Scribble: Rant – No Variations on the Theme

Visitors to this blog yesterday would have seen the site using a new look. It’s something I had been playing with for a week or so, on and off, and I had finally decided that this was my preferred style.

In the end, I went for this Premium theme ‘Opti’, which cost £71.00. Plus points for me were that it had a clean but ‘newspaper’ type feel and gave me the opportunity to show some extra featured content on the home page without it being too overwhelmed in huge irrelevant pictures.

After all, this site is about the nonsense that I write, I have another one that is about the images I take.

So far, so good.

The theme cost me the money to purchase because I had only chosen to use the ‘Personal’ plan for my blog. That allows me to remove the adverts and use the scribblans.com domain name. I have looked at the next plan up, ‘Premium’ and can see that it’s pretty extensive in its offering for anyone needing any of that professional looking stuff, but I don’t need it for my level of ‘arsing about for fun’ here.

Premium 
Credit applied 
per month, billed annually 
POPULAR 
Best for freelancers: 
Build a unique website with advanced design tools, 
CSS editing, lots of space for audio and video, Google 
Analytics support, and the ability to monetize your 
site with ads. 
V Free Domain for One Year 
V Jetpack Essential Features 
V Email & live chat support 
V Unlimited Premium themes 
V Advanced Design Customisation 
V 13 GB storage space 
V Remove WordPress.com ads 
V payments 
V Subscriber-only content 
V Pay with PayPal 
V Google Analytics integration 
V Advanced social media 
V Site monetization 
V VideoPress support 
Upgrade

And, even if WordPress have tried extremely hard to make it attractive to upgrade–by reducing the cost to a bargain level for the first year–the implication of that ‘special’ saving is that it would be likely to go back up to the full price the next year.

So, I did a quick calculation based on the fact that I thought, if I paid fully for the theme outright now, that it would work out better for me over a longer term–if I, or any of us, lasts for the longer term that is. And it does in a way.

£4.50 over 12 months (the Premium themes are included free) = £54

but if I based on two years or more and wanted to keep the same look on my blog for them….

£4.50 pm over 12 months =£54.00
£7 pm over second year = £84.00 – Running Total now £138
£7 pm over third year = £84.00 – Running total now £222

etc, etc,

versus £71 once now, plus £35 per year, or whatever the annual Personal plan is then, makes purchasing one more sense really, for my type of usage (and if I don’t get the theme change itch in the meantime).

That was my thinking anyway.

But I had missed a little ‘gotcha’ in the WordPress plans. And I hadn’t caught it because I was–almost obsessively for two or three days–looking at, and comparing and thinking about ‘Themes’, not ‘Plans’, having already decided that purchasing a theme of my own would be better for me.

Having then finally decided on and made the purchase of the Opti theme at the £71.00, I of course wanted to make my own tweaks to it. In particular, I wanted to change the colours that are used for links and commenter names.

A little thing. An insignificant thing to most pragmatic people, but it’s like my ‘thing’ that I have pretty much always used a good splash of orange on my site. Little things that say ‘me’. In fact, with my viewing figures, mainly only to me. Anyway, on the screenshot, it’s all the little blue text that I actually want to be orange.

A very simple thing.

On every Free theme that I’ve used, some of the colours are adjustable. And the controls for changing them are there if they’re offered, not there if you can’t. Fine. Understand that.

Rowling. Things you can’t change are greyed and crossed out.

On this theme that I just paid £71 for, more of the colours were adjustable, even when I was at the trying before buying stage. At that stage, it is common for your widgets and some other stuff to all go a bit funky in the Try and Customise’ area. I knew that, it’s the temporary trial pages, but it is giving you an idea of how the theme works. Mostly.

Anyway, I owned the theme now, so I adjusted them. Saved and exited.

Opti. Nothing greyed or crossed out.

Oddly, although they were orange when I pressed Save, they have reverted to the standard blue ones when looking at the blog to see it ‘live’.

Perhaps I missed and didn’t hit the click point properly. Go back to Customiser, change colours again. Save and Exit.

Nope. Reverted again. Scratch head.

So, in the modern vernacular, I ‘reached out’ to WordPress by emailing them and said ‘Hey guys, this theme is fucked, and this is how. What’s up?’

Well, that was the gist of it anyway.

And they replied by saying “Yeah, we can see that is happening but that’s normal. You can’t change those colours on a Personal plan. You have to upgrade to the Premium to make that work.”

And I said “Ah, no, no, no… You missed that I own this theme. I paid full whack for it. And it lets you change them on the customiser. Like, all normal and stuff?”

And they said “Yeah. But it doesn’t work on Personal plans. It says in the Plan features list.”

Does it? Bloody hell what have I missed?

