Once again, stay away from Headway Themes

Close to three years ago, I wrote about my terrible experience with Headway Themes, a premium framework theme builder for WordPress. Vesped Inc., owned and operated by the father and son team of Grant and Clay Griffiths, produces Headway Themes.

I thought Headway was pretty terrible. It was hard to use, and it was incredibly buggy. The backend interface was sluggish and painfully slow.

What was even worse than the software was the support. Since it was a premium WordPress theme, meaning a person had to pay money for the privilege of using it, support is one of the things you are paying for when you buy Headway.

Official support is usually not something I require. I enjoy solving issues on my own. As a former tech support specialist for an e-commerce platform, I know only too well that some people need constant hand-holding and step-by-step guidance from tech support. I am not one of those types of people.

With Headway, it was different. The software was so buggy and hard to use, official support from Vesped was a necessity. The problem is that Vesped relied mostly on a member-only forum for help. Before any question could be answered, you were required to go to a screen in Headway and capture all your system settings. The reason? I think so they could blame your hosting provider and the server your website was on for most problems.

Message board tech support has always struck me as the worst way to handle support. Not only did you have people working for Vesped in an official capacity, but you also had message board know-it-alls chiming in with advice.  I’ve found these type of folks often don’t know what you are asking about, but they attempt to put forth answers so that they can bump up their post count.

It can get annoying.

Fast forward to today and it would appear the wheels have fallen off at Vesped. They released yet another buggy version of Headway and then proceeded to go radio silent with their customers.

One customer wrote a post on Reddit about the problem and encouraged people not to buy Headway. Then, another customer left a comment here on my blog saying many of the same things.

For whatever reason, Vesped parted ways with their entire support team, leaving only Clay Griffiths to field support questions, reportedly something he hasn’t been doing lately. It would seem he is focused more on Pressmatic, premium software that allows you to install WordPress on a Mac.

Vesped’s behaviour creates a real problem for the consumer. Anyone going to the Headway Themes website will not learn about these problems until after they pay for the software and then get access to the member-only forums. Vesped offers a 30-day money back guarantee, but considering that they no longer have a support team, and Grant and Clay Griffiths are not answering emails, getting your money back within 30 days may be problematic.

Stay away from Headway Themes. Stay away from anything associated with Vesped. I would also stay away from Pressmatic. Anyone wishing to run WordPress on their Mac can use MAMP. It’s free. It’s what I use and it works great.

2015 Hugo Awards nominees announced

The 2015 Hugo Award nominees were announced yesterday, and the list of nominees is reportedly rife with controversy.

I wouldn’t know. I look at the list of finalists for Best Novel, do a quick mental check to see if I’ve read any of them, and then generally move on with my Internet browsing.  The list of finalists is controversial supposedly because lists were published encouraging voters who to nominate, not based so much on the merits of the work, but on the political leanings (or lack of political leanings) of the finalists.

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Some have criticized the Hugo Awards for being manipulated by so-called Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), people who believe white men have too much clout and power at the cost of non-white, non-men. SJW’s try to even the playing field by promoting, usually on Twitter and Tumblr, less deserving women and minorities over more deserving white men.

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Or maybe the women and minorities are more deserving than the white men, but the white men are getting ahead because their whiteness or maleness is just too overpowering, like too much Old Spice slapped on by an octogenarian with a head-cold.

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The main list of recommended nominees was Sad Puppies 3, published by writer Brad R. Torgersen. Many of the finalists on the Sad Puppies 3 slate made the final cut and are now in the running to be winners of the 2015 Hugo Award.

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The Hugo awards are weird. Though they said to be the most “prestigious” award in the world of science fiction, fantasy, or speculative fiction. The cold hard fact of the matter is anyone willing to fork over $40 for a membership to Worldcon, can nominate finalists and vote for the Hugo Awards.

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Anyone means anyone. Technically, you don’t even have to be a fan of the genre. If you have $40, your opinion is just as important as anyone else who is voting for the Hugo Awards.

What this “controversy” really does is illustrate just how meaningless and stupid the Hugo Awards are. If you have an extra forty bucks and you’re  willing to spend it for the privilege of voting, your say is just as important as anyone’s.

