WordPress Theme Subscription is the New Sham in the Town

We have all seen annual upgrade tactics on different applications. What makes WordPress theme extremely awkward however, is the fact that none of the features actually change and/or fixed since the release. If there is a glitch, it must be fixed regardless of “upgrade”, and if it is an entirely new feature, likely the designer will sell it as version 2.0 not as an update. This business model can only be shady as it cannot merit consumers by all means.

Couple of weeks of ago, I have published a simple tips piece on how to disable paid theme notification. One of the arguments the developers of the theme TMTP is based on was that using the annual subscription comes with extended support, such as regular customer support lines and access to Adobe’s commercial fonts. However, as I had come to accept, Adobe’s web font server is not as exciting as it sounds. It slows down your website, and the readability of certain fonts is simply failing. Adobe TypeKit makes a great portfolio for your résumé, but a terrible reading material.

While Adobe TypeKit is not the topic of the day, it is somewhat necessary to briefly discuss the nature of font subscriptions; it is indeed expensive and comes with lots of limitations. If you happen to purchase one of Adobe’s famous portfolio plan, it will cost you $49.99 and supplies you with the library of 5700+ fonts. But your website, unless you are a professional website designer, will use only handful number of fonts. Even if you are, these fonts can only be used for 500k page views. Their selection of fonts are also dubious to my taste, as majority of the selections are interested in making a bold statement rather than making a comfortable reading experience. These fonts also do not extended Latin characters such as ß, ü, and other languages such as Korean. Google Font, which is a major contender, does all of it, does it better, and does it for free.

The real strength of WordPress comes from the fact that you are in control to choose not to use services such as TypeKit for your website. You can, of course, use TypeKit to mass-manufacture astounding works as well. This is why most WordPress themes are open to “tweaks”. Themes work differently on WordPress then it normally does on other platforms. As WordPress is often customized to fit its individual needs, theme designers are prone to allow customizations of their themes to the potential buyers. To name some of the customizations TMTP has gone through: font changes, placement of ads, placement of texts, placement of logos and etc. This is also the reason why WordPress incorporates what they call “child theme”, a pseudo-theme that works as a linked copy. Instead of altering the original file, which may later be updated by the developers, it creates a linked copy which quotes the original. While the solution worked, it created a systematic loophole. As long as the original theme file works, there cannot be any “support” of a kind to the users, as they are modifying a child theme, not the original. What kind of extra support will the users receive by purchasing subscription when they already have a solid foundation to work with?

This is where the idea behind annual subscription really breaks apart. There are only 3 cases where “subscription” can provide real values to its customers: plate it with features, plate it with customization support, or plate it with upgrades. But none of them will do any real good. These extra features are mostly bundled landline-like plans, like cable companies do with internet. No sane business is likely to provide customization support for low prices, as this can easily be translated into custom website building. Same goes with the upgrade, if there is a real “upgrade”, it will be sold as a new theme. And last but not least, patches are not new features and it should not be sold as one.

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