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Thinkific vs. Teachable: Both are good, but which one is better? (2020)

You’re good at something, and you want to help people get better at that thing.

You also want to earn some money: why not do both, and sell your expertise?

Whether you’re considering this for the first time or a seasoned small business looking for a new platform to use, Teachable and Thinkific are serious products worth considering.

Teachable has got some crazy stats. Some of the most reputable brands use it, and creators on Teachable have earned over $300 MILLION.

newyork times shopify pearson

But Thinkific is no slouch. Take a look:

thinkific about

Clearly, Thinkific is another major force in the course-selling industry.

So both companies are popular and successful…

But which one is going to make YOU more successful? 

That’s the question I’m going to help you figure out in this review.

Let’s get started with a key factor:

Performance

I don’t think any of us doubt the importance of good performance, especially if your online business is at stake.

Teachable performance is usually really solid:

teachable performance 1

Teachable gives us a status page that shows us which components are malfunctioning, if any:

teachable performance2 1

You can see from this that everything’s working at the time of this writing. That’s usually the case, luckily.

When we look at the overview of Teachable’s history, though, things are a bit different:

teachable performance incident history updated

Luckily, these aren’t super common, and they usually affect minor aspects of the service.

There is an exception there in November, of course, where downtime affected all sites. But that’s rare.

All in all, Teachable’s performance is pretty good.

Since I’ve been experimenting with it, I’ve never experienced any issues, and the logs show uptime to be overall great.

So how does Thinkific do?

It also does great:

thinkific performance 1

Thinkific also shows you how operational its different components are, and as with Teachable, everything’s working fine:

thinkific performance2

It’s not just like that, the same day I wrote this part of the review.

If you take a look at the last three months, Thinkific’s performance history is somewhat better than Teachable’s:

thinkific performance history

As you can see, there was no site-wide downtime issue, and there were less issues in general.

The question is whether those last three months are typical of each platform, or whether it’s an outlier.

Having looked through MONTHS of incident history, I can say that qualitatively, Thinkific has had a lower incident history.

However, it’s NOT a huge margin. Typically, each platform has had one or two incidents a month—with Teachable often having 1-2 more incidents every 3 months than Thinkific.

Thinkific has also had a couple more serious incidents than Teachable, such as site-wide downtime.

So at the end of the day, looking at things holistically, Thinkific is still the better performer…but not by a significant margin.

And both are pretty good overall, though definitely not perfect.

Sounds like things are off to a good start, but our players are still just about neck-in-neck. Let’s see if the next factor under consideration changes things:

Ease of Use

I’ll tell you right now that this section is where we start to see some differences between the platforms.

But the differences aren’t that one platform is better than another:

It’s more about a contrast in styles, and approaches.

Put simply, BOTH platforms are very easy to use. However, Teachable is overall simpler, and Thinkific’s approach rests more on its ability to streamline more features.

But the best way of explaining this is showing you.

I’ll start with Teachable. Teachable is incredibly easy to get started with.

You’ll be asked to enter in some basic contact info, and then some questions about how you want to use Teachable:

teachable ease get started2 1

Once you’ve answered those questions, you’ll be shown your dashboard:

teachable ease dashboard 1

All in all, this whole thing took me just a couple minutes.

As for the actual software: the dashboard itself shows how user-friendly the interface is.

One highlight is the easy tutorials and help articles placed front and center. This is common practice among SaaS (software-as-a-service) products, but it’s still nice to see.

Navigation is very simple: everything you need is on the left sidebar. There are several main tools/tool sections, each with their own sub-menus:

teachable ease dashboard2 1

Most pages—most tools—have a very straightforward approach to user control. Often you’ll be toggling yes/no or on/off buttons—a good example is the screenshot from above.

Customization on Teachable is also very easy, but that’s a mixed bag.

Take a look at this:

teachable ease dashboard customize 1

Clearly, this is a simple approach that makes the basics of site design easier, especially for beginners.

But you don’t need to be a site design expert to tell that this is kind of limiting—you only have a few options and can only control them so much.

