do you get on Thinkific? Our technical support agents available 24/7? Does the platform come with a well-detailed resource-base?
- Pricing: Is Thinkific a free online course platform? Does it offer free trials? What type of packages does Thinkific offer its users? How much does its online course features cost? How competitive are Thinkific’s pricing plans when you pit them against Kajabi, Teachable, Podia, Ruzuku, and other close rivals? What types of businesses are Thinkific’s packages tailored for? And most importantly, is this online course platform really worth the cost?
Now, to answer all these queries, here’s the full tale about Thinkific, starting with a brief overview of the online course platform.
Thinkific An Overview
- Thinkific’s user interface is satisfyingly intuitive and easy to use. The system is simple enough for beginners and non-coders.
- Thinkific generously offers a completely free online course platform. Its permanently free package lets you build online courses and host an unlimited number of students at no cost.
- Premium users on Thinkific get the benefit of accomodating an unlimited number of students and online courses.
- Thinkific supports both drag-and-drop editing and technical HTML/CSS Liquid coding.
- The sales widget can be embedded with external sites and platforms to expand your sales channels.
- Offers an After Purchase Flow feature, along with dynamic upsells.
- There are several possible ways of pricing and selling your online courses- one-time payment, free, subscriptions, monthly payments, etc.
- Thinkific comes with customizable course completion certificates.
- The platform allows you to set up, manage, and track affiliate marketing programs.
- You can easily integrate a range of robust third-party applications, including MailChimp, AWeber, and Zapier.
- Thinkific gives you powerful but flexible tools for setting up and managing student communities.
- The platform provides tested and proven high-converting landing pages.
- It’s possible to create private and hidden online courses.
- You can group your users and sell courses to organizations in bulk.
- You only get to choose between three website themes.
- The online course platform is incapable of running automated marketing campaigns. You can only use its tools to send broadcast messages.
- Thinkific is yet to build a mobile app for taking online lessons while you’re on-the-go.
- Thinkific’s checkout is pretty bland and rigid. You can’t customize most of the features.
- You can’t set up an automated sales pipeline.
Thinkific is many things. But, most importantly, it’s a cloud-based online course platform that gives users tools for building, marketing, and selling their online courses.
But, it doesn’t stop there. For over 8 years now, Thinkific has served as a learning management system (or LMS) that covers pretty much all the essentials of setting up and running an e-learning business.
You will, for instance, find web hosting capabilities along with extras like custom domains and free SSL. Then while you register your site, you also get to build and design web pages through Thinkific’s drag-and-drop editor.
The same applies to the corresponding online course-building process. Thinkific offers an equally basic editor for creating and customizing your lessons and programs. Then when you’re done, you get to promote the courses, sign up students, process payments, manage your content delivery, track learners, issue assignments, plus award course certificates.
In short, therefore, you can think of Thinkific as an all-inclusive online course platform- which is more or less the same framework as Kajabi, Podia, Ruzuku, Teachable, and the likes.
Well, in case you’re curious, Thinkific has actually been giving all these competitors a run for their money.
Over the years, it has managed to attract more than 50,000 online tutors across 190 countries. They’ve, in turn, sold over 75 million online courses, which cumulatively translate to earnings of more than $650 million and counting.
Many of these users praise Thinkific for its satisfyingly simple learning management tools. Others argue that they were principally attracted by its free online course features and reasonably-priced premium plans.
You see, Thinkific starts you off on a permanently free package that’ll grant you LMS features at no cost at all. You could then upgrade to a premium plan for as low as $39 a month. And if your business happens to demand more capabilities, $79 a month will get you the intermediate package, while the most advanced plan will force you to fork out at least $399 a month.
Now, with that said, I guess we could now move on to the big question. What features should you expect from Thinkific in return? And how does the whole learning management system perform when you compare Thinkific vs Kajabi, Thinkific vs Teachable, Thinkific vs Ruzuku, and Thinkific vs Podia?
