My respond to a Woothemes blog post. You can read the post here: http://www.woothemes.com/2012/08/a-club-reimagined/
Why Woothemes And Not Others
It took me quite a while to decide which theme clubs to choose. I took more than 6 months to evaluate all the available theme clubs, in the end I chose Woothemes because
1. It had an active forum, although I didn’t like the way it was setup and the UI kind of discouraged me from posting and hanging around in the forum. Like one of the comments mentioned googling give you a better experience. I was using Rapidweaver before I switched to Woothemes. RealMacSoftware forum that hosted Rapidweaver support was fun and engaging. I still used Rapidweaver for deploying landing pages.
2. It had wide variety of themes in almost all categories. It focused on theme building. I wanted themes that why I paid subscription. When Woothemes started to remove themes instead of updating it and spent it resources on plugins and other stuffs, I had in mind to end my subscription by end of 2012 if Woothemes became Woo-all-in-one. In fact I already started to look for alternative.
3. Affordable one time fee plus monthly subscription. I had the liberty to change themes to fit my growing websites as and when I wanted without having to pay for another themes. Now I was disappointed because every now and then you heard WooCommerce and other plugins and I had unpleasant feeling of Woothemes trying to up sell subscribers with all these plugins. And one fine day, out of a sudden, they would announce, we had removed these plugins because nobody were using it.
4. It had affiliate program. It was sad that it was hacked and changed to a new platform and I had to manually changed all my affiliate links in a tiresome way with a sudden notice.
5. And most importantly, Woothemes was cool! I like the Themes but now, WooCommerce themes were really boring.
Why I Was Planning To End My Subscription
After reading this blog post, I felt most certainly I would end my subscription and move on to other alternative because
1. Woothemes core interest no longer focused on theme building. I thought WooCommerce should spin-off as an entity so that it would not drain the resources of Woothemes, if it was not leveraging on it.
2. No more searchable forum. My belief was a forum and support ticket should go hand in hand and not choose only one option.
3. I didn’t like to see freebies plugins that try to lure you to pay for add-on. Is like I gave free inkjet printer to you but you have to buy my ink cartridge. Felt like cheapskate marketing to me. How about a monthly $5 for WooCommerce plugin and gave access to all the add-on. This should be the Woo’s way!
4. Undesirable sudden change. I wondered what next gonna shocked me!
Regarding Older Themes
There were a lot of older themes I would like to use but I was not able to use them because most of them were not updated to be compatible with newer version of WordPress or plugins. In the end I had a policy in place not to use older themes and only used themes that were less than one year old. My sentiment was, not user didn’t use older themes anymore because it was old, it was not use because it was no longer updated to match the latest WordPress and plugins.
I really liked the Estate Theme when it was first launched. I downloaded it when it was released and tested and customized to fit my needs until now. When I was about to create the website using Estate, it was removed. Imagined the time I spent on Estate to fit my needs and Woothemes just removed it just like that. So were other themes that was in my lab site.
This led me to another new policy, used Canvas to replace all older Woo themes so that I would avoid another shock when older woo themes not working properly when WordPress got updated or suddenly removed from download section.
My suggestions to Woothemes,
1. If resources were limited, capped your themes to 100 or whatever size you felt comfortable, if you expired a themes, add a new one.
2. Add a Facebook like option to all your themes. I believed all Woo members would enjoy voting themes and you should get a better idea which were your members favorites. A feature like this would help you decided which themes to expire and update.
3. Expand the download section with more details about the themes. Gave all themes a life cycle indicator so that members knew when the themes were created and when it would expiry. Assuming all new themes had a 36 months to expiring. And the last 6 months before expiry the themes would go red, warning us it will be expired and no longer renewed. If it goes green, it means extended for another 12 months or whatever time frame you deemed fit. A yellow indicator, requested member input to vote for expiry or extension.
In this way I thought we would all be properly informed and better communicated and we would be much better developing websites. I would be happy and not shocked to find out after months of lab testing and about to deploy, the themes were no longer available.
How I Would Run Woothemes
If I were the boss of Woothemes, this was what I would do.
1. Do we really need another eCommerce plugin? There were already a handful of good eCommerce plugins out there. I would dedicate my resources to collaborate with the developers to build their plugins designed for Woothemes. A co-branding effort, in this way I would cross sell my themes to their users to expand my membership base and focused on improving the themes.
2. Since I had WooCommerce now, as mentioned earlier, I would offer a monthly subscription to member and grant all access to add-on. Monthly subscription might be WooMembers add $2.00. WooCommerce Members at $5.
3. We had a lot of mature plugins out there now. I would subcontract and co-brand with these developers to customized plugins for Woothemes. For example, Woothemes had it own built-in SEO into the themes. Wouldn’t it be good to have 3rd party developers to joint the WooCommunity and built SEO plugins specially for Woo. Since these developers were already specialized in their fields and giving free plugins or donation-ware, I believed these developers would be happy to customised their plugins with Woo if there were some financial incentive. In this way, Woothemes need not developed everything but certified plugins specially for Woo products to grow the brand and membership instead of leeching from existing members.
4. Now we had WooCommerce, were we going to have WooForm one of these days? WooSEO? WooSocial? WooAffiliates? Woo-Watever? I thought co-branding would be a more cost effective and specialized for already matured products. I am not against developing own plugins but I didn’t like the idea to offer what was already matured in the market.
5. All certified Woo plugins, directly download within the themes option.
6. I rather built WooSocial than WooCommerce. My point was to create new market, new product or improved products to maturity. WooSocial is a all-in-one-social-plugin that would convert your themes to be engaging with your audiences. I haven’t seen one good social plugins yet. I believed most of us installed and maintained multiple plugins to solve this area of interests.
7. Weren’t we suppose to be Web 2.0? Going social? I felt that Woo websites were not social at all. I would make wootheme.com so engaging that people would like to hang out in Woo forum just like hanging out in Starbucks was cool thing to do! I would turned my Wooworkers to be active forum mod or contributors. Doing so, I believed it would foster a better relationship between WooMembers and WooWorkers and thus created more sub-contract opportunities. It was so unpersonal and un-icebreaking to send an email requesting for a quotation.
I should stop now, going further would be out of topic. Thank you for reading my comments.