Headway Theme’s Future is Uncertain Amidst Financial Troubles

Headway Themes, founded in 2009 by father-son duo Grant Griffiths and Clay Griffiths, is one of a handful of companies that helped pioneer the WordPress commercial theme market.

Headway is not a page builder but rather a visual drag-and-drop layout builder for WordPress. In the past few weeks, several readers have contacted us wanting to know what is going on with the company.

The First Sign of Trouble

In July, a disgruntled customer published a post on the WordPress Subreddit warning people not to purchase Headway. In the post the customer suggests boycotting the company alleging, it vanished from customers by not communicating and releasing timely updates.

The post generated more than 30 comments. A day after it was published, Clay Griffiths responded to the thread thanking people for their concern.

He acknowledged the lack of communication and states that Headway 4.0.7 will be released by the end of that week to address common bugs reported by customers. He also clarified that he is the sole owner of Pressmatic and that it’s not associated with Vesped Inc., the parent company of Headway Themes.

“Just so I’m clear, I had no intentions of leaving Headway or abandoning it. Headway has made up 30% of my life (7 out of 23 years). I will never cease to have a vision for improving Headway,” Griffiths responded when questioned about his future with Headway Themes. Headway 4.0.7 is now available, two weeks after its promised date.

Headway Customers Complain of a Lack of Communication

One of the most common complaints expressed by customers is the lack of communication. The last post published on the company’s blog was on May 9th, 2016. The company’s Twitter account has been somewhat more active with a pinned Tweet on June 15th advertising GravityForms and a reply from Grant Griffiths to a user on July 7th.

The last post on the company’s Facebook page is on May 2nd announcing the release of Headway 4. The duo was scheduled to appear at a special event during WordCamp Oklahoma City but ended up not attending. Headway’s support forums quickly filled with posts from concerned customers asking if the company had gone out of business.

Headway's Customer Support Forums
Headway’s Customer Support Forums

We’ve covered how important communication is and when a company goes silent for an extended period of time, it often leads to speculation from customers and the public. In addition to the lack of communication, customers complained about the sharp decline in technical support.

In the company’s community run public Slack channel, devoted customers discussed possible reasons for the lack of support, one of which was that the support team was laid off. Jamie V., an independent contractor hired by Headway confirmed that she had not been laid off.

 All you need to know at this point is I no longer work for Headway as of the end of June. I currently know the same as the rest of you about whether Headway is dead or not. I’m in the same boat as to no communication.

When questioned about the status of the support forums, Gary B. who helped with support as an independent contractor from 2011-2016, acknowledged he no longer worked for the company.

I used to help Headway with support, I don’t currently work for them.

What Headway are telling you is also what they’ve told me – that their aim is to update the theme and provide support ‘soon’.

I have no idea when that will happen, or if it will happen.

Existing customers are supporting each other as Headway no longer has a paid team of people to provide support.

Signs of Financial Trouble

Over the last few years, Headway has had to compete against an increasing number of WordPress page and theme builders. Multiple anonymous sources close to the company confirmed that sales of Headway have declined and that staff and third-party developers are not being paid.

Sources declined to go on the record fearing they won’t be able to recuperate the money owed. We’ve tried to reach Clay Griffiths multiple times for comment but he has yet to respond.

Customers Simply Want an Explanation

While researching for this article, I talked to a number of people who use Headway and depend on it for part or all of their income. One thing almost all of them have in common is a feeling of understanding and compassion for Clay Griffiths.

An anonymous source I spoke to, who is negatively impacted financially, said, “I still count Clay as a friend and I would like to help him get back on track if possible.” What customers want most of all is an explanation to the lack of communication. A vision for the product and company. And what steps are being taken to ensure this amount of radio silence doesn’t happen again.

“For my part I’m one of those who is very keen to see Headway succeed, but I have lost a lot of patience with the lack of communication,” Ray Dale, a Headway customer since 2012, told the Tavern.

“Buggy software is acceptable on complex frameworks such as Headway but a lack of ongoing communication isn’t. Especially when you have a good core community like this one.”

Headway’s Future is Uncertain

The only two people who know what the future is for Headway are Clay and Grant Griffiths. The deep issues inside Headway are yet another example of how a little communication can go a long way to keeping customers on your side during the rough patches of running a business.


50 responses to “Headway Theme’s Future is Uncertain Amidst Financial Troubles”

  1. I have been using HeadwayThemes almost since the company’s inception. I have not had any issues with their support, though I haven’t called on it recently. It is quite responsive, and their documentation and support is much improved compared with the early days. And it appears that just a few hours ago, they release v 4.07.

    • Since 4.6 was released Headway support has been next to non-existent. Even today with the release of 4.7 it doesn’t seem as though much is happening in the area of support.

