What is the sweet spot between extreme simplicity (borderlining a lack of functionality).
and all-in-one, advanced course platforms (that might drive you into the ground)?
In this review, we’ll take a look at a new kid on the block, Esmerise, who might have found a sweet spot between simple and powerful.
Esmerise vs. Leaders
Is it too simple?
What is a PWA?
Skim-read video lessons
Group Chat with Students
300% Higher Completions!
Simplest website builder
What did I miss?
Mature product, but still young
Esmerise is a course platform with all the features you’d expect:
.. all that jazz.
To begin with, I was a bit confused - it looked kinda.. different.
But then I understood what it was, and after testing Esmerise more thoroughly, 2 things stood out to me
Like my favorite community platform, Skool, the guys from Esmerise have made an effort to embed some fun and games into their product.
They have a points system you can dial in as you want, a rewards system of both avatars and actual rewards like a coaching call or a t-shirt, and a leaderboard where people can see how they rank and strive to get to the top.
But does it work?
At first, I didn’t believe much in the idea of points and leaderboards, but my experience with Skool showed me how much people respond to these dynamics of earning points, unlocking rewards, and ranking high.
Industry leaders like Kajabi try to do a bit of the same, but their skewed allocation of points ruins the whole system.
Some things give you 1 or 2 points, while others give you 100 - sending you right to the top.
Therefore, it makes sense to open up for customization of the points system.
If a course is very self-paced and independent, I’d give more points for completing content.
If it’s more community-focused and about sharing projects, I’d give more points for posting stuff in the forum.
Sounds advanced, but it's not.
There’s not a lot to set up - just a few point categories, any number of rewards you create, and when they unlock (how much they cost, so to speak).
I also love how they made an effort to make the user experience a fun one, with these micro-interactions like animations for completing something.
And confirmation sounds when getting an answer right.
Because this platform is much simpler to manage.
Simple as that.
The big ones have grown.. big - with a million features and add-ons.
Oftentimes, less is more.
When you start, the last thing you want to drag you down is the tech you use.
It’s so important to choose a course platform that’s easy to use, has a few solid pillars of functionality, and that you like to work with.
Esmerise feels lightweight, but solid.
As it's supposed to be.
It took me a few moments to figure this out, but Esmerise doesn’t have the traditional two-sided built of an admin panel and a student-facing interface.
With Esmerise, It’s pretty much the same.
As an Admin, you can of course Edit the different components, but there’s no need to preview anything, cause when you hit save, you see what your students see.
"Hm.. Doesn’t it look a bit empty? A bit too basic?"
Well, there are two reasons I don’t think so:
The first one is that it’s kind of a trend to design as simple as possible, like Skool, where simplicity equals familiarity and ease of use.
The second one is that when you open Esmerise on a phone, it looks and works like an app.
Let's take a closer look at that.
A PWA is a progressive web app. It's delivered through the web, so it's sort of a website that feels like an app when viewed on a mobile phone.
Most other course platforms need your students to download a native app, log in with their credentials, and find your courses inside.
Esmerise is built for both desktop and mobile, so there’s no need for a native app.
You just save the website to your home screen, and that's it.
The reason why this works is that Esmerise is built as a Progressive Web App.
These PWAs only work well when the interface is light and snappy - without loads and wait time, so it feels like a native app.
(And, a small bonus is that you can manage your courses on your phone, as an admin, if someone complains about a broken link in one of your lessons, or something.)
The experience is just like a native app, but much lighter, faster, and 100% coherent with the web version of your course site.
In 2024, we skim-read everything, we scan across pages to find interesting parts, and we want to do the same with videos.
YouTube has introduced a bunch of features around this, like the ‘preview on hover’ and ‘chapter timestamps’.
Esmerise jumps on this trend:
A unique feature I haven’t seen before is the way you can timestamp your video lessons.
This is an ingenious way to make video lessons more digestible and skimmable.
Works like on YouTube, with a timecode and a short description of that chapter.
Speaking of 2024, new trends, and skimming everything:
I found it quite funny that Esmerise allows you to watch a video at 4x (!!!) original speed.
(Don’t know how much I would pick up, but maybe GenZ can do it.)
Course platforms disagree about the right format for talking to students;
Esmerise does something new, on top of those things, which is a Group Chat.
