Two years ago I looked at hundreds of WordPress themes in anticipation of putting up this site. I’d never paid for a theme before, but time and again I kept coming back to the themes at StudioPress.com. Their designs were clean, their support seemed solid, and after a while I decided to pull the trigger on their Streamline theme, which is the theme you see on this site.
For a year and a half I was perfectly satisfied. The support was excellent, the theme performed as expected, and I was able to get on with the business of blogging.
About six months ago, however — give or take — StudioPress became a subsidiary of CopyBlogger, the underlying software for the themes was radically altered, and the support on the site became spottier and more contentious. I never faulted the moderators for putting limits on the amount of customization they offered, but the tone and frequency of such reprimands seemed to signal an intent to drive additional fee-for-service revenue from the basic themes being sold.
Because I knew upgrading my current theme would break a number of modifications I’d made, I put off the upgrade as long as possible. At the same time I faced an ever-growing backlog of changes I wanted to make on my site, and at some point it became obvious that I should upgrade before making any additional changes to an older version I had every intention of migrating away from.
A week or two ago I tried to download the upgrade files from the StudioPress.com site. All of the links I followed were dead. I emailed the site admin and requested the files, and three days later received instructions on how to access the files.
After following the instructions for installing the theme framework and child theme, I took note of all of the previous site modifications that were broken and realized the process was going to be more complicate than I imagined. I tried to switch back to my original StudioPress theme, but doing so left a number of broken elements on the site, so I left the site in maintenance mode over the weekend.
At the same time I began asking for help on the StudioPress forum. I’ve never had trouble getting help on weekends, and given that they’re selling themes to people who are probably tinkering with their sites on weekends it would make sense to have someone on staff to handle questions on Saturday at least, if not also Sunday. I received no response to any of my questions through afternoon today.
Facing the prospect of remaining in limbo or getting the site back up, I rolled the theme back to my original Streamline version and cobbled together as many fixes as I could. I deleted my questions on the StudioPress.com forum to keep myself from constantly checking for replies, then stepped back to assess what had happened.
I think, for a period of months, that my goals and the goals of StudioPress.com were aligned. It was a good fit. They were just getting started and put an emphasis on customer service that was obvious and reassuring. Now, however, they’re selling more and more complex themes with more and more features, making it more likely rather than less likely that I’ll need additional development support to use their software. At the same time, their support has weakened and seems to be placing more emphasis on users helping themselves. (I always search for answers, and I always read available documentation. The documentation on StuidoPress.com has always been weak.)
So I’m back at square one. I need a simple solution that allows me to maintain a web presence without slaving me to a service or technology provider whose has little or no interest in meeting my needs. I know I’ll never be able to get away from the constantly evolving tech landscape, but that’s the main reason I opted to sign with StudioPress in the first place. That they have now become an impediment to updating my technology, rather than an ally, tells me everything I need to know.
After a year of doing so, I can no longer recommend StudioPress.com for WordPress themes. If you have a development budget they clearly know what they’re doing, but it’s going to cost you. If you don’t have money to spend on IT, buying a theme from StudioPress.com will lock you into sketchy support and an upgrade path that may eventually obligate you to spend more money down the road. I can’t risk being hemmed into a technological dead-end by future changes and modifications that meet someone else’s business needs, so I’m going to have to find another solution.
— Mark Barrett
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