Note: There’s now an audio transcription at the bottom of this blog post:-)
Today I had the pleasure of speaking to mr. Grant Griffiths from Headway Themes. Grant is dad to Headway lead developer, Clay Griffiths. We had a talk about how it works out working together in a son/dad constellation, as well as the history and evolution of Headway plus of course: The future of Headway.
Headway 3.5 is on the horizon!
The release of Headway 3.5 is imminent – beta is to be released to all developer license holders, today. Whooha!
The long awaited release of Headway 3.5 will bring not just fluid headers and footers, but full width blocks everywhere you wish! I am AMAZED.
What else did we cover in this episode?
Headway’s competitors: Thesis, Genesis, PageLines, iThemes Builder. When I asked Grant which theme vendor he would turn to if Headway didn’t exist, he mentioned iThemes Builder as well as the outstandingly beautiful premium themes from Organic Themes.
We also talked a bit about LESS CSS, Twitter Bootstrap, the Matt Mullenweg vs. Chris Pearson GPL fight, the Thesis 2 release and subsequent crowd reaction.
Ultimatum, the copy cats who plagiarized the design of HeadwayThemes.com.
Headway Themes’ stake in Pippity, the WordPress modal / popup plugin that makes popups less annoying.
Grant’s Book recommendations
On top of that, there’s even a couple of book tips! As an AA addict (Amazon & Audible Addict… not Alcoholics Anonymous:) I always ask nice people for their own, personal book tips.
For a good non-fiction read, Grant recommends the author Vince Flynn.
For marketing and advertising, Grant loves the classic Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. I gotta read that one!
Enjoy your listen – and please share your opinions and comments with me!
PS: Grant has asked me to please mention Jamie VanRaalte, from Headway’s support team. He forgot to mention her when I asked him to list the members of the Headway team. In defense of Grant’s forgetfulness, I’ll say I was surprised how many people are aboard the Headway team.
For your convenience, I’ve had the audio interview transcribed so you can read it or search it, as well as listen to it:-)
Oliver: Okay. So here we are finally with Grant Griffiths, one of the owners of Headway themes. Headway is one of my favorite WordPress theme frameworks. It’s actually not one of my favorites, it is my favorite. The only one. Because Headway is very innovative and that’s why we are going to talk with Grant Griffiths about what’s in the future for Headway and also a bit of a history about Headway because, Grant, I’m curious about what made you create Headway in the first place. But let’s start with a quick introduction of yourself, who you are.
Grant: Well, as you said my name is Grant Griffiths, one of the co-founders of Headway themes. My son and I founded the company actually in… Gosh, it will be four years in July. It’s hard to believe. We live in the middle of the continental United States in Kansas. The headquarters, I guess you could say, are in a town of 4,000 people and we basically run the business out of our basement. That’s about it about me.
Oliver: Doesn’t it get depressing sitting in the basement?
Grant: Oh, no. I don’t sit here all day long.
Oliver: It’s only play. He’s the co-owner and he’s forced to sit in the basement.
Grant: Well, actually Clay got his own place last year so he’s not locked in the basement like I am now.
Oliver: How does it work out being a son-and-dad kind of shop?
Grant: You know it works out really well. I’m not saying we don’t have our disagreements because we do. And that’s good because I think if you agree on everything as a partnership, business partnership especially, you’re really not going to get anywhere. Clay has his ideas. I have my ideas. We might disagree with each other and when we do then we come to some middle ground and we come to an agreement on, okay. Well, this is the way we’re going to go then. But it really works out well and I guess it was always… I have four sons. Clay is the youngest and…
Oliver: How old is he?
Grant: Clay just turned 20 in February.
Grant: Yeah. Which is hard to believe. But I grew up on a farm so I farmed with my dad growing up. And I guess you could say it was always the dream of mine to have a business with one of my boys, and fortunately that dream came true.
Oliver: Yeah. It’s great that it works out.
Oliver: But I know that he’s the developer and the coder and you’re more of the manager, but apart from that, which one of you is most design-focused?
Grant: Clay. There’s no doubt about that. As far as design goes, development goes, coding, the hard stuff, clay does all that. Well, he has a team now that works with him too, though. Honestly, and I tell this to everybody, I could not code myself out of a wet paper sack if I had to. So I know just enough to be dangerous. I started blogging… I think it was February 2005 I started blogging. So I always understood how that worked. I used it to promote a previous business. So as far as design-wise, as far as what a site should have, I certainly have a good grasp on that. But the development side of things, that’s all done by Clay. It was by Clay and his team.
Oliver: So how many people are on your team?
Grant: Oh, wow. It would be easier if I just name them as I go here. Gary is on the support team. He lives between Ireland and France. Does an amazing job in the support forums for us. Caitlin works with us too. She’s going to be focusing more on doing tutorials type of stuff. Chris lives up in the northwest part of the United States. She’s been with us now I think a year now. She works in support. A.J. Morris…
Oliver: Yeah. I’ve heard about him.
Grant: Yeah. A.J. was kind of out of the scene for a little bit because he was helping his dad with the family business there, but A.J.’s back full steam again. A.J., we kind of moved A.J. into more of a production management type of role. And basically that’s the kind that keep the development team and the support team kind of in sync, keep the development team on track as far as when we release things, when we push our betas which, as you know, we got 3.5 Beta coming out, I believe, today.
