Headway Themes Confirms Financial Difficulties, Issues Apology to Customers

Headway Themes publicly apologized to its customers on the company’s blog this evening for a lack of communication, the decline in support, and the extensive issues with the most recent 4.0 release.

To say the past couple of months have been tough for you, in particular, and us, is an understatement.

We’re writing today to communicate with you as best we can our mistakes, to apologize for those mistakes, and to tell you what we’re doing to remedy them for you.

First of all to our community of amazing users: We admit we’ve made mistakes in not communicating with you as we should have. This post should have gone out a long time ago. And we sincerely apologize for this lack of communication.

Founders Grant and Clay Griffiths, who penned the apology, publicly recognized the lack of support that customers have struggled with for the past several months.

There has been an absence in support for Headway for too long. We take full responsibility for this. We’ve refocused our efforts to get to as many support inquiries as we can each day in light of the recent issues. If your question or issue has not been answered, please resubmit your ticket and we will work hard to get to you as fast as we can. We will also be adding a first level of support service to make sure your issues are dealt with in a timely manner.

Over the weekend, a former support employee went public about having not been paid for months and called the company out for closing several hundred tickets while continuing to sell licenses that claim to include support. Customers whose tickets were among those that were closed without explanation are encouraged to file a new ticket.

The post also announced that Headway Themes plans to push an update to version 4.0 in the next month and will be releasing updates on a more regular schedule. Due to the number of serious bugs in 4.0, the company is moving it back into beta status and will support 3.8.8 as the current public version. The founders requested help with beta testing the upcoming 4.0 release.

Headway Themes is Working to Recover from Financial Difficulties

Several of our readers contacted us weeks ago to find out if Headway Themes was going out of business, as the team had been silent on support and inquiries. Jeff Chandler’s preliminary investigation revealed that the company was experiencing financial troubles and anonymous sources confirmed that sales had declined and staff and third-party developers were not being paid.

Headway Themes has now publicly confirmed their financial troubles, and its founders cite heavy competition as one of the factors:

First and foremost, yes there has been some difficulties financially for the company. Frankly, difficulties we were not prepared for and not expecting.

The WordPress theme market is very busy right now. Competition is heavy. Especially in the drag and drop realm. However, we still feel Headway is the best and the original WordPress drag and drop theme builder on the market. It is our promise we will do everything in our power to bring it back to the front and 4.0 will help us do just that.

Over the past few years, drag-and-drop products have proliferated in the WordPress theme and plugin market and Headway Themes founders feared they may need a backup plan. When confronted about closing a backlog of support tickets while launching his new Pressmatic product, Clay Griffiths told support staff Gary Bairead, “I knew I had to create a backup plan when there are so many drag-and-drop products coming onto the market, including many free ones.”

A co-founder who is too busy creating a popular new product as a backup plan isn’t a huge vote of confidence for the future of Headway Themes. However, today’s communication via the company’s blog is a step in the right direction towards answering many customers’ concerns about not being able to access support for their purchases.

One item that was noticeably missing from the apology was a recognition of unpaid staff, who are owed thousands of dollars, and a promise to pay, especially given the number of years these employees were an integral part of the Headway Themes community. As of this evening, previous employees have not yet been contacted about how the company plans to compensate them for several months of missed pay.

41 Comments


  1. The only reason any of this came to light was because of WPTavern’s investigative efforts. Without their journalistic fortitude and courage, many, many, past and FUTURE customers would have suffered greatly at the hands of this two-faced company.

    THANK YOU JEFF AND SARAH!!!! You saved many, many, customers trouble, heartache and severe business loss.

    Buyer beware: the only reason Headway issued ANY apology whatsoever was because their horrible business practices were exposed and the curtain revealed.

    I would STRONGLY urge anyone to avoid this company and think twice before you build your business and your income with people who would abandon the principles of human decency.

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  2. No apology for how they treated us, not even an acknowledgement.