Don’t worry, that’s not the website builder—it’s just a page for editing site basics.

The PAGE builder has a mostly modern look, and lets you edit akin to a typical “easy” builder tool. But even that, while good, can feel a bit limited. I’ll talk more about this in the features section, though.

Creating courses with Teachable is kind of similar. It’s very simple:

new course

It’s great for beginners because of that, but it can feel a littlelimiting.

I still think the course creation tools are powerful…but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll talk about that in the next section.

This overall covers Teachable’s ease of use, though. Teachable is consistently simple and easy to use.

I don’t think anyone can seriously complain Teachable is too complicated, or hard to figure out (if someone thinks so, they won’t have better luck at most of Teachable’s competitors).

It’s true that Teachable can sometimes appear restrictive in its simplicity. That may be true for some, but it’s not to the point Teachable seriously suffers as a service.

So overall, Teachable is very easy to use, and even if some user control is lost to that end, Teachable largely remains a powerful tool while being simple.

…But does Thinkific do better?

Thinkific is also very easy to get started with:

thinkific ease get started1

It takes a few minutes to get set up.

Like Teachable, Thinkific wants you to answer a few questions as you set up your account:

thinkific ease get started3

In general, I think these questions are better than Teachable’s.

Thinkific, like many SaaS companies, shows you a few easy steps before you get to your dashboard.

For example:

thinkific ease get started5

You can, of course, skip this and go straight to the dashboard. But it’s useful.

Whatever you choose, the onboarding doesn’t stop when you get to the dashboard:

thinkific ease dashboard

Thinkific also follows the main page-sidebar format.

But while the interface is overall pretty close to Teachable’s, I do like how Thinkific clusters its tools together a little more:

thinkific features user management

It’s not a hard advantage, but I find it’s easy to manage groups and segments of students, their progress, etc, with detail, because of how Thinkific organizes its sidebar.

Another point in favor of Thinkific:

While many SaaS companies have little walk-through pop-ups when you first make your account and get to the dashboard, many drop it after that.

Thinkific, however, keeps these up for the core functionality, course creation:

thinkific ease courses

If you’re a beginner to this, and especially if you’re working on a blank course template (such as in this screenshot), this is super useful.

I’m tempted to talk more about complexity and user control vs. ease…but I have to save some for the next section, because it’s an important aspect of the companies’ features.

For now, let’s wrap up ease of use:

Thinkific’s user interface is just as intuitive as Teachable’s, and both are quick to setup and have readily available onboarding resources.

Thinkific is a little more complex—not because of design problems, but because it allows a higher degree of user control.

I think overall Thinkific has done an impressive job of combining both flexibility and ease on par with Teachable.

Teachable is easy, but also simpler. So there’s no clear winner in this section, though personal preference will certainly be relevant.

It should be evident now that complexity is affected by features. So let’s dive into that next.

Pricing and Features Comparison

Okay, I lied a little bit.

We are going to talk about features, but first I’m going to show you the prices those features cost.

Here’s how much Teachable will set you back:

teachable prices1 1

I’ll tell you now that these prices are lower than Thinkific’s. But don’t rush to judgment about it—just keep it in mind while I explain further.

Here are the features that come with those prices:

teachable features1 1

There are some impressive features available from the first tier onwards.

Perhaps most important is the number of students: you can have an unlimited number of students at any tier.

Sure, you’ll probably want to accommodate a certain threshold of students with more advanced features (in higher tiers), but at least you CAN take on a lot of students with the cheapest option.

Each plan also gets instant payouts, at least 2 admins, coupon codes, affiliate and email marketing tools, access to integrations, and the ability to drip content (to schedule content for release at a certain amount of time after enrollment).

Plus, of course, the basics of course creation and a custom domain.

The higher tiers justify their increased prices by removing transaction fees, increasing admin-level users, awarding priority customer support, adding quizzes, and more advanced customization and reports.

The third tier, Business, doesn’t give new tools so much as it gives additional resources for accommodating large numbers of students.

If you’ve got a ton of students and are running a larger operation, the Business plan will probably accommodate your needs and anticipated growth.

