PSA: WPMU DEV will NOT support the Salutation Theme

Update: To clarify for future generations, this post is in regard to Salutation Theme versions up to 1.5.  We’ll update again when/if this issue is resolved by the theme developers.

Update #2: As of Salutation 2.0 this theme is remarkably more compatible with custom post types and WPMU DEV plugins.  We’re stoked to see the developers respond for the betterment of all customers.  The article and instructions below are no longer relevant and we’re seeing folks have positive results with this theme.  Thanks.

Seriously.  I’ve been thinking about this post for over a month now and it’s clearly gone on long enough.  Consider this an official statement on our support policy in regards to the Salutation theme on ThemeForest and an open letter to its developers.

First off, never in the history of WPMU DEV have we had to make a public statement about our support of a 3rd party product.  Obviously, we can’t guarantee support with everything that’s ever been written but our entire staff works hard to make sure we play as nice as possible with products such as GravityForms, companies like WooThemes, and services such as WP Engine.  We do this because it’s what’s best for our customers and at the end of the day that’s who we’re here to serve.

What serves our customers best today is to publicly state that the current version of  the Salutation theme has serious issues and we will no longer support it.  As I’m writing this the stats for this theme are 3534 downloads with a 5 star rating.  It’s popular and it’s loved. So what’s the big deal and why are we making this move?  Well, read on and I’ll tell you exactly why  we won’t support it, what you’ll have to do if you’re stuck with it, and what the developers could do instead of blaming us.

My first interaction with this theme was working with Joe, a member of our support staff. We couldn’t figure out why the theme wasn’t working well with our Q&A plugin which has several compatibility checks to work with as many themes as possible.  Joe purchased the theme with his own money so we could take a look at the code. When I looked at the download file my heart sunk.  The theme code by itself – no PSDs – clocks in at 15MB.  For those of you counting that’s about 28 times the size of the default BuddyPress theme and nearly 400% larger than robust theme frameworks such as PageLines!  I’m surprised folks are able to upload this thing to their site.  I’m sure more than a few have tried to upload it via the WordPress admin and hit their PHP memory limit.

Ok, fair enough, it’s a beast.  But code is poetry. Maybe what we have here is the “Lord of the Rings” of the theme world. Oh if only… the old phrase about beauty and skin deep comes to mind.

Instead, what we found is a theme that lacks in structure, conventional file naming practice, and strays completely from default WordPress themeing practices.  This causes a ton of issues – especially when using custom post types.  That’s bad news as custom post types are kind of a big deal and not likely to be going anywhere.  Most of our popular plugins use post types including: Events+, Q&A, Wiki, Directory, and our upcoming appointments+ plugin.

A theme template for a custom post type should follow the format single-POST_TYPE.php. Check the codex if that’s not clear.  That’s not good enough for Salutation apparently.  It has its own naming structure.  Our plugins provide “theme template” files within the plugin which are used for displaying the post-types. When the default display doesn’t work perfectly with a theme, most of the time you can copy the files from the plugin to your theme and then edit to get the exact thing you’re looking for.

Not so with Salutation. And when we call the page.php template with a “the_content” filter to insert our content, nobody can see it because part of their CSS puts a visibility hidden on most of the page.  I’m sure that has some cute effect, but it breaks a pretty simple filter.  It also completely fails to load the footer.

If you must use the Salutations theme with a custom post type plugin you’re in for a lot of painful work through trial and error.  And it appears that the theme developers don’t care too much.  After all, their theme works fine in a vacuum and to the average user it can appear that because things break when a plugin is activated, that plugin is to blame.

I’m going to outline the (rather ridiculous) steps you’d need to take to get this theme to start working correctly with our Q&A plugin here.  The process should be extendable to other custom post type plugins, but your mileage may vary.

To the Salutation developers: The codex and standards are there for a reason.  You’re hurting your customers and the larger WordPress community when you ignore it.

BTW, the following code solution was developed by one of our hard-working members, tom.eagles. I’ve actually had the privilege to speak to him personally and he’s a guy of real integrity. If you’re reading this and want someone to assist you, you should totally beg for the privilege of paying him to fix it up. Anyway, on to the guide…

The way to gain control over these features is by integrating it into the theme’s native structure. For example, for each file you add to the theme folder which has the get_header( 'question' ); and get_footer( 'question' ); code:

1. Create a new file named “template-[your-plugin-file-name].php” and copy the content of the plugin file into the new template file.

