Thinkific has been a leader in the course platform space for many years. So naturally, it’s one of your first choices if you want to teach online courses.
But is it the best option for you? What features does it offer, and how do they perform? How does it compare to its competitors?
To answer these questions, we have created an in-depth Thinkific review. Here we’ll cover all the platform features and what’s good and bad about them.
We’ve helped hundreds of creators launch their course business on the platform and will also share our experience of using the software.
Let’s get started.
Thinkific Review Summary
Thinkific is the best all-around online course platform with top-notch course creation and engagement features. It also offers powerful tools for building a website and selling your courses. Overall, the platform is easy to use but is fully extendable at the same time.
Pros of Thinkific
- Easy to use and set up
- Well-designed course player
- Free and branded mobile apps
- Advanced quizzes and assignments
- Native community builder
- Powerful reporting tools
- Thinkific app store with 80+ apps
- Flexible and affordable pricing
Cons of Thinkific
- Page builder isn’t very flexible
- No support for sales taxes
What Is Thinkific?
Thinkific is a hosted online course platform that allows you to sell online courses from your own website, even if you have little or no tech skills.
The platform has been in the market for almost a decade now. And 50,000+ creators use it to run their online education business, making it one of the most established options out there.
With Thinkific, you can host your videos and other content types, deliver your content professionally, create quizzes and assignments, do live sessions, build a community, manage your learners, and much more.
Unlike some modern platforms, Thinkific recognizes the importance of learner engagement in building a sustainable education business and offers all the tools you need.
On top of this, you can build your brand website, create a course sales page, price your course, and process payments.
What makes hosted platforms like Thinkific so popular is that you don’t have to worry about integrating dozens of apps and tools to build a learning management system.
So, unlike WordPress, you won’t need to manage plugins and hosting and do any coding.
The platform takes care of all the technical aspects like hosting, maintenance, security, and updates, giving you the time to focus on creating and selling online courses.
Also, Thinkific isn’t a course marketplace like Udemy or Skillshare. Therefore, you have complete control over courses, pricing, and policies. But then, you’ll be the one responsible for marketing your courses.
Now, let’s look at all the aspects of the Thinkific platform.
Ease of Use
If your platform isn’t easy to use, you’ll get overwhelmed with technology and not make any significant progress.
With Thinkific, learning and using the platform is very smooth. There’s a small learning curve, and it won’t take much time to get familiar with all the tools.
The user interface is clean, and the individual tools are smartly divided into different sections, making it easier to find them. For instance, the theme library and the page builder are placed in the Design Your Site section.
Watch this video to see what Thinkific’s interface looks like:
Besides that, the process of creating a course on Thinkific is straightforward. You need to create your curriculum and set a price, and the platform will take care of the rest.
It will automatically create the landing and checkout pages and the course area. What we like is that these are dynamically linked to each other, so you don’t have to do any manual linking or additional settings.
Other than that, the tools like course builder and page builder use drag-and-drop functionality, which you can learn in no time.
Overall, Thinkific is one of the easiest course creation software to learn and use.
Course Creation and Engagement
Won’t it be wonderful if you could create an online course with ease and deliver an excellent learning experience?
An online course platform should offer all the features to let you do that. So let’s see how Thinkific performs in this regard.
Thinkific offers an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop course builder to upload your content and create course structure quickly.
It breaks course structure into Chapters and Lessons. A lesson is where you add the actual content, while a chapter is an organizational unit containing multiple lessons.
While creating a new course, you first choose one of the six course templates available. These templates offer pre-built curriculum structures for different course types.
There’s a Blank template, too, for creating a course from scratch.
After that, you can start adding the lessons. Thinkific supports different content types such as videos, text, pdfs, audio files, live lessons, HTML5, etc. You even get a multimedia option for embedding externally hosted files as your lessons.
Plus, you don’t need to worry about hosting, as Thinkific provides unlimited hosting for all content types, including videos.
After selecting the content type, you have to upload the actual content in the lesson editor.
What we like about the Thinkific course builder is that you can add multiple content types in the same lesson (e.g., video + text + pdf), a critical feature for many course creators.