Grant: Yeah. Today.
Oliver: 3.5 Beta.
Grant: Uh-huh. Yeah. So all developer license will get that today as of May first.
Oliver: Oh, I’m looking forward to that.
Grant: Yeah. It’s amazing. We’re getting off track here though, but then we have Andy. Andy is in South Africa. Andy is actually working very closely with clay as far as development goes. And Andy’s working on some really just amazing designs for the new Headway skins we’re going to have coming out. Then Andy is also the owner and developer of Headway Rocket or Headway Labs. I always get that confused. Headway Labs. So he has a couple of third-party blocks in our extend marketplace that are doing really well. I think that’s it as far as the official team.
Oliver: That’s quite bigger than I thought.
Grant: Well, yeah. It is. When we first started, it was Clay and I, and then we slowly added. We…
Oliver: You got busy.
Grant: We have and the community is growing. I mean, as the community is growing, we want to make sure that we’re providing them the support they certainly deserve and need. And that’s why we’ve added to the support staff as we’ve gone along.
Oliver: I would like to hear some more about the history of Headway starting with Headway version 1 because I’ve only tried Headway version 2 and version 3 of course, but I didn’t really like version 2.
Grant: That’s okay. We didn’t either.
Oliver: But Headway 1, when did that enter the market?
Grant: We launched Headway version 1 on July 31st 2009. And that’s why I sit here thinking, gosh, it will be four years in July. And it’s really amazing when you consider Clay’s only 20 so we actually launched Headway when he was 16.
Oliver: Yeah, but I’m 33 and I sometimes envy these really young coder people because they somehow have more brain power at that age. You know, the brain declines after you turn 25 years.
Grant: Don’t say that because I’m a lot older than that so… But you’re right. When I watch what they can do especially Clay and even seeing what Andy does with him. And Andy’s older than Clay of course but it’s like it’s a born language. It’s alien to me.
Oliver: It is. It is.
Grant: It’s like wow. Okay.
Oliver: It is to me as well. I don’t see myself as a developer. I see myself more as a designer and a consultant regarding content creation on websites for my clients and such. But I got to correct myself. The brain doesn’t decline after age 25. It’s more like you get wiser but you get slower.
Oliver: And when you’re coding, you need a lot of working memory because otherwise you can’t make sense of it all. But anyway, Headway version 1, when did it progress to a version 2 and was version 2 a major re-write or was it like more an evolution?
Grant: Version 2, and I think that’s probably where the mistake was. Version 1 was amazing. And version 2 was an evolution from version 1 but I think the mistake we made was we should have just made it completely a new version like we did with version 3. And we introduced version 2.0 I believe at the New York City Word Camp. And I say we probably pushed it out too soon. In a lot of the times, I get in a hurry and it’s the marketing side of me coming out versus wanting to wait for the development team to actually have things the way they want it.
Oliver: I’ve actually gotten that impression sometimes that you were the pushy, thrusty kind.
Grant: I am. I am. Yeah. And that’s another reason why we got A.J. doing what he’s doing because he’s going to hopefully keep me under control and say, no, we’re not doing that.
Oliver: But if on the other hand the rest of the team is perfectionists and quite slow, it can be quite good to balance it out. It can be a good idea to have a person that gets things done.
Grant: Yeah. And version 2 had some problems. And honestly version 3, which we pushed out on November 25th 2011, I think, was a huge upgrade. I mean, it’s a completely new product from version 1 and version 2.
Oliver: But why didn’t you like version 2? What were the problems?
Grant: I like the way version 3 works as far as usability so much better. And honestly, I liked version 1 better than version 2 from a user standpoint. The thing that I did not like, and I don’t think Clay did either, with version 2 was the windows because it would get in your way when you’re developing your site. As version 2 evolved, though, it got better. And I think that once we get everybody from version 2 onto version 3, which that upgrade path is still coming, I think people are going to be… I think people that are using version 2 are going to really like version 3 once they really tied into it and use it.
Oliver: Yeah. But it must be quite difficult to make an upgrade script.
Grant: It is. And that’s why it’s taken us… that’s why we’ve been pushing on updates to 3.0 as much as we have because we’ve been on a net-based schedule for the last like 15 months. We’ve been pushing up updates to Headway to 3.0 every 30-45 days. And some of those have been really just small stuff, and some of those have been big stuff, but each one of those updates is getting us closer and closer to getting that upgrade path from version 2 to version 3. But what people have to understand is, and I think you do and I think a lot of the developers that have been with us for so long, it’s not going to be a simple flip the switch and all of a sudden your site is going to go from 2 to 3. There is just simply no way we can do that from a developing standpoint.
Oliver: It’s just the nature of things.
Grant: Well, and it’s because 3.0 is a completely different product. We keep telling that to people and I know some get that and some don’t. And it’s still going to take work on their part to get their site from 2 to 3. We’re going to make it as easy and as seamless as we can but it’s still going to take some work.
