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What is AccessAlly?
AccessAlly is a plugin that allows you to convert your wordpress website into a membership site or course platform.
A membership site is, generally speaking, a site where you add content on a regular basis that members pay to access. Most membership sites require an ongoing subscription to maintain access, though some sell ‘lifetime memberships’ that allow clients to keep access without making ongoing payments.
A course platform, generally speaking, is a website where you house a variety of courses that can be purchased individually or in bundles. Once someone purchases access to a course, they usually keep access as long as the course is available without further payment.
If you are selling access to a course or membership, then you have to make sure that only those who pay can get to them. AccessAlly makes it so that people have to log in to your site with valid credentials to access any of your content, and gives you the ability to grant access to everything, or only sub-sections of your site.
AccessAlly vs stand-alone platforms
I mentioned above that AccessAlly works with your WordPress website. AccessAlly requires a hosted wordpress installation, as well as a theme. It is not a stand-alone platform.
Some businesses use stand-alone platforms for their memberships or courses. Stand alone platforms are those that have pre-existing infrastructure where you just drop in your content (your lesson text, videos, handout files); such as Teachable, MemberVault, Thinkific, etc. They are usually much quicker to set up than something like AccessAlly, but they are less flexible. Stand-alone platforms often have fewer options to match your branding or personalize the layout of your lessons.
If you already have a wordpress website, you may be familiar with what it takes to create a hosted site with a theme and your business branding. I always recommend that a membership site be hosted on a separate installation than your main website and on a sub-domain for a few reasons, including:
1. A membership or course website will likely grow quite large. If you have a lot of content to teach, you will create a lot of pages and this, combined with the public-facing content of your main site could grow quite large and heavy, and slow down your website.
2. Potential plugin conflicts. A plugin is something you install on your wordpress website to achieve specific functionality. AccessAlly is a plugin, and it is common to add other plugins to a site for things like SEO improvements, spam protection, forms, etc. A wordpress website with a lot of different plugins is at risk for plugin conflicts, which is when the code or functionality of one plugin prevents another one from working properly. A public-facing site has a number of functionality needs that are different from those of a membership website. If you combine a public-facing site with a membership website, it could require a lot of plugins to achieve all of the functions you want; thus opening up more potential for conflicts.
So why choose AccessAlly?
From reading the above, you might be wondering why you would choose AccessAlly if it takes more work than a stand-alone platform. The reasons are many. Here are some of the advantages AccessAlly gives you, many of which boil down to flexibility.
AccessAlly works on your own wordpress installation. This means that you are building your membership site on your own property. If you decided to leave AccessAlly after a time, your courses and content pages would still be on your own site and you could choose a different plugin to protect them. On the other hand, If you build on a stand-alone platform and decide to try something else, you have to re-build everything from scratch, which is a significant investment of time and money whether you choose to do all that learning yourself or you pay someone to help you.
If you decide to go from one stand-alone to another, you have to do the same process twice of joining the new platform, doing your basic setup on it, and then building every course or module again including moving in every video, every handout file, etc. Or, if you decide to switch from a stand-alone platform to something like AccessAlly, you still have to do a lot of initial setup. Whereas if you build your wordpress site and use AccessAlly, but then decide to use a different plugin, a lot of the groundwork you have done will still be useful. Your branding and pages will remain, and most of your content will likely not need any changes.
Because AccessAlly works on wordpress, you have all of the design flexibility of a wordpress site. You can use your own branding colors and fonts, your preferred page builder, and whatever layout best fits what you are teaching. You are not restricted by any pre-designed or rigid templates. If, on the other hand, you want something easy and quick to get started, your purchase of AccessAlly comes with a bonus theme that you can use to get going.
A custom membership site like you can create with AccessAlly is significantly better for brand consistency and aesthetics. You put a lot of effort into your business branding making sure it speaks to who you are and what your business stands for, and it should be clear to your students that you put the same level of thought and effort into your course and membership space and delivery.
Drip vs All-Access
You can sell access to courses and memberships that release information over time, or as your students complete lessons, or you can let them have access to everything immediately.
AccessAlly has a robust and flexible payment infrastructure. It integrates well with PayPal and Stripe, and allows you to take one-time payments, payment plans, and subscriptions; as well as offer one-click upsells and downsells. If you are using a CRM like Ontraport, which has it own payment capabilities, you may decide to take payment via Ontraport forms, and that is also perfectly functional due to AccessAlly’s easy integration with Ontraport.
AccessAlly integrates seamlessly with a variety of popular CRMs including Ontraport, ConvertKit, Keap, Active Campaign and Drip. If you are already using any of these, you can continue to do so and build on the automations and systems you already have in place.
Multi-Currency and Tax Compliance
One of the wonders of online business is our ability to sell across borders, right? In certain jurisdictions, however, this ability comes with some extra tax requirements that can be challenging to manage. AccessAlly’s integration with Quaderno makes it easy to calculate and collect sales taxes. And its multi-currency feature allows you to sell your products and services in a variety of currencies for specific markets.
Gamification and Customizable Learning Experiences
Once your students have bought into your courses or memberships, you want to do your best to deliver your teachings in a way that is easy to follow through. With AccessAlly, you can easily provide your content in a variety of formats (video, audio, text), and give your students ways to measure and track their progress with quizzes, checklists, and ways to submit questions. The progress tracking features of AccessAlly are extensive, and offer myriad opportunities to help your students manage their learning.
What else should I know?
In this blog I have barely scratched the surface of everything AccessAlly has to offer and the ways that you can use it to create custom courses and memberships. I have a lot more to say about specific features, and I probably will do that in future blogs.
In summary, AccessAlly is a fantastic option for creating a membership site or an online course catalog. It requires a wordpress site, and a bit more work to set up than a stand-alone course platform. However, its flexibility and extensive functionality make it a fantastic choice if you want to build your own library of courses that is fully customized for your business, your teachings and your students.
If you find the learning curve intimidating, working with an expert can be a huge help. I have been helping clients build sites with AccessAlly since 2016, and would love to guide you in making the most of its features.
To learn more about how I help my clients strategize and build sites with AccessAlly click here.