Here you can also do some settings for your lesson. You can set a lesson as a free preview, make it a prerequisite, enable lesson comments, make videos downloadable, etc.
The most useful feature that the course builder offers is the Bulk Importer, as it speeds up the whole course creation process significantly.
So, you can bulk upload all your content onto the platform, and Thinkific will automatically turn them into course lessons. You can then reorganize them by dragging and dropping.
Watch this video to see how the Bulk Importer works in real-time.
Thinkific also has a Video Library feature, so you can easily manage your videos and reuse them in other courses if required.
The only thing that’s not so good about the course builder is that you can’t import content from cloud drives directly inside the course builder. Cloud importing is supported for adding videos to the video library, but not inside the course builder.
Otherwise, Thinkific’s course builder is pretty easy to use and gives you the flexibility to create all types of online courses.
Learning and Engagement
Even if your course content is amazing, you need learning tools such as quizzes, assignments, etc. They are necessary to make your course interactive and engage your students.
So, how does Thinkific help you do that, and to what extent? Let’s find out.
Quizzes and Assignments
Quizzes are useful for checking how much knowledge your students gain from your lessons.
And Thinkific has powerful features for creating quizzes in your course.
First, you can make the quiz graded and set a passing score.
Second, you can add multiple-choice or multiple-select questions.
Third, Thinkific adds a rich text editor for writing the questions and answers. You can add text, images, videos, etc., and format them as you like.
For instance, if you want to have the question as a video + text and the answer as the text, you can do that.
Thinkific also offers a few other quiz features that make it more powerful:
- ability to add explanations
- randomized question banks
- importing questions
The only features missing are timed quizzes and paragraph-based answers.
But it compensates for these missing features by offering a native integration with a full-blown exam solution called Brillium.
Talking about assignments, Thinkific offers a separate lesson type for the same. When you add one to your course, your students get the ability to upload their answer files to the platform.
You can then approve or reject each assignment, which is a necessary feature that not many hosted course platforms offer.
Finally, you can also create surveys in Thinkific. You can add a variety of question types, such as rating, scale, free text, multiple-choice, etc., to your survey and include it inside your course.
Regarding certificates, Thinkific has admirable customization features.
You get seven certificate templates that you can easily customize. You can edit the content and add custom fields.
It’s also possible to change the font, text color, and background image. In short, it gives the power to create a completely custom certificate.
Also, Thinkific automatically issues course completion certificates after students finish their respective courses.
Content Dripping and Locking
Normally, when students enroll in a course, they get immediate access to the entire course. But you may want to drip feed your lessons and release one module at a time.
Thinkific allows you to release lessons as per the drip schedule in three ways:
- After a student enrolls in a course.
- After a student accesses a course for the first time.
- After a specific date.
However, one important feature missing here is sending an automated email to your students when the lessons become available. Instead, you’ll have to rely on your email marketing platform to send the emails.
Regarding course compliance, you can set any lesson in Thinkific as a prerequisite. When you do that, a student can’t go to the next chapter unless they complete the lesson.
We like that the prerequisite lesson feature works with all the lesson types.
For example, if you add a quiz or an assignment to a lesson, the user can’t complete it unless they pass the quiz or their assignment submission is approved.
You can also set a completion % required for video lessons so that your students can’t mark a lesson complete unless they reach that point in the video.
Thinkific has a feature called Communities that you use to create a community for your course or membership site.
When you create a new community, it has a clean, modern look out of the box. You can also customize its appearance by choosing colors and fonts and adding a banner image.
Within a community, you can have Spaces to keep discussions organized. For example, you can create a space for different discussion topics or have one for each batch of students in your course.
For discussions, both you and your members can create posts by adding text, images, downloadable files, and embeds. Members can also follow posts and get notified whenever someone comments.
Moreover, you can create events inside your community.
Now, you can bundle a community with your courses, or you can sell it as a standalone product.
While Thinkific Communities is awesome, there are some important features missing:
- No option to add polls, quizzes, articles, etc.
- No live streaming feature
- Members can’t communicate privately
Having said that, the community feature is good for building a support community for your online course or membership site.