Oliver: Yeah. It’s the same with Apple when they made Mac OS 10 going from Mac OS 9. It was a totally different code base, different kernel and stuff. It was UNIX-based and all the programs had to be re-written from scratch so all the developers who made Mac applications, they really had their work cut out for them. Then some years later they switched to Intel processes and then they had to re-write their applications all over again. But it had to be done. And since you weren’t satisfied with Headway 2, it would be a dead end, a dead road.
Grant: Well, I guess maybe I shouldn’t say I wasn’t satisfied with it. I just really like 3.0 so much better.
Oliver: Your dad was a politician?
Grant: No. No, my dad was a farmer.
Oliver: It was a joke because you corrected your answer.
Grant: Actually it’s funny because I did have a political science degree.
Oliver: Public relations, that’s your field.
Grant: That and marketing. Yeah.
Oliver: But what lessons have you learned over the past 1 ½ or 2 years since Headway 3 got released?
Grant: Probably the biggest lesson, and especially for me, is to not be in such a hurry. And I have admitted this to people. And certain updates were probably pushed before they should have been. And we set the date to release 3.0 in stone, for November 25th. Looking back, we probably should have said, “You know what, we’re not quite ready. We need to wait. We need to wait another month or two before we push this out and just keep using 2.0.13. Everything is good.” And that was… And I’ll take full blame for that. We should have waited. I should have been more flexible in that date. Should have listened to the team on that but I was looking at it from a marketing standpoint. And because I was looking in it’s Black Friday in the U.S., so Friday after Thanksgiving. From a marketing standpoint, I really wanted to hit that date. We did. 3.0 when it first came out, and I don’t think anybody on the team will deny this, it was a bit buggy.
Oliver: It was. It was.
Grant: It was.
Oliver: But it tasted sweet.
Grant: It did. But again, we were very aggressive in getting updates out. In fact, we pushed out a number of updates right away to fix those bugs. And it went out too early. And again I’ll take full responsibility for that. In looking back, I think that was one of the lessons that I’ve learned. Another one, I think patience overall. I’m not a real patient person. And I think my family will vouch for that.
Oliver: Yeah. What are the biggest and most technically challenging Headway 3 websites that you’re aware of? Are there any big sites using Headway?
Grant: Oh, boy. Well, Headway. You know, I can’t think of any at the top of my head. I add things to the showcase at least weekly.
Oliver: What showcase? Is it…
Grant: It’s the showcase on Headway.
Grant: Yeah. I am sorry. I really, I should know.
Oliver: But Obama isn’t running Headway.
Grant: No. No.
Oliver: Okay. Let’s see. What’s the most requested features that you have from users?
Grant: Right now?
Oliver: Yeah. Right now.
Grant: No doubt about it, the fluid functionality, which is in 3.5 and it is just absolutely amazing. You’re going to be thrilled. You can basically… it isn’t just a header and footer.
Grant: Any blog can be fluid. It’s based in multiple wrappers is what they’re saying. I was amazed when 3.0n came out. I was floored. But 3.5 with this new functions in it is just… what can I say? Every time Clay and his team does something like this, I’m just whoa. That’s amazing. Another thing that people are asking for is to be able to use a visual editor on an iPad for example.
Oliver: Yeah. It would be nice.
Grant: We actually have that feature in 3.5. We want people to beta test that pretty hard. If it makes the cut and it’ll make the cut because it’s working the way we think it should. We will not include it in 3.5 if it’s not working the way it should. But that functionality is coming, whether it’s going to be in 3.5 or soon to be released after that would just depend on how the beta test goes on that.
Oliver: Does Clay use a specific development method like Agile Development or ? Because… He’s frickin’ fast…
Grant: Yeah. He is.
Oliver: Yeah. But it really makes Headway pretty upfront.
Oliver: It is top of the pop, the cutting edge of WordPress theme frameworks, I think.
Grant: Well, I appreciate that. I like to think it is but the thing about WordPress, and I have always said this, the true winner in WordPress is the community, because there are so many really good products out there for people to pick from. And I’ll say right now, Headway is not for everybody. There’s other products out there that might work better for them and I’m glad there is.
Oliver: Who should not use headway?
Grant: Oh, boy. Well, I think everybody should use it.
Oliver: Yeah. The politician again:-)
Grant: I think the people that should not use Headway are the ones that expect they turn their computer on and have their website magically appear for them. Headway is a great tool but, like any other tool, you have to learn how to use it and you have to actually use it to get the sites you want. And you cannot just expect it to just magically have your site appear for you. And that goes with any WordPress theme framework. It’s just not going to magically do it for you. And if you don’t have the patience to learn how to use it, don’t use it.
Oliver: On the other hand, I’ve encountered quite a lot of people who buy a premium theme or even free theme or use some of the frameworks like Canvas or Thesis or Genesis, and then they encounter the typical problem could be well, “How do I get three photo boxes down at the footer?” Or they can choose between having three, four, or five boxes but, “I want six,” they say. And/or they want to move stuff around on the page or put things in columns and it’s just not possible without them having to use PHP Hooks and delve into the functions PHP File. On the other hand, you have these Drag and Drop themes like Pagelines, which tends to hide all the PHP Hooks from the user and be a very boxed solution where you can do it the Pagelines way or no way. Do you follow?
Grant: Yeah. I do.
Oliver: Yeah. But with Headway, in my opinion with my research, Headway is the only WordPress theme that makes it possible for non-coders to really create the website that they have in their dreams or have in their mind.