Well, let’s find out…
Thinkific Review – The Main Features
Setting Up and Designing Websites
1. Thinkific Site Builder
As a full-stack online course platform, one of Thinkific’s fundamental objectives is to help you set up and run a fully-fledged e-learning website. Hence, you can expect to find web hosting capabilities, multiple admin accounts, plus custom domain support.
Most importantly, though, one tool you’re bound to fall in love with here is Thinkific’s site builder. This is a specialized drag-and-drop WYSIWYG editor that lets you design and customize all your web pages without the need for any technical skills.
It essentially comes in the form of a basic editing panel, on which you’ll find controls for all the primary page elements, as well as the accompanying attribute settings.
With that, you should be able to comfortably work on your images, body text, buttons, headings, product sections, banners, headers, footers, etc.
What’s more, Thinkific’s site builder is capable of tweaking your page colors, text fonts, plus the layout sections- in both mobile and desktop previews.
On a sad note, though, it doesn’t stretch beyond the basic customizations. That means it doesn’t necessarily design all the intricate details.
2. Thinkific Liquid Coding
Thankfully, Thinkific doesn’t leave you hanging. To make up for its site builder’s limitations, it gives you an additional editing tool that runs on a templating language called Liquid.
This is what you ultimately use when you need more extensive customizations on your website. Thinkific’s Liquid editor is admirably flexible and lets you even import your custom themes.
The kicker, however, is- this editor is not for everyone. You can only work with it if you’re familiar with HTML/CSS.
3. Thinkific Theme Library
Now, to make your site-building process even easier, Thinkific comes with a host of predesigned website themes. You just need to access the Theme Library, explore the available options, and then choose your preferred design. The site builder will then help you customize its layout further.
It’s worth noting, though, that while Thinkific has done quite a decent job on its website themes, the design options here are fairly limited. You’ll only find three website themes- each with four different style options. That translates to 12 website templates.
Creating Online Courses
1. The Thinkific Online Course Builder
Turns out the platform comes with yet another editing tool- allow me to introduce you to the Thinkific Online Course Builder.
And yes, that’s right. This specific one deals with online courses.
In essence, the course builder gives you basic controls for creating online courses, organizing the whole curriculum, setting your course pricing, tweaking drip schedules, uploading content, naming programs, etc.
All these functionalities can be accessed through the menu tabs you’ll find embedded on the builder’s panel. It provides a Curriculum section, a separate area for your course Settings, plus a Bulk Importer, a Drip Scheduler, Pricing controls, and Publishing options.
Most people begin with the Curriculum, as it provides tools for setting up, organizing, and naming your course chapters, plus the accompanying lessons.
You can, for instance, add lessons to each chapter, and then proceed to upload the course content. Thinkific’s learning management system supports all sorts of content types- from text and PDF documents to audio files, videos, and images.
The Settings tab, on the other hand, grants you access to the corresponding attributes on the course landing page- including URL, description, and image display.
2. Thinkific Course Templates
Thinkific even tries to save you time and trouble through its course templates. It offers six different pre-built options, each with its own course structure.
The Pre-Sell template, for instance, provides a framework for promoting your courses ahead of the main launch. Mini-Course, on the other hand, is great for creating short programs, while the Flagship Course template gives you a more flexible structure for piecing together a full curriculum.
If you prefer to start from scratch, though, you could simply pick the Blank template. And just like the name suggests, this one offers a clean slate for building all the lessons and chapters.
Marketing Online Courses
1. Thinkific Coupons and Affiliate Marketing
Well, to tell you the truth, things are not very promising on the online course marketing front. While Thinkific competes strongly against rivals like Kajabi on the web design and course creation fronts, it loses quite badly when it comes to marketing and promoting online courses.
Kajabi’s automated marketing tools are, hands down, generations ahead of Thinkific’s. Although Thinkific tries to help you out through its built-in “Market and Sell” section, there’s not much you can do here.
You can only promote your courses through coupons, or perhaps affiliate programs. At least the affiliate marketing system is flexible enough to accommodate multiple affiliate partners. Plus, Thinkific even hands them account dashboards for tracking their campaign performance and commissions.
