If you have recently stepped into your journey of creating an LMS website or perhaps have an LMS solution and want to do some upgrades, then keep reading because this article is going to help you make a better decision.
The question is; “should we have our LMS website on the same install as our main marketing site”. It’s one that I hear at least once per month. And the answer is different every time because there is no one-size-fits-all answer as to whether or not your LMS should be on the same install as your marketing website.
But there are some very clear pros and cons to taking this merged approach and I’ve outlined these below so that you can make up your own mind based on your own circumstances.
Reasons FOR having your marketing and LMS website on the same install
A more cohesive user experience
A prospective customer lands on your marketing website from one of your paid or organic channels. Your marketing is great, your copy is convincing, and they decide that they’re a great fit for your eLearning. They register for your subscription or add a course to their cart, but somewhere in that journey from awareness to accessing your content, something changes.
Suddenly they’re jolted into a new environment. Perhaps they’re asked to log into a separate site which increases friction and increases the chances of visitors bouncing off your LMS website. Or perhaps the designs between the two sites are inconsistent and they’re asked to learn yet another interface. Then they receive an invite to a separate community site, and the user is forced to constantly bounce and log into various different websites, which does add to their confusion and extend their journey.
Now to suggest that the only way to fix this is to bring it all under one site would be misleading. It’s totally achievable to create design consistency and carry user sessions between platforms to create the illusion of a single platform. But, undoubtedly, building a single solution is the easier and most affordable of the two options.
You need to mix free and paid content to promote upsells (especially on membership sites)
In membership sites that have an eLearning component, the goal is to move a customer up the value ladder from unregistered user, to free registered user to paying customer.
For example, for Embodied Philosophy, we created a site that ranked well on Google for their free content, and slowly introduced users to more premium content to encourage them through the journey of becoming paid members. .
This type of approach would simply not be feasible on a multi-platform product and provides a strong case for keeping your Learning Management System and marketing website on the same install.
It’s more affordable to build a combined site than it is to connect two separate sites
When you have two separate installs and you need to create a cohesive user experience between them, you typically need to connect the two installs in some form. For example, you might have to use single-sign-on technology to carry the user session data from one system to the next to avoid having to log in twice. Or you may need to sync purchase data between the marketing website and the LMS to ensure a user’s course is ready and waiting when they log into their learning dashboard.
But this split approach is less affordable because it requires you to build, maintain and integrate two separate websites as opposed to one.
A more affordable way forward is to build your LMS and marketing website on a single installation. Not only do you save on the costs associated with building an integration between two sites, you’ll also just have the single site to build and maintain.
Reasons AGAINST having your LMS and marketing site on the same install
It might not be possible on your Learning Management System solution
SaaS solutions such as Teachable, Thinkific and Docebo are very intentional about what their products do and don’t do – they take care of the learning experience, but they don’t have capabilities around building marketing websites. This means it’s not possible to combine your LMS and marketing website.
When your technology doesn’t support the LMS/marketing site combo, you have no other choice but to create a separate marketing site and “make do” with the user experience and consistency challenges that come with having an incohesive, multi-platformed solution.
However, if you’re building an LMS using WordPress, Drupal or similar open-sourced content management systems, you are fortunate in being able to build your LMS and marketing website on the same install if you choose to.
Then there are purpose-built open-source LMS’ like Moodle or Open edX. Could you build a marketing site inside of these LMS’? Perhaps, but you probably wouldn’t want to since their backends are deeply tailored for the management of courses and learners – not marketing content.
It’s more difficult to scale up
If you anticipate huge scale, run frequent promotions that drive large amounts of traffic to your marketing site, or have training content that results in hundreds or thousands of users logging in at the same time, then you might not want to have your LMS and marketing site running off the same backend.
When both your LMS and main business site share a backend, large numbers of users on the marketing site will slow down the LMS and vice versa. Or worse still, it may cause the entire system to crash leaving you without a marketing website or an LMS, which can be disastrous for customer satisfaction and your bottom-line. You can counteract this by heavily optimising the technology and increasing resources on your hosting environment, but this requires planning, time and money and is not always quickly achievable as a reactive measure.
Separating the two environments and installing them on different servers will spread the load, and ensure that when one site is in high-demand, it doesn’t impact the performance of the other.
Your marketing team may need greater agility & autonomy
When you work with an LMS agency like Plume to build your custom Learning Management System, we’ll also maintain and manage the technical aspects for you on an ongoing basis so that you can focus on providing value to your users.
Because we need to ensure stability, security, scalability and an unbeatable user experience, installing of plugins or modules by your own team is off-limits and must go through us to vet and setup new tech on your behalf as to not risk the LMS component of your tech-stack.
But this process takes time and can slow your marketing team down. If your marketing team needs autonomy and agility to react quickly to changing circumstances or shifting market demands, it may be beneficial for them to have a separate marketing website that they can entirely self-manage – plugins ‘n’ all. And hey, if they break something on the marketing site, at least it doesn’t take down the LMS with it.
An issue on one site doesn’t take down the other
At Plume, we have a rigorous testing process, but if a critical bug slips through testing and into your live site, it can break certain functionality – or worse still, take the site offline.
Spreading the two sites across two installs will limit the damage it can cause. If your LMS goes down for a short period, you can still sell via the marketing site. And if your marketing site goes down, users can still learn on the LMS.
Key Take aways:
Pros of having your LMS and Marketing site on the same install
- Having both LMS and Marketing site on the same install gives your customer a more cohesive user experience
- Where up-selling is the main goal, for example in membership sites. Having marketing site on the same environment allows you to attract customers through your marketing campaigns to your free content and move them in their journey to paid membership
- Same install means less one site to build and maintain and thus it’s going to be more affordable
Cons of having two sites combined
- When you decide to scale up, if both sites are in the same environment, you are running the risk of overwhelming your systems and it may lead to both of them going offline
- By separating both sites, you allow your marketing team to have more control over their website without having to go through plugin and QC checks that are essential for your LMS website
- If there is an issue with one site, it won’t spread to the other
In conclusion, you need to think about your budget and business objectives.
If you are just starting to create your very first LMS, then you probably shouldn’t worry about this too much. It’s your first LMS, and what you learn from your MVP will help you to shape a better second solution when it is time to grow.
When it’s time go grow, it’s often better to separate the LMS and the marketing website to help you to achieve greater scalability.
No matter your choice, Plume can help you make the most of your budget and deliver reliable and customised learning management systems with all your can think of features!