There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to building the foundation for your online course business.
Part of that foundation includes the design of your course.
In this post, we’ll help take a look at the top LMS WordPress theme options that will best support your design vision and allow you to deliver the student experience you want to create.
Whether you’re looking for a simple layout or a completely custom design there’s an LMS theme that will meet your needs.
Building an Online Course on WordPress
To lay the foundation for your online course or membership site on WordPress there are a few key pieces every tech stack needs…
- WordPress hosting
- SSL Certificate
- Learning management system plugin
- Payment gateway
- Video Hosting
- WordPress LMS theme
You can read the full guide to building an online course or membership site here.
In this post, we’ll dive deeper into what a WordPress LMS theme is and what it controls on your site so you can find the perfect theme for your business.
What Does an LMS Theme Control?
Whether you’ve taken an online course and loved the experience or have seen courses that your colleagues have created, one of your first thoughts might be, “I wonder what WordPress LMS plugin they use.”
But, contrary to popular belief, the learning management system (LMS) or online course plugin used on that site is generally responsible for controlling the course features and functionality, not necessarily the design itself. The styling and appearance of the online training are controlled by the theme in most instances.
Your LMS theme will control the following key elements of your online course:
- Page Layout
Many WordPress learning management system plugins work with most LMS WordPress themes, however, not all themes are created equal.
Some WordPress themes allow for full customization, whereas others will limit your customization to certain elements of the page. Some may even require a more advanced understanding of WordPress and CSS/HTML.
Let’s take a look at some of the top LMS WordPress themes for online course creators looking for a simple course layout first.
WordPress LMS Themes for a Simple Layout
The AccessAlly Theme’s infrastructure provides all the flexibility you need to create a simple but elegant, branded design for your online course website.
You’ll have full control over your menus, course dashboard, individual course pages, fonts, and colors.
If you plan to use AccessAlly to deliver your online courses and memberships and want to get your website up and running quickly, the AccessAlly Theme is well supported and documented by the AccessAlly team.
It’s a great starter theme for those looking for a simple layout that leverages online course design best practices.
Best of all, this WordPress LMS theme is free with your AccessAlly license. AccessAlly handles how you display learning objectives and deliver your content.
WordPress Twenty Twenty
WordPress Twenty Twenty is a good theme choice if you have a minimalistic design style. Unlike the previous WordPress themes, WordPress Twenty Twenty offers a full-width design style
One big plus of Twenty Twenty is that its clean design offers a lot of flexibility and the theme is suitable for just about any kind of website, making it suitable for creating online courses.
The theme’s design is simple but makes a great starter template for new course creators to create and manage their online learning website.
Similar to the AccessAlly Theme, WordPress Twenty Twenty is free!
LMS WordPress Themes for Design-Savvy Course Creators
If you’re looking for a more customized look and feel for your online learning website, but don’t have the budget to invest in a custom theme the following WordPress themes work well for you.
If you’re a course creator who wants the flexibility to build a course website that reflects their branding and delivers a unique customer experience without investing in a completely custom design there are hundreds of themes to help bring your vision to life.
Here are some of the most popular WordPress themes used amongst the course creators in our community.
Divi by Elegant Themes has quickly risen to the top of the ranks when it comes to WordPress Themes. In 2020 it was the most popular WordPress theme with over 2.8 million site owners using it.
Due to its popularity amongst WordPress users, it should come as no surprise that this theme is listed here. Divi is a solid choice if you’re in the market for a learning management system WordPress theme.
Divi works well for almost any type of WordPress website. Divi’s pre-designed page elements not only make this LMS WordPress theme easy to use but also provides WordPress users with a solid framework to achieve a custom look for their online learning websites, without any knowledge of writing HTML or CSS.
One of Divi’s biggest downfalls is that it leaves shortcodes all over your site if you decide to move away from it and it can be slow or buggy when building longer pages.
Astra is known for being a super-fast WordPress theme. Not only is highly customizable but it works well across varying industries, especially in conjunction with a learning management system for online courses.
You can install one of the free or premium Astra pre-built templates, or start from scratch when building your course website. There are templates available that can be customized for the main course page as well as the individual lesson pages.
With more than 150 templates for you to choose from when using the Astra WordPress theme, you have a lot of options when it comes to the layout and design of your learning environment.
This is a great way to get a semi-custom design for your online courses that reflects your brand especially if you are DIYing the site. WordPress experience is recommended, but not necessary.
However, if you are someone who just knows the basics of WordPress and are looking for a plug-and-play site design where you can quickly add your content and go live as quickly as possible, Astra might not be the perfect fit for you.
With that in mind, if you don’t have a lot of WordPress experience, it will be easier for you to create a unique online course design with Astra if you install a page builder in conjunction with the theme.
WordPress Page builders make it easier to customize the layout without having to write a single line of code.
Custom WordPress LMS Themes
For brand-conscious entrepreneurs who value custom design, you may want to consider having a custom theme built for your online courses.
WordPress is one of the most flexible content management systems and it can be completely customized to support even the most unique design stylings.
If this is the route you want to go, it’s best to invest in an expert who can deliver a custom WordPress LMS Theme for you that you can manage long-term.
Be sure to hire an expert that understands design best practices for online learners, but also understands your vision so you can deliver the best possible user experience for your course participants.
Can I use a Page Builder Instead of a Theme with my Learning Management System?
A better question to ask is, “which page builder should I use?”.
Page builders make it easy for WordPress users to build their websites without extensive knowledge of HTML and CSS.
While you may benefit from being able to include HTML and CSS within your page builder, it’s not required or necessary. Page builders make it easier to create a professionally designed course for teaching online.
Here at AccessAlly, we’re big fans of Beaver Builder. Not only is it one of the most user-friendly WordPress page builders on the market but its front-end visual editor makes it easy to see your updates and changes in real-time.
You can build each page from scratch or choose from over 30 professionally designed templates. The pre-designed templates make it easy for you to create a webpage quickly. You can easily replace the sample content with your own with a click of a button.
Beaver Builder gives you the flexibility and power to get as creative as you want with your online course layouts and design.
There is a free and paid version of Beaver Builder available.
Elementor has quickly become one of the most widely known and used WordPress page builders. Its easy-to-use drag and drop editor makes it possible for you to design your course website in no time at all.
You have over 80 design elements to drop into your pages with Elementor. The visual editor makes it simple to edit and customize every part of your site. Just click on an element and customize it to your liking.
Similar to other plugins on this list, it also comes with ready-to-use templates. You can import a template, quickly customize its content, and publish a page. It saves you a lot of time.
Elementor is a fully responsive plugin so your website will look great on any type of device.
The Divi Builder is another great drag-and-drop page builder with a WYSIWYG editor (what you see is what you get) for WordPress. As you build you can preview your design and create both mobile and desktop versions of your online course design.
The Divi Builder makes it easy for you to set your fonts, specify your brand colors, control the text and image sizing, even add padding and margins between elements to create a polished, professional design.
You can even save a page design as a template or layout that can be used on multiple pages with similar content. They have a wide range of content elements you can place throughout your page to customize to your liking.
The Divi Builder also includes a library of over 20 different page templates for you to choose from for your online course pages. These templates are easy to customize and will help you get up and running quickly.
What’s the difference between the Divi Page Builder and Divi Theme?
Divi Builder is a plugin – it’s the foundation of the Divi WordPress theme from Elegant Themes. However, you do not have to use the Divi Theme to use the Divi Builder plugin. It can be used with almost any WordPress theme.
Choosing the Right LMS Theme
When it comes to choosing the right LMS theme for your online course vision one of the most important considerations is whether you will be creating your online course or outsourcing the setup to a web design expert.
How do you know which route is best for you?
A Simple WordPress LMS Theme is Right For…
- You want to get up and running as quickly as possible.
- You don’t want to or aren’t ready to invest a lot of time and money into your course design,
- You’re running a beta version of your course to gauge interest.
- You want a clean and simple layout.
If this is you, WordPress Twenty Twenty or the AccessAlly theme are great options.
A More Advanced WordPress LMS Theme is Right for You If…
- You’re a brand-conscious entrepreneur.
- You want to DIY your site or be able to update it on your own long term.
- You value custom design but don’t have the budget for a completely custom build.
WordPress themes that are more known for their customization options and flexibility are Astra and Divi.
These themes are some of the most popular choices for today’s online course creators. They make it easy to design and build your online course yourself or outsource it to an expert while being easy to maintain in-house over time.
If you’re using AccessAlly for your WordPress LMS or membership site plugin, you can download our Beaver Builder, Elementor, and Divi templates.
A Custom WordPress Themes Might be Right for you If…
- You want a completely custom course layout and design.
- You have the budget and time to invest in a designer and developer.
- DIY is not your style; you have a team or will pay a retainer to keep it maintained.
if you have the budget and time to invest in working with an expert to create a truly unique customer experience.
Whether you want to get up and running quickly or plan to invest in a completely custom theme design, modern-day page builders are a great asset to include in your tech stack. Page builders make it easier than ever to maintain and update your LMS website over time.
If you are building a membership site, keep these 5 considerations in mind when choosing your membership site theme.