What’s Happening With Headway Themes?

I remember checking my notifications on Facebook and having someone ask me…

“Do you know what’s going on with Headway Themes?”

At first, I thought it was a little glitch, that might be easily fixed by closing down your browser and loading it back up. You know, the usual tech stuff that happens to all of us, multi-tab users.

But this time the question was a little different.

It was about Headway as a company, and how they were either going out of business or unable to continue offering support and updates to their customers.

I was surprised to hear that, because Headway Themes had just recently released a brand new version of their theme (version 4). And although we had yet to move over to the new version, we knew that they were actively developing things.

Since then, there have been a few articles and posts about the problems happening behind the scenes at Headway, and having been such a longtime supporter of their products over the years, I wanted to address these issues and share my insights.

The Past and Future of Headway Themes

Before we dive into the future of Headway Themes, let’s look at the past and what’s been happening the world of themes.

I have known the founders of Headway Themes Grant and Clay since 2010, where we met in person at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas.

At the time I was a brand new business owner. Starting a software company was not even on my radar yet (despite having a degree in Software Engineering from “the MIT of Canada”, the University of Waterloo). I remember sitting with them at breakfast and chatting about WordPress themes.

Back then, there were three major theme frameworks dominating: Thesis, Genesis, and Headway.

These theme frameworks each had their own take on themes, and they were all built for savvy developers… with Headway being the most user-friendly because it was designed with a “drag and drop editor”.

Although I had nothing but good things to say about all of these WordPress theme options, I decided to use Headway for my own websites and for my clients’ sites, too.

The creators of Headway are a father and son team, and they’re good people. But since 2010 when their product had very little competition and people gravitated to the 3 main options… things have changed.

A new surplus of themes and variations on the market

Now people have thousands of themes to choose from when they’re searching for WordPress membership themes. They’re able to choose from WordPress themes that are less expensive, and that come with more bells and whistles that look good on the front end… like parallax, mobile responsive tricks, and pre-made templates that are easy to tweak.

There are entire theme directories like Theme Forest, where you can purchase a theme and get going quickly.

The business model of themes has changed a lot… it used to be that developers would purchase a theme framework and design custom looking websites for their clients.

Now business owners want to be able to do it themselves or purchase a ready-to-go theme that doesn’t need a lot of tweaking or designing from scratch.

Think of it as the commoditization of design, or just the evolution of the web.

But they relied on new sales to sustain operating costs

The problem that Headway ran into, which is a possibility for all businesses (so take note, no matter what you offer!) is that they were relying on new sales to sustain the operating costs of their past customers.

Because Headway had amassed a huge user base of happy customers, they were on the hook for providing support whenever they worked on their next site design… But in the early days, Headway didn’t charge a recurring license fee.

So they were supporting folks who weren’t paying the bills… and when the new sign ups slowed down, it caused a crunch that led to them being unable to pay their support costs.

How We’re Staying In Business For The Long Term

Obviously, as a software company, we’re paying attention to what’s happening over at Headway Themes. I haven’t spoken to Clay and Grant personally, and everything I’m sharing here is from an outsider’s observations.

But we’re taking notes for our own business, and making sure that our company remains sustainable. That’s why we offer our PopupAlly Pro, and AccessAlly products on a recurring license basis (either yearly or monthly).

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We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service… and we never want to be in a position of having clients who need help but we can’t afford to provide it for them.

So let this be a criterion for you when you’re shopping for software solutions: look for products and businesses that are in it for the long term – that have a sustainable business model, and that are able to sustain their operations based on the ongoing payments for their tools.

And take this to heart for your own business, too. Not everything lasts forever and what might be your bestselling service or product might go out of favor… so you’ll want to be ready and able to adapt.

You’ll also want to be building in a recurring income into your business, whether that’s a membership website, maintenance package, or something in between.

The bottom line from us at AccessAlly is that we’re keeping our eye on the future of our business, we’re evolving with the marketplace, and we’re focusing on sustainability so that we’ll be there when you need us!

Other Options & Choosing Your Next Theme Wisely

If you’re currently a Headway Themes user, you might be wondering what other options you have now.