    This is just another slap in the face.

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    1. Don’t forget everyone has two sides to their face so there’s another cheek to slap.

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      1. Well, they didn’t acknowledge or apologize for misleading users when they repeatedly said that support was being provided for the past 2 months.

        Given that I’m a HW user too, consider that the other cheek slapped.

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      2. The only support they seemed to provide was to their bank accounts. They were flush enough with cash to start a new business, and also sponsor the wordpress event with $1,000. That money came straight out of the pockets of their unpaid support staff. Digital pick pocketing.

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      3. It should also be noted that the word ‘Pressmatic’ doesn’t appear once in their “apology”. This is not an accident. Throughout this saga, they have always tried to separate the two so that the bad publicity from HW does’t infect Pressmatic.

        While they are legally seperate entities, they have a common owner. When Clay wasn’t answering tickets or updating HW, it was because he was working on Pressmatic instead.

        There was no support because we stopped answering tickets, this was because they weren’t paying us.

        The “apology” doesn’t explain to their customers why these things happened.

        It’s nothing more that a futile attempt at PR, it’s lip service. It’s beyond belief that they still haven’t learnt anything from this.

        They still don’t want their customers to know how they’ve behaved, or how they’ve repeatedly mislead them. They don’t acknowledge any of this, they don’t apologize for it either.

        The only reason this apology even exists is because of my previous posts.

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      4. I have my doubts, too, what their apology is really for. There were some small apologies, before. But nothing happened.

        I really hope, you’ll get your money. But I have my doubts, that they will pay you.

        Let’s see, what really happens after their apology.

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  3. So all those people that commented on the earlier posts complaining that the posts were hearsay and such are going to apologize now, right?

    The bottom line is that headway really is the best in breed LAYOUT builder. It is not a page builder. It excels at mastering all aspects of the layout inheritance and making it incredibly easy to style and layout various branches of the WordPress inheritance tree.

    No other “no coding” or drag and drop solution exists is this space. Others are moving in, but headway has this aspect polished and down pat.

    It’s a shame to see its future languishing because the only people that know it are the hardcore users.

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    1. I vote that John B Manos take over Headway as it’s rightful owner. He seems to have the passion that the current owners lack. They could use a bit of John’s fire.

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      1. Well shucks! I was an affiliate until all the affiliates were removed early in 2015. Some were readded and I’m sure I could have been.

        I’d like to believe that the back payments to workers will be made. Gary and the others were the ones that got me to understand what headway and layout inheritance really was.

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      2. Play your cards right John B. Manos.

        A wise man with a soulful voice once said: Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

        Trust your gut. When opportunity knocks look through the peephole first before opening the door.

        Headway could either go down in flames, or rise from the ashes like the phoenix, under new leadership.

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  4. This should be a lesson to all of us in the ebusiness world:

    Honesty and timely communication is paramount.

    Here’s hoping that Headway can pull out of their troubles, make things right with customers/staff and get back on track. – Rob G.

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  5. Wow. If this really was a long-term business strategy for Headway/Pressmatic to diversify it’s product offering, it was incredibly short-sighted. Long-term reliability is very important in the developer-tooling space which Pressmatic has entered. It will take years of positive press before I am comfortable recommending them to anyone. That’s a tough hurdle for a young brand to overcome.

    My cynical side wonders if they recommitted to Headway only after seeing that the future looks dim for Pressmatic.

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  6. All very well and good, but another group financially screwed were the new purchasers like myself. I’ve just written the following comment on the HW blog. Will it be published?

    “So: for those of us who purchased 4.0 trusting it was stable and ready, how do you propose to compensate now that you’re now downgrading it to a beta?

    I (and others, no doubt) are well beyond the 30 days we’re guaranteed a refund, but as you ought to understand, having this furor explode in our faces resulted in us sitting back and … waiting. At the very least you should extend our money-back guarantee to be 30 days from when you publish a STABLE version of 4.x.