In your settings, you can enable or disable Group Chat for your course platform.
This opens up a chat panel where you can write messages, and choose whether or not they should go out as an email as well.
".. You sure this is a good idea..?"
If you’re thinking this will become a mess, I can tell you that it’s hard to get people to engage.
(It’s really hard.)
People are busy, life gets in their way after they sign up for your course, and suddenly there’s a bit too quiet inside your courses.
So is Group Chat the answer?
Any attempt to encourage action, participation, and engagement like a group chat is welcomed.
I like the idea and would love to try it with my students.
Esmerise claims to 3x your completion rates (compared to traditional courses, whatever that is).
They aim to do that through all these things; points, chats, rewards, ease of use, mobile-first, and so on.
And it IS the holy grail: course completion.
The success of your company depends on the success of your students.
The success of your students depends on them completing the courses.
Actually learning something.
(And using it).
If you can get more students to complete more of your courses, you'll get better reviews, get more repurchases, and build a better course business.
Esmerise is not the only platform to dable with points and gamification.
I was excited about a "gamification-first" platform that's called Xperiencify.
But they seemed to be out of business.
At least, that's how the platform felt when I tried it; abandoned.
Gamification is the name of the game, and Skool, Kajabi, Esmerise and a bunch of other tools race to get this right.
Looking forward to seeing where Esmerise takes this in the future.
I love to test website builders!
It’s quite hard to get the balance right — between the "start from scratch" approach, and the template-based, building blocks approach that make it easier to use than WordPress, for example.
With Esmerise, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a simpler editor.
I chose to start from scratch, instead of the page template that already has a bunch of elements.
And then it’s all about adding empty sections or premade sections and making changes.
And I like the basic aesthetics of these blocks; subtle design, lots of space, and looks professional.
So, feel confident that you can create good looking pages, but there's not a ton of functionality here.
Simple, not crazy powerful.
The user journey with an academy on Esmerise is that your potential student visits a landing page, buys a course, and enters the platform.
There’s not a whole lot more, like funnel builders, email campaigns, and automations.
This is fine for beginners, but when you gain momentum and want to expand, you can't right now.
As with startups, they grown and develop too, so in the future, you might see a completely changed Esmerise that does a ton more than today.
Today, not a whole lot is inbuilt.
Esmerise has a handful of integrations so you can send your customers to an email client and have automated sequences go out from there.
But it’s not inbuilt.
I also missed an Analytics dashboard to see course sales, revenue, and product progress.
Maybe I'm too used to Kajabi, but I like these basic analytics that give you a sense of how the business is doing.
But you’ll have to do with Google Analytics and Stripe for now.
I think the perfect time to join a company as a customer is when they’re mature enough to have a solid product, but young enough to still care about you as a customer.
Esmerise gets a lot of praise for both the product and their people, so right around now is probably a good time to join, if you want to sell courses online.
I actually tested their response time, by sending an email to their technical support.
3 minutes. Pretty impressive.
And I was told the support is even more responsive if you write them on WhatsApp.
The team behind the platform is just a handful of people, so you don’t reach some outsourced chat support service - it’s the cofounders and core employees that help you out.
(NOT the case if you sign up with one of the market leaders.)
What do they want for their product?
Esmerise’s price point is also quite fair, with the Pro plan costing you around $1000/ year.
This is about half of what Kajabi charges for their Growth plan.
You do get extra features with Kajabi, like blogging and podcasting, but the question is if you need it.
And Esmerise counters some of that with unlimited courses, and what you could call your own custom app.
For me to see, Esmerise is the simplest, complete course platform.
Yes, there are even simpler setups, like Pensight, Gumroad, and Skool, but if you want to give your students the full-fledged online school experience, and you don’t like the idea of going with the most advanced platforms, like LearnWorlds, like Kajabi, then Esmerise is the perfect choice.
Although it’s only from 11 reviews, their Capterra score of 4.8 is decent, and when I translate the Italian testimonials from their home market, they’re also quite positive - highlighting the ease of use, and the responsive support.
⚡️ If you want to try Esmerise, there’s a free 10-day trial.
I hope you found this review helpful in finding the right course platform for you.
If you did, consider subscribing to my YouTube channel to see more reviews like this in the future.
Thanks for reading.
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