We’re big fans of live classes as they allow you to make your courses interactive and connect with the students on a more personal level.
While many course platforms provide the ability to host live sessions, Thinkific takes it to the next level by integrating a live session as a course lesson.
Plus, Thinkific has direct integration with Zoom. So you need to add the session details (e.g., duration) and schedule it from inside Thinkific itself.
Your students can join the live session directly through the course area or from the automated reminder email with the Zoom link. More importantly, your students can attend the meeting from the course player itself.
While these are Thinkific’s most important learning tools, you can add any feature to your platform through the App Store, which has dozens of third-party apps.
For example, you can use Wobo to add digital workbook functionality or use Pointagram to gamify your courses.
Thinkific is the only hosted course platform to have a dedicated app store, allowing it to offer both a hosted platform’s ease of use and WordPress’s extendability.
Course player is an essential feature for any course creation tool as it influences student experience.
Thinkific‘s course player has a modern and well-designed interface from an end-user perspective.
Your videos, quizzes, and other content types appear on the right in the course player. And there’s a navigation bar showing all sections and lessons on the left.
Learners can also find a progress bar and a search box for searching the required lesson. So, it’s undoubtedly easy to navigate.
Moreover, it has a full-screen functionality that hides the sidebar, enabling distraction-free learning.
There’s also a Discussion tab for each lesson where you and your students can add posts with the title, descriptions, links, and even images.
Also, you can customize the look and feel of the course player to some extent by choosing between light mode and dark mode. You can decide on the color and font as well.
While the course player is mobile responsive, Thinkific also offers free mobile apps for your users. The app is straightforward to navigate and makes it easier for students to access your courses and community on mobile devices.
Moreover, you have the option to get a branded app for your education platform. There’s an additional cost for it, but we love the fact that you get multiple options here.
Another feature that improves the content delivery in Thinkific is the ability to create custom pages and add content to them. And you can restrict access to the page depending on a student’s purchase.
This feature is useful for delivering standalone content and member-only resource pages for your Thinkific membership site.
Course Creation – The Bottom Line
Thinkific offers an easy-to-use, flexible course builder with support for various content formats. The course player is well-designed, and the mobile app is great for learning on the go.
On top of that, it offers powerful engagement tools, such as live sessions, quizzes, assignments, certificates, prerequisites, Communities, etc.
Overall, Thinkific does an excellent job in terms of learning and student engagement. It has all the important features you would want from an online course builder.
Site Design and Customization
All modern online course platforms include features for building a brand website. In this section, we’ll evaluate Thinkific’s site-building tools.
Talking about the essential things, Thinkific offers:
- Unlimited hosting
- Free SSL certificate
- Free subdomain (mycourses.thinkific.com)
- Use a custom domain (mycourses.com)
- Modify site language
- Automatic platform updates, backups, and maintenance
Now, let’s jump into specific tools.
Website themes define the overall look and feel of your website and make website building a lot easier.
Thinkific’s theme library has three well-designed and modern themes. Further, each has multiple presets called Styles.
All the theme presets have pretty different designs, so you actually get nine different theme styles to choose from.
After choosing a theme, you can also customize certain elements at the site level, like the color of different elements, button style, and font.
Moreover, if you’re an advanced user, Thinkific lets you customize the backend code of your themes. You can even create a custom theme and put it on your website.
Installing a theme is only the first step in the process. Next, you need to create your website pages, and Thinkific offers a drag-and-drop page builder for the same.
When you open the Site Builder section in Thinkific, you’ll find a list of all the pages, including your course sales pages. Here you can create a new page or edit an existing one.
The page builder interface is simple; you’ll see the page sections and other options on the left, and on the right, it shows the page content.
The builder has 20+ page sections for creating a hero section, showing the curriculum, adding CTA buttons, etc. After adding a section, you can manage the settings from the left panel.
Even though there are enough sections, you get limited editing options for each. In fact, each one has its unique settings, and you can’t customize the layout much.
For instance, adding the Banner section shows a background image, the course headings, and the product pricing button. You can also add a video to it, but then you can’t move the video above or below the text.
Plus, you can’t add new elements to the sections.