      I gave 4.7 a lightweight test today.

      First and upgrade of an existing site (on my own server, not a live server) from 3.8 to 4.7.

      The site itself rendered fine.
      In the Visual Editor all of my blocks were overlapping.
      It wasn’t a huge deal and was taken care of easily and quickly.

      I then made a new, very minimal, test site and had no issues.

      I’ll test it more deeply in the days to come.

  2. …Amidst Financial Troubles”

    The headline seems a bit sensationalized considering none of the links or comments linked to suggest any “financial troubles”. People that are owed money make really bad sources in my experience.

    People not being paid doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re implying Jeff IMO. Maybe dude is just a dick that decided not to pay anyone.

    Just sayin’…..

  3. Thanks Jeff for the post, i was one of those who reached out to you on twitter.
    I just checked my dashboard and 4.07 is out, am yet to test it to know if indeed i can shout for Joy.

    Headwaythemes is a wonderful tool, I use to be with Pagelines and moved over to Headwaythemes after testing it for sometime but now I see the need to have a second tool in my kit as it seems the journey ahead with HT might be a rocky one.

    I honestly hope HT recover from their troubles and this is the second time they have had communication issues. Customers still believe in their product and i want to believe customers will be forgiving if they save the day with the new release.

    Let me go test drive the update.

  4. Just a sight correction: the Slack channel, like the Facebook group, are run by the community. They are unofficial parts of the Headway community.

    I would like to see a roadmap of features and deadlines, additionally with some counsel by those that have successfully run similar agencies. I admire the clear vision presented by other theme agencies.

    No other theme provides the granular control in a visual manner that Headway does. Going elsewhere is not what we want. There’s talk of looking into the GPL license to fork it.

    Truly the community cares about the Griffiths family. We want to see improvements in communication, restoration of commissions owed to support staff and 3rd party developers. We also want to see responsiveness by the Griffiths as well.

  5. I just updated the theme on my own live site and it lost the widgets, but I could easily reinstate them. But the upgrade wasn’t super simple and I’ll need to put a whole lot of sites into maintenance mode while I upgrade them. I recommend making screenshots so you can remember where all the widgets need to go. Not looking forward to the new workload for the upgrade.

  6. Sigh! This article pisses me off more than Grant and Clay not communicating. Headway and their community are having a domestic right now and NO we don’t need WPTavern, the nosey neighbour, pushing their glass on the walls to hear the gossip so they can write their speculative articles. Headway has a strong , passionate community, and sometimes we fall out but more often than not we make up. It’s funny, when Headway needed your support and exposure when it released it’s updates where were you? Now Headway has it’s ass in the air , you now have something to write about it. Elitist much?

    • Hmm.. you may have forgotten that WPTavern has written at least five other articles about Headway over the years so your statements that Jeff/WPTavern is just looking for negative things to write about Headway is just plain wrong. And your accusation that Jeff/WPTavern is “elitist much” is disingenuous at best.

      Many (outside your domestic) are very concerned about Grant, Clay, and the Headway community but after these “domestics (as you say)” start spilling all over the internet this becomes news to many that are concerned with the greater WordPress ecosystem.

    • Except it’s not just the Headway community that this problem affects. What about new customers? What about past customers who haven’t used Headway in years and suddenly get an email telling them there’s a new version?

      New customers and past customers will not know that Vesped Inc. got rid of their Headway support team or that they have been radio silent on support.

      Vesped Inc. is still selling Headway on their website, even though they don’t offer support. How can you sell a premium WordPress theme and not provide support? When you purchase a theme for WordPress, you are paying for the support, not the code. Anything else goes against the GPL.

      People need to know to stay away from Headway. Kudos to Jeff the Elitist for letting people know.

      • When you purchase a theme for WordPress, you are paying for the support, not the code. Anything else goes against the GPL.

        Where on earth did you come up with that?

        Please reread the GPL. You are 100% incorrect.

    • Daine, love your videos.

      This article is just a summary of what’s been going on. The speculation is from the community, not WP Tavern.

      Them not responding to support is terrifying to people who use it as a platform for a main source of income.

      I’m still getting a local dev site up to test the 4.07 but there really needs to be some communication and ACTIONS from them to let us know it’s not abandoned.

      Anyway, :) Of course I’m not leaving until it stops working but I’d love to be assured.

    • I was angry when I wrote this.

      Apologies to Jeff and WP Tavern. I am very passionate about Headway as you can tell.

      Yes Headway has not been responsive, and they need to take full responsibility for the way things are at the moment. As a mature user of Headway I am deeply gutted that things are the way they are. For such a bloody awesome product it’s a shame that it has come to this. There is nothing like it on the market as this is more of a theme builder than a page builder and the community is very small. Because of that, members of this community get frustrated when it doesn’t get the respect that it deserves of the followers it needs to have.

