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

** Make sure to check out the comments for a story about Headway’s historic problems. **

In the early days of internet development there were even cute little animated gifs for showing a page as “Under Construction.” It was not considered a FAIL back then, because we were all trying to figure out what to DO on the web. So adding a page called “Online Purchasing” and then blocking it off with the little digging man icon, was forgivable. Nobody believed we’d purchase stuff over the web anyway.

Today, if a company launches a new product that is supposed to make designing WordPress themes quick and easy …

Introducing Headway - making design so easy, we haven't done it yet

… and you come to a features and benefits screen that touts “View Our Themes” …

Designing and View Our Themes

… You might want to make sure, before you launch…

How's the tool so good if you haven't been able to complete the themes?

… that you’ve designed the “themes” to demonstrate how awesome the tool is.

This little exercise in “launch it before it’s done” is even more of a fail because the company is selling a product that should make the development of great themes really easy. It’s as if, they’ve built the tool but not used it to create ANY THEMES? ZERO?

There’s not a lot more that needs to be said. Before you launch, before you send out emails telling developers and designers how great your new development and design software is, you might want to show the examples of just how awesome the resulting themes are. Coming Soon in this case is the ultimate fail. I guess now I will open the next “we’ve got new themes” email just to see if they fixed the problem. Launching a design software without working examples, um…

Maybe someone pushed the “GO LIVE” button before they were ready. But it is unlikely that same person then pushed the “SEND EMAIL CAMPAIGN” button too. So up there at Semper Fi, a group of people agreed, “It’s good enough, launch it. We’ll get the designs up later, after the money is rolling in.” Good luck on the open rate for round two of your email campaign, guys.

Here’s the link to the site, if you’re interested in the software: Headway: GREAT WEB DESIGN HAS NEVER BEEN FASTER OR MORE FLEXIBLE.

Who knows, maybe their launch plan required the site to be live before SXSW Interactive that starts this week in Austin, Texas.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  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.

      1. Yeah, I had to get that off my chest! ;-D

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