Headway Themes, a popular drag and drop WordPress layout builder is in financial trouble. Father-son duo Grant Griffiths and Clay Griffiths owns Headway Themes which works as a visual layout builder for WordPress based sites. Problems at Headway started appearing after 4.0 release in May 2016.
Recent Tweets about Headway Themes Support,
@headwaythemes Ur customer service is very disappointing & U make refunding almost impossible by not replying.Still waiting on your response
— Gautam Khetrapal (@Gautamkhetrapal) September 13, 2016
— Sean McLellan (@seanmclellan) September 6, 2016
Here is the flow of events happened related to Headway Themes crisis.
FIR (First Information Report) – Customer warned NOT to buy Headway Themes
An existing customer of Headway Themes posted on reddit that he is not getting any help after the 4.0 release. Nobody is talking about the issue and there is no communication on tickets from the support staff of the company. He also suggested that people should not buy other products like Pressmatic as it is also owned by the same people. He shared a screenshot of support forum of Headway Themes where people are talking about Headway going out of business as they have not received any communication on their tickets.
WP Tavern reported this concern and then lot of people from other theme community and businesses started talking about the wrongdoings of Headway Themes.
As Griffiths were not paying the salary of their employee since last few months, many of them were getting angry. A disgruntled employee named Gary Bairead, a Support Guru at Headway Themes blogged about the situation. He shared few screenshots from Slack channel explaining how Grant tried to convince people about availability of support staff and tickets being handled but at the same time, many customers were reporting that they didn’t receive reply on their tickets since last 2 months.
Gary said that full or partial payment is pending since last 12 months and Griffiths are not discussing anything on that matter.
He also shared that the distributed working model caused some communication issue as Gary is based in France and Griffiths are from Kansas, United States. Here is what he said about the remote work disadvantage in his case,
Working remotely for a distributed company has a lot of benefits, but it can also come with a number of potential disadvantages. As an independent contractor based in France, the Griffiths were able to take advantage of me quite easily, then ignore me. I believe that if we worked together in a traditional office, where they would have to talk to me face-to-face, this would have been less likely to occur.
Unofficial Update from Gary
On September 13, Gary posted another update saying that Clay Griffiths has started replying to tickets. He said that the older ticket may not get answered but one can resubmit the tickets using HT dashboard and may get a reply soon. There are more than 150 tickets left unanswered and those were raised between July 1 to July 15. So with the frequency of 10 tickets per day, it will be more than 500 tickets in just 2 months time.
Gary shared a screenshot from Slack discussion where Grant said that Clay is answering tickets but will not answer backlogs. Even the slack discussion happened around July 15, Clay started replying tickets in September. That means, most probably you will not receive answers for tickets raised till end of August. That’s why it is recommended to submit the ticket again from Headway Themes dashboard.
Official Update from Griffiths
Finally Grant Griffiths and Clay Griffiths has released an official statement explaining the situation. According to their statement, Headway Theme 4.0 will become beta and a new 4.0 will release soon. They are also going to add first level support to resolve raised issues and tickets.
There has been an absence in support for Headway for too long. We take full responsibility for this. We’ve refocused our efforts to get to as many support inquiries as we can each day in light of the recent issues. If your question or issue has not been answered, please resubmit your ticket and we will work hard to get to you as fast as we can. We will also be adding a first level of support service to make sure your issues are dealt with in a timely manner.
About Headway Themes 4.0 Release
In addition, we are moving 4.0 back to a beta status and will continue to provide and support 3.8.8 as the current public version. We should have done this sooner. However sometimes it is hard to admit there are issues with something you have worked hard on to produce. It is still our belief 4.0 is the future..
The most important thing highlighted in the statement was about financial difficulties of the company. Griffiths said that the company is going through a difficult time and because of a tough competition in drag and drop builder market, it has happened. They were not prepared for such scenario and there were no backup plan from their side.
First and foremost, yes there has been some difficulties financially for the company. Frankly, difficulties we were not prepared for and not expecting. The WordPress theme market is very busy right now. Competition is heavy. Especially in the drag and drop realm. However, we still feel Headway is the best and the original WordPress drag and drop theme builder on the market. It is our promise we will do everything in our power to bring it back to the front and 4.0 will help us do just that. And we hope to do so with your continued support.
At multiple occasions, Clay tried to explain that Pressmatic is not related to Headway Themes and there should not be any confusion,
@aBearded_Ginger We’re both still around and don’t plan on going anywhere. Also, PM is completely separate and is only owned by me (Clay) ?
— Pressmatic (@pressmaticwp) August 25, 2016
Damage Already done?
As Griffiths have released the official statement now, do you think it’s too late? I think Yes. It takes so much time, money and effort to build a good image about the company or product. Negative words about your product may ruin the complete business. Keeping customers and employee in dark for so many days that they start talking about the situation publicly is definitely the worst thing for any company. Even if they start replying to all tickets and start hiring new support staffs, many people will remember Headway Themes for this incident. As Griffiths said in the statement, there is a huge competition in Drag and Drop Layout builder and even with Divi 3.0 release, the competition became more tough, people are having choices.
Here are few recent tweets after the official update from Griffiths,
— The Dynamik Beaver (@dynamikbeaver) September 15, 2016
— Gary Bairead (@garybairead) September 15, 2016
If Griffiths can try to get back their Support Guru Gary on board again, he will receive good word of mouth from his side. Also resolve all the backlog tickets ASAP and even extend existing customer’s license for 1 year without any extra charges or probably by giving them Pressmatic license free for one year. That’s how you can try to win your existing customers. In the meantime, fix the issues related to Headway Themes and provide best possible support for any issue.
What to Learn from Headway Themes Crisis
Here are few important lessons that a WordPress agency or companies in general may learn from all the activities of Headway Themes crisis.
- Never keep you customers uninformed.
- Be transparent with your employees about the company’s situation and keep them informed too.
- Building trust is very important and it is true with employer and employee relation too.
- Always keep a tab on market situation and keep adding things in your product to make it one step ahead of the competition.
- Do not Start new thing unless you fix the previous one.
Well, we wish that Griffiths will fix the situation in a better way and convert their unhappy customers into happy customers soon. We will keep updating this article, so stay tuned.