      @richard Rotteman , Headway did not “get rid” of their team, the team left, which in some way makes it worse. You are right , as an existing customer and someone who runs the unofficial Facebook Group I already know what is happening but the people who just sign up will not know and that in itself is something people need to be protected from.

      The community has also not helped, with rumour spreading that Headway is closed down but that is what happens when rumours are left to grow and nobody’s there to stamp them out.

      Kyle, thanks man. You are right! And I will also keep using Headway until the wheels fall off

        • We are not at feature parity with Pressmatic yet though we have many things implemented and planned that we don’t see in Pressmatic (yet?) But once we have feature parity with Pressmatic will we definitely be pushing for some comparison reviews.

          Oh, and our price is FREE. We have decided the difference between our free and Pro version will be the installer and priority support. We want everyone who is willing to install VirtualBox and Vagrant themselves to be able to use our box; the paid version will just provide convenience.

        • I can agree with that methodology. I was a Vagrant guy before Pressmatic, and have been a Linux guy for quite some time. I eventually just got to the point of wanting the ability to manually manage a container, but not be required to for common things. I think the easy 1-click GUI is the key here.

  7. What a shame. I’ve never used Headway, it’s not my cup of tea but we just paid for a few licenses of Pressmattic and ran into minor issues. We emailed support several times throughout the past few weeks and have not heard a single reply. Our friend also bought and is requesting a refund and hasn’t heard a peep. This makes little sense to me why someone would create a good product and then totally fail on communication and support. You know this is the WordPress community right?!

  8. The problem with Headway is they took a great product, meant to bring “development” to the masses, and made it very unintuitive when they released 3.0.

    Perhaps the licensing model they switched to at that time hurt them (if, indeed, they are having financial issues). There’s a way to do great licensing (look at Studiopress as an example), it seems Headway never quite got there.

    It’s a shame if they do go under, but I can’t help but feel misguided decisions and hurried launches contributed.

    Interesting to see no Headway presence (apart from users) in the comments here, too.

  9. I hope WP Tavern keeps an eye on this. I bought Headway a few years ago and I still go in to update the files (even though I don’t still use it).

    Whatever Headway added to the development of WordPress it also helped evolve how themes are managed, created, distributed and supported. It is still a part of all those things. There are few themes which still offer full, lifetime support for as many sites as you want. Those were the early days. So far, all the themes I bought are still honouring their original promises. Although some are squirming around a bit.

    IF Headway goes down (I’ve got every hope for the Griffiths to manage well) it will be interesting to see how that happens and what the fallout will be. The Internet continues to grow and evolve. Likely this sounds lame to most, if not everyone, reading. But, I’ve been online since 1996 and I love (more than just like) seeing how it has grown, even the parts I don’t like.

  10. I bought my Headway license in 2011. Headway 3.8.8 is still a very goog product but I won’t use it for new projects. I will move existing projects to alternative products bit by bit.

    IMHO HW4 was not necessary. Just a few improvements of HW 3.8 would have done the job. HW 4 was and is a big disappointment for the costumers and I think for Clay, too.

    What really makes me “angry” is that new customers are fooled. They still sell licenses and the new costumers get a buggy product (HW 4 is promoted) without any official support or any official communication. I don’t know if that’s legal or not. IMHO the guys actually move on very thin ice.

    I will not be able to trust Clay or Grant again whether they come back or not. Too much china is broken.

    And I really don’t understand why some people defend these guys. They kicked their asses, too. Eyewash? How could you trust them? They are gone in an night and fog action.

    • I agree. I have now like 3 unanswered support tickets. V4.07 is TERRIBLE, just terrible. It renders right side blocks on the left on mobile devices. pushes blocks WAY down if one is laid over another by accident. No support at all. I am very sad because it seems that HW is dead. Good thing I didn’t renew my license, so there’s $200 saved right off the bat. Cannot recommend at the moment.

  11. I bought Headway in July after reading good reviews. I had no idea that the support might be bad/non–existent. I have three sites, two existing, and one new. I intended to use Headway for the new site and then change the other two over (the licence is for three sites). I am not a developer, so have just issued a design brief for the new site, specifying Headway. Should I call a halt?

  12. I have used Headway since early days sad to see it falling away. The guys have to do what brings home the bacon. But Clay has now sold Pressmatic and joined the company that bought. So realistically. It looks like the King is dead. It would be good if the guys fronted-up what is happening and if the staff are not being paid, that can’t be good? Sad to conclude time for fresh territory. You can’t Ely on headway and new toolkit needed. Huge shame and quite sad.


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