3 thoughts on “Not-so *New* Design Tool Enters the Market with “Coming Soon” On Their Designs Page: Headway

  1. Ooh, man, Headway. Let me tell you about a love story gone awry…

    Headway’s actually been around for about two years now. I’ve been using it since version 2.0. The 2.x – currently maxed at 2.13 – actually does what it claims to do: WYSIWYG layout, live CSS editing, one-click everything. Even adding custom code was simplified by way of what they called “Easy hooks”. A little buggy at times, but mostly beautiful. The flexibility alone was worth the price of admission (more on that later). I loved it, and actually still use it at creativejourneyman.comSomewhere along the line they must have gotten greedy, overly ambitious, or something. I think they also ran into problems with the WordPress engine not letting them do things the way they wanted. The thing is, they started talking about a massive overhaul for v3.0 that would include, among other things, the child themes you refer to. They must have looked at the Studiopress model (with powerhouse Genesis framework and beautiful child themes) and though “hey, wouldn’t it be nice…”. Except Headway 2.x was its own powerhouse: WYSIWYG, check; Page-level SEO, check; multiple page templates, check; Widgetized everything, check; Upgrade-proof custom code, check. It didn’t need child themes, because the way 2.x works upgrades would not affect the templates the user creates. They must have seen the opportunity to create a secondary community/market for child themes while appealing to the less DIY inclined.But they messed up. And the list is rather long:• Delay after delay in release (or maybe it was they shouldn’t have promised a premature release, huh?)
    • No upgrade path. For real. Keep in mind this framework theme is marketed to non-coders.
    • Just about destroyed the internal user interface. 2.x has the tools on the left panel, while one sees the website on the right; a convention that makes the best use of a display’s landscape orientation. For 3.0 they got creative and made the tool panel a horizontal band at the bottom of the screen, obscuring a third of the website one is working on! (Their argument: “well, you can hide the tool panel”. “hide the tool panel”? More on the interface: did I mention you now have three modes of work that require switching between them? That each time takes a little more time than if one didn’t have to switch between them?
    • Page layout is now determined by the size of columns and gutters. Doesn’t seem like much? Because the number of columns and gutters is fixed, their size determines the overall size of the site (where idealy one would say oh “I want a 960 grid site, 12 or 16 columns, yay size…). Backwards.
    • They killed a lot of features that now need to be manually coded (even killed the phenomenal live CSS!). There’s more, but i’m starting to get upset going over it. 
    There were some improvements in making a website layout, yes, but what they messed up messes up so bad they killed it.

    And then there’s the pricing:
    Used to be about $89 for single-use and $167 for developer, both with unlimited use. For developer, however, a client would not have direct access to upgrade, but would have to rely on their developer ()the one with the license) to update the theme. No boggie, rather common practice that produces a little recurring income for those so inclined.
    For 3.0, legacy users would retain their license, but new sales would get a one-year license. I prefer to recommend my client go buy his/her own theme (trough affiliate link, of course). So now, I’d have to explain to them that this is yet another thing they’ll have to renew annually (for little perceived added value in the client’s eyes). Recurring affiliate income? yes. Point of friction for sale? Absolutely.

    Overall, what I think we see here is the result of that common drive of successful businesses to outdo themselves, when incremental improvements on their offering would do just fine, and keeping their customer base happy would do wonders. Sometimes (many times?) the next big thing isn’t.

    1. Wow, that is a post by itself. Thanks Nando. I find it funny that a company would still use “Coming Soon” on a designs page for a design software. Somebody approved.

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