As for email messages, the most you can do with Thinkific is send broadcasts to your students. Otherwise, if you’d like to launch an automated email marketing campaign, you’ll have no choice but to bring in a third-party app.
At least you should be able to integrate MailChimp, AWeber, and the likes.
Selling Online Courses
1. Thinkific Online Course Structures
As you build your online courses, you’ll eventually notice that Thinkific tries to maintain its flexibility principle even in the corresponding course pricing system. Instead of limiting you to one specific pricing format, it gives you the privilege of selling your courses through a range of pricing structures.
If you’re trying to generate leads, for example, you can go ahead and promote your business through free courses. Then when students start rolling in, you could have Thinkific’s One-Time Payment module on your newest programs.
Another structure you could use here is Subscription, which charges students recurring fees every month over a prolonged period of time. That means your students will be required to renew their monthly memberships to access the courses.
And speaking of which, it’s also possible to split your course prices, and have students pay the installments over several months. This is particularly ideal for costly high-volume programs.
2. Thinkific Landing Pages
Thinkific also tries to help you sell faster through its high-converting landing pages. According to the company, the pages were built based on insights they gathered from various market tests on different page features.
Its high-converting landing pages now come with components like call to action, social proof elements such as testimonials, frequently asked questions, tutor bio sections, curriculum outline, course description, plus course banner.
Combined, all these features work together to keep leads engaged on your course landing pages, and consequently, trigger faster conversions.
3. Thinkific Sales Widget
Although Thinkific is, in itself, an independent learning management system, it doesn’t necessarily restrict you to its platform. Instead of relying entirely on your website, you can expand your sales channels by embedding Thinkific with third-party platforms.
The trick here is to take advantage of its supplementary sales widget. Once you find it on the platform, you should be able to generate an HTML code, which you can then add to third-party sites to display a customizable sales button.
If you prefer otherwise, you can even set the button to include your course product image, or perhaps even CTA text. The choice is yours.
4. Thinkific Upsells and After Purchase Flow
Thinkific doesn’t focus on lead conversions alone. It also assists you to make the best out of your converted customers.
The weapon of choice here is a smart upsells feature, which dynamically adjusts its offers based on preset attributes. You can set it up by tweaking your After Purchase Flow settings to display various types of upsell offers on your buyers’ “Thank-You” page.
The system will then target your customers based on the specific course modules they happen to purchase.
Managing Online Students
1. Thinkific Student Discussions and Communities
To enhance productivity in both tutors and students, Thinkific attempts to establish an interactive learning environment through discussions and communities.
You can, for example, connect with your learners through the lesson boards to collect feedback on the courses. And while you’re at it, you might also want to enable discussions within your courses as a way of encouraging students to participate actively, and perhaps even make contributions.
Thinkific is, in fact, capable of running the discussions selectively. That means you could choose the specific lessons or courses you prefer to have the discussions.
Now, if you’d like to take it all up a notch, Thinkific allows you to create even fully-fledged community forums.
You could, for instance, set up custom-branded communities that operate almost like social platforms. Then once they’re up and running, you may add users from specific courses and bundles. Or, alternatively, you can go ahead and introduce tiered memberships.
2. Thinkific Contact Management
Thinkific is also built to keep tabs on your students’ data from the moment they register for the courses. You can count on it to automatically capture all the relevant personal details based on how you configure your course sign-up fields.
You might, for instance, choose to proceed with only the basic fields- first name, surname, and email. Or, alternatively, you could have the system prompt your students to submit even their location details.
And that’s not all. Thinkific further gives you the benefit of organizing the students into groups based on common attributes. You could place them in job-type categories, or perhaps sort them out by their course enrollment dates, purchases made, or organization.
This whole grouping principle makes it much easier for you to sell programs in bulk to organizations, clubs, and companies.
3. Thinkific Student Tracking and Reporting
The platform doesn’t cease collecting data during registration. Once you enroll a new student, it proceeds to track them in real-time while, at the same time, giving you accurate insights into their progress, completion rates, and performance.
