The Definitive Guide to Hosting your eCourse on Squarespace

The definite Guide to Hosting your eCourse on Squarespace・Kerstin Martin Web Design

(Please note: This post contains affiliate links to Squarespace and MemberSpace, two companies I adore and use in my business. I get a small kickback if you sign up to them.)

These days there are many choices when it comes to hosting your eCourse. Teaching platforms like Teachable, Ruzuku or Podia are very popular and do a great job, and 3rd party providers like MemberSpace and Sentry offer paywall and membership services for Squarespace. However, when I was looking into my options for my first eCourse three years ago the teaching platforms were costly and lacked design flexibilty while the 3rd party paywall apps were buggy and there was also a big question mark over security. I went down quite the rabbit hole in 2016, comparing all the systems but really wanting to find a way to do this on my own website because I didn’t like the idea of sending people away from it and also wanted to style my course on Squarespace.

After much research and agonizing I finally decided to get very clear on what I wanted for my course:

  • An enjoyable and user friendly experience for my students.

  • Keeping my content safe and on my own website.

  • Keeping my costs reasonable.

  • Design and brand consistency.

  • Styling options.

My decision was easy after this: I wanted to host my course on my own Squarespace website.

Now Squarespace is not a natural choice for hosting online classes, there is no membership functionality and no automated classroom tools such as student progress indicators or lesson bookmarks. But Squarespace has a built-in page password which, by the way, is the only way to keep your content 100% safe (more on that later), and that’s where I started.

Fast forward to today and I am hosting six thriving eCourses on my own Squarespace website that have attracted over 1,000 students who love the virtual classrooms I’ve created.

I’ve learned a lot about hosting eCourses on Squarespace over the last three years and in the following I share what I love most about it, as well as the three methods that are available for creating a beautiful and effective online classroom on Squarespace.

Why you will love hosting your eCourse on Squarespace・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

Why you will love hosting your eCourse on your own Squarespace website:

  • Stylish & Beautiful
    Create a visually stunning classroom by taking full advantage advantage of Squarespace’s extensive styling options.

  • Well Organized
    Use summary and archive blocks as well as other styling features to organize your content in a way that feels well structured and easy to navigate.

  • Brand Consistency
    Because you are hosting your course on your own website you will be using your existing fonts, colors and design, which makes staying on-brand very easy.

  • Easy
    No need to learn a new system to design your course, you already know your website and Squarespace!

  • Convenient
    Both you and your students only need to know one place for your course: your website. No need to log into another platform to update or access your course.

  • Safe
    Your content is protected whether you use the built-in page password or sign up with MemberSpace and use their three levels of security.

The 3 Methods for Hosting your eCourse on Squarespace・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

The Three Methods

Right now I use the Javascript/Zapier method for all of my courses except for Classroom MS which uses MemberSpace. When Squarespace Campaigns was launched earlier this year I was delighted to find that this could also be utilized. Here is my lowdown on each method. Please note that all of these methods use a blog for the eCourse lessons and I offer two classes where I teach each method and also show how to tweak and style the blog to turn it into an eCourse:

Classroom Classic teaches method 1 & 2
Classroom MS teaches method 3


1. Javascript/Zapier

Because I am using the built-in page password I needed to find a way to get the password to my customers after they purchase the course. Campaigns did not exist at the time so I developed, with the help of a wonderful programmer, a method that uses Javascript to send customer email addresses to Zapier which in turn passes them on to Mailchimp where I created a welcome automation with the course login info, hence automating the whole process from purchase to password delivery. It works like a treat! And is very cost effective, too, because both Zapier and Mailchimp have free starter plans which I used for quite a while until my eCourses outgrew them. Also: this method will work with any email provider, such as ConvertKit or Constant Contact, as long as Zapier has an integration with them.

What I like about this method:

  • Most secure method for your content.

  • Most cost effective. Until your courses grow you only pay your Squarespace fee.

  • Automatically creates a mailing list of all your students.

  • Upsell options through Mailchimp automations (will require a paid plan.)

Best method for…

  • eCourse newbies who don’t have a huge audience yet and don’t expect to sell more than 100 transactions per month.

  • eCourse creators who don’t mind using the same password for everyone.

  • Budget conscious eCourse creators.


2. Squarespace Campaigns

I love Squarespace Campaigns! I use it for my Studio Notes and it’s so easy and enjoyable now to write my newsletters. Campaigns also has some nifty automation features (requires the Campaigns Core plan) and one of them gives you the ability to automatically send an email to a customer after they have purchased a product on your website. You can use this to send the welcome email with the course URL and page password to your customer. The only downside is that Campaigns does not keep a mailing list of customers who have purchased a product so you have no means of contacting your course participants by email. I like to be able to send my students course updates which is why I am still using method 1. However, one of my Classroom students (thank you Dar!) suggested to create a Campaigns list for your course and then insert a newsletter block at the top of your first lesson asking people to sign up to this list if they want to receive course related news. That’s brilliant! It may not give you a full list of all students but you will have a list of those who are interested in updates and that’s all that matters in the end.

What I like about this method:

  • Most secure method for your content.

  • Great all-in-one solution because you are keeping everything in Squarespace!

  • Advanced styling options for your welcome email and other emails.

  • Upsell options through Squarespace Campaigns automations.

  • Easy to implement. No code injection or Zapier required.

Best method for…

  • Those who love the convenience of having everything in one place and don’t mind paying the fees for Campaigns.

  • eCourse creators who are happy to use the same password for everyone.

  • eCourse creators who don’t want to deal with code injection or Zapier for the payment and welcome email automation.

  • Those who love sending stylish and on-brand email communications.


3.MemberSpace

MemberSpace are the only company that has developed a membership app specifically for Squarespace. I tried them three years ago but at the time their system was still a little glitchy and their pricing model did not work for my evergreen courses. This year I decided to check them out again, I knew they had changed their pricing structure, and they also built a very stable system that many of their customers love. The main difference to the first two methods is that with MemberSpace your customers can create a user account with their own password. Furthermore, Memberspace have developed three levels of security to protect your content which is important as all 3rd party paywall providers have a vulnerability that lets clever coders bypass the paywall (more on that later). These three security levels keep your content very safe.

What I like about this method:

  • User accounts & unique passwords add an extra level of security.

  • Automated password recovery.

  • Subscriptions and payment plans are easy to implement.

  • Awesome customer support! Seriously, the MemberSpace team are the best!

Best method for…

  • eCourse creators who don’t want the same password for everyone and prefer for their course participants to create their own user accounts & passwords.

  • Those who want access to member information, such as page access activities.

uareThe Cost of Hosting your eCourse on Squarespace・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

The Cost

It is important to do your math with this! Transaction fees, for instance, can add up quickly. If you are just starting out and don’t expect more than 100 sign-ups per month then you can keep your cost low with the Javascript/Zapier option as you’ll only have to pay for your Squarespace plan while you can enjoy Zapier’s and Mailchimp’s free tiers. The Javascript/Zapier solution is scalable and you can change to the Campaigns or MemberSpace method at any time.

If user accounts are important to you then MemberSpace is another great option, or if you prefer to keep everything in one place and want to enjoy Squarespace’s styling options throughout, then Campaigns will be your best friend.

1. JS/Zapier 2. Campaigns 3. MemberSpace
Squarespace Business Plan or higher required. The Business Plan has a 3% transaction fee while the Commerce plans have no transaction fee.

Zapier is free for up to five 2-step zaps (my method is 2-step) and up to 100 monthly transactions. If you exceed one of these plans start at $20 per month.

Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers, 1 audience and single-step automations. After that prices start at $9.99 per month.
Squarespace Business Plan or higher required. The Business Plan has a 3% transaction fee while the Commerce plans have no transaction fee.

Campaigns - The Starter plan does not include automations so you'll need the Core plan or higher. The Core plan is $14 per month or $120 per year and includes automations, up to 5 campaigns per month, 5000 emails sent in total.
Squarespace Business Plan or higher required. The Business Plan has a 3% transaction fee while the Commerce plans have no transaction fee.

MemberSpace plans start at $25 per month plus 1-4% transaction fees.

