What is it:
AccessAlly is a platform that allows you to create membership sites, courses with full classroom e-learning features, and much more on your own WordPress website. It has built in order forms and the ability to receive payments
What you need:
It requires a CRM system such as ActiveCampaign, Drip, Convertkit, Ontraport, etc. It allows you to easily control and automate what your contacts have access to in your wordpress site based on the same tags and lists your CRM uses.
What it costs:
$62-82 /mo paid annually. Higher priced of the two options includes the course objectives, gamification, video tools and more.
My time with it:
Have been using it for approximately 2 years intensively, helping to run an online classroom that teaches meditation and related practices.
Having used many membership and online-selling solutions for a variety of purposes, including far more expensive ones, AccessAlly is by far the premiere solution I have found for WordPress based membership sites. It stands head and shoulders above the others in every way I have used, or could imagine using such a tool.
I almost hesitate to use a description like “premiere” or call it superior, as it might give you the sense that it is more complex, or fancier than others. Like the $800 camera that is technically better, but has a steep learning curve and a million features you’ll never actually use.
That is not the case here. In fact, a few tools I have used can technically do more stuff. It’s just that you more or less need to become a programmer and hire a designer to make the results truly usable.
AccessAlly quite simply makes it extremely easy to do all the things you need to do…
to have a fully functioning WordPress online universe where you can create and sell courses, memberships, consultations, subscriptions, and much more, in a way that is actually intuitive for you, easy to manage, but also looks great and feels natural for your audience. If you need to really get under the hood, if you need to do more complex functions, you can – but you rarely will need to.
One Thing to Be Clear on Up Front
AcessAlly is something that integrates into your WordPress site. It gives a lot of technical freedom to create just about anything you can imagine. This requires a decent level of tech-comfort and savvy, so my consideration of AA being ultra easy-to-use is relative to that universe.
AA is NOT an all-in-one hosted solution the way something like Kajabi or Thinkific are. If you are completely new to all of this and are not quite sure what that means, feel free to leave a comment and ask anything. For many WordPress based creators out there, you will likely share some of my past pain as well as understand the relief for what AA can provide.
Game Changer for the Project I Worked With
AA allowed this project to create a true online “institute,” with classes, curriculum, community interaction and much more. Anything idea or package that was able to be offered, with great speed and organization. It has made the admin life much simpler, and the experience for the users so much better.
Perhaps most significantly, it actually gave a better way of doing things than before, as it comes with many pre-built with solutions that actually help organize and present things more effectively, from an admin or course creator perspective.
This rare combination of powerful tech with a focus on usability and what actually matters, is likely the result of the literal marriage between the husband and wife creators and developers of this software, one being a programmer and one a marketing entrepreneur. I’ve become a fan of these two. Every update to the software seems to create a solution to something that no software has really addressed.
I am a Fan
It may sound like this review is going to be overly glowing and biased. I do not work for the company but did become more or less a fan.
I’m sure a big part of my enthusiasm is that this project was using another software for a long time, paying twice the cost, and probably 400% less productivity and results.
Everything I do with AA feels like a relief, and the things they have added like order forms and the new affiliate program allowed us to completely remove that other 3rd party tool from my life.
I will be going into more detail and showing some direct examples, as I actually used AccessAlly to create and sell all of these on a single “online institute” environment. This has let me really see how effective it is at easily managing things that I would never attempt with anything else I have used.
If you are wired like me and would rather just jump to a demo of AccessAlly, you can do that by clicking here.
Everything Needed in an Online Classroom or Membership Site
I assume if you are reading this you are interested in going down this road of creating an online course, product or classroom. To best get a handle on evaluating the tool(s) for the job, let’s take a look at what you need to be able to do, and what your customers need to experience, to make this truly work well on both ends.
If you already have experience with this or use another tool, then consider how effectively it handles some or all of these elements.
When you are imagining how a classroom or member site should function, many things seem pretty straightforward and obvious, but when looked at closely, there is a LOT going on to be able to do these things well. Especially if you want to do them with any degree of business-savvy customization.
Here is a far from complete list. You need to be able to:
– Protect your content webpages so that only people the appropriate people can see them. Whether it means they have paid for it, subscribed to your mailing list to receive it as a free gift, etc.
– Protect the files and videos on your site so that people can’t access them unless they should be able to.
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AccessAlly deals with ALL of these, very, very well. It doesn’t just do them, it does them easily, smoothly, in such a way that you won’t have to think very much about them, where the steps are clear and in plain english, and they will work… and they will look good.
A lot of solutions out there can do many, or maybe even all of these things. HOW they do them, their ease of use, and the final result the user experiences, is where there is really no comparison to AA in my book
Creating your Content: Courses, Catalog, Overall Site Experience
Any time you are creating a course or piece of content you want to sell on your website, there are a few piece parts involved. Regardless of whatever tool you use, these things simply need to exist in one form or another for any site to work. Beyond the content itself, you are going to have to:
If you want your content to be released in stages, meaning lesson 2 is unlocked after lesson 1 is completed, that’s going to be some work with most tools, if they are able to do it at all.