“Here, look. On the Premium Plan feature list.

versus your Personal Plan

“Advanced! ADVANCED! Changing colours isn’t advanced. I can do it on all the Free themes when I’m only allowed to be doing Basic. When I can’t, it’s greyed out. Why is it advanced when I now OWN the fucking theme and it lets me click the fucking boxes? Am I like some lab monkey doing an ultimately fruitless colour-recognising behaviour test? And I don’t even get the treat when I do it right?

I thought that perhaps editing the CSS was the ‘Advanced design customisation’… like, for example, when you click this ‘Additional CSS’ bit in the customiser panel…

And a panel slides out and says this…

You see? I expect to pay extra for that because it just bloody tells me I’ll have to if I want it. But that doesn’t happen in the customised colour panels. Before I buy or after. It just… doesn’t work.”

(Just to be clear, I am still slightly paraphrasing the actual email exchange)

“Honestly, a Premium Plan is your best bet, Sir. It’s cheap at the moment, so it’ll only cost you £54.00 for a year instead of the £71.00.”

” But what if I don’t want to do a Premium plan next year at the full £84.00 price?”

“Then you’ll have to change to a different theme.”

“That’s why I wanted to own the theme. To protect against having to change it again.”

“Yes, that works, but you can’t use its custom colours unless you also have a Premium user account.”

“So, I don’t really OWN the theme, do I? All of the sales pitch is ‘look at what you can do with this‘ but nothing about the ‘but ONLY IF you have a better account than you currently have‘. I only own most of it. In fact, I don’t own it, I’m paying to use some of it, not the whole thing. Why don’t you make that more obvious in the theme info?”

“We do. Well, OK, it’s not actually in the theme info, we put this in the Plan features table.”

“Oh for fucks sake. This is not ‘Advanced’. I do this in free themes. Everyone who has a free account can. It’s clearly there when you can, not when you can’t.”

“There’s no need to use the f-word Sir.”

“I didn’t really, I’m paraphrasing this whole thing.”

“Oh, I see. Sorry.”

“Yes. What you actually said, after I made it clear that I had paid for the theme and didn’t really need all the Premium features and I wondered what would hypothetically happen if I did use the Premium anyway just to use the theme fully–and I asked you in two emails before but you never answered that point specifically so this was the simplest wording I could try again I think–was this…”

My question is – Can I then still keep my customised Opti theme as I’ve done for the Premium year, but change to Personal plan and keep it as it is, or do I have to revert to non-customisable default Opti (or even not use Opti at all) because I’m no longer a Premium user?

When you downgrade from Premium plan to Personal, then I am afraid the Opti theme would be switched back to a Free theme and you would need to setup another Free theme to your liking, as you cannot use Premium themes on Personal plan without purchasing them separately.

“But I DID purchase it separately! And I still can’t do what I want!”

Thank you very much for all the other suggestions that you have listed about making the purchasing/trying process a bit more obvious.

Best regards,

The other suggestions I made were polite and helpful.

Yes, they were.

So the options are;

Pay £71.00 to ‘own’ the theme. But you can’t use all of it. Until you also pay extra for that.
or
Pay £54.00 to use the theme ‘for free‘ (for a year), even if the rest of the features of the Plan are completely useless to you and it then goes up by 65% to £84.00 next year, even if the theme is all you want out of all the Premium bits again.

I’m not wishing to get something for nothing. I just can’t understand that if you are pricing an item and only offering it at a single price (i.e. regardless of user account status) why there should be a difference in that item’s functionality based on some other criteria that you don’t know first.
If it was Theme A – this much, then Theme A GTi Deluxe – a bit more, I’d understand.

Or, blank or disclaimer out the colour change option in the ‘Try and Customise’ to start with, so you’d know before you decide to purchase what the whole deal is.

But, as it stands, the implementation of theme Colour Customisation is a mess. Sometimes you can do it on free plans, sometimes you can’t, sometimes it tells you, sometimes it doesn’t. And in all of this, you have to find out if it does or doesn’t work as an Advanced or Basic feature of your theme by finding out if it does or doesn’t after you’ve spent money on it. Because, even if looking at the extra ‘detailed information’ about the different benefits of Plans, you would have no idea if your desired customisation comes under advanced on your chosen theme or not.

Anyway, you’ll have noticed that I reverted to the original Rowling theme because I was so irrationally hacked off by this whole thing I cancelled the Opti purchase and got a refund.

Although, if I’ve been calmed down by having a rant about it here now, and I’ve got over the trifling detail that the reason that it made me pissed off in any way was so absolutely trivial in the grand universal scheme of things–of only being able to use the blue colour for links instead of orange–you might be reading this in the Opti one because I’ve relented.

But at least I got a nice long post out of it that was fun to put together.


Thank you for visiting Scribblans today. Sorry it probably wasn’t very good this time.
Did you know, if you share this post on your social media, it might have the effect of making you feel better? About everything?
Yes it could. Well, try it if you don’t believe me then.

