Why I don’t recommend OptimizePress

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.

Fun fact: Did you know golden unicorn coins actually existed and were used in 15th century Scotland?

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.

12 thoughts on “Why I don’t recommend OptimizePress”

  1. Pingback: Premium plugins for FREE? Whaaaaa? | Owl Course

  2. Would love to learn more about the why behind leaving Teachable and choosing to self host. Is there a blog on this topic? Inquiring minds want to know.

    By the way, congratulations on the rebranding!

    1. Hey, Farima, nice to hear from you. Thank you, I really love my new site!

      I haven’t yet written about my reasons for self-hosting, but I will, promise! In a nutshell, I’m a control freak, and I want everything to be done my way.

  3. http://ipublishbooks.com

    Yes … I plan to host my own courses on my WP site and at the moment have no friggin idea how. As it happens, I have a client who wants to have some of her site content accessible via password only. I thought of having the tab in the nav bar redirect to a subdomain but to get there they need a password and then realized that the password would take them to the admin area. So would Thrive be the solution?

    1. bizleadsgen.com

      That can be easily solved by using a membership plugin for WordPress called Wishlist Member. It will protect your course content and can only be accessed by registered users with their username and password. Once they log in they can be redirected to the course content. I like WM because it can be set up using the setup wizard which will create all the registration and error pages.

    2. Hi Valentina, great questions! If you (or your client) want an easy way to set it up, you could use something like Teachable, Thinkific or other course hosting platform. It allows you to add people and grant permission manually without ever publishing the course and making it available to the public. If it’s for private clients with low manageable numbers, this may be a perfect no-headache solution.

      If you’re keen to keep it on your website, then you definitely want some type of a membership plugin. There are dozens, some free, some paid. I used S2member, it’s free, but it’s not very user-friendly. There is also ProMembersPro, which is free and very popular. Right now I’m using MemberPress ($99/year). Much better experience, easier to set up and manage.

      Finally, I know it may seem like a strange idea, but I know some people simply used closed FB groups. You can creates videos and articles inside FB group and control access this way. Super easy to set up and manage.

      It’s hard to recommend something specific without knowing what your client is trying to achieve (course? membership site? ability to accept payments online? one-off or regular payments, e.g. monthly/quarterly? open to browsing visitors or by invitation only?).

    3. Regarding the admin area, MemberPress allows you to switch off access to WordPress admin bar and admin area for all registered members. Very useful!

  4. Nata,
    thank you for sharing your insights on the plugins!
    I am at the beginning of my journey and your practical tips save time and energy for tech-related issues. I am not sure yet, if for the pilot launch Teachable could be a better solution, but in the mid-long term I definitely would like to consider self-hosting as a major form of control over my biz.

    Did I get it right that you won’t use stuff like LifterLMS, BuddyPress or Ning and will instead go for a combination of MemberPress and Thrive Apprentice?

    I’ve looked through comments/feedback on Thrive Apprentice and it sounds like people enjoy this product a lot (and I remember you are a fan of all-stuff-Thrive).

    My questions:

    To use Thrive Content Builder plugin for my WP website – I need to choose a Theme anyway, right? – so, in order to later use plugins of your choice (MemberPress and Thrive Apprentice) should I consider any particular themes to avoid incompatibility in the future? Where I should look for them? Any compatibility guidelines I should take into account?

    Again, many thanks for sharing your experience, eCourse Fairy!

    1. bizleadsgen.com

      The future is more and more mobile. In fact, Google search has changed a lot due to mobile searches. If you want Google to love your site, then make sure your theme is “responsive”. Responsive themes adjust their navigation and content based on the size of the display.

    2. Hey, Alla! Great to see you here! Thanks for many wonderful questions. Let me try to respond to each:

      1. If you’re just starting out and feel overwhelmed by tech, I recommend Teachable or Thinkific or some other popular hosting platform (I remember you considered Zenler because of EU VAT? And now both Thinkific and Teachable support it as well, so you’ve got lots of options). Self-hosting can be a SERIOUS headache if you don’t know what you’re doing.

      2. My first several courses I self-hosted using S2Member. I didn’t know what I was doing! 🙂 It worked, but it took me weeks to figure it all out. S2Member is OK for basic membership sites, but it’s not a good long-term solution for selling courses. So, not recommended.

      3. As you know, I’m trying to go back to self-hosting (because I’m a control freak!), and initially I wanted to use OptimizePress because it was so highly recommended by others specifically for courses. But it wasn’t what I expected at all. Like Dan said above, it’s a square peg for a round hole, it’s not designed for course creation. Right now I’m exploring using MemberPress and Thrive Apprentice, but I’m not sure if I can recommend it yet, because I’m still figuring it all out for myself. If it works, I’ll definitely write about it or record some videos or maybe even create a course on how to set it all up!

      4. Thrive Apprentice is a THEME feature, in other words, you HAVE to use one of the five Thrive themes for it to work.

      5. Thrive Content Builder is theme-independent. It should work, no matter what theme you use, it’s a separate plugin. I used Thrive Content Builder on Online Solopreneur, and my theme had nothing to do with Thrive at all.

      6. Right now I decided against LifterLMS. The basic plugin is free, but to add any useful functions you have to pay separately for each. For example, if you want to connect paypal, you need to buy an extension (it used to be included into their free plugin, but they recently changed it, so now it’s a paid feature), if you want to integrate with convertkit, you need to buy another extension etc. The reason why I chose MemberPress is because it’s a one-off fee that includes everything. I like this idea better, but I’m not yet sure how it will technically work.

      7. Funny you mentioned BuddyPress. I’m actually thinking of using it instead of FB group, for student discussions. Just experimenting. I will collect feedback from my students before deciding what options is better long-term.

      I hope I covered it all. Love your questions! Keep them coming!

  5. bizleadsgen.com

    Good article. However I liken it to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I’ve used both Optimizepress and Wishlist Member extensively in the past.

    First of all, I would never try to build a membership site using Optimizepress. Although Optimizepress offers very basic membership functionality, it was never designed with that purpose in mind. Optimizepress is I think the best opt-in form/squeeze page builder on the planet.

    If you really want to build a membership site that also captures email addresses then I would recommend Wishlist Member with Optimizepress. It’s as if they were a marriage made in heaven. The work seamlessly together.


    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dan! It does seem that page builder functionality in OptimizePress is very well put together, and membership just an afterthought.

      Perhaps my expectations were unrealistic. It was recommended by several people specifically for creating online courses, and I had high hopes. I’m currently building my school using MemberPress and Thrive Apprentice. Will see where this combination gets me. I will surely write about it! Owl word. 🙂

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