Spreadsheet Magic

If you really like to geek out and love your spreadsheets here is one I prepared comparing the different services and pricing levels. It is quite eye opening. Replace my course price of $100 with your own to get a true picture of your costs. Please note that this sheet contains formulas.

Features of the 3 Methods for Hosting your eCourse on Squarespace・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

Features

Cost is not the only aspect to consider – you also want to think about the features each method offers and what is most important to you. For me, for instance, having an email list with all my students is very important. Due to the technical nature of my courses I want to be able to contact my students with Squarespace updates. Plus, where I use Method 1, I also change my course password every now and then and this way I can easily email the new password to everyone. Take a close look at these features and decide which are important to you.

1. JS/Zapier 2. Campaigns 3. MemberSpace
Welcome Email
Evergreen Self-Paced Course
Drip Feed with Fixed Dates
Squarespace Styling
Brand Consistency CSS
Welcome Email Styling Options
One Password for Everyone
Upsell Emails
Automatic Student Email List Via Zapier
User Accounts & User Passwords
Automatic Password Recovery
Payment Plans & Subscriptions
Drip Feed based on User Sign-Up
Student Progress Tracking
Taught in wich course? Classic Classic MS
How secure is your eCourse content on Squarespace?・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

Protecting your course content

When I first looked into hosting my eCourse on Squarespace three years ago I soon learned that the only way to truly protect your content is via the built-in page password. While that is great this also means that every course particpant has to use the same password and some course creators feel that it is too easy to share a password, as opposed to a personal account.

We have two options here:

1. Built-In Page Password > 100% Secure Content > Same Password for Everyone

I’ve been using this method for three years and it’s been working great! I receive the odd lost password request but they are rare and so far easy for me to manage manually. Do people share the password? Possibly. But I always question why a person who has paid good money for a course would just give someone else free access to it? Here is the thing: I don’t want to run my courses on the assumption that everyone is out to steal from me. Yes, there are hackers and cheats out there but they will do what they do regardless of the barriers you put in. At the very core of everything I run a heart-centered business and my students are like-minded people who are honest and simply want to learn about Squarespace.

2. MemberSpace > 3 Layers of Security > Individual User Account & Passwords

While it is not an obvious trick it is possible to bypass the Memberspace login if you know your way around Javascript. Which, by the way, is a vulnerability that all 3rd party paywall providers share. So does this mean you should not use MemberSpace? Not at all. MemberSpace was developed for those course creators who prefer individual user accounts over a shared password, and who also want automated password recovery. Because Memberspace takes the safety of your content very seriously they created three awesome layers of protection. Plus, there are a couple of other barriers that you can put into place that will assure that no-one can find your eCourse unless they buy it. Course participants with personal user accounts will also be less inclined to share their login with someone else so there is that added protection as well.

Whether you use the built-in password or MemberSpace comes down to personal preference and you can be assured that both methods will keep your content safe.

Conclusion of the Definite Guide to Hosting your eCourse on Squarespace・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

Conclusion

After three years of hosting my eCourses on Squarespace I still love it and so do my students! It’s an easy way to share my knowledge and provide a safe, stylish and effective classroom for my students. Right now I use Method 1 for all my courses except Squarespace Classroom MS which uses Method 3 with MemberSpace. Eventually I will be using the same method for all and I love even having these choices! I think all three methods are awesome and each has its own distinct benefits, I just need to decide, once again, what is most important to me going forward.

If you have any questions about any of these methods feel free to check out my two eCourses that teach them:

How to host an eCourse on Squarespace・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

Classroom Classic

Keep your content 100% secure with the built-in page password.

This means having the same password for everyone and is the safest and potentially most cost effective way to host an eCouse on Squarespace. In 2-4 hours you’ll learn how to create a stylish classrom and set up an automated sign-up process.

How to host an eCourse on Squarespace with MemberSpace・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

Classroom MS

Individual user accounts & passwords with MemberSpace.

Not every course creator wants to have a shared password so I teamed up with MemberSpace to offer you this exclusive class where I show you how to host an online course on Squarespace using individual user accounts and unique passwords.

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The Definitive Guide to Hosting your eCourse on Squarespace・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio