Membership Based eLearning Website for DIY Green Roof Builders
The new Green Roof Training website came out of a need to update the DIY Guide to Green & Living Roofs eBook that was designed and published in 2008 for the authors, John Little and Dusty Gedge. Apart from needing to update the information in the guide after 6 years, the recent rapid development in streaming multimedia and adding interactivity to websites opened up options to be far more creative. Plus, we want to use social media with its direct marketing and communication channels. It became obvious that producing another PDF would be a massively missed opportunity.
Once we decided to publish the new guide purely as an online resource, the search began to find the best WordPress based solution. What we sought was a paid membership website with eLearning features.
After discussing what was likely to be required, a full MOOC system was deemed to be overly featured and unnecessarily complex. Furthermore, any pertinent WordPress MOOC software would further require configuration of a separate membership registration/payment plugin. The ideal being that prospective members could register, pay and then gain immediate access automatically without requiring any outside action.
iThemes Exchange as eLearning Website Building Solution
After shortlisting a few contenders I plumped for the iThemes Exchange plugin which seems to offer the best balance of features, price, vendor/developer history along with a few other minor [ish] factors. Although Exchange is primarily an ecommerce plugin it also includes a comprehensive membership site feature list. This makes it extremely versatile and an excellent base for building an eLearning site. iThemes also make two of my favourite go-to plugins in Backupbuddy* and Security Pro. That gave me confidence that Exchange would be well written, stable and almost certainly set for continuing development.
Configuring the Membership Section and eLearning Content
After clambering up the usual learning curve the actual build went smoothly. Exchange proved as stable and robust as I hoped it would be, providing a remarkably stress free build.
Last Piece of the Jigsaw
There was one element that I had wanted to incorporate in the build and was determined to resolve. Logged in members had to be able to access all sections of the guide via menus. Not only the front page but from all the ‘public’ pages. However, I didn’t want these additional menus to be visible to non-members. I eventually found the perfect solution in Dynamic Widgets which can set to be show or hide content..
After all that it took just a little tinkering to get Paypal hooked up correctly [ as they have tweaked their systems again ]. Then set up a Mailchimp newsletter list plus contact forms [ all using the Formidable Pro plugin ]. After that the structural side was pretty complete. Once the content was finalised and all public pages SEO’d then we carries out a successful soft launch. A month in and the site is performing impeccably and garnering both attention and members at a good pace.
*Backupbuddy is also designed to help migrate sites as it makes a clone of the site each time you back up. Eventually the site will be translated into several languages with each version hosted on individual domains. The cloning facility has let me to set up the alternative language eLearning sites with minimum fuss. The translation team can go through and translate all the content directly which has made their work somewhat simpler. Certainly it decreases the amount of build work to be completed by me after the translating is complete.