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You want to focus on the content of your class and have this stuff be as minimal as possible.
We used to have to use spreadsheets for any class we were creating to try to keep track of all this, and this was with a product that cost twice as much as AA.
Bring in AccessAlly’s course creation wizard.
This is a fantastic feature that, like many aspects of AA, are brilliant because of how much easier it makes life and handles a lot of organization for you. It simply streamlines this process AND creates the equivalent of what we would do with our spreadsheets, without the room for human error.
I can’t tell you how much time this little screen has saved us, and how much nicer it is to see than a blank spreadsheet:
The images there are clear and self-explanatory as to what they are, like most things in this software. Let’s show you a bit of why this makes life easy.
This little page is going to do a lot more than it might look like. By filling in these fields, you’re going to have:
-an identifiable course name
– a menu created for WordPress navigation
– icons for your “courses” page that will automatically show one picture to the users who have access to this course and a different one to those who don’t. We use color vs. black and white. (They give you templates you can use for these, by the way)
– The users who don’t have access to the course will automatically be redirected to the sales page specified
If you ever had to manage this manually, this is a lot of tedious work broken down into something you barely notice.
In similar fashion, the next steps will create the tags for you, let you create the “product” and set pricing, create offers, create the wordpress page for you, and then give you a summary that you can access at any time later.
If you are creating a stage-released course, you can setup how many modules you want, and it will automatically create tags and setup the infrastructure so that module 2 is unlocked when the user completes module 1 and so on. This of course can be customized, to a degree probably beyond what you’ll ever need, but it’s there!
In all of this process, most steps are pre-populated for you with logical names for the tags, the product offer name, and other fields which help save time and keep you organized. AA actually improved our naming conventions, which were inconsistent (and relied on spreadsheets). It’s the little things!
You’ll also be given a checklist of everything needed to make the process complete with your email CRM system, and have the course listed in your classroom.
Without having to think about it, you’ve just done most of the tedious technical grunt-work so you can focus on what matters. The content itself – let’s take a look at that.
Making Your Content Look Good and Easy to Navigate
AccessAlly includes a lot of features that make your courses clear, effective and fun for your members, and they are embedded right into the normal WordPress functionality.
Here is one of my favorite features. The video player and checkbox tool. This is part of what is included in the “Pro” version.
In the classroom I work with, there are a lot of longer videos that are recorded live calls. Perhaps at 10 minutes in there is a particular exercise, and at 25 minutes in, a section of Q&A.
Do you enjoy video editing and uploading multiple videos? On the back end, I don’t want to chop this all up – but I also know that having to sort through longer videos to find relevant pieces from a class is not the best for the users on the front end.
Here you can easily create markers that jump to a particular time in any video, and you can give them labels and checkboxes so users can keep track of if they have watched that segment.
This serves many purposes, they can return to the course at a later date and jump right where they left off. They can remember what they have completed. You can tell AccessAlly to give the user a tag when they complete all the checkboxes, which can trigger just about anything you can imagine, from unlocking another section to sending an email and more.
From the example above, this is what the user sees:
“My Courses” Sections, Catalogs and More
You are going to need a way for users to see what they own, and ideally, a way to showcase what they could purchase.
This is super easy and effective in AA.
As shown in the course creator, you are able to assign picture icons to any course – one for if the user has access, and one if they do not (you can also leave the no-access picture blank to have it simply not show at all, something we use sometimes).
Built into the WordPress editor is an “AccessAlly” button that allows you to choose to display the button for your course, and in a single click, this functionality is now on the page
This makes it super easy to have a section where users can see which courses they have and what they can purchase, which is also very effective as a built-in sales feature.
For example, here is one section of the ‘my courses’ page. The customer has access to a few classes but did not purchase “Your Inner GPS” so they see the grey icon. If they click on that, they will be taken to the sales page, as specified when we created the course in the wizard.
You can also do cool things with this system such as make the images work like a visual curriculum. Here is the series of “Inner Reconciliation” courses as an example, where the customer has bought Home Study Level 1, which is why it is in color, but not levels 2 and 3, and never opted in for the free intro.
Payments and Order Forms
When Nathalie and Robin added the order forms to the software, it was a game changer for us.
It allowed us to completely drop a third party software we were paying monthly for to handle order forms, thank-you pages, etc, and made everything function SO much more smoothly with less work (you are probably seeing a theme here.)
With AA’s order forms, because they are integrated right into your site where your courses are hosted, you can have a user instantly logged-in and looking at their course right after they click the buy button.
You can send them to an upsell page, and order it with 1-click functionality, if you have a funnel in mind.
The order forms are already filled with content and the image that you put in place when you made the program with the course creation wizard.
They look good, and are GDPR compliant.
