When I first built my online training academy and courses for a brand I build back in 2013, I didn't know what an LMS was. That's short for "Learning Management System" by the way.

I thought all I needed was a membership plugin. That's a plugin that controls access to specific pages and content.

I tried out a ton of them and ended up doing a final migration to MemberMouse and I haven't looked back since.

Unfortunately, MemberMouse isn't an LMS and my clients were begging me for a way to track their progress through courses.

Years and tons of trial and failures to integrate existing LMS systems went by and then WPComplete came along and changed everything for me. If you want a killer LMS that's super lightweight and lightning fast to implement, look no further!

Recommend Reading: How to Create an Online Course (Step-By-Step Detailed Guide)

What's the difference between a membership plugin and an LMS?

In short, a membership plugin gives you the ability to turn visitors into members of a website by providing checkout pages, accounts, logins, and access levels.

An LMS is geared more toward courses, specifically. LMS systems often do everything a membership plugin does, but they add the ability to outline course modules, track progress through modules and programs, issue quizzes and tests, and so on.

Not all LMS systems provide membership capabilities, so many sites use both a membership plugin and an LMS plugin.

One of the reasons I don't like most LMS system is that they aren't very customizable. You have to use their boring layout templates.

Everything I build is completely custom because I care a lot about the layout and the user experience of going through my programs and courses.

Until now, I couldn't build custom courses *and* give members the ability to track progress.

I've been looking for months for a way to let my members track progress through our programs. The problem is that every solution I find involves implementing one of the major LMS platforms.

That means heavy customizations and potential redesigns.

What I was hoping for was a way to add "mark complete" buttons to a module or page and have that data stored in the user's account. The only other feature I wanted was a way to show the status of those buttons on the member's dashboard (so they can see at a glance which modules they've completed and which ones they haven't).

That solution didn't exist before, but it exists now thanks to the team behind WPComplete.

WPComplete is an ultra lightweight LMS plugin that just works.

I added WPComplete to two fairly large programs in half a day.

That includes the time it took to figure the plugin out, decide what kind of implementation I needed, and look into the shortcode functionality it provides.

I've used a lot of plugins and they always seem to have quirks and need workarounds to make them do what I want. At times, I scratch my head wondering what the hell the developers were thinking.

With WPComplete, I've experienced none of that. This plugin just works. It's well thought out. It's easy to implement. It provides all the right features. And it does all that without any complicated workflows whatsoever.

One thing that's surprising is that it gives you the ability to mark sections of a page as complete and not just entire pages. This was CRITICAL for my implementation. Our Total Body Reboot program is laid out in "stages" with up to 8 or 9 sections per stage. I wanted to give members the ability to mark each section as complete and not just the entire stage.

With WPComplete that's easy because each button on the page can have a unique name. And then you can call the results of that button by name on any other page (such as the member dashboard).

It's so well thought out that it inspired me to redesign the entire dashboard for both our programs to take advantage of the progress tracking features. Here's what I came up with...

WPComplete: An Ultra Lightweight LMS (Review) 1

WPComplete gives you a shortcode to use where you can show content if a module has not been completed. I used that shortcode to show a Font Awesome circle icon next to each module in the list.

WPComplete also gives you a shortcode to use that will show you content if a module has been completed. I used that shortcode to show a Font Awesome circle icon with a dot inside. Since WPComplete also uses unique CSS classes for each of these content types, it was easy to turn the icon green for modules that are completed.

WPComplete also provides a shortcode that can be used to display a bar graph or chart of a member's progress in any specific course. That's the pink and white bar you see above the sidebar. It tells the member their percentage based on the number of buttons you've created for that specific course.

The shortcodes relate back to specific pages (by page ID) *OR* back to specific buttons (by a custom name you give each button). And you can use buttons with the same name on separate pages because each button only applies to the page it resides on.

Creating a new course in WPComplete is stupid simple.

What I love about this plugin is that they didn't make anything more complicated than it needed to be.

You don't have to go in and map out your entire program inside WPComplete by creating courses, modules, etc.

At its core, all WPComplete does it provide tracking buttons linked to specific pages with shortcodes to deploy information based on the status of those buttons.

To create a new course, just navigate to any of the pages that represent that course, enable WPComplete, and name the course (in the drop-down there's an option to add a course if you don't want to choose one that already exists)...

WPComplete: An Ultra Lightweight LMS (Review) 2

Then add a new page, click the same button, and choose the same course name from the drop-down. That links all pages together into the same course.

Pretty much everything about this plugin is that simple.

If you want to view the overall progress of each button/module/page as an admin, you can go to the pages list in Wordpress and see the results right there on the dashboard.

If you have multiple buttons on the same page, WpComplete shows you the stats for every button on the page. Brilliant.

Who is WPComplete for?

Based on what I know about online courses, WPComplete is for you if...

  • You're building courses and want to give your members the ability to track progress without having to worry about the bloat and complexity that comes with traditional LMS plugins.
  • You have an existing course (or set of courses) that needs progress tracking and you don't want to have to redo everything to implement it or switch over to a new system entirely.

I was pleasantly surprised by WPComplete's simplicity. As long as you know up front that it's not a full-scale LMS, you'll be delighted. And at a price of around $60/yr, it's a great value.