WooThemes Support – What on Earth Were They Thinking?

Update: WooThemes have listened, and are working to improve the situation. More details at the bottom of this post.

Update 2: The answer to “What Ere They Thinking?” is a resounding They Were Not Thinking and now realise it. Now UserVoice has missed a trick here – they have shown to be unable to react and adapt.

WooThemes. Some half-decent WordPress themes, and plugins, a great community (it’s open source, so you need the community to keep it half-decent). Paid-for access to updates, which is great as they save time when implementing.

Then it all went wrong. The cynic in me tells me greed is behind some stupid moves. The realist in me says that they just misunderstood how the community worked.

So what went wrong? Why, as a paying customer, am I finding dealing with WooThemes and their products such a pain.

The first problem is the removal of the user forums. That was a dick move, really. Open source thrives on keeping things out in the open. Users help each other, things get fixes, knowledge is shared, and people are armed with the experience of others before going for an implementation. People can ask questions of other users, and often there are simple answers that get you over a hurdle.

Removing those forums was not good, and has thrown away a lot of trust that had been built up in WooThemes. Suddenly users of the products are isolated, divided up. Where to people go for help? Where is the valuable user experience and knowledge. Gone. It all simply vanished.

WooThemes are saying they will bring it back, so they have changed their tune from the original emphatic “no”. It is not a top priority, however.

So what replaces the forum when asking for help and reporting bugs? A ticket system? Or a joke of a ticket system? It turns out, the latter.

WooThemes have decided to use something called “UserVoice” to handle tickets. What tools that gives Woo for managing the tickets behind the scenes is anyone’s guess. But the tools it gives use paying customers is zinch, nadda, nothing. It is appalling.

UserVoice gives us a four-line box to type in tickets. It is not resizeable, so you are stuck with four lines. Upload screen shots and config settings? Forget it. No way to do that.

Then once a “ticket” has been submitted, it goes into a big black hole. You don’t hear anything back for days. Want to so the history of the ticket and add comments? That is a bit hit-or-miss. There is a page that claims to show tickets, but it just shows one or two random tickets from everything you have submitted, and you will be lucky to see the history of any of them.

But the worse thing about this all is the isolation. I can raise tickets that just go into strict order (no priority is set, apparently). There is no-one else to share it with, to ask for assistance or confirmation. There is no-one else to tell and warn, so they are able to take advantage of that knowledge.

For example, I know the WooCommerce CSV Uploader is broken and can duplicate products with identical SKUs. I know the table-based shipping is broken and can leave you grossly undercharging your customers. I know where the problems lie, and and I also know some workarounds. I am also pretty confident that there are other people finding these problems and going through extensive bug fixing and tracing of these issues. What a fricking waste of time for everyone. Open source is not supposed to work this way.

But they are raking in the millions, so what do they care about what one little customer says? Perhaps that is why they don’t want us to talk to each other?


On the plus side, many of the bugs I raise do get fixed eventually, but I find I am raising so many fundamental broken-product bugs that I am starting to wonder just how everyone else is handling these bugs. I don’t think we are particularly edge-case in our use of the WooThemes products, but I admit we do push everything we use to its limits. Can a WooCommerce shop cope with 20,000 products? No-one to ask, so we just have to give it a try (the answer is kind of yes, kind of no – scalability bug tickets are with WooThemes).

2012-10-26: WooThemes got back to me on my concerns about the ticketing process. It all looks very positive:

Thank you for airing your concerns with us – user feedback is always helpful.

Firstly, to answer your question about seeing your previous logged tickets – the ticket overview page you see in your WooThemes dashboard is the best we can do with UserVoice. That page retrieves tickets based on the email address that was used to submit it. If you change your email address when posting your tickets then those ones will not show on that page. This is, unfortunately, a limitation with UserVoice and there’s no other way we can retrieve your tickets.

That being said, please read this blog post that explains our current support processes and how we are reviewing them: http://www.woothemes.com/2012/10/inside-woohq-reviewing-making-plans/. We switched to UserVoice in an effort to improve our support workflow and make everything better for our users.

I apologise for the inconvenience this has caused you, but we are trying to do the best we can for our users and are striving to build the best support system possible. This is a tough job when you have a community of over 300,000 members to care for, but we are hoping that our upcoming solution will make the vast majority of our users happy.

There are other plans for bringing back the forums, which they are busy working on right now, and I am greatly looking forward to that going live.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply