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Five crucial factors that help you choose a theme for your LearnDash LMS


The dawn of Learning Management systems has been a disruptive change in the eLearning industry. Once a tedious process, eLearning website ownership is now a breezy yet satisfying affair. Educators who once faced hiccups due to lack of coding skills have progressed to running advanced eLearning establishments with ease. All of this has been made possible by Learning Management Systems such as LearnDash.

LearnDash has mimed the very essence of WordPress – making it easy for businesses of all kinds to build a modular e-learning website. Needless to say, it is the most popular choice for WordPress eLearning businesses. 

Like all websites in WordPress, a theme is a crucial part of your LearnDash puzzle. Not only does a theme give your website a unique brand identity, but it also has important user experience perks which make it an indispensable asset. A theme built especially for LearnDash will help you bypass the hassles that come with the use of generic themes.

generic-vs-ld

If you were to broadly divide themes for LearnDash into two categories, you’d have generic themes- themes not built specifically for the LMS and LearnDash-specific themes- themes built for the LMS or tested and made compatible with the LMS. While generic themes are available in plenty, LearnDash-specific themes are far and few. But what makes LearnDash-specific themes worth the investment are the clear advantages they offer over generic themes.

Let’s take a look.

Design:

An LMS is as good as the design philosophy it implements. Generic themes can be customized to a desirable design but having a LearnDash specific theme saves time. Such themes are made with LMS in mind and hence reduce the workload of LMS owners.

Generic themes are made to cover a broader spectrum of WordPress websites. You might not need all the elements that come with the themes and will spend hours and dollars in getting the right tailored look for your LMS. A LearnDash specific theme like eLumine provides customized pages for courses, course archives, profile, etc., which saves time.

Gaming laptops: An example

Suppose you are a gaming enthusiast and want to buy a laptop to suit your gaming sessions. You come across a generic laptop, with a configuration that appeals to a large spectrum of customers. The design elements, albeit appealing, will not offer anything special for a gamer. Enter, the gaming laptop. Its hardware will be tuned keeping the high intensity playing demands of its customers. For instance, the cooling system will be highly optimized for intense games. Design-wise, the keyboard, and trackpad might have LEDs which could be further customized color-wise to differentiate controls and multi-players. Additional buttons which can be assigned desired functions can also play a role in getting a better playing experience.

gaming-vs-generic

Coming back to eLearning, subtle tweaks in UI can come in handy while a student is learning a course. The design in LearnDash specific themes contains such subtle differences that may not be noticeable initially, but go a long way in helping students.

Here’s a screengrab of the Social Learner theme,

Social-Learner-1

Notice how the side-menu shifts inwards when we click on the top-left icon. Such small tweaks make the student’s interaction with the page easier and convenient.

Here’s another screengrab of a learning-focused theme like eLumine,

eLumine-1

We can notice 3 special features which reflect our point on the design of LearnDash specific themes. First, there is an introductory video on the course page. Second, the zoom buttons are specially positioned to increase the size of only the text, quickly. Finally, the night mode feature. For studying a course in dim light, you only have to switch the night mode on and go easy on your eyes. A learner’s delight, right?

Compatibility

WordPress is completely open source. This is a boon as well as a bane.

Some of the biggest disadvantages of an open source ecosystem are compatibility and abundance of bugs. As there is an ocean of plugins, themes, and whatnot, it becomes very prudent for an LMS owner to buy only compatible software. Compatible plugins and themes not only give a stress-free experience but will also be crucial for future updates, backups, restores, and scaling of operations.

Generic themes are made to cover a broad spectrum of websites. So they might miss out on the unique combination of plugins for your LMS. Bugs must be addressed, plugins will crash/misbehave and your LMS will be less responsive to the users.

Themes built specially for LearnDash are thoroughly tested keeping Learning Management in mind. So, compatibility with LMS based plugins is ensured. As the number of LearnDash compliant plugins is much lesser than the total number of WordPress plugins, the testing is much refined.

Here is a list of plugins that the Social Learner theme supports:

Social-Learner-2

Here is a list of plugins the eLumine theme supports:

eLumine-compatibility-2

This helps in achieving a seamless experience for the learners and yourself.