30 thoughts on “Scribble: Rant – No Variations on the Theme

  1. Reblogged this on Wibble and commented:
    I’ve been doing a lot of ranting lately (regular visitors may have noticed that).

    In my defence, I’ve been uncomfortable all this year so far. I fell over on New Year’s Day (my own silly fault, I got legless) — and cracked some ribs. They hurt like hell for a month and a half. Just as the pain from that was starting to subside, I caught an ear infection. That was just as painful in its own way (and, so far, it’s not been responding to antibiotics… I’m hoping it won’t need surgery to clear it out, as happened last time, a few years ago).

    So, anyway, that’s my excuse for being extra-special curmudgeonly recently.

    I’ve been looking for ways to compensate for this grouchiness. And Bear, of Scribblans fame, gave me the perfect opportunity to do something more-or-less non-cantankerous — by gifting him a repost. Of a rant, naturally 🙂 What gave me the idea was the spiel at the very end of his post:

    Thank you for visiting Scribblans today. Sorry it probably wasn’t very good. This bit of text here used to be me wittering on and effectively begging you to share the post, but I have decided not to bother with all that for 2021. Most people ignore it anyway.

    Actually, his script doesn’t include a link. I added that as an experiment in inline CSS; with luck and a steady wind it’ll come out orange. If you read Bear’s post, you’ll understand. (And if it doesn’t come out orange, I’ll have no option but to edit this preamble to curse appropriately….

    Liked by 3 people

      1. You are very welcome!

        I think I may have to have another little chat with one of WordPress’s Happiness Engineers; it seems that in their haste to roll out the block editor before it had been thoroughly tested, they’ve broken the reblog function. White space is good, but within limits!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I read the linked page with a similar look of complete bafflement I use when I’m watching ‘Only Connect’ and they have chosen the music clue.
      Plus I think messing with the CSS here is on the ‘Turbo Nutter Bastard’ plan.

      Like

      1. Sometimes I forget that what comes naturally to me may be troublesome for others. I founded and ran a web design company for ten years, and I’ve been blogging thereafter ever since. HTML is like a second language to me. It really is quite simple, though (at least in comparison to programming — another skill I have, though I’m a tad rusty with it). Perhaps it might help if I point you to to a couple of blog posts here on Wibble, that might get you started? Here’s one; and here’s the other. If you can work through those, adding the inline CSS to make your links orange should be a cakewalk.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, I predate HTML. I was on the earliest Basic, (Acorn,Commodore and Sinclair) plus CP/M assembler computers, before they even had internal storage (in fact our school 380z had no storage, you had to write the program you wanted in every time it was turned on), so not entirely innocent of getting my hands dirty with it. I also used to write programs for Psion organisers in their OPL language for my firm. I can’t be doing with that level of ‘backroom’ stuff any more though, life is hard enough with my coming and going energy and therefore concentration levels as it is!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. With that background, trust me, you’ll find HTML a pleasant walk in the park, should you wish to take a look at it. I, too, predate the web. Taught myself BASIC on the Sinclair Spectrum back in the mid-80s (which destroyed my marriage… but that’s another story).

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Yes, I understand being able to make comments have an orange link, or my own links in a post, but the fact is that I cannot get at the bits where the theme itself is coded to generate the ‘Read More…’ or date and author name in the post excerpts, or the name of the commenter in that part of a page.

            And, as you’ll see above, I’ve edited the post now and shown the part on the customiser where it says I’d have to upgrade my plan to edit the CSS in the actual theme…. sigh….

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I hear your sigh.

