Among online course platforms that people in the industry will usually have in their top of mind, Teachable and Thinkific are up there.
Both of these also have been helping course creators to host and sell their online programs for a while and have gained a solid reputation and user base.
And since they have a set of similar features, they also tend to be compared a lot!
That's why a lot of beginner course creators wanting to make the investment into such platforms will wonder which one is better for them.
And this is what we're looking at in depth today with our expert comparison review of Teachable and Thinkific.
Teachable & Thinkific: What are they?
There are several categories of online course platforms, and these 2 belong to the same one which we'll call standalone LMS platforms.
They do differ from each other in a few ways which we'll break down later but here is a quick summary:
It's a pretty fair 1 to 1 comparison then and below you'll find a breakdown of each of the major features.
One feature that both Teachable and Thinkific DON'T have that is usually an essential tool for course creators is email marketing.
It's also unusual to use these platforms without other tools that could include a funnel builder, a proper content hub (WordPress, Squarespace,...) or a CRM.
That being said, if you want to mainly have a platform that can take payments, build some basic pages, host and deliver your course, then these 2 are some of the best out there.
Before getting into the feature breakdown, a quick pricing comparison is useful:
Feature Comparison #1: Page/Site Building
Both Teachable and Thinkific have a site and page builder functionality.
Now as mentioned before, these are somewhat basic and you can't expect the level of flexibility you'll have with a WordPress or a Clickfunnels.... but it is something!
Right off the bat, Thinkific does stand out by actually giving you a choice of theme and feel for the site as a whole:
Very much like you would in a WordPress site, you can pick a theme and import some from elsewhere, activate or or switch to another one, and edit the underlying code (Pro plan only).
On the other hand, the concept of a site theme isn't present on Teachable.
You can still edit some of the basic branding elements such as colors, font, logo and favicon, but it still limits the amount of design and customization of your site to stand out.
That being said, if you're using another site alongside Teachable for your pages, you might not care about this aspect as much.
Both platforms will allow you to use a custom domain if you don't want to use the default URL.
I mentioned Thinkific provides code access for further customization but so does Teachable.
Each in their own way, both platforms allow you to create as many pages as you want. Whether that'd be to create a sales page, a registration page, lead magnet optin,...
The page builder itself is similar for both platforms with somewhat of a front-end editor.
This isn't as versatility as a drag & drop funnel builder or a proper page creator but you will be able to create sections and blocks
Both offer a range of pre-made sections to choose from and there isn't much other choice to arrange rows and columns however you want.
Again, although it is possible to create a decent looking page using Teachable and Thinkific, you may want to use an external tool if you really want to create greatly designed sales pages that convert.
To really compare them now, I do think Thinkific stands out a little more.
You'll have a wider range of sections options with Thinkific and a little more flexibility of design.
Plus with things like being able to duplicate sections from one page to another, the whole process of setting pages on Thinkific is a lot easier than Teachable:
And it does feel more like a proper site building tool rather than scattered pages. Things like being able to easily have a default Header and Footer across all pages is a gain of time.
Finally, Thinkific will allow you to customize your static pages such as login page, checkout, sign in and sign up, coming soon page,...
Although some of these are somewhat customizable in Teachable, the difference is stark.
The nail in the coffin for Teachable when it comes to this page building feature comparison, is the fact that you can actually edit the Student's dashboard however you want in Thinkific as well as some other aspect of the inside of the course. Teachable simply does not allow for any of that.
Last point to notice here, Thinkific has a really cool Sales Widget feature that allows you to embed a checkout on any external page and site you want
This will surely make the whole process of buying your course a lot more seamless. Teachable forces you to send people to their checkout which are technically NOT hosted on your site .
Site/Page Builder: The Bottom line
Also at a quick glance both page builders are similar, Thinkific does win that round!
With a proper site builder and a real way to influence every step of the user's journey, the platform is doing pretty well here. Whereas Teachable feels very block-y and limiting both on the design and capabilities point of view.
Feature Comparison #2: Checkout/Upsell/Affiliate
Let's take a look now and compare Teachable and Thinkific when it comes to selling your programs, taking payments and on-boarding your new students.
Both platforms integrate with Stripe and Paypal, but Teachable also allows for student payment via Google Pay and Apple Pay.
Setting the price for both platforms will happen when setting up your course, and that's the process is fairly similar:
Both platforms allow for all the most popular types of payments: free and paid trials, recurring subscription, payment plans,...
And each have their own downside:
Teachable will allow for all pricing types from their basic plan on ($29/mo) but will take a 5% transaction fee there.
Thinkific won't allow for anything more than free and one-time payments before you upgrade to the pro plan ($79/mo) but doesn't take any transaction fee on any plans.
Pick your battle!
In terms of design I do prefer the fact that the Thinkific checkout is customizable to a great extent and hosted on your site
On top of that, you will be able to display multiple pricing options on the same checkout, whereas Teachable only allows for 1 pricing per checkout.
The design of the cart is also limited there and only allows for some basic editing:
Both platforms allow for customizing the after-purchase experience, whether that's creating an upsell, sending people to a thank you page, or directly into the course they just purchased!
You'll also, pretty similarly, be able to create coupons and bundles different courses together to create a membership.
Teachable and Thinkific both allow for setting up upsells. These will be offered right after the main product's checkout is completed and before a confirmation or redirection occurs.