Grant: Oh, I agree. And one of the reasons it is that way is because when Clay started building this, when we started looking at pushing this out as a commercial product, I told him, I said, “This has to be more than dummy proof, this has to be dad-proof.” I’m serious. If I can use Headway to build a site, and I have used it to build sites with, really anybody that would just take the time to use it can do it. Now, there’s going to be things that you cannot do with Headway. There’s going to be certain things that are going to require coding if you really want some of those really amazing features. But how many sites really need those?
Oliver: But Headway has the minimum requirement of that kind of custom-coding stuff, I think.
Grant: Yeah. I agree.
Oliver: It does.
Grant: And 3.5 is going to bring that even further.
Oliver: But what you’re missing is skins, in my opinion.
Grant: We are.
Oliver: Because many people miss a variety of skins available to use as a starting point. And maybe you could elaborate a bit on the differences between Child Themes and skins because some people don’t know the difference and what makes skins in Headway such a nice feature that was introduced in 3.4, I think.
Grant: Yeah. The skin API or the Child Theme API will always be there, will always support developers who want to build child themes. We, however, are moving to Headway skins. And one of the biggest reasons we’re doing that first of all is because you can build the skin with Headway and you can build it without any coding if you want to. Secondly, one of the disadvantages of a Child Theme is usually you’re locked into the design and style of that Child Theme. So whatever the developer of that Child Theme sets, you’re usually locked into that.
Grant: You can change it if you know how to change it through code. With the skins that we’re going to be introducing and the way the API works, you would import the skin into the visual editor, you can go to the design mode in the visual editor and you can change the design and styling of that skin if you so want to. But at the same time, it gives you that layout or that gives you the styling that you can just run with. I think that’s one of the biggest advantages besides the fact, of course, you can build it right there in the visual editor, save it as a skin, boom, you can put that on another site that has Headway in there as a parent theme. We will be introducing some really amazing skins. I don’t think they’ll be coming out right at the same time as 3.5., probably in an update or two after that. And again, we’re on a very aggressive update schedule so it’s not like you’re going to have to wait six or seven or eight or nine months for this to happen. It will be a matter of a few weeks. Because what we’re working on right now is because we want that skin import-export to work basically just seamless. We want that skin to come in on an import. We want the layout templates to come in with that import, and we want that all to just be seamless for those that are using skins to get that site up quick. I like skins. I like that a lot better than child themes. Of course I hate that. I even hate the name child themes. I think it’s one of the stupidest names of them all that we came up on the net with.
Oliver: It is.
Grant: It is. It is.
Oliver: But skins are pure genius. And I know you’re busy. We’ve talked about that before but what’s holding the skins back? Why aren’t more third-party developers making skins for Headway?
Grant: I think it’s because they’re waiting for some of the import-export things to be ironed down. We do have a couple of third-party developers doing it. We have others that are designing them and getting them ready to go. So when skins come out and we have that import-export function working the way we want, I think you’re going to see just a tremendous amount of not only official headway skins but a huge number of third-party skins that are going to pop up pretty quick. I know the guys at Headway Rocket are going to be having some skins. I know those guys will for sure. I’m sure Andy will have some even on Headway Labs besides the ones that he’s designing that will be official skins. We’re looking and working with some other theme companies to actually take their themes and turn them into Headway skins. So I mean, there’s going to be a line. I think skins are going to be a tremendous thing not only because the skin will be really amazing but you’ll have that skin with the power of Headway behind it. And you can put that thing right into your visual editor and pretty much just take it and run with it. Do what you want to do with it.
Oliver: Speaking of third parties, what kind of collaborations have you been working with and you know because I know that you collaborated on Woo Themes on the Storefront extension. And you have a Slide Deck block and…
Grant: We do have a Slide Deck block and the guys at Woo and the guys over there that built Slide Deck are amazing. We’re going to be working with… Don’t be surprised if you don’t see something coming with Headway and the guys that were PluginBuddy. We’d probably be introducing some more things in collaboration with them. Even though technically like Woo Themes is our competitor, but do we really compete with each other? I mean, there’s how many millions of downloads at WordPress. There’s plenty of business for everybody.
Oliver: And you yourself also have a side project, I think. Pippin?
Grant: Pippity is a plugin…
Oliver: Oh yeah, Pippity.
Grant: Yeah. Pippity is a plugin that we here in Headway own in partnership with Nicky. It’s a popup type of a plugin, forum gathering emails. We’re actually looking at doing some new things with that, even integrating some more things with Pippity into Headway. Let’s face it, when using a business, one of the things you want to do is build that email list. And we want to make sure we continue to provide the tools for people to do that.
Oliver: I happen to hate popups;-)
Grant: I do too. But that’s why I like Pippity. Because you can have that popup come up anytime you think it’s best. You could set that popup to come up after somebody comments. You can set that popup to come up after they scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page. You can set that popup to come up after they go to another page. The problem people do with popups is they just have them popup no rhyme or reason. I’m on the site for five seconds and all of a sudden I got a popup in front of me. That irritates me. That’s why we put it into Pippity where you don’t have to have it set that way.