Note that Teachable DOES have a free plan. It’s limited to 10 customers and you can’t connect a custom domain, so it’s not a very serious option.

Now, on paper, the features look pretty good. But features on paper don’t always capture the scope of the tools you get.

So let’s have a look at what the features are like when you actually use Teachable.

Here’s a minor perk:

teachable features taxes 1

I won’t pretend this is a killer feature, but it at least doesn’t hurt—and if you have European students paying for your courses, this could save you a headache.

Moving onto something more significant:

The customization, as I talked about earlier, is a bit limited. Now, the basics are still pretty solid.

For example, Teachable has decent attention to color:

teachable features customization 1

The other high point in Teachable’s customization is the ability to edit custom text:

teachable features custom text 1

This screenshot hardly captures the whole array of options: there are HUNDREDS of text options that you can edit.

You’ll probably leave most of them untouched, and that’s fine. But it’s a good way of adding style and personality to your website without being overbearing.

Unfortunately, color settings (which aren’t even THAT advanced) and custom text are the only real high points of Teachable’s customization features.

Take a look at the page builder:

teachable features page builder 1

I don’t want to denigrate it too much, because at the end of the day, you can control the basics of your site and page appearance fairly well.

The main shortcoming is that you don’t have much ability to change the site’s structure, or access to other templates.

If you upgrade to a higher tier, you can use a lot more code and upload templates—which is pretty good.

But the “easy” part of the customization, the tools for those who don’t want to code or hire a developer, doesn’t get much more advanced as you scale up.

As for marketing tools: they’re similarly basic.

But like the customization tools, they do enough, and cover the fundamentals. A newer user/online business would probably be satisfied with them.

However, even if Teachable’s built-in marketing tools aren’t enough for you (and if you’re really serious about your marketing strategy, they probably won’t be), Teachable supports integrations with popular marketing and contact management software.

I wish Teachable offered more integrations in general, but at least the few it does have cover its existing weak spots.

Also, Teachable supports the Zapier integration, which itself allows you to connect more integrations.

It’s more convoluted than most of us would like (using an integration to get an integration that’s not directly supported by the platform you’re using) but it works.

The last major Teachable feature I want to show you is the course-creator. You caught a glimpse earlier, but it was just the starting stage.

This is what it looks like when you manage your courses:

teachable features course overview

When you actually try to manage the specifics of a certain course, a new menu full of features will open up:

teachable features course 1

In this case, of course, it’s a bit empty.

Creators have a nice degree of control over courses.

Generally speaking, if there’s a certain way you want to deliver your courses, you can do it on Teachable.

Adding content to courses is probably going to be more of relevance to you, because it’s where Teachable may come off as lacking for you.

Basically, Teachable doesn’t have a lot of templates for courses or educational products.

The software is open-ended enough that you can still sell the types of products you want. But the pre-made approach isn’t really there for you.

The building block of a course is a lecture—and this is what it looks like when you build one:

teachable features course2 1

Don’t be deceived by how simple this looks.

Sure, it may seem super basic…but it’s also kind of flexible for that reason. You just do whatever you want with it.

When you think about it, you can add just about any type of media file in combination with text, to whatever order or degree satisfies you. You can add quizzes and even custom code.

Believe it or not, you can do a lot with those tools.

Teachable also has all the things you need to add and manage students enrolled in your courses:

teachable features course students

Plus, it’s fairly easy to communicate with those students.

So when you put all this stuff together, you get a software product that is quite powerful. Sometimes basic, yes, but still flexible and capable.

Time to see how Thinkific can compete.

This is Thinkific’s pricing:

thinkific price

That’s right! There is a free version.

And then plans after that quickly escalate. Before we really figure out if those prices are worth it, though, let’s take a look at the features:

thinkific features1

So, how is the overview?

The free plan, I can’t really criticize. I mean, it’s FREE. You can’t expect it to be that good.

But that being said, it has more stuff going for it than I would have expected.

It has all the core features, which basically means: it can take payments, has a website builder and basic course customization, SSL, discussion forums, immediate fund access, and other basics.