Watch this video to see us modifying a page section in Thinkific.
Finally, the website you create is mobile responsive, and there is an option to check the mobile view from the site builder itself. However, you can’t show/hide specific elements from the mobile website.
Overall, the Thinkific page builder is pretty straightforward to use, and you can quickly build a good-looking course landing page. However, it won’t be suitable for creating completely custom page designs.
Website Creation – The Bottom Line
Thinkific’s site builder is easy to use and gives you the features for building an attractive course website.
You get a theme library having three themes with multiple styles. And the drag-n-drop page builder lets you build and customize your website pages.
Sales and Marketing
When your website is ready, it’s time to start selling your online courses.
With Thinkific, you get the essential sales and marketing features. Unlike all-in-one platforms, it doesn’t have sales funnels and marketing automation features.
With this in mind, let’s discuss what Thinkific has to offer.
Product Pricing options
With Thinkific, you get the flexibility to price and sell your products in whatever way you want.
You can either sell a standalone course or bundle multiple courses and communities together. If you want to offer multiple tiers, you can create multiple bundles and assign different products.
Then, you can price the products in different ways:
- Free plan
- One-time payment
- Subscription model
- Monthly payment plan
Talking about subscriptions, you can charge monthly or yearly. Plus, you can charge a custom first payment and offer a free trial.
For one-time pricing, you can set an enrollment duration. This way, enrolled students have course access for a certain duration only.
The good thing is that you can have multiple pricing options for the same course/bundle.
For example, you can have one-time pricing and a payment plan for your course. Similarly, you can have a monthly and a yearly subscription for your membership site.
Moving forward, Thinkific allows you to create coupons. You can offer a fixed or a percentage-based discount on courses or bundles. It’s also possible to assign an expiry date and the number of coupons you want to sell.
The only thing missing is the inability to set the currency at the product level. So the platform lets you have a sitewide currency only.
Otherwise, Thinkific gives you the flexibility to price your products the way you want. You can sell regular courses as well as subscription-based membership sites using the platform.
Payments and Checkouts
For payment processing, Thinkific allows you to integrate with the two most popular payment gateways – Stripe and PayPal. You can integrate the two and start accepting payments in a matter of minutes.
The only limitation is that PayPal currently works just for one-time payments and not payment plans or subscriptions.
Apart from this, Thinkific has launched a new service called Thinkific Payments. In this case, Thinkific is the merchant on record and processes payments on your behalf.
This payment service replaces Stripe and supports additional payment options like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
However, this service is in a nascent stage, and there aren’t any significant benefits to using it.
Now, let’s talk about the checkout process in Thinkific.
Thinkific’s default checkout is a well-optimized, one-step process where users first complete the payment before requiring to create an account.
Speaking of the checkout page design, it looks sleek out of the box. You can customize the checkout page, add banners, and do a few things to make it more attractive.
However, it’s not possible to customize the checkout page in a meaningful way. For example, you can’t add testimonials or product benefits, which is a limitation.
Finally, you can add 1-click upsells to your checkout process to improve the lifetime value of the buyer. So, you have this feature—After Purchase Flow—to set unique upsells for your products.
One last thing: Thinkific currently doesn’t support sales tax and EU VAT handling. And, you have to use an external solution like Quaderno for the same.
Thinkific has features for running and managing your affiliate program.
It lets you add an existing or a new user as an affiliate. You can add affiliates one by one or bulk import them.
While setting up the program, you can set the commission percentage and choose the courses/bundles that you want the affiliate to promote.
Once added, the affiliate gets access to a private dashboard, where they can grab the affiliate links and track commissions and payouts.
With your admin dashboard, you can see your affiliates’ performance and quickly pull a report for paying them out.
However, a few things are missing from Thinkific’s affiliate system:
- There’s no public registration page for affiliates; you must manually add them to the platform.
- You can set separate commission percentages at the affiliate level but can’t do the same at the course level.
- You can’t change the default 30-day cookie tracking period.
Otherwise, Thinkific’s affiliate marketing tools are solid and will work well for most course creators.