Oliver: Interesting. If Headway didn’t exist and you were to use a competing product or recommend a competing product for someone, which product would you choose? Which theme or framework?
Grant: As far as the framework goes?
Grant: Hmmm… That’s a hard one…
Oliver: If a nuclear bomb exploded at the Headway headquarters and there was, sadly, no more Headway in the world, what would you recommend me to use instead (because I would be sad)?
Grant: Oh, yeah. I would too.
Oliver: I would have to work harder.
Grant: Yeah. I know. I’m going to go with probably… Mainly because I know the guys, I know how their support is, I think they build some good stuff, I would probably go with iThemes.
Oliver: iThemes… They make Builder right?
Oliver: I haven’t tried Builder actually.
Grant: You know, I mean, that’s really hard for me to say because there’s so many great products out there. Theme-wise, I mean, if I just had to pick a theme, the guys at Organic Themes build some amazing themes. Jason Schuller up at Press75 have some awesome stuff.
Grant: Jason Schuller. He has Press75. Some really nice themes. I mean, you certainly can’t overlook StudioPress and all they’re doing. Chris Pearson and Thesis, I mean, good gracious. Chris has been the inspiration for so many theme builders out there it’s hard not to mention Chris.
Oliver: What did you think about the Thesis 1?
Grant: You know, honestly Oliver, I’ve never used it.
Oliver: Okay. Thesis 2?
Grant: I haven’t used that either. I don’t even know the copy of either one of them.
Oliver: You haven’t heard about all the Thesis 2 debacle?
Grant: Well, I have but I have to look at some of the debacles we’ve had. And I’ve talked to Chris about that. I said, “You know what happens, no matter how hard we try, we will never make the perfect product.” I know Microsoft and Apple think they do but they don’t either.
Oliver: Yeah. Of course. He set out to make the perfect product but, in my opinion, it turned out to be the work of a mad scientist. I can only guess but I think it was because of the Matt Mullenweg. They had this fight over the GPL. And he got somewhat embarrassed in public, or he behaved in an embarrassing way.
Grant: Well, I thought they both acted in a childish way during that online interview they did, and it’s too bad.
Oliver: But being part of an ecosystem like WordPress and basically just saying “the foundation that it’s built on, fuck that. Just sue me.”… That’s quite an attitude.
Grant: But like him or hate him, that’s Chris Pearson.
Oliver: I’ve been a really big fan of him and I’ve really cheered for Thesis 2 ever since he started talking about it. It just turned out to be something entirely different than what most people expected, it seems, because we expected him to make life easier but he made it a whole lot harder. But it’s flexible, I think, but too flexible to be really usable. It’s more like a science lab project.
Grant: Yeah. You know, you said you cheered for Chris, and in all honesty I cheer for him too because Chris pushes the envelope and…
Oliver: He is somewhat part of, you know, that… You’ve probably seen or heard that Apple commercial, the old one where that Steve Jobs had made for Apple when he returned to Apple after being absent for a decade or so. The crazy ones. It was played at his funeral as well. Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the trouble makers, blah, blah, blah. That’s Chris should be included. He is one of those trouble makers and…
Grant: I think Chris would agree with you.
Oliver: Yeah. He is. But what about PageLines?
Grant: Again, I’ve never used it. What I always tell people when they want us to compare it to ourselves to other themes or frameworks. I always tell people that first of all, I’m not going to tell you which one to buy, I’m not going to tell you which one is better. What I tell people is look at the features and benefits of one and compare them to the features and benefits you get with Headway and you decide which one works the best for you. And some are going to like Pagelines more than they’re going to like Headway and vice versa. Again, I think PageLines is a good product.
Oliver: Yeah. It’s a solid product.
Grant: I haven’t used it.
Oliver: The problem there is with Pagelines is the nomenclature or the labeling of all the stuff that you have in there isn’t very simple at all because they have boxes, they have features, they have banners, they have they call sliders. Something else than sliders, I think. And so when you’re looking for how to create a slider you can’t figure out how the fuck to make a slider because they call it something else and then they have these boxes and features all around and what’s the difference? That’s where like Headway’s approach where you have blocks, like you build a house with bricks and at headway you build your site with blocks. And blocks can be a variety of things.
Grant: And that takes me back to version 2 because that was, I think, a mistake we made in the vocabulary we used with Headway 2 is instead of calling them blocks we called them leaves. And our reasoning for that was when you look at the grid system in Headway 2, it looked a lot like a table and add it to your table, you add leaves to it. Stupid idea probably at that time. Yeah. Looking back on it, I know it was a silly idea. And again, that’s why we made the changes in 3.0 to call them blocks instead of leaves.
Oliver: Why isn’t there an images block?
Grant: Well, you can use the slider block for images.
Oliver: Yeah. But if I only want one image and maybe link it, link it to something?
Grant: Actually Corey Freeman has that. I may talk to her about stealing that from her, but she made a free block that you can just put one image in, probably something we’re going to add. It’s just a simple image block.
Oliver: Yeah. It feels like an oversight.
Grant: I’d agree. Yeah.
Oliver: So you gotta steal it.
Grant: Well, I’ll talk to her about borrowing it.