    Otherwise? Good luck to you. Acknowledge where your weaknesses lie (hint: communication?!) and hire to compensate.”

    Fingers crossed, big time.

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  7. It will be interesting to see if they can turn this around now and get back on track, or if its all too late? I’m sure a lot of people will be thinking twice before using or promoting Headway Themes now.

    With competition so fierce in the WordPress theme market these days and lots of similar options available it’s going to be very tough for them.

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  8. For me, they are not trustworthy anymore. I still hope hope, they sell to a serious company, sometime.

    It seems they don’t know how to manage a company. It is not only the actual development. If you read some stories of insiders that are published last days, the problems with management must be rooted far back in the past.

    I have a small company, too. It’s not just about a product. You have to manage much more things.

    I will follow the future of HW because I am interested in.

    I can’t understand people, who are jumping back on the boat, instantly.

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  9. I was looking for a better solution than my currently used MAMP and Pressmatic was one of them. I’ve become very wary of committing to something that’s owned by a company that has a history of poor support. I know Pressmatic is a different product but even the Pressmatic footer gives reference to Headway with a powered by attribution. Too bad.

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  10. What’s a “hardcore” Headway user?

    I’ve been using it myself for a few years and have been very happy until the release of v4 – which in my opinion is nowhere near as good as v3.88.

    I’m not a developer and the reason I use HW is because it gets me to where I need to be with little effort.

    I’d like to see development continued, v4 as it is, scrapped (as it’s not as intuitive) and perhaps the company taken over an run properly.

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  11. I think with all the negative publicity and customer furor, we’re finally starting to make *cough* *cough* “headway”.

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  12. Pffft transparency… their official response article is lip service, pure and simple. It’s damage control after being put on public display to appease the angry customer masses. The fact that people then thank them for it boggles my mind.

    After reading everything that’s been going on I don’t believe Clay or Grant would have said a single thing if they hadn’t been put on blast like they were.

    They don’t appear to acknowledge any wrong doings to their staff whom sit unpaid, and in Gary’s Unofficial Headway Themes blog post it shows the snippet from Grant blaming him for bringing all of this to light in such a public way. Like it’s somehow his fault for their crap-tastic business practices. What are they, children? Shame on them.

    I don’t use Headway Themes and this guarantees I never will. I’ll also be steering everyone I know in the opposite direction. As for Pressmatic, that was on my list of purchases but not anymore.

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  13. I wish them well. I don’t use the product and they have disappointed their many fans and trust once broken is sometimes nearly impossible to regain.

    I have worked in or been involved with companies going through painful financial times. It’s no fun for anyone.

    Still, they do have their loyal supporters and that is something to build on. I imagine at this point they last thing they want is more advice, but it sounds as if they did not market their themes and technology correctly. They failed to differentiate themselves in what is now a crowded market. That can still be made to happen.

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  14. What was this about them deleting all their affiliates? Think about it. Many affiliates have deep traffic links going into their site, or didn’t hear about it. Headway gets to keep the traffic coming in and make sales, yet the affiliate who does the work and sends business makes no money. Bait and switch. Build up a traffic network of partners then pull the rug out and keep all the money. Sneaky. Hardly the “christian” thing to do, for people and a company that holds itself so high.

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    1. Do you have any evidence affiliates were removed for the purpose of getting traffic they don’t have to pay for or are you making a baseless claim?

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    2. Conspiracy theories about their motives are unhelpful, this isn’t a witch-hunt. The focus should be on their well-documented behaviour.

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  15. As someone who bought Headway lifetime Dev. license when it came out years ago, the only thing I *can* say I’m surprised about is how long it took for people to recognize the support of this product has always been abysmal, their founders (when they’re not publishing political rants around the internets) are defensive and angry.

    I wouldn’t use Headway if it was the only product to fight an impending zombie apocalypse. They’re that bad.

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  16. From where I stand, this looks like an honest effort to make things right. Which one of us hasn’t let people down, screwed up, needed forgiveness and a little latitude and understanding?

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    1. They didn’t apologize for letting both support staff work for them for 2+ months when they knew the couldn’t pay us (still not resolved).

      They didn’t apologize for withholding cash from third-party developers for sales of their own products for several months (still not resolved).

      They didn’t apologize for repeatedly lying to the community about support being provided for 2 months.

      If they want forgiving and latitude, they need to publicly own up to what they did, then apologize for it.

      If you check their official post, you’ll see an organised list of character references by people who don’t use Headway, and don’t know what really happened. Loyalty is an admirable trait.

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      1. True… hopefully they will address these as well.

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      2. That’s terrible. I remember the great support I got from you Gary. Too bad it was your quality and not HW

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  17. That’s not how you do a backup plan. He could have added Pressmatic as a product under the Headway umbrella, much like iThemes did with Backup Buddy. Instead, he stopped paying employees, stopped providing support, continued selling Headway, and created a new, separate company.

    I used Headway for a while back in 2012. I wasn’t very impressed. I thought it was incredibly buggy. Their support system involved posting to the forums. There were no tickets or even a way of marking the forum thread as resolved. As a consumer, I wasn’t thrilled with the support. Then again, if the product works the way it’s supposed to and it includes well-written documentation, I shouldn’t even need support.

    The impression I got was that there were two types of users: people who paid for a licence in the early days when it was a lifetime licence, and people who got on board later on and paid for a yearly licence. The only revenue he had coming in was from new users or people renewing their yearly licence. It seemed to me that a lot of people in the forums had the lifetime licence.

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    1. Do you think the lifetime license offer came back to bite them hard enough to cause all this?

      I was scratching my head wondering how this could happen since I know they’ve been charging for renewal for years. I wasn’t considering they might have a bunch of lifetime users to continue supporting.

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  18. Just like a politician, only apologizing when forced into it, as opposed to owning up to the issue from the off.

    Zero confidence in this “apology” and its sincerity…

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  19. This is a fake apology

    So Headway was not doing good, one of the guys decides to move on. This apology is so the new product does not get bad publicity.

    New payments shouldn’t of been taken, all those people buying the theme after owners knew of financial difficulties, most likely paid for Pressmatic development.

    If things aren’t going well, then you either close down or try to fix things, you don’t go move on without doing a thing with the original product.

    What if Pressmatic suffers financial difficulties, will he move on to something else in the same way?

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  20. This isn’t the first controversy that Grant Griffiths has been involved in.

    There are other documented cases of his poor business practices, financial irregularities, lack of competence, and a failure to communicate.

    He was disbarred in Kansas :

    At the time the respondent surrendered his license, there were seven cases pending and being investigated by the Disciplinary Administrator’s office.

    Four of the seven cases were set for hearing before a hearing panel appointed by the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys.

    In the seven cases, there were numerous allegations of lack of competence, lack of diligence and failure to expedite litigation, lack of communication with clients, improperly contacting a person represented by counsel, failure to return an unearned retainer, and failure to cooperate in the disciplinary process.

    In addition, the respondent admitted that he misappropriated trust funds which were being held in trust for minor children.

    http://www.kscourts.org/cases-and-opinions/opinions/supct/2008/20080814/18527.htm

    This information is publicly available. It provides context, and should be allowed to be published here.

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      1. HE’S AN ADMITTED THIEF. WHAT MORE PROOF DO YOU NEED?!!!

        “In addition, the respondent admitted that he misappropriated trust funds which were being held in trust for minor children.”

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  21. If I were a HW or Pressmatic customer, I would dump these products immediately. Trust has been broken.

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    1. I still use HW, but I didn’t renew last month when the yearly renewal came in. Funny how that was the only email from HW, none of the support tickets were answered. I’ll continue to use HW 3.8 it’s just fine.

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