Thinkific offers a couple of other notable sales and marketing tools:
- Email marketing: Thinkific lets you send broadcast messages to your students. While this isn’t a substitute for an email marketing provider, it’s useful for student communication.
- Sales widgets: It lets you create a sales widget for your products, which can be embedded on any website and will direct your users to the course landing page to complete enrollment.
Sales and Marketing – The Bottom Line
Thinkific does a decent job in terms of sales and marketing. The product pricing options are great, and you can process payments through Stripe and PayPal.
The checkout process is optimized for conversions, and you also get important features like bundles, coupons, and affiliate marketing.
Reporting and Administration
Reporting tools help you know how your business is performing and identify where there’s room for improvement, while administration tools let you manage students, instructors, and other people associated with your business.
Let’s see how Thinkific performs in terms of these.
Reporting and Analytics
Thinkific has a dedicated reporting section where you have four reports available:
- Student Engagement
Each report allows you to select a custom period and view the data at hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly levels. In addition, you can filter the report based on parameters like product type, product name, new vs. returning students, affiliates, etc.
For instance, the revenue report shows the earnings for the selected period. You can also view the details of each transaction here if you want.
If you want to track student enrollments and progress, you can do that from the Enrollments Report. Here you can see the progress for each student and filter based on courses, Groups, or completion %.
On the other hand, if you want to track overall engagement, you can do that in the Student Engagement Report. Here you can check the average days to complete and the percentage completed for your course(s).
You’ll also find graphs for lesson statistics, course reviews, and quiz performance, and you can view this data for a specific course or a group of courses.
The report also has a Videos tab where you can track the performance of individual videos and analyze engagement using the video engagement graph.
What we like the most about these reports is the visual representation. All reports include a variety of charts and graphs for getting insights quickly.
Hands down, Thinkific has best-in-class reporting features, and hope they keep adding new reports.
Thinkific has a separate section called Users under the Support Your Students tab, where you can see a list of all the students in your school.
There are advanced filters that allow you to segment users precisely. And you can even bookmark the filter for future use.
For managing students, there are bulk actions available. After selecting all or filtered users, it lets you take any of the following actions:
- Sending messages
- Adding or removing them from a group
- Adding or removing them from a course/bundle
- Exporting user list
Moreover, you can individually check the lifecycle of every user, the user details, enrollments, activities, groups, and quiz, and survey information.
For adding new users, you have two options: either add them one by one or bulk import by uploading a CSV file.
Groups is an exclusive Thinkific feature, and if you plan to use it as a cohort-based course platform, you’ll find this feature handy.
Groups allow you to organize your students into cohorts and sell courses in bulk to organizations.
When you create a new group, you can create a sharing link for the same. So when someone enrolls in a course/bundle using that link, they’ll be added to the group automatically.
You can also bulk-import users and add them to a group manually.
We like how Thinkific offers separate group progress reports. You can also add Group Analysts who can manage the students and pull these reports.
So whether you want to have a group at the organizational level or team level within an organization, you can do that. This makes Thinkific a stand-out option for selling courses to businesses and organizations.
Another useful little feature is restricting community access to the students in specific groups, which is useful for delivering cohort courses.
Assigning user roles is quite simple in Thinkific. While adding a new user, you can choose one of the three types of admin roles mentioned below:
- Site Admins have access to everything but can’t transfer account ownership or set up or modify payment integrations.
- Course Admins can create new courses and add instructors. They can also edit, track student progress, and moderate discussions for assigned courses.
- Group Analysts can manage students and track progress in assigned groups.
- Revenue Partners can get a share of your course revenue. This is useful if you’re selling other people’s courses on your school.
Overall, Thinkific has extraordinary reporting and administration tools, and you can’t really complain about anything here.
Thinkific App Store
Thinkific is the only hosted course platform to offer a dedicated app store. We’ve talked about it a couple of times in this Thinkific review already, but will explain it in more detail here.
While the app store has apps for integrating standard tools like Zapier and Google Analytics, it isn’t just another name for its third-party integrations. Rather third-party developers can build custom apps, which is their main focus.
The main idea behind this is to allow creators to extend the functionality without waiting for Thinkific to release new features or hiring developers to build a custom solution.