As such, you should be able to view the basic progress parameters for each individual. Some of the variables you’ll find here include; Last sign in (date), Course Activated at (date), Course Started at (date), Course Completed at (date), Student Email, Student Name, Percentage of Course Completed, plus Percentage of Course of Viewed.
Sadly, the Thinkific online course platform doesn’t delve much beyond that. You can only track your student’s basic online course metrics. Nothing more.
4. Thinkific Course Certificates
Unlike Kajabi, Thinkific tends to offer learners course completion certificates once they finish their programs.
This feature doesn’t come enabled by default, though. You have to manually add the certificates to your online courses. You’ll find the option in the Course Settings section, from where you should further set the certificate’s validity period before saving the whole thing.
Well, that’s pretty much all it takes, and the Thinkific online course platform will handle the rest. Once your students complete their online curriculums, the system will automatically generate a personalized certificate for each individual- complete with details like issue date, student’s name, and course name.
It’s worth noting, though, that Thinkific’s default online course completion certificate might seem a bit bland to some users.
Well, I happen to be one of them. But then get this- it turns out you can actually create your own custom certificate designs.
Interestingly, it just so happens the Thinkific online course platform packs a range of customizable pre-built certificate templates. You could start by changing their fonts, colors, background images, and logos.
Thinkific Pricing and Plans
1. Thinkific Free
This a zero-cost plan for beginners and small-scale users who are trying to learn the ropes.
It gives you tutor profiles, a single website admin account, an unlimited number of students, video and content hosting, integrations with external platforms, course assessments, SEO, customizable sales pages, custom curriculum colleague, multiple tools for building courses, course reviews by students, course quizzes, student discussions, plus course surveys.
2. Thinkific Basic
On a monthly billing schedule, the Basic plan will cost you $49 per month. Then annual billing, on the other hand, drops the pricing down to $39 per month.
With that, you can expect all the Free plan features, along with drip courses, marketing, and sales integrations, unlimited courses, custom domains, affiliate tracking, plus course promotion capabilities.
3. Thinkific Pro
Pro is the intermediate package. It will cost you either $99 a month on a monthly billing schedule, or $79 a month on an annual billing schedule.
That will afford you all the Basic plan provisions, along with course completion certificates, advanced HTML/CSS editing. priority support, course payment plans, course memberships, settings for private and hidden courses, 5 business partners, 2 admin accounts, plus course bundling.
4. Thinkific Premier
The Premier package has monthly pricing of $499 a month, and a yearly rate that’s equivalent to $399 a month.
It’ll get you all the features that come with the Pro plan, as well as Brillium integration for assessments, 50 business partners, 5 site admin accounts, API access, bulk broadcasting, onboarding assistance, webhooks, white labeling, plus bulk student enrollment.
5. Thinkific Plus
Plus is an enterprise package that offers personalized platform features at a custom rate.
6. Thinkific Growth
Growth is pretty much an add-on option that Thinkific developed for Pro plan users. They get to supplement their provisions for as low as $99 per month.
Well, this is the point where we admit that Thinkific is indeed what it touts itself as- an all-in-one platform for creating, marketing, and selling online courses.
Personally, I like the fact that Thinkific achieves all these feats without compromising its overall usability. It remains, to this day, one of the simplest all-in-one learning management systems. So much so that you won’t need any onboarding here. You can register and then proceed to fire it up right off the bat.
In the long run, you’ll enjoy its free online course plan, unlimited courses, and students, course bundling, course completion certificates, student communities, advanced course pricing options, dynamic upsells, plus so much more.
There’s just one problem, though. Although the Thinkific online course platform is capable of affiliate marketing, coupon promotions, dynamic upsells, and multi-channel sales- the fact of the matter is- your promotion capabilities here are very limited. Certainly nowhere close to Kajabi’s automated sales pipelines and email marketing.
But, on a brighter note, at least you can integrate specialized marketing and CRM applications. Thinkific’s competitive prices will even help you minimize the resultant cost implications.