What is AccessAlly? How do I get started?
AccessAlly is a Learning Management Systems (LMS) plugin. LMS are tools that allow you to deliver and manage learning and instruction online. They have been used for years by large organizations as a way to train and onboard their employees. For smaller businesses, entrepreneurs and creatives, the cost of an LMS used to be prohibitive. However, in recent years, companies like AccessAlly have emerged to offer robust systems at costs that startups can afford. A properly installed LMS has become a great way for business owners to share their knowledge and thus, generate additional revenue.
There are now many companies that offer all-in-one platforms (Teachable, Thinkific, Podia…) where you can create, sell and host your content on their site. This is a great way to get started as they also offer easy to use templates and setup.
While easy to use, these all-in-one platforms can also be very limiting in terms of customization, branding and identity. Your course and layout will look and function like everyone else’s. For those that already have or plan to use WordPress there are also plug-in options such as AccessAlly which allows you to create a custom personalized experience on brand for your customers.
What is AccessAlly?
AccessAlly is a Plugin that works with your WordPress website. If you do not plan to use WordPress for your website then you will be unable to use AccessAlly as your Learning Management System (LMS) and should explore one of the all-in-one options.
Plugins add a layer of functionality to your website. In this case it allows you to set up the behind-the-scenes structure of a robust membership site for your content but also so much more.
If you have landed here you may:
- have already decided that you want to use AccessAlly for your LMS
- be considering using AccessAlly and looking for more information
- be ready to start the process DIY & not sure how to begin
- be looking to hire someone to help get it set up
Regardless of which category you fall into, my hope is that you find some useful tidbit of information to help you on your journey. So before you dive head first into installing the Plugin and running the Wizard, let’s outline what is involved in getting your website set up and what you need to have in place to get you off to a good start.
How do I get started with AccessAlly?
Whether you already have a website or need to build one, including a LMS introduces an additional level of complexity.
Essentially there are 3 areas of work that flow together to create your Membership website.
- Creating Your the Client Facing WordPress Website – The Front end Side your customers and students view
- Behind the scenes or Back End – Installing & Setting up The Plugin and Creating the Structure for Your Content – the tech part that only you see
- Setting up Your Course Content; Products, Offers, Order forms, Gamification & Course release structure (the basic setup – it can get more complicated)
If you are not familiar with creating websites or working with an LMS it might be easier for you to hire some help, freeing your time for the important part – YOUR COURSES & CONTENT!
What do you need to get started?
Here is the short list with links to more detailed explanations of each
- A subdomain
- Website hosting
- SSL certificate – so you can get paid!
- A WordPress website
- Page Builder
- AccessAlly Plugin & Theme/Page Templates
- Course Content (at the very least a detailed outline)
Once you have these you can continue on with the initial set up. You can read more about this here (coming soon)
A subdomain is a website URL that technically is a prefix (you create) which is added to your domain name.
Basically it piggy-backs on your original website URL. A subdomain allows you to use your website name but create a separate “branch” of your website to organize your information.
It allows a business to target a distinct audience, such as members/customers, which can be secured through password-protected access.
It is recommended that you use a subdomain, as opposed to your main website, for your membership & content for security and performance reasons.
Your AccessAlly license is only good on one subdomain. So make sure you have that sorted out before you install the AccessAlly plugin anywhere.
If your subdomain is your web/internet membership address, then your hosting is the
where the membership lives.
The subdomain is like the street address. Hosting is like a clearinghouse that manages how information and people get to your address. Much like USPS, FedEx or USPS that processes all that content and delivers items to your address. How the content gets to the address is invisible; it just happens.
Your website is where you store all that information and content. Without hosting your website won’t be visible to anyone! Some hosting services install WordPress for you others have a setup Wizard that will walk you through the process.
AccessAlly recommends using WPEngine which is an amazing hosting service designed specifically for WordPress websites. I have also had good success with Siteground. There are other hosting services out there that host WordPress websites,
but sometimes they don’t play nice with AccessAlly, so there will may be hiccups that are hard to troubleshoot. Whatever hosting service you choose, make sure it has great customer support and knowledgebase documentation
SSL certificate – what is it and why do I need one?
If you want to be able to sell your goods and courses and collect payment online you have to have a secure website.
Your SSL certificate (the lock icon & an “S” to the http of your url) secures online transactions and customers’ PII (Personal Identifiable Information).
