I’ve been a fan of WooThemes since discovering them four or five months ago – they’re one of the most popular premium WordPress theme suppliers, with over 40000 paid customers. Oddly enough, I find their flagship product (Canvas, a “theme framework”) kind of frustrating (more on that later), but so far I’ve stuck with them; here’s why.
First and foremost, they continually put their necks out in the name of transparency, and do a great job in supporting their products (something a lot of companies will say they do, but rarely manage – let alone thrive at it). Their support forums are active and effective, their blogs and Twitter feeds are informative and useful, and their themes are always of excellent quality. Not only do they let their customers know what they are doing, but will let people know why and how they are doing it. Seeing WooThemes keep this up over the course of my subscription has given me a lot of respect for the company.
Could WooThemes do better? Absolutely. But they’re the first people to admit it, and they are keen to find out how from their customer base. They continue to run a forum called WooIdeas, where users can propose and vote on ideas on which the WooTeam should focus, and they are currently in the middle of their 2011 client survey (once again, asking customers’ opinions, desires and critiques).
It’s impressive when the basics, such as support and communications, are so well covered that the client base can spend their time discussing and debating a company’s products, rather than having to complain about poor treatment.
Customers (and people in general) are not hard to please. We expect reasonable value for our money, and to be treated fairly and with respect and appreciation. We don’t need to be agreed with, but we need to be heard – and by feeling we are heard, we are willing to stick with companies and continue to support them.
Thanks Woo people – keep it up.
If you’re curious, what follows are my closing comments to the WooThemes client survey:
The more you could separate your awesome functionality into plugins from the theme design, the happier I would be.
Being able to take the particular functionality needed (eg. subscribe and connect, slider, shortcodes), combined with whichever design is being used (Woo or otherwise), would be the Holy Grail of making successful WordPress sites for clients.
I know Adii has said publicly that “people want ease-of-use, so we will continue to bundle everything into the theme” (big paraphrase). I’m waiting to see how things develop, and if Woo will move more to separating “church and state”.
I think Woo (and every other premium theme company) has two customer bases: users wanting themes, and designer/developers that make themes for other people. It’s this second group that would love to have the functionality as separate as possible, since the design aspect is often custom anyways (and it’s more of a pain to deconstruct function and design from a theme than it is to build a design from scratch on top of functionality). And nothing would stop you from releasing a theme (design) to go along with a plugin so that people could get up-and-running quickly.
You have Canvas, which was ripe to go this direction, but instead was simply given a more complicated admin panel (and the existence of the Hooks Manager still confuses me – if I know what a hook is and how to use them, I’ll know how to code it, right?..). Turning Canvas into a “proper framework” was a very popular idea on WooIdeas, and having that checked off as “complete” with version 4 was disappointing. Of course, no-one seems to agree on what a “proper framework” is, but I think a lot of developers such as myself consider it to be functionality that can be easily designed on top of, not simply more config forms in the admin panel. Even more comprehensive documentation (from a developer’s perspective) would have gone a long way in pleasing those wanting more of a framework.
On the plus side, I love that you guys are tackling some of the more exciting/challenging uses for WordPress, like the SupportPress and FaultPress themes. Kudos for taking on the big fish, and to the people you’ve chosen to collaborate with. You constantly produce high-quality stuff, and your support and outreach are well done; it’s great that the basics are so well covered, I can worry about details like your implementation of frameworks 🙂
Keep doing great work, and keep asking your customers what’s important. No matter the outcome, we’ll continue to love and respect you for it.