If you are a control freak like me (or perhaps you have a better reason) and you’re determined to self-host your courses, you are probably out there looking for a great membership or learning management plugin or both.
(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read on for my super-brief explanation.)
And you may have come across a recommendation to use OptimizePress to help you set up your courses on your own website.
Let me tell you why I don’t think it’s a good idea.
I bought it recently and ended up requesting a refund. Here is what I found.
OptimizePress offers two main functions: 1) Membership and 2) Page Builder.
If you’ve never used these types of plugins before, you could think OptimizePress is excellent. It does all it promises to do, what else can you ask for? But I’m spoiled and not easily impressed. So let me give you my insight into each functionality.
Function 1: Membership
A membership plugin is an add-on to WordPress that lets you protect posts and pages of your website from unauthorised access.
I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of sites that use some sort of content protection function.
For example, inside a membership plugin you can create a level of access called ‘knitting unicorns’ and set a price for it. You can then restrict access to various pages only to those
unicorns people willing to pay for your incredible knitting tips.
When a regular visitor lands on the protected page, they are instead taken to “the entrance fee to the magic world of knitting is 10 unicorn coins, pay here” kind of a message.
Here is an example from my old website. If you try to access a member-only area, you’ll be prompted to register.
Membership could be free or paid, and have multiple levels
In the example above I don’t charge for a basic membership level. But you can set up payments at different levels, add sales and marketing info, a shopping cart and a button with ‘Buy now before Internet explodes’ or a similar call to action.
OptimizePress as a membership plugin
What you need to know is OptimizePress membership functionality is pretty much a copy of S2Member plugin (which is FREE).
I used S2Member on several websites. The picture above is from one of the membership websites where I protected some of my content using S2Member.
It’s a solid plugin, it never let me down, it didn’t seem to have any glitches. It worked really well.
BUT! When it comes to setting it up, it’s not very user-friendly, especially for non-techies. Take a look at this random screenshot, you’ll know what I mean.
Are you prepared to work with a plugin that looks like this?.. I thought so.
Truth be told, I knew OptimizePress was based on S2Member before I bought it, and I was quite excited about it, because my experience with S2Member was very positive (after I spent a month figuring it out!).
In a paid plugin though I expected to see some major improvements, particularly when it comes to backend interface. Unfortunately, with a few minor exceptions, it’s pretty much identical.
Function 2: Page Builder
Page Builder plugins let you modify things on a page, add elements like boxes and buttons, use different layouts, create landing pages, sales pages, thank you pages and so on.
OK, you’d probably think I’m obsessed with it (and you’ll be right!), but when it comes to page building functionality, nothing beats Thrive Content Builder. It’s just in a different league.
UPDATE: Thrive Content Builder is now Thrive Architect, and looking better than ever (if that’s even possible). No, I’m not affiliated (at least, not at the time of writing this), but I’m planning to become an affiliate at some point.
If I weren’t using Thrive already, OptimizePress could have seemed pretty cool. And it is, in fact, absolutely fine. It has everything you’d expect to find a solid page builder, but it’s somewhat cumbersome to use, and it doesn’t have the same ease, speed, flexibility and preview opportunities that Thrive Content Builder does.
In case you haven’t seen my super-brief introduction to Thrive Content Builder, here it is again:
And I’m still NOT an affiliate. (I recommend them so often I could have been a unicorn coin millionaire by now!)
In other words, if you get Thrive Content Builder ($67 at the time of publishing this) and install free S2Member plugin, you will have all the functionality – and even more – that OptimizePress gives you.
And you will pay less. Last time I checked OptimizePress was $97. Not a huge saving, but still.
Function 3: Learning Management
Did I mention OptimizePress has two main functions? Exactly!
Because OptimizePress was recommended to me specifically for creating online courses, I expected to see some learning management elements built into it.
For example, creating course structure, with modules and lessons, adding quizzes, easy course curriculum and navigation, progress bars, and other features that are a part of pretty much any solid LMS plugin, do not exist in OptimizePress.
Essentially, OptimizePress is not really a learning management plugin. I can only assume that people who recommend it for course creation don’t have much experience with plugins that are actually designed for this purpose.
Until OptimizePress plugin is seriously improved (e.g. user-friendly membership management interface and perhaps some essential LMS features), it’s not a plugin I can recommend for creating online courses.
Did you find this review useful? Do you want me to review other plugins? Do you want to self-host your courses or use a course hosting provider? Let me know your wise thoughts in the comments below.