Here again, both platforms have their advantages and inconveniences:
Teachable doesn't allow for much customization for the upsell page but gives you the possibility to enable one-click upsells, which helps with conversions. You can also add these upsells within a course module directly for some in-training upsell/crossells.
Thinkific does not allow for one-click upsell but you can fully customize the upsell on a standalone page.
One of the best ways to scale and grow your online course sales is by recruiting affiliates to promote your programs. These can be past students or just partners that will help spread the word and get paid doing so.
The way this will work for both Teachable and Thinkific is that you will manually enable a User to be an affiliate within the platform:
You can set a commision across all courses, for specific ones or depending on who the affiliate is!
But here we'll have to admit the superiority of Teachable's affiliate system:
For starters, affiliate payouts will have to be manual with Thinkific and the analytics you'll get in your affiliate dashboard will be for tracking purposes only. This can get time consuming if you plan to actively use affiliate marketing as part of your strategy.
On top of that, only Teachable allows for affiliates to create their own affiliate link and send people to an external page rather than yours.
What this means is that, if an affiliate wanted to offer special affiliate bonuses or warm up their audience with their own sales page before sending them over to you, they won't have a great way to ensure they get the attribution with Thinkific. Instead they'll have to send people directly to your sales page or checkout.
Selling/Checkout System: The Bottom Line
Overall I'd give a small advantage to Teachable for this.
Although I don't like the fact that you can't properly edit the checkout and the 5% transaction fee on the basic plan, it's still a more robust system.
What particularly makes Thinkific showing shortcomings here is the fact that things are very limited unless you're on the pro plan.
Feature Comparison #3: Course Delivery
And now of course, let's compare what things look like on these two platforms for the student and their learning experience.
The way you'll set up your course in both Teachable and Thinkific follows a similar, fairly straightforward process: you'll create Chapters and modules to which you'll be able to upload content.
Both platforms allow for video, text and audio content as well as PDFs.
You can bulk upload from your computer but not from Dropbox or Google Drive, which can be a bottleneck if you have large files or a slow internet connection.
Both platforms will allow for dripping your course over a period of time and issue a certificate of completion automatically.
You can also add multiple Instructors to your admin panel for them to manage their own course in your platform (with limited abilities of course).
And on a last note of what is possible on both platforms, student's progress reports are available in Teachable and Thinkific, although the latest has more advanced analytics.
In fact, you'll be able to manage your students a little better in Thinkific by creating Groups and cohorts. This will also allow you to easily sell your courses in bulk, useful ina B2B situation, and use filters such as company, job position, etc.
One thing I appreciate about Thinkific here is the fact that you'll have a separate Video Library where you can see all of your video files and manage them, see analytics, thumbnails and closed caption
This will let you re-use and organize your videos better than what you could in Teachable.
Thinkific also has more options for the kind of educational elements you can add to your course. While you can set up a Right or Wrong Quiz in Teachable, you may want more options to grade students.
Thinkific allows for creating Surveys with different field types such as rating, free text area, scale. You can also create Assignment to allow students for uploading and submitting their homework and easily review them!
This is something you simply can't do in Teachable and may limit the learning experience.
Two other things Thinkific simply does better:
You'll actually be able to design and customize your student's main dashboard. Meaning that when they login and browse through their course library, you can style the layout and sections available for them and guide their experience. (again, simply not possible in Teachable)
This allows you to go a little beyond just throwing your paying customers into a video library.
Secondly, Thinkific allows the creation of in-course private communities.
These are meant to simulate what a lot of course creators use Facebook groups for, which is a way for students to interact inside the course and start conversations.
This aspect can be a very important aspect of your online course and increase the perceived value they're getting!
Having this directly in-platform rather than sending people out to an external platform like Facebook, Whatsapp, Slack or Telegram - also improves the learning experience and cohesiveness.
These Communities are somewhat basic and consist mainly of a posting feed but can be a really interesting to put forward in your marketing.
Lastly, Thinkific has an easy to use feature that you can enable to collect courses review that students can fill out and rate your program with.
Course Delivery: The Bottom Line
Thinkific is a clear winner here.
Teachable really just enables you for the very basics of delivering your course which is creating a simple library of modules with video/text/audio and simple quizzes.
On the other hand, Thinkific allows you to create a real learning experience and provide more tools to your students to assimilate and interact within the course. The community feature is also a big advantage.
Other things to take into account:
We've compared the main and most important features of both platforms, but of course your decision between which one is better for you needs to take into account more factors.
So let's quickly breakdown a few things that may influence your decision going with either Teachable or Thinkific:
Something unique to Teachable here is a dedicated interface for your coaching clients.
What you'll be able to do there is to setup coaching packages with everything you need to sell and deliver such services. Namely you'll be able to create in-take forms, add assignments, create milestones and meeting times
You can also add messages within milestones and manage templates to duplicate for each client.
This also integrates with tools you might be already using for your coaching such as Calendly, Zoom and anything else with Zapier.
This is super valuable if you offer coaching on the side of your courses and want to manage everything from the same place without having to hack it together.
Teachable has been victim of its success and has an unfortunate notoriety to have very slow and overall poor support.
Their community of fellow users is hosted within the platform (as opposed to a Facebook group as it's often the case) and does provide some help but for technical problems, you may need to wait a little while.
Thinkfic on the other hand has a better, faster and more efficient way to get help form their team.
Again, this is probably an element to take into consideration when deciding on either platform.