WooCommerce is retiring its Canvas Theme after seven years. Canvas was one of the most innovative themes on the market when it first launched in 2010, giving customers the ability to modify their sites’ design and layout through an extensive options panel. It sold for $99 before the product URL was redirected to a retirement page today.
Canvas’ retirement is a strong signal that Automattic is going all-in on Gutenberg. Without a complete overhaul, the theme is no longer able to keep pace with the changes that Gutenberg and the Customizer will bring to WordPress theming and site building.
“While still early, we believe strongly that Gutenberg is the future,” Canvas lead developer Jeffrey Pearce said. “We’ve decided to invest our resources in preparing our products for it in order to bring you the best experience. Unfortunately, that won’t include Canvas.”
WooCommerce has discontinued Canvas sales and will not be open sourcing the theme to the community.
“Overhauling the theme wouldn’t serve our users, yet continuing to sell it as-is wasn’t the right decision. So we made the difficult decision to say goodbye,” Pearce said.
“We considered open sourcing Canvas to the community, but ultimately decided that extending its lifetime will not serve the community. It’s in the best interest of our users and the community to eventually move to another theme.”
WooCommerce plans to continue supporting active subscriptions and will offer support for lifetime subscriptions for the next year. However, the theme will not be updated to support newer features coming to WordPress. The team strongly urges users to migrate their sites to Storefront, the company’s more mobile-friendly flagship theme built on top of the Underscores starter theme. WooCommerce has published a migration guide to help customers move on from Canvas.
Over the years customers have created many different types of websites (not limited to e-commerce) using Canvas. While some have accepted the inevitable, others are anxious and upset about the change, faced with the prospect of migrating dozens of sites (in many instances) away from the theme. The news of Canvas’ retirement was especially difficult for those who support clients who may not be happy to pay for their existing sites to get updated with no appreciable difference. It’s not easy to sell the change to clients when most of it happens under the hood.
“This puts me in a terrible position,” WooCommerce customer Leon Wagner said. “I have 10 client sites on Canvas. They look beautiful and the clients are happy. So these are done deals, I’ve been paid, and do occasional maintenance. Now you’re telling me I have to go back to each of them and explain that because you’re discontinuing this theme, my clients will now have to pay me thousands of dollars to port their sites (with no obvious improvements) to new themes. Pretty sure I’ll just lose most of those clients.”
Other freelancers and small business owners find themselves in the same boat, many of them with twice that many clients on the Canvas theme. Although the theme can continue to be used without breaking, it will no longer receive compatibility or security updates after the support window expires in October 2018. WooCommerce is currently giving away its Storefront Extensions Bundle for free to Canvas customers to help make the migration easier.