            I’m currently in chat with a WordPress Happiness Engineer, trying to figure out why there’s so much white space being rendered in my reblog of your post (even though it shows correctly in the editor). I’ve been bending his/her ear for the past two hours. And I’ve found out a lot; such as They’ve Changed The Rules On Me: when my ‘personal plan’ renews — I lose live chat support 😦 First I’ve heard of that!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, not meaning to mess up a perfectly good rant, and WP gives plenty of fodder for it, I have a confession. I follow you in the WordPress Reader and I am not sure if I have ever visited your “real” site. The WP Reader only has the one format. I plan to fix that directly after this comment. I have my own domain and use Godaddy for hosting and then installed WP from there. It’s a bummer you’re having these issues. I will start following your “real” blog, though, since you’ve been working so hard on it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I guess all these agonies were lost on you for a bit then!
      I wouldn’t say I work hard (never!) but I sure do consider what the blog looks like. Sadly it’s easy to see why many do choose to read otherwise entertaining blogs in the reader when you travel around the WP blogs a bit.
      Thanks for making the extra click!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Hi, Herb! I don’t think we’ve met. I’ll check out your own site after I finish here. I use the ‘Reader’ too, but only as a pointer to sites. I always click on that ‘Visit site’ link rather than attempt to read content in the ‘Reader’ itself. A lot is lost in translation if you don’t get it from the horse’s mouth, as it were. In my opinion, anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I stick with free. They can stick their premiums up their grades. When I ‘eezi-changed’ from my trusty crusty 2011 template to the newer one I slowly painfully got to the ‘this’ll do’ stage’ at about the same time as the migraine kicked in… I’d say ‘such fun’ but no, it is not.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you and I are of similar minds, obbverse. I stick, mostly, with ‘free’ myself (although I do pay for a ‘personal’ plan on my main site (‘Wibble‘) so as not to inflict adverts on my audience, small though that is. Wibble is on the ‘Twenty Ten’ theme, which, so the Happiness Engineers tell me, is ‘retired’ (AKA no longer supported). So I’m not likely to even consider Bear’s idea of paying for a premium theme (sod’s law says that it would become unsupported the minute I bought it).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It does seem that, like most well intentioned ideas, the longer WP exists the more it refines, ‘simplifies’ adds add-on options and gouges the many hands that feed them. Unfortunately those hands may be many, but they are tied.
        WP for the win, again, every customer a loser, even in a small but disheartening way, as Scribblans post shows.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Good morning, Bear! Just thought I’d drop by with a further comment on this to express my appreciation for your entertaining and highly informative rant, here, and to let you know that, in my humble opinion at least, your time was well spent. Your experience has convinced me that my own reluctance to change Wibble’s ‘theme’, despite pressure from WordPress to do so on the grounds that ‘Twenty Ten’ is ‘retired’, is well-founded.

    Over the last couple of days, I’ve lost far too many of my own remaining hours on this mortal plane refining the two most recent posts on Wibble (the ‘reblog‘ and the ‘rant on the reblog’).

    I do like WordPress. I think its mission (which is, basically, to improve the web) is admirable. I think where they’re coming unstuck is in their internal struggle to balance that mission with the urge make ever more money. Herein lies a conundrum: WordPress is built upon open source software. Most of the good folk developing the product aren’t getting paid for their labour. Maybe if the WordPress(.com) marketing and accounting departments were to curb their avarice and properly internalise that reality, we might see less of this irritating bullshit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello
      Yes, I think ‘mildly irritated’ might describe my state after I have settled for a couple of days.

      Theme changing needn’t be so tricky, but it is. What I have learned is that if you are ‘Trying and Customising’ your site, then you can only gauge whether that theme lets you change colours by seeing if–when you look at the home page, drill down to a post page, then return back–whether or not they have remained to be your choices or have defaulted to the theme ones you changed from (although your choices remain in the colour changing circles…go figure…) At present, that’s all there is to go on before you choose, so perhaps you can look at alternatives now with that in mind.

      Attempts at the (dread word) ‘monetisation’ of the WP user base seem to have got more aggressive than they ever were two or three years ago–and I appreciate that it must cost a pretty penny to run the whole thing–but these little things (the theme thing) that feel like a bait’n’switch, coupled with, it seems, weekly emails offering a percentage off if you you upgrade in a set time (complete with countdown timer) makes me feel that there are perhaps more desperate financial imperatives at play in the WP offices now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. On theme changing: my recent discussions with the Happiness Engineers have been met on several occasions with the “your theme is retired so we can’t help you” response. They have also claimed that “CSS customisation isn’t available on a Personal Plan”. However, with the latter, they are referring, I believe, to theme customisation. The ‘Twenty Ten’ theme does allow me to use inline CSS in the posts themselves, and bearing in mind that one (or maybe it was another… lol) Happiness Engineer claimed yesterday that I shouldn’t be able to use inline CSS on a Personal Plan makes me wonder whether newer themes remove that functionality (though I’m not convinced that that Happiness Engineer wasn’t confusing the use of CSS in post design with the application of it in theme design).

        I’ve just tried testing the ‘Colinear’ theme using the ‘Try and Customise’ thing, and the results are inconclusive. Inline CSS that I’ve applied within existing posts seems to be being honoured, but as all off-site links present me with a ‘no entry’ sign, it’s clearly not a completely perfect representation of what I’d actually get in practice anyway. Your own experience would seem to bear this out. I’m very reluctant to activate any other theme because I’m pretty certain that there would be no going back to Twenty Ten, as it’s ‘retired’.

        On ‘monetisation’: yeah; is this recent push to get us all to upgrade a symptom of corporate greed, or one of underlying unsustainability? (If the latter, perhaps they ought to consider changing to a non-profit model instead; that would, I think, be more in keeping with their general ethos.)

        I do hope that WordPress.com is financially stable for the long term, as I enjoy my hobby-blogging on this platform, and it would truly suck to lose it.

        Like

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