When we started our healthcare elearning business in 2020, we cobbled together our first elearning system using WordPress and Learndash. While our DIY LMS had many technical issues and caused a great deal of frustration (as I said, we did it ourselves), there was high demand for our courses and webinars. We have since outgrown our first LMS and are ready to build version 2 professionally with a company such as Plume, but we’re concerned that WordPress and Learndash might not be up to the job. What would you recommend?
Your story is a common one. And I commend you for thinking about infrastructure when considering your version 2, because using the wrong infrastructure can kill businesses – and I’m not being dramatic.
It’s worth briefly commending WordPress for how it can help businesses like yours to build a DIY Minimum Viable Product to determine product-market fit; it can be a start-up enabler! Despite that, as you have learned, DIY setups are unreliable, don’t scale to support high numbers of users, the user experience is generally poor and you can find it limiting if you don’t have a reliable developer to custom develop new functionality.
So to alleviate these issues, you’re right to seek professional help to build a bigger and better version 2 to support your business’ growth over the next 3-5 years. At this point, WordPress and/or LearnDash isn’t necessarily off the cards.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of professionally building a WordPress-based LMS. (To be clear, many of these pros won’t come to fruition if you don’t hire the right people to deliver your LMS)
Pros of using a professionally built WordPress LMS
- Agility – it is quicker and more affordable to develop new functionality, important for early-stage businesses who need to react quickly to changing market conditions
- Lower cost – generally using WordPress is more affordable than other development options
- Flexibility – a good dev team will be able to deliver your unique vision using custom designs, features and integrations
- LMS options – there are a couple of solid LMS plugins available to kick-start development and to reduce setup costs
- Security – contrary to popular belief, WordPress has very good security (security issues arise from poorly maintained setups and generally aren’t issues with WordPress itself)
- Migration – it’s easier to migrate from WP to WP than it is to another system altogether
- Familiarity – you won’t need to learn a new CMS
Cons of using WordPress a professionally built WordPress LMS
- Scalability – while a basic WordPress blog could support high user numbers, a more complex setup like an LMS cannot scale without significant investment – and even then there is a limit
- Bloated – most LMS’ plugins on WordPress are big, chunky beasts, with lots of functionality that slows down the site for your users (especially at scale)
- No offline access – users with no or slow internet won’t be able to access your content
- Not the best option for mobile apps – WordPress’ REST API is quite slow, so if you want to build a mobile app for your LMS, the API needs configuration to speed it up
WordPress can be a good choice for businesses looking to build their first version on a smaller budget. It can even be a viable choice for your professionally built version 2, assuming that you don’t have ambitious growth goals.
For businesses that expect huge growth, require offline access or who see a mobile app being their main customer-facing product, WordPress may not be suitable. Custom-built LMS’ are more appropriate in these instances.