Oliver: You should. Yeah, talk to her first. Okay. Last question. That’s just a technical one I forgot to ask you. What is the technical foundation of Headway? Is it 100% customized and build another on top of other frameworks and technologies because people talk about LESS and Twitter Bootstrap and all that.
Grant: Well, I know LESS is built in Twitter Bootstrap. I’m honestly not sure what you get with Bootstrap that you don’t get with Headway. But again, there might be something that I’m missing.
Oliver: Because I heard someone say or read somewhere that Headway was based on Twitter Bootstrap but I don’t know if that’s true.
Grant: I don’t think that’s true. Yeah. I’m not too sure that’s factual.
Oliver: Yet another few questions here.
Oliver: Shortcodes. That’s something I really miss in Headway and that you have in Pagelines and in Woo Themes canvas where I can use some shortcodes to make columns in the content field of WordPress because that’s my biggest pet peeve with WordPress that you basically only have one content area per page. You can get around that with custom fields or using several… in Headway, you could use several content blocks and make custom queries and includes different pages on one page, but it is a workaround.
Grant: You can use all the WordPress shortcuts in Headway, though.
Oliver: Yeah. But having it built into Headway would be nice. Some shortcodes also for buttons and stuff.
Grant: And that’s definitely something that we’re going to be doing.
Oliver: All projects I make for clients and for myself requires buttons. You know, big bold fancy buttons, round corners or square corners with gradients or flat designs. But they all require buttons. And it’s always a hassle. And having some shortcodes for that would be nice.
Grant: I agree. Yeah. I certainly wouldn’t disagree with you but the way I’ve done that is, I guess you call it a workaround, as I just use images with HTML and the custom code block.
Oliver: Yeah. I do that as well but for clients, it would be nice to have something in the WordPress editor that could just use… because they might be able to understand the shortcodes especially if it were implemented with some buttons in the toolbox or what they call it so they could just…
Grant: Oh, yeah. I agree, all right. That’s something we’re going to be looking at doing. And I think those shortcodes will even come in especially buttons and “Buy Now” buttons and that kind of stuff, to even get Headway to being able to make landing pages even easier. Definitely I think sure, that’s where the shortcodes would come in to help with that too.
Oliver: Then I thought about Ultimatum. What happened there because their website, the last time I checked, looked a whole lot like Headway’s?
Grant: It does and we’ve confronted them about that. And their excuse for that was that Headway was such a great inspiration for them they decided that’s what they would do.
Oliver: Sounds strange.
Grant: It is. It’s very strange.
Oliver: It is.
Grant: We have a trademark attorney and he’s keeping his eye on things.
Oliver: It’s just a really bad thing to do, I think. It’s bad taste because it looks like your site, it’s just uglier. Because the typography is poor and the graphics are worse and it’s basically a fuss.
Grant: Well, it would be like us going out and copying one of the other themes or frameworks, you know, their site and make it look awful.
Oliver: Do you read books?
Grant: Do I? I do.
Oliver: Do you read fiction or non-fiction?
Grant: I read both.
Oliver: Do you have some book tips?
Grant: Do I have some book tips?
Oliver: Yeah. Some book tips.
Grant: Oh, gosh. You know…
Oliver: You know, books are amazing because they widen your horizon. So getting book tips from people is a major thing now.
Grant: Oh, I know. Right now, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction. My mom, of all people, got me hooked on Vince Flynn books and…
Oliver: Vince Flynn.
Grant: And they’re fiction. He’s basically… The main character in that is a CIA spy, and she’s got me hooked on those for non-fiction. I mean fiction books, I’m sorry. I guess, that’s kind of my escape from everyday drudgery of life but hey, I haven’t really read much non-fiction lately.
Oliver: You don’t read marketing books?
Grant: You know, the one marketing book and the only marketing book that I still have on my shelf is… and I don’t even know if you can still get this. I paid a fortune for this. I’m grabbing it right here. It’s an oldie. I’ll tell you the copyright date on this thing. It’s probably I would say it’s the bible as far as marketing goes and advertising.
Oliver: What’s the title?
Grant: The title is Breakthrough Advertising and I think it was copyrighted in the 50’s. But I’m telling you the concepts in this thing still apply today. And it’s by Eugene M. Schwartz.
Oliver: I’ve heard of him.
Grant: It’s just an amazing book. And if you only were going to buy one marketing book in your career, I would buy that one.
Oliver: I’ve got to check it out. But I’m an audible addict.
Grant: Yeah. That thing’s been out of print for years. This was a re-print and the thing cost me a fortune. I’ve never paid that much for a book.
Oliver: Well, good stuff. That’s all for now. It was nice talking to you.
Grant: You too, Oliver.
Oliver: I’m looking forward to Headway 3.5 Beta to be in my inbox later today, otherwise I’ll call you again.
Grant: Yeah. You know, Clay, he pretty much set that beta date in stone. He said I’m going to push that out barring a major disaster.
Oliver: So he’s learning from Dad.
Grant: I think so.
Oliver: That’s good.
Grant: But people have to remember, this is a beta. And you know, you understand this but so many people don’t. For God’s sakes, nobody put it on a live site.
Oliver: Yeah. That would be a bad idea because…
Grant: And there’s still some functions that aren’t going to work perfectly, but I tell you the ones that are working are just absolutely amazing. I think you’re going to enjoy it. I have fun playing with it every time I pull it up and test it, play around with it. So that’s pretty amazing.