So if you had a plugin file called “single-question.php” your template file would be “template-single-question.php

2. Delete the references to get_header( 'question' ); and get_footer( 'question' ); in the new template file (won’t be needing them for this theme).

3. Open the plugin file you copied the code from, for example “single-question.php” and delete all the content. Add the following code to the file:

create_page_layout('single-question', 'qa-layout');  // context = single-question

That is the only code that should be on the page. This tells the theme to load the “template-single-question.php” file and also to look for a custom layout with the key “qa-layout“. Now you can to to the Layout Manager for the theme (Appearance > Layouts) and make a new layout with the key “qa-layout” and it will be used for this page. The layout key is the second filed after the layout name when adding/editing a layout.

4. Repeat this process for the rest of the plugin files that include the same header/footer references. You can optionally assign the same layout key to each file, or give them different keys if you want to have the ability to set different layouts for different areas of the plugin.

This is what I did:

template-archive-question.php
template-ask-question.php
template-edit-answer.php
template-edit-question.php
template-single-question.php
template-user-question.php

These files were created in the Salutation theme folder.

I copied over the code from the original files with same name minus the “template-” part. The content in the original files ( that where already since before copied over to the Salutation Theme folder) were then erased and this line was added in each and every one of them, where the name of the template of course were changed to fit the file names like ‘single-question’, ‘ask-question’ and so forth,

<?php create_page_layout('archive-question', 'qa-layout'); // context = archive-question ?>

I then created a new layout that I am calling Q&A with the key being your suggestion: ‘qa-layout’.

I am using same layout for all files. I fixed only in that layout a minimal header, default footer and a container with Default content in it.

Here comes the CSS changes that are done ( all in the plugins general.css that you find inside the plugin directory:

Added following lines to the css:

width: 620px!important;

to

#qa-page-wrapper {
  float: left;
  overflow: hidden;
  padding-bottom: 2em;
        background-color:white;         width: 620px!important;         }
width:470px!important;

to

.question-summary {
  padding: 0 5px 0 0;
  float: right;
        width:470px!important;
}
width: 600px!important;

to

#question-form textarea,
#answer-form textarea,
.cleditorMain {
  margin: 20px 0;
        width: 600px!important;
}

This changes fix the whole plugin to keep itself nicely to max 620px and the titles of the questions to show up properly.

Following changes are done for the title and tags input areas in the questions editor and the editor itself:

width: 600px!important;

to

#question-form textarea,
#answer-form textarea,
.cleditorMain {
  margin: 20px 0;
        width: 600px!important;
}
width:380px!important;
to
#question-title,
#question-tags {
  border: 1px solid #999;
  background-color: #fff;
        width:380px!important;
}

And finally to make the plugin look nicely in your members area where you can see the questions you have posted and or answered.

background-color:white;

to

#qa-user-answers {
  margin-top: 0px;
        padding-top:10px;
        background-color:white; }
margin-top: 20px;

is changed to

margin-top: 0px;

and

padding-top:10px;

is added.

And last part added is

background-color:white;

to

.question {
  border-bottom: 1px dotted #999999;
  overflow: hidden;
  padding: 10px 0;
        background-color: white;
}

And a fix for the user information box that hangs around with ones user name and avatar on the right side next to the questions one has posted or answered:

padding-right:5px;

add to

.qa-user-details {
  float: left;
  line-height: 17px;
        padding-right:5px;
}

Whew, if you’re still reading this congratulate yourself and hopefully you’ve got a fully working display.

Comments (28)

  1. As a developer I’ve been there, done that, and run screaming. It’s got to be a hard choice, but in the end I think it’s about one simple thing: supporting standards. I can’t reasonably implement something for a client that I can’t guarantee support with, so my team refuses to work with Salutations at all. I hope this is a wake up call for its developers.

  2. Thanks kaffeinated. I know other plugin developers who’ve made the same statement. It really hurts as we’ve spent hundreds of hours when you look at the support across a half dozen plugins only to have them tell their users it’s our fault.

    It’s either ignorance or dishonesty and either is shameful.

  3. I’m the developer of the theme in question. I’m aware of the difference in the template structure from a typical WP theme. This is not a typical WP theme.

    At the time of development it was necessary to do create this unique structure to implement our custom template layout feature. This makes it possible to have much greater control over the display and structure of your website with interchangeable headers, footers, page/post and static content sources. It also provides both centralized control over broad design changes and granular control on a per. page/post level. This is unique and not easily achieved.

    We did not actually change the WP template structure, rather added an extra layer. Because I recognized that this structure causes conflicts for a limited number of plugins and is not native to WP, I spent a great deal of time developing an update that makes it possible to have the theme automatically recognize the native WP structure and/or use the “template-{context}.php” structure built into the theme. What that does is makes these conflicts almost disappear. The only reason the update has not already been implemented is I haven’t figured out how to make it backwards compatible with current installs.

    I have considered releasing the update as a new version that would require some manual updating for anyone that has inserted custom template page (the process you describe above) but ruled it out because I don’t want to burden my customers.

    I fail to see where anyone from my support staff or myself have blamed you or your products. Please don’t accuse me of finger pointing. That’s not how I operate.

    I understand you’re position. You’ve chosen not to support your customers if they’re using my product. I will continue to provide support to my customers, even if they’re using one of your products.

    • Hi Andy, great to see you already have an update in the works to resolve these issues.

      Regarding your concern for users updating if they’ve inserted custom template pages, perhaps you could detect whether or not this is the case, and display a notice in the admin with a link showing how to resolve the issue? Then for others who haven’t done this, they still get the fixed update.

      What do you think?

      • Hi Japh, we have released an update now that fixes all the plugin conflicts described in this article. We were able to create a solution that allows backwards compatibility as well so it should be an easy upgrade for existing Salutation sites.

      • It’s been more than 2 months since the release of a major update to Salutation fixing the plugin issues. There have been several more updates to the theme since then and still no change to this article?

        In the process of testing the theme we identified a problem with a WPMU plugin (Q&A) that needed changes to their code, notified them of the issue and no word back on that either.

        Japh, maybe you can get results using some of that Envato pull? I thought this article was unprofessional to begin with, never getting any kind of contact from the author ahead of time, but I decided to use it as motivation to make Salutation better rather than be frustrated. Now I’m just getting tired of waiting for a response.

        • Hey Andy, not sure when the update happened, but at the top of this article there are two updates. The second one has been added since you released your major update to Salutation that fixed the issues.

  4. Hiya Andy,

    Glad to see you comment here. And even happier to here you’ve got a solution that will allow things to work with default WordPress templates. Whenever it’s released we’ll definitely test and see if it’s something we can put our support behind.

    I didn’t falsely accuse you of anything. Here’s a direct quote (which I linked to in the article) that one of your customers received: “Strange coincidence that so many so-called “Salutation problems” exist with plugins developed by this one website… I have had many problems in the past with their plugins on every BuddyPress theme I have used. I now steer clear, the ways in which their plugins are implemented is not very ‘elegant’ at all.”

    How is that not passing the blame to us for what you now admit yourself is the result of the Salutations setup?

    We support our customers who decide to continue to use the theme by pointing them to this article which contains the steps necessary to getting things running.

    • I see what you’re saying about the quoted comment. When I read that I took it as his personal opinion, not a statement of “It’s the plugin, not the theme.” Either way I agree that passing the buck is unprofessional and shouldn’t be done.

      I’ve actually not been as active on our Help Center the last few weeks because my wife and I just had a new baby girl arrive. I’m a couple days behind on the new posts still so I did not see that comment until just today.

      Did I miss something or was the topic you linked to saying the problem also happens with the default BP theme?

  5. Hmmmm, an interesting read. I’ve recently used Salutations for a project and I’ve found it to be massively, massively complex but at the same time very powerful.

    During the build I’ve had major problems with plugins, and compatability in general. That said, I have found the support from Andy to be excellent, not WPMU or WooThemes excellent but it’s a completely different organisational scales we’re talking about here.

    I dont think anybody wants this to turn into a flame war here, and yes, pf course standards are crucial but personally I found the Q&A tutorial above really helpful, so maybe we could share the solutions and workarounds between us all instead.

    Group hug? :)

  6. James, Andy

    We are using both, Salutation + WPMU Dev.

    As a customer I asked you to not turn it in flame war and think about the interest of your customers to figure out it.

    My 2 cents to the debat.

    Lamine
    Fansfoot owner

  7. I really don’t see this as an isolated thing, with the expansion of WordPress there are many support groups that won’t support a list of other items. Even WPEngine has a list of plugins you can’t use now.