Updates

One of the best benefits of WordPress is the frequent updates. Bugs are identified and fixed swiftly. A large community connects the users to the developers, which allows better updates with the features that most of the users want.

As generic themes have a wide customer base, the new features in the updates may not be helpful to LMS owners. You may also have to face unnecessary bugs when such features are introduced. Waiting for bug fixes and toiling for requested features will just make your lives harder.

In the case of Learndash specific themes, updates and bug fixes are sharply aligned with LearnDash. Whenever a new LearnDash update comes up, you get immediate theme updates and bug fixes. The features that you request will have more chances of being released as theme functionality. The speed will also be optimized for LMS usage.

Customer support is also crucial. When you raise a request for customer support, your issues are resolved quickly as the developers behind these themes are very familiar with LearnDash and hence, fixing the bugs and errors in the theme isn’t very difficult for the developers.

Ease of Use

Special elements are available in LearnDash specific themes to make browsing, navigation, and studying lessons easier for your students. For example, support for RTL (Right to Left) written languages is included in LearnDash specific themes keeping a global learner base in mind.

One important advantage of LearnDash specific themes is that the implementation of social tools is more detailed. Communication and forum discussions among students and instructors are important for LMS owners. With such themes, you do not have to spend money on buying external plugins to do the job.

Here’s how the networking focused Social Learner theme integrates its social tools.

Social-Learner-3

Some finer details like badges for achievements and activities boost the engagement tendencies of the learners. Setting up a points system in response to activities motivates the learners to stick to the LMS and spend more time using it. LearnDash specific themes have such tailor-made details that boost engagement rates of students.

eLumine-3

Another crucial aspect of ease-of-use is mobile responsiveness. We all know that the number of mobile users is more than desktop/laptop users. So, naturally, your LMS must tend to all types of users. Learndash specific themes provide the same level of UI/UX across all devices (desktops, laptops, mobiles, tablets), keeping learning engagement in mind.

Here’s how the eLumine theme looks like on mobile devices:

eLumine-4

Here’s the interface of the Social Learner theme:

Social-Learner-4

Customization requests will be quickly resolved and be less expensive if you opt for a LearnDash specific theme. Your time and money will be focused on learning. Core LMS features might miss out some handy details, but with quick customization, you can have the LMS which matches your philosophy. Sometimes, your request might be released as a future update, which can save costs.

SEO

SEO experts swear by meta-tags, H1 and H2 tags, headers and footers, and backlinks. If these terms confuse you, you don’t need to worry. Simply put, they help in getting your website rank higher in search results. Competition is intense in LMS websites, so your website needs to appear as high as possible when users search for LMS websites.

Pages made with generic themes might skip optimizing your LMS with such tags. These little bits of code might be the deciding factor between a successful and a failed LMS business.

Having a LearnDash specific theme will guarantee SEO expertise optimized for LMS searches. Such SEO experts will have in-depth information on the LearnDash code and will help in getting better SERPs (Search Engine Result Page).

eLumine-5

This is the front-end of what you will show to your students. The underlying code validates the search engine crawlers that the page belongs to an LMS and must rank higher for eLearning searches. We cannot go into details, but the answer lies in font-sizes, headings, and other LMS specific elements.

While searching for a good theme for your LMS, these five crucial factors come in handy:

=> Design

=> Compatibility

=> Updates

=> Ease of use

=> SEO

Going for a generic theme has more pitfalls than benefits. Lesser LMS focused updates, design mismatches, customization hassles, fewer bug fixes will make you spend more time and money in getting the right LMS experience.

To focus solely on learning and teaching, LearnDash specific themes cut out the generic competition and stand out as ideal choices for your LearnDash LMS. The little tweaks and design perks will be crucial in getting a unique brand image for your LMS business.

Two such LearnDash themes, eLumine, and Social Learner have been mentioned in this article. Social Learner is more focused on networking and communication aspects of the student’s journey.

eLumine, on the other hand, is more focused on learning and increasing course related attributes for the student, teacher, and LMS owner. You can also visit its demo to gain backend access and see the theme in action.

You can know more about LearnDash specific themes here. For a detailed showdown of popular LearnDash themes, click here.

As usual, shares and comments are much appreciated 😀





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