Oliver: Full width fluid headers and footers and fluid blocks and all that has such a big implication on the perceived overall design of a website, I think, because we have all these really big, bold websites that I’m getting inspired looking at currently. And it’s probably as a result of responsive design because you have small screens and large screens and all these various different sizes and then why not when you have a big monitor, then why not use all that space.
Grant: Yeah. I agree. You know, getting back to responsive design, I am still not on the responsive bandwagon. I use an iPhone. Well, I’d love to. My wife does. I think her entire team has an iPhone except for maybe one person. I very rarely look at a website on my iPhone, hardly ever. And maybe I’m one of the weird ones. I don’t know.
Oliver: It is a very small screen. It is. So for browsing it isn’t very good. I think responsive design is getting there but I was very conservative myself because people started talking about it two years ago and it was starting to get, to become all the rage and I was like, “Yeah.” But I’m still not sold on it because…
Grant: And that’s been me. I think you and I probably agree on it. I’m more sold on it now, of course, than I was two years ago. After all, we’ve added the responsive function to Headway. And we’re actually going to be doing some more things with that too, making that even better.
Oliver: The funny thing is, I’ve encountered clients who specifically ask for a responsive site. It has to look good on mobile devices, they say. And then when I’m done they say, “Well, I’ve checked my website on my iPhone and it doesn’t look like it does on my desktop. So please fix that. My colleague or competitor has a website and it looks the same on my iPhone as it does on my desktop, so please fix it.” And I’m like, “Well, it’s your competitor who needs a more modern website because it isn’t responsive. Your website is responsive.”
Grant: Yeah. And I think that’s one thing that people don’t understand is when they think responsive, they think, “Yeah, my site should look just like it does on my iPhone as it does on my desktop,” but the only thing you’re really getting in responsive design is you’re getting the content on your iPhone. I mean, that’s what I see. I might read the content on a website but this other stuff, if I’m looking at my iPhone, I don’t care. I don’t care that you have that pretty design or something. I’m looking for the content.
Oliver: But mobile themes is an evil thing and really truly fucking annoying.
Grant: I agree with you totally.
Oliver: So you come into a website and there’s no branding. You can’t see whose website it is. It’s just the content and you can’t find anything else.
Grant: Yeah. I agree. I agree.
Oliver: And that’s the lazy guys solution to responsive design that’s in installing a mobile theme and then oh, I’m all set.
Grant: Yeah. I agree completely. People claim, people say that like we haven’t evolved into the responsive theme. Well, I think the problem is the responsive theme. The responsing theory hasn’t evolved. What exactly is a responsive site? Has anybody ever really said what should be in a responsive site? I don’t think there’s an answer.
Oliver: It hasn’t been defined yet.
Grant: No. I don’t think so.
Oliver: Well, thanks.
Grant: We kind of gone off on a tangent there, didn’t we?
Oliver: Yeah. But that’s always good. That’s always good. We live in an ADHD world.
Grant: Yeah, we do.
Oliver: But I’m glad you do what you do. You made my life easier so thanks for that.
Grant: Well, we appreciate your ongoing support too. You’re one of those voices out there that certainly… You talk about Headway a lot and I love it when you jump in on those comments on some of those reviews and tell people just exactly how it is.
Oliver: Yeah. Yeah because exactly, as we’ve covered in this interview, people got to know what to expect.
Grant: They do. And I’m going to quote Corey Freeman on this. She did a blog post one time. I think it was over a year ago. People are basically saying, you know, why doesn’t Headway do this? And I think the title of her blog post was “Headway is Great but It Won’t Wipe Your Ass.” I’m paraphrasing.
Oliver: I got to dig that one up.
Grant: She really just nailed it on the head there. I mean, no theme is going to do everything. No framework is going to do everything. And people have to get… Like you say, people have to come to the realization that it may take a little bit of work on your part to get them to do that just exactly how you want it.
Oliver: Yeah. And there’s a learning curve.
Grant: There is. There’s a learning curve for driving a car, for God’s sakes. You can’t just expect that it would just go on its own.
Oliver: And a learning curve to life.
Grant: Very true. Very true.
Oliver: And to cooking.
Grant: To everything.
Oliver: For some it’s very steep learning curve.
Grant: Very true.
Oliver: That’s why we have women.
Grant: Yeah, well I wouldn’t say that. I got a daughter-in-law who doesn’t like to cook.
Oliver: So I’m lucky to have a girlfriend who really enjoys cooking and experimenting and it mostly turns out really well.
Oliver: So I think it’s been a requirement for each of my girlfriends for all of my life that they have to be good at cooking. A wise man once told me, I don’t know if it was my dad or my uncle, he said the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach. And it is.
Grant: It’s very true. Very true.
Oliver: It is. It was nice talking to you.
Grant: You too, Oliver. I appreciate it.
Oliver: Okay. Bye-bye. Thanks.
