Thoughts on WooThemes Pricing Changes

I use Wordpress as my CMS of choice for all my client sites for a number of reasons. This includes the theming capabilities and extensibility though plugins. Sometimes when building a client site I will use a commercial theme as a basis and one place I get my themes from is WooThemes. They offer some nice themes and a few cool plugins but their biggest product is WooCommerce. It’s a great FREE e-commerce solution and they offer many paid extensions for all kinds of things such as payment gateways, shipping, accounting systems and more.

WooThemes have just announced a new pricing model for all their themes, plugins and woocommerce extensions. They are very transparent with what they are wanting and its simple, money. They need more money to give better support and work on new products. All businesses should want this, if you don’t, you suck at business. Their justification for the price rise seems to be a little broken though.

I must note that WooThemes have responded to the comments and criticism about the retroactive application to these new models to existing customers. They have given existing customers as of 1 August the option to stay on the lifetime system or update to their new model.

Their Justification

They use the canvas theme as an example and quote that 5000 tickets this year have been submitted for that theme. You buy it in 2009 for $70, getting unlimited support and updates on this theme for 4 years. They then go on to say you charge clients $1000 for this resulting in $48000 in sales to your business. They then claim that you might submit a ticket for each client install resulting in 48 support tickets. (Let me just say if you’ve installed a theme FOURTY-EIGHT times and you still need help, find a new job.) These tickets cost WooThemes about $5 a pop or $240 out-of-pocket for WooThemes. This means for that one sale, four years ago they have made a $170 loss while you made $48,000. It’s not really any of your business how much money I made from the sale of a product you sell that I a can on-sell. You should have highlighted the real costs WooThemes.

A Real Example

They should have used WooCommerce + Extensions as an example of what this new pricing model will cost you upfront and ongoing. Quite a few people have put this as an example in the comments so I’m going to borrow it. Lets say you have a moderately complex website and need 15 extensions for WooCommerce and a theme, that you create a child theme from.

Year One

Total Year One Outlay : $1269 for the first year and that’s before hosting or any customisation or setup.

Ongoing years recurring fees: $634.50 (Lets assume the 50% discount on renewal that they are claiming)

This doesn’t include the SSL Certificates, external fees or hosting fees. So your ongoing costs rise significantly. The packaged online commerce systems like Shopify start to look a lot more attractive when you add it up. I can also see why they decided not to use an example like this.

Fixing A Broken Business Model

You used to be able to buy a theme or plugin/extension and use it on unlimited sites with lifetime support. If you think about it, it isn’t a very smart business model. You sell a theme to someone for $99 4 years ago and you’re still having to support them today? If people want support for that product 4 years down the track, charge them for it. There aren’t many business models I know where this is the case or this works. Getting rid of unlimited sites and lifetime support makes business sense.

The new model which makes a lot more sense is:

  • 1 Site
  • 5 Sites
  • 25 Sites

Unlimited sites is crazy and shouldn’t have been there in the first place. A 25 site license makes it easier to get smaller segments of the markets and if you’re using something from WooThemes on more than 25 sites you should probably pay more to increase that number.

Running Support Costs Money

They claim that they are spending a lot of time on support tickets that cost them about $5 a hit. Add those tickets up and they soon loose the cash they made selling you the theme or plugin/extension. They claim their data shows 90% of their customers prefer to submit a ticket. So your support is costing you a bunch of money? Provide better resources for self-help. If data shows you that people prefer to submit tickets, why? I’ve read all the comments on the post and some things resonated with regards to support

Support Suggestions

  • Make a better knowledge base
  • Better search system
  • More examples
  • More documentation
  • Video tutorials

What about all the people who don’t need support ? 

Software is never completely secure and there is always a possibility that someone will find a way in. Operating systems are a great example of this. You buy the OS and some give you phone support to an extent but all security updates for the operating system are provided for free. This ensures that the computers are up to date and secure. Now sure you need to get paid for maintaining these plugins and security updates, but you should give an option for those that want updates only.

Conclusion

I have no issue with them charging ongoing support and update costs on themes. What I have an issue with is security on my sites if I choose not to update. WordPress needs to stay secure and particularly when it comes to e-commerce. I don’t disagree that they should charge for ongoing updates and support, I’m happy to pay that, if I need it. I should be given the option.

Suggestion for offerings

Updates Only Renewal – You get all the updates and no support – Support tickets $10 each.
Support & Updates Renewal – You get a year of support and product updates

I’m going to have to seriously reconsider using woocommerce in my projects with the ongoing costs as they. Security is an absolute paramount when it comes to online commerce and you are forcing me to create a subscription based model for my clients as well. Your suggestion that I don’t need to update and can use the plugin in its current form is irresponsible.

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