You can create offers that include multiple products, courses, have coupons and more.
The only thing you might need to be aware of is that it is not a cart, where a user can shop around the site, add multiple items and then do a check out. This hasn’t been an issue for us, and the overwhelming pros outweigh that, but depending on your model, that may be more relevant to you. Of course you can integrate with shopping carts if needed.
Handling Subscriptions and Recurring Payments
AccessAlly really shines in how it handles subscriptions.
We pretty much know how subscriptions are supposed to work.
You pay whatever you pay for the month, quarter, or year.
If you cancel, you keep your content until the next billing cycle, and then you are not billed anymore and are no longer a member.
This should be pretty straightforward for everyone. You should be able to set your subscription price, time period, and have a way to quickly cancel a customer’s subscription that will behave exactly as described above.
AccessAlly lets you do this and more, in very clear terms. If this seems like this shouldn’t be a big selling point, try doing this in some other tools.
It was an entire discussion with Ontraport on how we *might* be able to have a user have access to the remainder of the month the paid for after they cancelled their subscription – the complexity it involved in a series of if-then rules, vs. a one-click button from AA. A button that does the basic thing you would want a cancel button to do… this says it all.
Take a look at the very refreshing set of options you have for managing a user’s subscription from your dashboard.
To some this will seem like an obvious nice set of features, to others like me, it will be a huge sigh of relief compared to what it used to involve.
Also, Because AA works with tags, for example, users who are active have the “subscription_is_active” tag, you can give them a totally unique experience.
Subscribers to your premium membership can see different content on the same page as others, they can see different prices than others, get different emails or see different offers in the same email, sending a special offer if they decide to cancel, just about anything you could ever want to do, including having multiple levels of subscription — and it’s all quite simple to execute.
run your own affiliate program
A more recent, and extremely valuable update, is the new affiliate feature.
You can now give your members their own links to promote your products, and receive a commission for doing so.
As always, this is provided inside the wordpress dashboard with a nice and clear layout, and works in tandem with your CRM system like ActiveCampaign, Drip, etc.
Some nice features:
– Ability to create different groups, with different commission levels. For example, if you are reaching out to some more established partners with large email lists, you may want to offer them a higher commission percentage.
– Multi-tier affiliate programs. This means those who buy your product from an affiliate, who then become affiliates themselves, can have a trickle-up effect to everyone.
– Integration with your CRM, like everything with AA, makes it easy to do things like send nice welcome emails, login details and more to affiliates.
– Straight forward interface. You would be amazed at how complex and nearly unusable some affiliate software tools are.
Because everything is integrated, the affiliate program is running from the same system that handles your order forms AND your subscribers, there is no complex integration needed. This is huge!
A heavily requested feature that was implemented as usual, AA now is able to show you stats and metrics for the products you sell through their built in order form system which we use, and prefer.
This is a great step in the direction of truly not needing any additional selling tools besides AccessAlly itself, such as different shopping carts or products to track your stats.
You have a variety of metrics you can display. These are somewhat broad overall calculations, I don’t believe they dig deep into the stats of an individual product for example, but that may be coming.
In most membership tools, you are dealing with a separate database of users compared to what is in your CRM, your email list of subscribers or clients. Most of them can talk to each other in one form or another, but AccessAlly deeply integrates, at least with ours – ActiveCampaign.
It cannot be overstated how convenient and powerful this is.
When we are looking at the list of customers in ActiveCampaign, we can see all of their tags and understand what they have access to in the classroom.
Things can happen in the classroom, such as completing a course, which can tell ActiveCampaign to add a tag and trigger any sequence of events, sending emails, etc.
As you’ve seen above, you can easily see subscription status of members and cancel, add credits, and more.
Refunds are as simple as a button for credit card purchases, integrated with Stripe.
AccessAlly also has some great features for creating a community inside your online space. Users can be listed with customizable profiles where they can interact with each other and see whatever information they choose.
We have it setup with a button, thanks to AA’s custom operations feature, that they can simply click it to decide whether they want to be visible or invisible to other subscribers, in case they want to work together as partners on any classes or exercises.
Other Cool Features
As I’ve mentioned, you can make buttons inside your classroom that trigger tags, which can then do almost anything. One way we used this is to create a button that allows a user to unlock the entire course, instead of following the stage-release version where each section opens up when one is completed.
Another great custom operation that comes with AA is a Timer feature. You can have a special offer that the user can see, with a countdown until it expires. This is really effective for sales.
In my guide to selling digital content online, I focused on ways for creative individuals to get started making things like courses, consultations, and membership services to be sold on their own website. We looked at things as basic as PayPal buttons to things slightly more complex, for starting out with a very small budget.
If you want to have multiple courses, create a true online classroom like environment, or a more involved membership website with different options and great user-experience, you will eventually need to upgrade to AccessAlly.
If your budget allows it and you want to start with the best and easiest to use, then consider going with them right out of the gate.