How We Conduct Our Online Course Platform Research

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Choosing the right course platform is essential to building a successful online course business. That’s why we take our research process very seriously.

Unlike our competitors, we’re a team of real experts with a combined experience of 30+ years in the course creation space.

More importantly, we subject each platform to an elaborate research and testing process, where we evaluate the platform on 60+ key features and aspects to provide accurate, unbiased reviews.

We have grouped these parameters into six key areas:

  • Ease of Use
  • Course Creation and Engagement
  • Site Design and Customization
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Customer Support
  • Pricing

Firstly, we use a combination of publicly available data and firsthand accounts from our research team to get an accurate picture of the platform and assign an initial score to each key area.

In the next step, our tool testers deep dive into the platform and go through the entire process of building a course website. This way, we can evaluate the platform’s performance in real-world scenarios and assign a score to each key area.

We then combine the two scores, come up with a final rating for each area, and finally calculate a weighted average of the individual ratings to determine the platform’s overall score.

Following this process ensures that the final rating is based on an objective, comprehensive evaluation of the platform. Every single course builder on SellCoursesOnline is assessed using this methodology, which makes our rankings fair and accurate.

Moreover, to ensure that our research is credible and up-to-date, we frequently review the course platforms for updates and new features and adjust our rankings accordingly.

Before diving into the six key areas mentioned above and understanding what they entail, we’ll share our ethics policy with you.

1. Ease of Use

When evaluating course platforms, ease of use is the first criterion we assess. We evaluate each platform based on how intuitive it is and how easy it is to learn and use. We generally look at the following factors:

  • User Interface: Is the user interface cluttered? Is it easy to navigate? Is it clean and modern?
  • Usability: Are the tools user-friendly? Are they easy to use? Do they require coding skills?
  • Learning Curve: How easy is it to learn how the platform works? Is there an onboarding process? How quickly can a complete beginner pick it up?

When our tool testers build a course website on a platform, they evaluate the whole process for ease of use, and their varying degrees of technical know-how enable us to evaluate the platform from different perspectives.

2. Course Creation and Engagement

Course creation and engagement are the primary functions of any online course builder. As such, they count the most in our testing and ratings.

When assessing this area, the three main things we look at are:

  • Course Builder: How smooth is the course creation process? What content types are supported? How flexible is the lesson editor? Does it support features like bulk uploading and cloud importing?
  • Learning and Engagement: What learning tools does the platform offer? Can you create quizzes and assignments? Does it support content dripping and locking? Can you build an online community?
  • Content Delivery: Is the course player good for end-user experience? Are there multiple course player designs available? Does the platform offer mobile apps? What content protection features are available?

3. Site Design and Customization

This area covers a platform’s ability to let you design and customize a branded website for your online course business, and we use it to assess how easy it is to build a well-designed website and how much you can customize it. We evaluate the following elements:

  • Essentials: Does the platform include website hosting and SSL? Can you use your own domain? Can you white-label your website?
  • Website Themes:  How many themes are available? Are the available themes well-designed? Can you customize them with your own CSS and HTML?
  • Page Builder: How easy is it to create or modify pages? Is the page builder drag-and-drop? How many predesigned page blocks are available? Can you customize the block layouts?

Apart from these, we also consider additional features such as the blog or podcast creation tools that some platforms offer.

4. Sales and Marketing

Most modern online course platforms come with built-in selling tools, and that’s what we focus on in this area. We look at the following:

  • Product Pricing Options: Does the platform offer one-time and recurring payments? Does it support essential subscription pricing features? Are there options to create bundles? Can you create coupon codes?
  • Payments and Checkouts: What payment gateways are supported? Is the checkout page optimized for conversions? What checkout conversion tools (e.g., abandoned carts) are available? Can you charge sales taxes?
  • Affiliate Marketing: Does the platform offer affiliate marketing tools? Is it easy for affiliates to track performance? Does it support automated affiliate payouts?
  • Third-Party Integrations: Does the platform integrate with popular email marketing and CRM tools? Does it integrate with Zapier? Does it support SSO functionality?

In addition, we look at marketing tools like funnel builder and email marketing automation since all-in-one online course platforms (e.g., Kajabi) support these.

5. Customer Support

Customer support is a critical factor for any online business. To ensure that the platform we’re covering delivers in this area, we spend a lot of time researching the available support options and their response times.

  • Self-Help Options: Does the platform have an extensive knowledge base? Are there video tutorials? Is the knowledge base integrated into the platform?
  • Support Channels: What support channels does the platform have (e.g., email, chat, phone, etc.)? What hours is the support team available? Does the platform offer a hybrid chat or a live chat?
  • User Community: Does the platform have a user community? Is it an engaged community?

We also consider things like service quality, which we determine on the basis of our personal experience and interactions with real platform users (our readers).

6. Pricing

Finally, after considering the platform’s pricing plans and the value for money they offer, we look at the features included in each of them and compare them with those of the competitors.

Some of the questions we use to evaluate the pricing plans are:

  • Are the pricing plans flexible?
  • Is there a free plan available?
  • Are there discounts available for the yearly plans?
  • Does the platform charge a transaction fee?
  • Are the plan’s restrictions reasonable?
  • Is there a limit on the number of courses or students?

Our Ethics Policy

  • We (will) never accept any form of compensation from companies seeking to influence our reviews.
  • We don’t accept payments to list any platform on our website. We have strict qualifying criteria to ensure we only review platforms that have achieved product-market fit.
  • We aren’t cheerleaders for any company. Regardless of the platform, we always strive to be transparent and share both the positives and negatives.
  • We welcome our readers, as well as the platforms, to share their constructive criticism regarding our reviews. We never remove any feedback as long as it’s respectful.
  • We haven’t invested directly or indirectly in any platform we have reviewed on
  • We’re 100% bootstrapped, and we don’t have any investors. We’re answerable only to ourselves and our readers.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there’s a lot of thought and effort going into our rankings and research process. We take pride in providing the most unbiased and in-depth reviews of online course platforms you can find.

If you’d like to compare our findings on the top online course platforms, check out our interactive comparison tool. Here you can see our research and testing findings and compare different course platforms based on 60+ parameters.

If you have any questions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We’d love to hear from you. Thank you!

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