Thinkific app store currently has 80+ free and paid apps that you can use to improve the student experience, automate your marketing, and much more.
Let’s give you a few examples of apps and how they can extend your platform’s functionality:
- Omnisearch allows students to search inside videos, PDFs, and other lesson content.
- Circle SSO lets you integrate Thinkific with Circle and add a more powerful community feature.
- Shopify lets you sell courses using its eCommerce tools while hosting them on Thinkific.
- Flix lets you turn your student dashboard into a Netflix-style streaming experience.
There are many more apps like these, and if you need something that’s not natively supported, you can probably achieve that through a Thinkific app.
No other course platform has built this kind of ecosystem around their product, and this is simply a game-changer.
There are multiple ways an online course platform supports its users, and in this section, we’ll evaluate what’s available with Thinkific.
To start with, Thinkific has a help center with 800+ articles covering each aspect of the platform.
If you don’t find a solution through the help center, you can contact the support via email, phone, or live chat. The live chat is available 6 am – 5 pm, Monday-Friday, PST.
Thinkific customer support is friendly and responsive, and our experience with them has been nothing but great.
Another way to get support is Thinkific’s Facebook group, where you can ask questions and engage with other users.
Besides that, there’s Thinkific Academy, where paid users can find free courses for building and growing their online course businesses.
Lastly, Thinkific has an expert marketplace from where you can hire experts having specializations in different areas.
Thinkific’s pricing is pretty flexible and affordable. It’s one of the few course platforms offering a free plan for course creators.
The free plan lets you create one course, even though there’s no limit on content hosting or the number of students.
Apart from the Free plan, Thinkific has four paid plans:
- The Basic plan ($49/month) supports custom domain and basic course creation tools (quizzes and drip content) and is best for beginners on a tight budget.
- The Start plan ($99/month) includes all the important course creation tools (e.g. certificates, assignments, live lessons, mobile apps, etc.) and is the most popular plan.
- The Grow plan ($199/month) supports advanced features (e.g. API access, white-labeling, etc.) and is ideal for growing businesses.
- The Expand plan ($499/month) provides more admin users and is suitable for bigger businesses.
So that you know, Thinkific lets you have unlimited students and courses on all paid plans, making it suitable for starting a full-fledged online school.
Thinkific has pricing plans for all business stages. So whether you are a beginner or an established business, you’ll find a plan that suits your needs.
Thinkific vs the Competition
Before concluding this Thinkific review, you need to know where the platform stands in regard to the competitors.
Thinkific’s top competitor is Teachable.
While both platforms are kind of similar regarding their scope, Thinkific has much more to offer for course creation and engagement. It supports live lessons, assignments, community, mobile apps, etc., which aren’t available in Teachable.
Even when it comes to things like website creation and reporting and administration, Thinkific is the clear winner. Read our Thinkific vs Teachable guide for a detailed comparison.
Next comes Kajabi, which is an all-in-one online course platform.
While Kajabi also has an impressive set of features for course creation, it stands out with a strong suite of sales and marketing tools for blogging, podcasts, sales funnels, email marketing, etc.
So, creators normally go for Kajabi over Thinkific when they want to keep their entire online course business on one platform. Read our Thinkific vs Kajabi guide for more information.
Some other platforms, such as LearnWorlds, Podia, and New Zenler, are also compared with Thinkific. If you want to do a side-by-side comparison of these, you should use our interactive comparison tool.
Thinkific Review – The Final Verdict
Thinkific is the best standalone online course platform, without a doubt!
It has excellent course creation and engagement features with a flexible course builder, a well-designed course player, mobile apps, live Zoom classes, advanced quizzes and assignments, a community builder, cohort-based learning, etc.
Moreover, it offers powerful features for building your course landing pages, handling checkouts and payments, and running your affiliate program.
It also has a dedicated app store, which allows it to offer the best of both worlds. It gives you the ease of use of a hosted course platform and the flexibility and extendability of WordPress.
Overall, Thinkific is our top choice for anyone looking to create and sell engaging online courses, and we definitely recommend giving it a try.
We hope you liked this Thinkific review. You can leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions.