Build A Beautiful Online Course Homepage

Ashley Hockney

| Aug 20, 2015

Jessica Sprague tells us why a gorgeous homepage is important and how she designed hers to earn credibility from 80K online students. 

I’ve been thinking long and hard about one very important question: why do we put sprinkles on doughnuts? After wasting far too much of my daily commute (doughnut in hand) contemplating this fact, I’ve come to one conclusion. Sprinkles are stinking pretty and I’m willing to pay an extra 50 cents at Dunkin’ Donuts for them.  

I really shouldn’t be surprised. Appearance matters…a lot. 

So much so that one of the most frequently asked questions we get is, “How do I get Jessica Sprague’s homepage?“ Which is kind of crazy considering our Teachable Tribe could be asking about pricing a course or using liquid HTML (something I have numerous questions about). 

jessica sprague homepage teach online

Better than sprinkles, right? 

We think so, and so do dozens of online teachers emailing 

jessica sprague want homepage

To be fair, Jessica is a master of her trade. For someone who fell into scrapbooking “by accident”, she’s seen considerable success teaching digital tricks to crafters. In 2007 she launched a course called Up & Running with Photoshop that crashed her server, but now teaches through Teachable with over 80K students enrolled in her online course that quickly made over 20K in 4 months. (Sorry for the not-so-humblebrag, I might have a girl-crush). 

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We asked Jessica if she’d join us for a joint-webinar and teach people how she set up and customized her online course, and specifically that gorgeous homepage. We’re not sure if Jessica knew what she was getting into, because after she said yes, we had over 600 people register. 

This is a very good thing because Jessica’s designs are way more than just pretty. That sassy succulent does more than look fresh. It adds to the perceived value of Jessica’s information drawing in students and convincing them to buy her course. 

"You know how they say image is everything, I hate that, and don’t think it’s true, EXCEPT for web design, in which, image actually is everything. What I mean is that in order to put across that credibility that we’re looking for, in order to invite people to trust you as their teacher, you have to be able to show them beautiful things. That is the toughest part, but I’m going to help you along the way.” - Jessica Sprague  

Here’s the research… 

1. Good Design = Credibility

Put simply, good design increases site credibility (and we all know that affects profits!). 

The Stanford Credibility Project ran a study with more than 2,500 participants, “Nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes. (…) Beautiful graphic design will not salvage a poorly functioning Web site. Yet, the study shows a clear link between solid design and site credibility.” 

2. People Associate Beautiful Web Design With Usability 

Yoast nicely summarizes a technical study proving that people perceive a visually appealing website as usable due to the halo effect (you know, that one you learned in Psych 101 where beautiful people are presumed to be nicer, smarter, better whether or not they actually are). As in people, so in websites. 

3. First Impressions Are Important makes two gut-wrenching points. First, it only takes .05 seconds for someone to judge your website, and secondly, if they disapprove, they’ll leave immediately and continue to distrust you and your product in the future. It’s like meeting your dream date while wearing crocs. Yikes! 

Hard Fact: You’ve done a lot of work to get people to your website, but if it’s poorly designed, it’s wasted effort. 

In summary, good website design is pretty freaking high-leverage and important, and unlike my sprinkle doughnut, I’m more than happy to share.


Here is a list of design resources Jessica mentioned in the webinar (in order of mention)  

  • Teachable Platform (Our very own technology for hosting your online course.) “Omg, I can create a class in like 15mins…If you’ve ever tried to teach an online class using your own cobbled together server plus content management plus a store… all I can say is that it was a complete nightmare and I had literally given up and stopped teaching for a year,” said Jessica. We actually made an infographic comparing Teachable to Udemy to Wordpress here.  

For a quick tutorial on how to create a course, check out our FREE WORKSHOP: 7 Steps to Create Your Own Online Course in the next 30 Days or Less. It's 100% free and run by Ankur, Teachable's CEO.

  • Dreamweaver: (An authoring toolset that shows a live side-by-side comparison of HTML and its output.) “This is the one I use in my class and is the one I recommend,” said Jessica. 
  • Photoshop: (Image editing tool) “If you want to create really cool headers, as far as hero images, or to create really cool thumbnails, you have to have an image editing application,” said Jessica. It’s $10/month, but you can find a demo here
  • Screenflow: (Records screencasts, or video of your computer screen.) “All of my courses are taught using video. Since I’m on a Mac, I use Screenflow…so I can have my video look amazing whether people are watching on their phone or on their tablet. I find that a lot of my students do that so they can be using photoshop on their main big screen and the lessons on their tablet,” said Jessica. Here's a screenflow tutorial you can use to get started. 
  • The kit of images Jessica used to design her hero/header image.   
  • Free Stock Photos: Ankur mentions “where you can get free high quality images.” Our graphic designer, Allison Haag, put together a list for you. It also has over 9K views on SlideShare, so you know it’s legit.  

Not mentioned, but helpful

You’ve probably noticed that Jessica works in a field that values appearance, but web design is equally important if you’re selling music, medical care or another type of online course. 

It’s incredibly clear that a beautiful homepage is important no matter your online product 

Looking at our own original data, Bree Noble, a Teachable instructor who sold her course Female Musician Academy at $290, was able to presell her course because of its stunning design. 

“I was able to pre-sell my online course (Female Musician Academy) to 15 people at $290 ($4,350) without having any content in the school yet. In fact, my new students told me that my Teachable school was so beautiful that they could tell the course was going to be amazing.” 

bree noble homepage teach online

Another instructor, Jon Haws, who made $16,000 launching his course discusses why he values design: 

“I’m trying to get everything as clean and crisp as possible and the logos and designs are still changing. With nursing specifically and with YouTube and the way that it is these days, you see that anyone can throw content out. Watching people make videos, well, it’s frustrating because they’re not always giving accurate content, but they’re getting out there and getting in front of people. My goal is to make the audio clean, video clean, logos clean, everything clean, and of course have accurate content, to be more trustworthy.” 

NRSNG homepage teach online

I’m interested to hear what importance you’re placing on design. Is this news to you? Do you have a go-to website for design inspiration or helpful tools? Please let me know in the comment section below.  

Teamwork makes the dreamwork and we’d all love to hear your advice.

In case you didn't catch it the first time, if you're interested in course creation, join us in our FREE WORKSHOP: How to Create Your Own Online Course in 7 Steps!

Ashley Hockney is a Content Marketer & Writer. Her background is in food & beverage PR i.e. she wants to talk to you about single malts.