The protocol prevents criminals from modifying or reading private information. When you set up your hosting be sure that you request your SSL certificate from your provider.
*AccessAlly requires that you have an SSL certificate.
WordPress is the easiest and most powerful blogging and website builder in existence today.
WordPress is an excellent website platform that can be used to built a variety of websites. WordPress provides the ability to include blog, membership, e-commerce to business and portfolio websites, the list is endles. WordPress is designed with usability and flexibility in mind and is a great solution for businesses of all sizes.
Page builder, Theme & Page templates
Using a page builder plugin allows you to easily create, edit, and customize your website layout. You can arrange and move things around on your web pages without having to write any code. Pages can easily be built using Drag & Drop modules/blocks, and you can see what you are creating as you create it.
While you can often get away with using the free version of a page builder, you will encounter limitations on available features. So, consider buying the paid version.
Choosing a Page Builder is a matter of personal preference and with each there is a slight learning curve to getting down the basics. To assist you in getting started they also offer page templates and sections layouts that you can copy, paste, and change.
AccessAlly works well with the following page builders:
Page builders often provide free basic themes that work well with their plugin or they will recommend options that will. These themes are fairly basic, lacking page, and layout formatting. They generally just contain the code that structures the website pages, posts and other core areas such as menus. They look very blank and don’t contain much visible information. You also have the option to purchase a theme that has been created by a website theme developer.
There are many lovely themes for purchase – just be sure that whatever you purchase works with the page builder you wish to use. While researching check to see if a theme includes setup instructions, exactly what you can customize (without coding!) and the support they offer. (Is the support free or paid, how long the wait time is for help, and will it be via phone or email, and if they have a “knowledge base” available for self-help)
AccessAlly has created a Theme (and Child theme) and Page templates that work with the previously mentioned page builders. You can find more information here: AA knowledge base
With a Page Builder, much of the formatting heavy lifting is done for you. Using a well designed Theme and Page templates adds further ease in getting your membership site setup even more quickly.
Page templates create a blueprint for items that you want in the same location , formatted the same way on all pages. For a course that would include items such as a sidebar content navigation menu, or video & content placeholders as well as formatting colors, sizing and fonts. Using Templates allows you to maintain consistency from page to page.
AccessAlly has created and provides free page templates that are already set up for the common pages (dashboard, menu sidebar etc.) You can see what that layout looks like here. For more information visit AA knowledge base.
Even though this is the last item in my list it is probably the first thing want to map out or outline. It provides the direction and purpose of your website design and ease of use
for your members. Without it, you will find yourself having to make quick decisions that you may
- How do you plan to structure the content? (Modules are your Main headings/topics that hold the Pages of Course Content).
- What information are you teaching? (Pages contain the content you are teaching or your lessons, Modules can contain many pages).
- How do you want your students to receive the information? (Instant Access, Content Released on a Schedule or Dependent on Completion of previous content)
- Are quizzes something you need/want?
- How are you delivering your content? (Prerecorded Videos, PDF’s and/or other additional resources)
- How will you communicate with your members? Don’t forget about email!
AccessAlly now has internal email delivery (with some tech setup) if you don’t currently use something like ActiveCampaign, Drip or ConvertKit. Email is important as a way to communicate with your members especially if your provider can integrated with AccessAlly to automate email sending. If you need assistance I work with Drip, ActiveCampaign & ConvertKit email Platforms.
While you don’t have to have every word of content written or your videos recorded to start setting up, you will save a lot of time if you can think about the items I listed above.
AccessAll also provides a template you can use to map out your content (did you figure out already just how awesome they are?)
A few thoughts about making your project go smoothly.
- What do you enjoy doing and what can you delegate to others? Do you find it exciting to work on tech stuff or would you rather spend your time creating your content? Think about what seems overwhelming to you. Whatever it is, hiring a profession to do it will save you hours of stress.
- If you are not familiar with building a website consider hiring a website developer who is familiar with AccessAlly OR an AccessAlly consultant.
- This person can create the website, install the plugins and get the tech setup done, and create all the relevant course items (Products, Offers, Forms, Email and Content).
If you have any questions about using AccessAlly for your membership or would like to discuss working together on your project you can connect with me here.
*please note there may be affiliate links included here. I may receive compensation if you sign up using these, however there is no additional cost to you. Often this offer you a discount on these services