The first thing I want to say is that if you’re happy with your website as it stands now using Headway, you don’t need to break what’s working. The software will continue to run and work as-is. We’re personally not changing themes yet (we’re still on version 3.8) because this is a stable theme.

However, if you are looking for support there are some companies and options. One of them is called Blox, and they have taken the Headway Themes code and released it under their own name and are offering to support the theme. I’m not entirely sure on the legal ramifications of such a move, so approach this option with caution.

Then of course there are the cool new (and popular) themes on the market that we recommend for your WordPress membership site theme.

I’m personally a big fan of the Beaver Builder theme plugin, and we’ve recently rebuilt most of our sites using this theme framework.

My recommendation for choosing a theme going forward for your next version of your website is to make sure that it is mobile friendly, that it will allow you to transition to a different theme easily, and that it is something you can design in or make small tweaks yourself.

What Themes Are You Loving?

Now I’d love to crowdsource here and see what theme you’re loving. Leave a comment below and let us know!

Ditch the duct tape

Run your online courses, memberships, coaching programs, and communities in one place.

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  • Nathalie,
    This is an excellent analysis – and so helpful. I think adaptability (and thinking about transitions waaaaaay before they HAVE to be executed) is a must for businesses today.
    Thanks for the thoughts.

  • I’ve tried many themes (including Divi) and I’ve had the best experience with Thrive Themes and Thrive Content Builder. Great education for marketing and a very active community for support.

  • Interesting article – thanks guys! I use Divi too, but have also used Bridge by Qode that comes with Visual Composer (top rated on Theme Forest). I find Bridge easier to create anything you want than Divi, but they don’t offer automatic updates to the theme or Visual Composer, which makes it a pain to maintain.
    I agree with some other commenters here – AmbitionAlly has amazing customer service, it’s practical, prompt & friendly. Keep making more!!

  • Thank you for your post, Nathalie! I’ve loved and used Headway since 2014, but I spent the last quarter of 2016 searching for alternatives. It breaks my heart to see this happen and to know how many people are affected that build websites as their livelihood and how it affects their customers too. But, it’s a valuable lesson for sure to have to have learned so early in my business about not putting all my eggs into one theme basket.

  • Thank you for your post Nathalie! I’ve lost bed and used Headway since 2014, but spent the last quarter of 2016 searching for alternatives. It breaks my heart to see this happen and to know how many people affected that build sites as their livelihood. But, it’s a valuable lesson to have learned so early in my business about not putting all my eggs into one theme basket!

  • Sounds like they need to sell it… Sustainable – that’s what I’M hearing here – gotta be sustainable, not JUST generous.

  • I LOVE StudioPress themes by Genesis and use them for all my website client. I combine them with the power of Beaver Builder and they work great. Simple, beautiful looking and easy to maintain. Plus they look great on all sized devices.

  • I’m using Headway too but I was really planning to switch it to Divi eventually. I don’t really know how difficult of a switch that would be. I’m not that tech savvy. My site isn’t completely set up yet either. It’d be nice to understand the compatibility of other themes in terms of switching themes, that’s something beyond my understanding right now, but I’m pretty good with tutorials and sometimes just figuring things out myself.

  • Valerie Silveira

    Nathalie, I started using DIVI recently when I purchased Nathalie Doremieux’s program (DIVI with Access Ally, Progress Ally & Infusionsoft – which is awesome). I really like working with the DIVI theme as it is easy to use, intuitive and efficient. Since you mentioned customer service, I cannot sign off without saying that the customer service you and your team provides is amazing! Seriously, the best I have ever experienced. You rock.