As I said earlier, I mostly pay attention to the list of Best Novel nominees. With this year, I haven’t read any of the titles nominated. That’s not to say I won’t eventually. I purchased Ancillary Justice, the first book in the same series of Ancillary Sword, I just haven’t read it yet.  I also want to read The Goblin Emperor. Although I have never heard of it before, it sounds like an interesting read.

These two books that I want to read, Ancillary Sword and The Goblin Emperor did not appear on the Sad Puppy 3 slate, yet were nominated anyway. They also seem to be the only novels written by women. The other books nominated for Best Novel did appear on the Sad Puppy 3 slate.

Do most premium WordPress themes come with a yearly licence fee?

Last week I blogged about my experience with Headway, a premium framework theme builder for WordPress. One of the issues I discussed was how Headway charged a yearly license fee. A customer is required to pay this yearly fee if they want to receive updates, including bug fixes. I didn’t realize this when I originally purchased Headway, that I would be required to continue to purchase Headway every year if I wanted access to updates and bug fixes. Who charges paying customers for bug fixes?

Headway Themes, that’s who.

A few people left comments addressing what I wrote about, one of which contained a claim that most “top” premium WordPress products have gone to the yearly license pay model. Is this true? Here is what I was able to find out:

  • Headway from Vesped – The Base package costs $87 and includes one year of support and updates. According to the email they send customers who’s license is about to expire, the term updates includes bug fixes.
  • Genesis from StudioPress – This is the theme I’m currently using. It has a one-time purchase fee of $59 and includes unlimited support and updates.
  • Thesis from DIYthemes – Thesis Basic is $87 and includes 12 months of forum support and upgrades. They don’t say if bug fixes are included after 12 months, but they do state there are no recurring costs or hidden fees, whatever that means.
  • Builder from iThemes – The Foundation Pack is $80 and includes one year of support and updates. Again, I’m not sure if bug fixes are included after this initial one year of support and updates.
  • Canvas from WooThemes: The Standard Package is $99 and comes with one year of support and updates. If you update your license within 60 days of its expiration, you get a 50% discount. They point out in the FAQ section that you’re free to continue to use your theme after the license expires, you just won’t receive support or updates.

There may be other premium WordPress theme frameworks out there worth mentioning, but the above list represents the most popular ones that I know of. Of the five listed, all but one indeed charge a yearly license fee. In my opinion, this is yet another reason to go with Genesis. Not only is it a fantastic premium framework for WordPress, you don’t have to re-purchase it every year to get support and updates. You buy it once and then you’re done paying for it. That’s it.

I don’t know about you, but when I buy something, I don’t want to pay for it more than once. If that’s something you want in a premium WordPress framework, you’d better get Genesis.

Stay away from Headway Themes

Last year I purchased Headway, a premium framework theme builder for WordPress. It offered a “true” drag and drop interface for creating WordPress layouts. The price for Headway is normally $87, but I used a special Black Friday coupon and received 25% off.

I found Headway to be extremely sluggish and hard to use. It would constantly lock-up and once even killed my website when I tried to make a small change to the layout. I also didn’t care too much for how they handled support. Instead of having a system where you submit a problem ticket, you must present your problem to the official Headway message board, along with a screenshot of your system log that is available in the Headway Base interface. As someone who works tech support for a living, I thought it was an inefficient way of doing things.

Technically, when you pay for a WordPress theme, you’re paying for the support, not the theme. If I’m paying for support, I expect something more than having to post my questions on a message board.

To say I wasn’t impressed with Headway is perhaps an understatement.

My opinion of Headway became even worse when I read an email this morning sent to me informing me that my licence is about to expire. Here is the body of the email:

Your Headway Base license will expire in 15 days.

In order to continue receiving updates including the latest features, improvements, bug fixes, and support you must renew your license.

When I purchased Headway last year, I didn’t realize that what I was purchasing was a one-year licence. If I knew that then, I never would have paid for it. Then again, if I had known how awful Headway Themes was, I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. The thing that gets me about this email is that they are charging for bug fixes. Who charges for bug fixes?

