Assume Your Customers Technology At Your Peril

I’ve just come across an interesting scenario that kind of ties in with my last blog post on “Free vs Paid Themes and Plugins”.

Quite often I will browse through the various themes and plugins websites just to see what’s new on the market –plugins that might save me time and themes that I might be able to use. Occasionally, I come across something.

Checking "Everything" That Matters

Today, I spotted such a theme and went through my usual checklist. It ticked all the right boxes: reputable coder (he’s sold over $2.2m worth of stuff in just over 4 years), plenty of positive comments about the theme. His previous themes seem to have good reviews, and no bad comments about the support he gives.

So, all the boxes ticked so far

So, all the boxes ticked so far

Without looking at the code, I can’t tell if the security is good, but would assume the author wouldn’t have sold that much stuff if it was full of security holes. It was a single site license for $50.00, which is about right, and there are no ongoing costs unless I needed to buy the theme license again for other sites. ($2500 for a dev license isn’t going to happen just yet.)

The theme had a lot of features. And, nicely enough, it had an author page already built in, which is something a lot of theme authors miss. This feature alone has caused me grief in the past because the time it takes to style it when you are dealing with somebody else's programming code. Anyway, I digress. It had it and I was impressed.

I was just about to hit the buy button  when I decide to check out the theme on my mobile. I’d already done the browser resize and everything looked good. I don’t know why I thought to do it, but I did.

I run a Samsung Galaxy S2 with Android 4 point something. It isn’t quite the cutting edge phone it used to be, but it’s reliable and has never let me down. Great for showing clients what mobile sites look like and I’ll probably upgrade to the S4 in November when my contract is up.

Do Your Due Diligence

So, back to looking at the demo website on my S2. Boy am I glad I did. It looked horrible. The menu navigation wasn’t there. There were big gaps between elements, and images not showing. Wow. Could this be right? Was there something else affecting my viewing experience?

This particular theme marketplace puts an iframe around some of the demos, and this can have a nasty effect on certain themes. On a desktop, I was able to see the iframe and remove it, but on the mobile I couldn’t.

So, not sure what the cause was, I messaged the author  listing the points I was concerned about (five in total), told him what my phone was and waited. He came back within 30 minutes which was great. His answer however wasn’t so great.

Assuming Your Customers Technology

He basically said that the S2 was a 2-year-old phone and he wasn’t prepared to test his stuff out on older phones - because they don’t have an up-to-date browser! Really!!! He even had the cheek to compare it to Internet Explorer 6, which, quite frankly, I’ve had tin cans and strings as phones that worked better than IE6 as a browser. I thought that that slur was just out of order J

Now, let’s remember that this guy has made way more money than I have. He’s a better coder than I am, but I was shocked that he assumed everybody has up-to-date phones.

I know you can’t support stuff forever, but 2 years isn’t that long and the S2 isn’t that bad. It was one of the first decent smartphones to take on the iPhone. Sales, as of the beginning of this year, stood at 40 million. Even if half of them are now dead or broken that is still 20 million phones that wouldn’t be able to view his website. There will be even more that aren’t as good as the S2 that will be in the same boat.

Leaving Money On The Table?

Now, he’s probably thinking that this fact doesn’t concern him. He’s only selling the theme, and he’s stated that he’d tested it on the S3 and Nexus 7 with no problems, but it would matter to me when my clients complained that their customers can’t view their website properly!  And it should matter to him as something like this can be the difference between selling 1,000 copies and 10,000 copies. If enough people have problems and complain, it could be a very costly mistake.

So, this post hopefully highlights three important points:

  1. Do your due diligence. Check things and make sure they do what the developer says they do even with somebody you trust. Don’t just take past good experiences or feedback as being the current situation.
  2. If you create something, don’t forget to test it, test it properly and then test it again. Or, even better, get somebody else to test it because they  will see things from different angles.
  3. Don’t forget about clients that might not have the latest equipment and technology. There will be a point when it is no longer financially viable to maintain something or build something that copes with out of date software (Internet Explorer 6  comes to mind straight away), but don’t be too hasty in defining that point. You could lose out on a big slice of money especially if other people have abandoned it. It could become a niche market in its own right.

I have deliberately not mentioned the authors name or the theme marketplace. I don’t want to burn his sales in anyway. My comments are openly available on the website for people to read and make their own judgement. If they decide that he is right, then all good for them dealing in an environment where all their users have S3s and better. Mine don’t, not by a long way. And with these points in mind, I think I’ll be giving this theme a miss.