For those not in the know are who haven’t used Headway extensively it is a pile of junk. Every update they bring out brings scores of customers into the support forums posting issue after issue. What I find hilarious is that the support people call themselves Gurus, I mean talk about bigging yourself up! Well, let me tell you this, if the support gurus can’t answer your question then that’s it, game over. So your website could be all over the screen in bits because of a Headway update and you will be stuck until the next update (in theory). So basically you have to wait for a fix. You can only see the support forums by signing up and buying Headway so if you think this is bull then please be my guest and waste your money. Good luck all.
Oliver Nielsen says
While I agree that Headway isn’t perfect (and often emphasize that nothing is perfect) I can’t recognize your view, and I don’t see it as a fair treatment of Headway as a product nor the attitude of the team behind it.
I been part of many support forums. Headway’s is no different – no better or worse – than most other product support forums. The team does a decent job I think. Support can be a huge task to undertake.
Clay, the developer of Headway is extremely service-minded and quick to act. He has never let me down if an update has given me problems. Ever.
That said, I do value your opinion and freedom of speech!
(even though you identify yourself only by first name, write from a generic live.com email address and don’t link to a website – which I’d be very pleased if you did when you postulate the way you do)
However, I’d be more interested in hearing which other theme framework(s) on the market that you find have better support and the same degree of flexibility as Headway? Preferably one(s) that require as little coding as possible.
PS: The wording “Support Guru” is nothing more than a light-hearted forum role description. I can’t see why that upsets you. I’m sure none of the nice people on the support team wants to be perceived as gurus on a piedestal. Chill and cheer up;-)
Alison, from reading what you said is irrelevant and insignificant.
“You can only see the support forums by signing up and buying Headway so if you think this is bull then please be my guest and waste your money.”
Why not? This is great for people who actually bought the product and not gotten it through unethical illegal means. But sounds like you’re one of those folks who only use pirated goods because you said you’ve used Headway then called it “a pile of junk” then complained about the support forum to your words “support gurus can’t answer your question,” then you must have paid for forum to have access to it in the first place to know that.
Then you shouldn’t have problem with only see forum support. Ironic, indeed, and hypocritical.
Conclusively, you could have been lying about any experience in the forum or obtain Headway illegally.
You actually sound like a bratty childish whiner in high school and unintellectual. Good luck to you missy.
Headway is the most innovative theme out there. I agree with David, you should interview the REAL person responsible for Headway. Grant is just the oversee person, but Clay is the person we really want to get to know and deserve the credit.
Oliver Nielsen says
Always remember to keep a respectful tone;)
Anyway, I think I’ve seen Alison around the Headway forums. At least if she’s the Alison I think of. They do write alike, so I’m probably right.
She’s legit and have asked various questions on the forums, which were aswered properly, at least to the best of the support teams ability, but sometimes the right answers are not the ones people wish to hear.
Speaking in general, some people (not specifically Alison) may encounter a problem they believe to be a bug. When told that it’s the intended behavior, they start getting angry and may accuse the provider of “not wanting to acknowledge the fact that the product is flawed”.
Other times, a product can indeed be flawed, and then these people start complaining because “they’ve purchased something – and it has to be flawless, otherwise it’s a downright SCAM!” (which is hardly the case – nothing is perfect – and this is software, not hardware)
Heck, sometimes people blame a product for being useless, just because it wasn’t what they were expecting (often a magic bullet).
Ultimatum is the definition of a company with no identity, ridiculous way to do business, but it will hurt them in the long run I think.
Apparently they misinterpreted Bruce Lee’s philosophy:
“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, add what is uniquely your own.” :-p
Very good interview Oliver, 3.5 will probably make me switch permanently to Headway (more or less).
Next time perhaps you could interview his son and dig into his high-frequency brain 🙂
Oliver Nielsen says
I’ve considered asking Clay for an interview;-) May do!
Amen on the responsive site chat! ARRRGGGHHHH… and shame on automattic for twenty ten and twenty twelve — everything looks screwed on the phone — and you have to scroll, scroll, scroll past those widgets.
thanks for the interview! are you going to try blubrry powerpress? I don’t recommend allowing it to “enhance” all feeds (necessary to do category posting) as it ganks up your branding on the main feed and they slap their own logo on it… quite annoying. It appears to be difficult to extricate it AND maintain iTunes
I’ve had it as a b-list item for a while to work on moving the podcasts into custom posts and then seeing if I can’t move powerpress into channels — but the documentation is not so good, and the developer appears to think everyone likes his branding on your main feed.
at least my feed is responsive! LOL
Oliver Nielsen says
Thanks for the tip on Blubrry’s “enhancement” of my feed. Pretty annoying indeed!
Overall, I find Blubrry PowerPress a really messy plugin (and online service!) but on this site I’ll use it, for various reasons.
On my Danish site – WebMatros.dk – I use Seriously Simple Podcasting which is a good, simple plugin with a nice developer (Hugh Lashbrooke) behind it.
Great interview Oliver. It’s always good to keep up to date with the latest happenings. Enjoying the 3.5 Beta a lot, the Fluid wrapper part is a great addition.
Oliver Nielsen says
Indeed. 3.5 will be great (once stable).
Really good interview! I really enjoyed learning a bit of the Headway backstory and getting a glimpse of the future. IMHO Headway is the best framework out there – and I have tried a few 🙂 It’s logical, flexible and intuitive to a great extent. Love it!
Oliver Nielsen says
Thanks Terri, nice of you to say!