Plus, you can offer 3 courses, and take unlimited students. Why does that matter?

3 certainly isn’t a big number, but the fact that you can sell without paying a subscription fee is significant.

Of course, it’s not exactly “free”—10% of your earnings will go to Thinkific.

And you can’t use a custom domain until you start paying—and your site won’t look very legitimate if you’re working off another service’s subdomain.

But for a handful of people out there, the free plan may actually be worth a shot.

As for the paid plans:

The first tier has a 5% transaction fee, but unlimited courses and students. Before we even get into the other features, that’s worth thinking about:

It’s pretty close to Teachable’s first tier. The difference?

Teachable is $20 a month cheaper.

Now, you’d ordinarily expect that Thinkific’s first paid tier has some standout features that justify the higher price.

However, this isn’t really the case—minor things here and there, but nothing major.

So while we’ll see how the features and tools operate in practice soon, the first tier of Thinkific doesn’t really compete with Teachable’s—Teachable’s first tier has about the same features and a much lower price.

So now it’s up to Thinkific’s higher tiers to justify themselves. Pro, at $99 a month, offers 2 admin site accounts and 5 course admins/authors.

In addition, you get more advanced pricing options, advanced customization, memberships, completion certificates, and private or hidden courses.

These are solid features that give you a lot more control over your business.

Teachable’s “Professional” tier has about the same features, though, and also for about $20 less a month.

Thinkific’s “Premier” is pricey, but comes with worthy upgrades: primarily, more options for enlarging your team.

The thing is, Teachable’s “Business” plan is roughly equivalent, and even allows more admin-level users than Thinkific’s “Premier.” And it’s less expensive by $100 a month.

“So what’s the point?” you might wonder. “Clearly, Teachable has the same features for lower prices—it’s the better choice for me.”

That’s an understandable response, but our work isn’t done yet. Feature lists often fail to truly capture what you get when you use a software-as-a-service product.

So let’s take a look at Thinkific’s tools in PRACTICE.

When it comes to site design and customization tools, I have mixed feelings:

The website builder itself is decent. You can manage colors and typography with a fair degree of precision:

thinkific features site builder

You can also manage the different pages fairly well. Making a new page in particular has handy elements that are easy to add and edit:

thinkific features site builder2 1

So that’s really good. In fact, it’s better than Teachable’s first-tier customization options.

Like Teachable, Thinkific’s website builder doesn’t help much with fundamental page or site structure.

…But, it’s still notably better overall on customization.

As for marketing, I’d say Thinkific and Teachable are about tied.

They offer roughly similar marketing features, basic tools like coupons, affiliate rewards, and so on.

The more significant difference is in the amount of integrations they allow.

Thinkific offers considerably more integrations than Teachable:

thinkific features integrations

Again, Teachable offers you access to more apps via Zapier (which, if you look above, is also offered by Thinkific).

So the difference in the number of integrations may not be so significant…but Thinkific has more immediately available options that require less work to set up.

And now for the meat of Thinkific’s product—the courses.

Thinkific has both premade course templates and blank ones for those who want to build from scratch:

thinkific features course1

This isn’t simply a point towards ease of use, but a useful feature for those who want to branch out into different types of educational products.

It’s also worth showing you, because Teachable doesn’t really have these sorts of templates.

Thinkific also offers some advanced settings for changing learning content text:

thinkific features modify text

This is roughly comparable with Teachable’s version. Teachable’s list of modifiable text is more extensive, though.

There are smaller tools here and there, but for the most part, we’ve covered the gist of Thinkific.

If you compare free plans only, I’d have to say Thinkific is better. Teachable has a free plan, but it’s more of a free trial.

Thinkific’s free plan is more serious because you can take payments from an unlimited number of students, though you’re limited to 3 products.

Teachable’s free plan doesn’t really limit your products, but you’re capped at 10 students…and if you’re running a business, the students are more important.

Now, I wouldn’t really recommend either free plan for the simple reason that your business will look less serious if you’re using a subdomain.

But if it’s just a side hustle and you know some people will sign up for your content regardless, then Thinkific’s free plan has better features.