A bug fix corrects something wrong with code, something wrong that should not be in the final code. How can Headway sell code with bugs to paying customers and then charge those same customers again to get the bugs corrected?

Thanks, but no thanks. Do yourself a favor and stay away from Headway Themes.

Free Comic Book Day 2013

Tomorrow, May 4, is Free Comic Book Day, the annual event where people can go to participating comic book stores and get free stuff. Not only are there special comic books to be had, other comic book related items are usually there for the taking as well. Most participating comic book retailers also use the annual event to promote their business by having sales on back issues and other merchandise.

Over the years, Free Comic Book Day has turned into a sort of combination of Black Friday and Halloween for nerds.

Hagerstown is of course without a comic book shop since the city condemned the building in which it resides. That means anyone in Hagerstown who wants to enjoy Free Comic Book Day must travel to Comics World in Chambersburg or Brainstorm Comics & Gaming and Beyond Comics, both in Frederick. Yes, that’s right. The city of Hagerstown doesn’t have a comic book shop while the neighboring city of Frederick has two. They also have a Costco while we don’t, but we do have a nicer Sam’s Club. Yes, that’s right, Frederick has both a Costco and a Sam’s Club. No wonder people in Frederick think they’re better than everyone else in Western Maryland.

I probably wont be attending any Free Comic Book Day events tomorrow as my schedule for tomorrow already looks as though it’s already full.

Headway Base killed my blog

A while back I purchased the Headway theme framework for WordPress. Among other things, it offered a true drag and drop interface. Essentially, you could design a WordPress site without writing a lot of code. That appealed to me for a number of reasons. Also, there was no limit to the number of sites you could create using Headway. Unlike other premium WordPress themes, you didn’t have to purchase a separate licence for each website developed with Headway.

I purchased Headway Base last year during a special Black Friday sale where I got 25% off.

Though Headway indeed has a drag and drop interface, it is extremely sluggish and slow. Plus, you cannot use Windows Internet Explorer to work with Headway, you must use Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Safari. When I tried to bring up the Headway interface with IE9, I got a message telling me Internet Explorer doesn’t have any of the modern features Headway requires.

Last time I checked, Windows Internet Explorer 9 was the most popular browser on the Internets. The fact that Headway isn’t compatible with it seems… strange.

When I tried to use Chrome to work with Headway, it would take so long to switch between Grid or Design view, it would eventually time out. It would do this sometimes even when using Firefox, but not nearly as often as in Chrome. I never tried using Safari with Headway, so maybe it performs differently.

So last week I was trying to fine-tune the design of my blog in Headway when it timed out and would not load back up. Not only would the Headway interface not come back up, but the entire site also wouldn’t load either. I got just a WordPress white screen of death. I thought it was just the laptop I was working on, but when I went to pull my blog up on my desktop, I got the same thing.

I then proceeded to go through the standard WordPress troubleshooting steps. I renamed the plugin folder to something else thinking there may be a conflict. That didn’t fix it, not that I thought it would. I then renamed the Headway folder. After I did that, I was able to get the WordPress admin login screen and login, but the site was still showing a white screen. I went to the plugin screen and saw that all my plugins had been deactivated, but the notice wouldn’t go away when I left that screen and went back. That wasn’t normal. The fact that it was showing the warning over and over again led me to believe that there was a problem with the database. That made sense because Headway interfaces with the database on the server differently than regular WordPress themes. It’s one of the reasons you can’t just move the folder Headway resides in from one WordPress installation to another. If you want to move your finished Headway design from staging to live, you are encouraged by Headway to pay $75 for a plugin called BackupBuddy.

I renamed the plugin folder back to what it should be call and then installed a database repair plugin called WP-DBManager. I used it to fix the database, and when it was complete, everything was working again.

I’ve since gone back to running the default WordPress theme, Twenty Twelve, or more accurately, a child theme based on Twenty Twelve. I haven’t ruled out ever using Headway again. I just won’t be using it anytime in the foreseeable future, at least not with this blog. It might be more suited for creating brand new WordPress sites, not one as old and dusty as this blog is.