  • Great to see that you’ve started the switch… I found out about headway last year and have been moving clients out of there framework for a bit now. One note, Blox has started to have the same support problems for their users. Getting slow to answering and not really providing the amazing support you’d expect so I’d be weary on moving over to them, as well.
    Such a shame because I really loved the drag and drop 🙁

  • Helpful and thank you, Nathalie. I used Headway exclusively for about two years. I’m happy to tell you that they are beginning to respond to support questions again. However, since I was caught needing to build new client sites and needing current support, I reluctantly started using Divi (I’ve got to have a theme that lets me design pretty much whatever I can think of) and have now switched to using it for all new sites. I still have and support sites built in Headway. The main thing I prefer about Divi is not the very different interface; it’s that the sites I design look better on mobile by default. The other big thing is that Divi has a ton of people in their developer community. It’s amazing the number of detailed tweaks I’ve been able to do by looking things up online. I’ve ended up grateful that this glitch happened. Only thing is, switching from Divi to another theme, if you ever want to do that, will NOT be simple — keep that in mind when using.

  • What a bummer! I love Headway and can’t imagine using anything else. My sites have always been simple enough that I’ve never had to contact support (luckily), so as long as I’m able to continue using the theme as is, I don’t plan to choose a new one at this point.
    You raise great points about considering the sustainability of a company when shopping for themes. This isn’t something I’d thought about before. I tend to assume the companies making products I love will always be in business. How naive I’ve been.
    Thanks, Nathalie.

  • Divi is amazing!!!

  • Great article thank you. I use Divi because it is easy to customize for my clients and has so much functionality built in. But if I did want to change to another theme company that might be hard because of the way the Divi builder works. For me this is not an issue, there are lots of different Divi child themes to pick from now if someone wanted to completely change their look quickly. But for a biz who may want change out of Divi at some point, it is something to keep in mind.
    I especially like this article for the lesson on sustainability. As I plan my business goals I will be keeping these lessons in mind. Great content. Thank you!

  • I started with Headway version 2.x, in 2011 as I didn’t know how to code and I love visual editor. I upgraded to 3.x and now have a BIG site on that version. I never upgraded to 4. I agree with you that their paying model might have caused them financial difficulties. I have a lifetime unlimited license, so I can see that they are not making money from me (although I am not a developer and I don’t build sites for money; just my own, and my kids’).
    But yeah, as long as it does not break, I’ll keep it because with over 400 pages, it would be a big challenge to “convert” to something else!

  • Divi allllll the way. We could not be happier with it, and as a bonus, it integrates extremely well with e-commerce platforms such as woocommerce. It is highly flexible for both developer/designer savvy peeps and those who are less knowledgable but want to be able to manage/update their site easily once built.
    Our shop, membership, and overall site user experience is ROCKSTAR now and our art direction s-i-n-g-s on this theme. Wahoo!

  • As a person who used and taught Headway to my subscribers on YouTube I had to also send out a newsletter to my followers to let them know what might a good alternative to use . Currently I have switched to Beaver Builder and with the soon-to-be release of their new plugin Beaver Themer I think we may have found a perfect all round alternative. It’s such a shame. i love Headway and will always love it, but the lack of commnication on their side is terrible.

    • I just emailed Beaver Builder last night to see if they are planing to add a do/undo option. Not having one is a deal breaker for me.

  • I started with Headway after they started having issues and before this post. At the time, your support department was still recommending Headway, but I wasn’t quite savvy enough to set it up without support so I researched other options and decided on Divi. I absolutely love it! It’s even easier to use than Headway was and I haven’t run into any trouble with any of the Ambition Ally plugins. I’m glad to see that you’re starting to make other recommendations. It would be amazing to have Ambition Ally/Divi tutorials.

    • ambitionally

      I’m so glad you found a good match with Divi! I like the idea of doing more AmbitionAlly/Divi tutorials – thanks for that recommendation. It seems to be one of the crowd favorites, so it’s definitely a possibility. 🙂

  • Thanks for this update. I hadn’t heard that. I’m a huge fan of Headway. I only use Headway for client sites and I have been able to execute every single design my mind can come up with and sometimes I think of some wacky things. I don’t think Headway 4 is great and it’s not user friendly. So I stick the latest version of Headway 3. So maybe it’s time I keep my eyes open for new solutions.

    • ambitionally

      Glad this shed some light for you Laura! We’re also still on Headway 3 for all of our sites so I think we’re in agreement on Headway 4.

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