As for the serious plans, it’s more complicated.

Teachable and Thinkific largely have the same features. There ARE differences, but it’s not always clear how important they are.

Thinkific has a notably better customization suite than Teachable.

Teachable’s customization tools get better as you scale up, but so do Thinkific’s. Plus, Thinkific has more—and better—templates.

So if customization is important and you want to save money, Thinkific’s first or second tier have stronger customization tools.

As far as marketing tools go, I’d say they’re about tied—Thinkific can offer slightly more integrations, but that’s about it.

For communicating with students, things again seem about even.

For the key point of creating course content? I’d have to say Thinkific is better for those who prefer the template approach.

But Teachable’s course creation tools are still powerful and shouldn’t be slept on.

Believe it or not, this does NOT conclude the review. We’ve still got a couple factors left to cover. Up next:

Customer Support

There’s no doubt that customer support is pretty important. It doesn’t just help you figure out problems you have, it can help you use the platform better in general.

And as usual, I’ll start with Teachable:

Teachable brings a lot of onsite information and resources to the table.

The easiest place to start is with the core part of its onsite support, the knowledge base:

teachable help center1 1

If you click on those topic squares, you’ll be directed to a page that reveals a whole list of subtopics, which each have their articles.

And as far as those articles go, I’ve got no complaints. They’re solid, and sometimes I’m a little sketched out because they can seem dated…but they’ve proven fairly relevant overall.

There’s also this thing called TeachableU:

It’s basically an online training school. Is it worth your money?

To be honest, I don’t know.

If you really think you need training, I would suggest looking into free resources first, and then maybe trying a free or discounted TeachableU course.

Anyway, it’s hardly required to get the hang of Teachable.

Teachable also has a blog and podcast—the podcast I can’t say I’ve listened to, but the blog has less fluff than most other software company blogs.

So the onsite info, that stuff is all pretty solid. How are the representatives?

I find they respond quickly and are helpful as well.

Live chat is fast, usually connecting you to a rep within a minute. Email/support tickets naturally take longer, but I’d be stunned if it took longer than 24 hours to get a response.

The quality of customer representatives is pretty good, and the quality of the onsite information is also pretty good.

The result, then, is that Teachable overall has very strong customer support.

Let’s see if Thinkific can do better.

Thinkific’s onsite info is pretty good.

The bulk of that onsite info is the help center:

thinkific support help center

Related to the help center, but separated on the website, is Thinkific’s FAQ page.

The FAQ page, frankly, is kind of basic. It seems more suited to those who are on the fence about joining Thinkific, or those who are total beginners.

That doesn’t mean it’s useless, but it would be nice to have a more advanced FAQ page for longer-term users, part of the help center.

Thinkific also has a “resources” page:

thinkific support resources

Some of this content could be helpful, especially for beginners.

Where things get dicier is here:

thinkific support training

Thinkific’s “training” site. This is basically Thinkific’s version of TeachableU.

So I don’t want to knock Thinkific too much for doing this…but this does seem a little more overt than others.

I suppose it IS a good thing that Thinkific has separated its “training” and “resource” support sections—you’re less likely to get mislead that way.

Lastly, Thinkific has a little marketplace of professionals renting out their services—this is one of those extra resources you have to pay for that might actually be worth it, since the people you hire are better fit for Thinkific’s platform than random freelancers off Upwork or Indeed.

But what we care most about here is the default support resources that you don’t need to pay extra for.

And Thinkific definitely has representatives available for contact.

All you have to do is click the little support icon in the bottom right corner of your dashboard.

You’ll get a pop-up with a preview of the support library and a search button, plus options for contacting reps:

thinkific support icon

However, there is some unfortunate news:

Thinkific does NOT have a live chat option.

I know, it sucks—especially as a lot of people (including myself) have come to see live chat as a basic part of support.

But it’s not really the end of the world. You can still contact support via ticket/email, or even call.

The only thing about calling is that it’s not 24/7. You have to call within business hours, which is too bad, but understandable.

So getting an immediate answer CAN happen, but it’s not as likely compared to a company with a live chat.

That being said, I find the quality of the representatives via phone or email to be extra good, presumably because support is less strained for resources.

You may get the sense that Thinkific’s customer support is just as high quality as Teachable’s. Excluding live chat, their reps may even better than Teachable’s.

But OVERALL, I think I’d have to say Teachable has the stronger customer support system.

I like Teachable’s on-site information a little more (not super significant), but having a live chat option is what tips the scale.

I wouldn’t say it’s a significant enough difference to sway your decision, however.

Hey, that’s good news! Both platforms are good here.

Let’s see if we can make things more controversial in the next section:

Security

If you’re using Teachable or Thinkific, you’re trusting them not only with your own data, but the information of your students and customers.

And since that’s the case, reliable security is definitely an essential factor.

Unfortunately…neither platform has a whole lot to say about security.

So if you had high expectations for this section, it’s best to lower them.

As I’ve been doing, I’ll show you Teachable first.

This is from their privacy policy—no need to read the whole thing, just skim or check out the highlighted portion:

teachable security1 1

If you’re not familiar with the world of SaaS products, this might sound pretty good.

But in reality, it’s just standard procedure, and standard procedure described vaguely at that.

And frankly, Thinkific isn’t too much better.

This is what Thinkific says in its privacy policy:

thinkific security1

It looks better, because Thinkific uses the term “industry standards” and says they process payments only though “PCI DSS Level 1.”

But they’re not actually saying anything special there—and they’re not saying anything that isn’t also true for Teachable.

To Thinkific’s credit, they do have a little bit more info about their security than Teachable does, outside of that privacy policy page.

…Sort of. Let me explain:

They have an entire section of their help center that talks about security questions.

It looks good:

thinkific security2

But if you actually read the answers to the questions, they don’t tell you all that much.

For example:

“Does Thinkific have a written security program?” has the simple answer of “no, but we do have security practices.”

Can Thinkific share external penetration test results? Nope. Can you run your own penetration test on your site?

“Yeah, but talk to us first,” is basically the answer.

So although the questions are good, the answers are unsatisfactory—but it’s still better than them not existing in the first place.

So is one platform really more secure than the other?

I’ll give Thinkific points for better transparency on security than Teachable, that’s for sure.

But I wouldn’t say Thinkific is necessarily more secure than Teachable—it’s only described basics that are likely true for Teachable.

Perhaps the best point in favor of both platforms’ security is that they’re so popular—it’s a vetting in its own right.

So I definitely wish we knew more about each company’s security practices, but at the end of the day, I’m not going to sweat about it.

Ready to wrap things up?

Conclusion

Because I want you to get a good sense of each software product, this review has come out pretty long.

But you’re probably eager to see how I wrap this up. I’ll cut to the chase.

Thinkific’s own website has this to say about the differences between it and Teachable:

thinkific conclusion

You probably expect Thinkific’s assessment to be biased in its own favor.

Well, you’d be right. Their overall comparison is naturally slated to show Thinkific as better.

But this little snippet here does capture a fair distinction:

Teachable is more of the everyman’s platform.

It’s not that Thinkific is only for elites—it’s just better aimed at those who already have established businesses and audiences.

If you already have a business and/or audience, Teachable can still be great for you. And if you don’t have those things, Thinkific can still be great for you.

But OVERALL, that is a difference in their platforms.

You can tell in their approach to course/product creation. Teachable’s course creation tools are strong, but more open-ended.

Thinkific has that open-ended option, but tries to fit in a bunch of optional templates—an existing business would be able to take advantage of that and spin off related products in different formats.

The same goes for the website template and customization tools.

So if customizing and template options are a considerable point of importance to you, Thinkific may very well be worth the extra cost.

If you’re newer, generally want to save money, and don’t place as much importance on customization and templates, Teachable is better for you.

And OVERALL? I think Teachable has better value, in terms of what you get for your price.

But don’t worry if you’re still unsure friends.

You can test out both Thinkific and Teachable for FREE, without even registering a card, and make your decision after that. Happy creating!

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