Sufyan recently wrote a good review of the major providers of premium WordPress themes (the article will be published on WP Mods next week). In the article Sufyan mentions the support options that each theme store provides.
In addition to FAQ pages and documentation on how to use and modify designs, theme stores generally provide support via community forums and an email or ticket support system. Some stores only offer forum support or email support but not both. One company that does this is StudioPress, they only provide support through their discussion forums.
Providing support solely through a discussion forum shouldn’t be a major problem, as long as it is actively monitored. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
I recently decided to change the design slightly for one of my content websites. Previously, the website was using Headway however I found a great looking child theme of Genesis so decided to try StudioPress’s flagship framework out.
From a non-developers point of view, Genesis is not as advanced as some other frameworks that are available though I am a big fan of its design and it is very easy to use. I did however run into a simple problem though.
My website was designed with the home page and information pages using the same structure, specifically a three column setup with the main content in the middle and a sidebar to the left and right hand side of the content. It was important that I kept this structure due to the way that content is published on the site. The blog index and blog pages used a two column structure with only a right sidebar and the main content area being extended by around 150 pixels. This allowed me to post larger videos and pictures in my blog (something that wasn’t needed in the main part of the site).
Unfortunately, unlike other frameworks, it isn’t easy to set this up through Genesis. This is no slight on the framework itself. I have yet to find the perfect framework. In fact, I don’t believe any exists as everyone uses frameworks for different things, therefore most frameworks excel in some areas and fall behind in others.
Thankfully, StudioPress have provided a large tutorial area that documents how you can modify Genesis to do a number of different things. I followed the relevant tutorials word for word but the modification procedure caused errors.
Unfortunately, none of the articles are dated, therefore it is unclear when they were written or if they are still relevant. I quickly found out that they were out of date as most of the articles referred to code that was no longer in the Genesis framework or caused an error when you added the code to the template.
3 days later and I still hadn’t had a reply to my support question so I bumped the thread in the hope that my queries would be addressed.
Sadly, I never heard a reply so I had to spend hours restructuring my site and resizing videos in blog posts so that the site had a 3 column structure at all times. It’s not really the best solution for the content I have on the site but I didn’t really have a choice.
Out of frustration I posted a message today (after two weeks of no replies) and asked what I am supposed to do. I must admit the experience wasted a lot of my time. I know how to add sidebars manually to WordPress themes though I chose a framework to save me a lot of time. Unfortunately, Genesis uses hooks and is coded differently from a theme such as Twenty Ten, so I was totally lost.
An hour or so later a helpful community member did reply to my message today. They suggested that my question was not addressed because I left a reply to my original question an hour after I posted it. The thing is – when i posted the additional reply I was just adding that I had followed another tutorial and it had also caused errors. It feels like I didn’t get a response because I provided more information for them find a solution.
I would like to point out before I move on that I don’t think StudioPress provides bad support. Far from it. I have checked the forums and the majority of members are very happy with the support that is provided through the community forums. So please don’t let what I experienced put you off from buying a theme there as most support questions appear to be addressed within a day or so.
I do believe however that their support system is flawed. Any support system in which a paying customer can have their query unanswered for 2-3 weeks needs to be looked at. StudioPress perhaps only search for threads with no replies and then address those queries. The problem is, customers may sometimes come back and post additional information to the thread. Also, it is not uncommon for another forum member to reply to a thread with suggestions though this doesn’t mean the query has been resolved.
In my opinion, theme stores need to provide email support in addition to providing support in forums. Forums are a great method of support as common questions can be answered for everyone to see, plus other members can help out too; however there needs to be a backup option when support via the forums is not up to scratch.
It is my hope that theme stores that only offer support via discussion forums take all this on board. I understand that providing support solely through forums saves a lot of time but unless your forum support system is full proof (i.e. no support queries can ever go unanswered) I believe that you need to provide email support for customers.
If you have ever purchased a theme from a company that only offers support via a discussion forum, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about your experience with this support method.
Thanks for reading,