    It’s just the nature of growth. As things expand it is harder for folks like us in support positions to justify the excessive amount of time some of these third party compatibility issues require. It’s not just our time, but the time of others who are waiting on answers less complex and within the organization’s realm.

    It’s a spectacularly beautiful theme. I really enjoy seeing it.

    But you don’t wear a ballgown to the beach. Some things just don’t mix without alot of alteration :)

  8. @Ben and @Fansfoot, no desire for a “flame” war. As I mentioned on twitter, we’ve included the version number of the theme in the post now and I’m happy to update this post or write a new one when things are fixed up. This is just about creating a positive customer experience. Everyone wins.

    @Kimberly, great points :) I don’t wear ballgowns ever.

    • Salutation v2.0 is now available and I’m using it for an important project of mine – of course together with some WPMUDEV plugins. I had a few issues while doing the upgrade last night and good perfect support in the forum (and directly from Andy). A 2.0.1 update with some minor fixes will follow next week, he wrote.

      Now it really could be the moment for you to try again, Mason ;-)

  9. Hi Guys,

    Just seen this post… I am building my new FitnessBloggerUK site using Andy’s Salutation Theme.

    I am also keen to use some of the plugins from WPMU Dev

    I will be eager to hear how things move forward and look forward to any more news or updates

    Cheers

    James

    AKA The Fitness Blogger

  10. Interesting post. Three things:
    1. Salutation is the most beautiful BPress temp. I have ever seen.
    2. WPMU Dev has a number of wonderful plugins.
    3. When we get this all figured out, I will be purchasing Salutation…(already a WPMU DEV member)

  11. You created this post without contacting the author of the theme? That’s horrible. I don’t see any “Public Service Announcements” from people critiquing your plugins.

    Salutation is hands down one of the best themes I’ve ever used and it works fine with all of your plugins that I’m using, guides are within Salutation’s ‘Help Center’ for others.

    Anyone dropping by, Salutation is a 5-star rated theme that’s had literally thousands of sales: http://themeforest.net/item/salutation-wordpress-buddypress-theme/548199

    Support has been excellent the one time I actually needed it. Also as far as I can see the theme is 15mb because of all the Cufon fonts and icons included for free. They’re obviously not all used.

    Also in that post you linked to about ‘blame’. Having a read of the whole thread it turns out there wasn’t a Salutation issue at all (it was your plugin), all despite YOUR support staff claiming it was a Salutation problem BEFORE Salutation said it was a plugin problem.

    Disappointing Mason, very unprofessional – you should have contacted the theme author given so many of your customers sue this fantastic theme. You come off as a real jerk and this article should be removed.

    • Hi Andy / Mason,

      I am currently using Andy’s theme for a project I am working on http://mywherecanifind.com

      The salutations theme is complex, no doubt, but it’s a really good theme and very powerful. I have had few issues with the theme & the Q & A plugin working together. However, I was able to solve most of them with the help of the WPMU support team or using suitable plugins.

      The support from the WordPress community was also great in solving some issues that I had.

      coming to the point, you both have really good products. No point in blaming each other, try to come to a possible solution about compatibility as I am sure many of your customers use both the products together.

      All the best.

  12. I think it was a great way to bring all this out in the open. Frankly I had never heard about the Salutation Theme before, and it looks to be great once all the compatibility issues have been worked out.

    The theme apparently having comparability issues with a number of plugins, not just ones from here, so finding out directly that developers are working on that would be a big plus on committing to the framework for me.

    There could have been better communication all round before it got to the point that someone felt they had to put this kind of article together, but that happens.

  13. We’ve updated the theme and released Salutation v2 which no longer has conflicts like the one described in this article. Please test the theme again. We’re looking forward to reading your article again once it has been updated.

  14. @Andy, that’s great news! I just downloaded the theme and installed it on one of my old test installs with several WPMU DEV plugins activated.

    I’m extremely happy to report that my initial test (I’m headed out for dinner shortly) is very very positive. I will dig into this tomorrow and over the weekend with our developers. Expect an update from us on this – and hopefully – a reversal on our position here :)

  15. This is great news for people like me who are members of WPMU and using the Salutation theme,

    A big thanks must go to Andy and his support team…. who have always been quick to help with my site..

    Mason, I hope the testing goes well and I look forward to a reversal on the WPMU Dev’s position.

    Kind Regards

    James

    AKA The Fitness Blogger

  16. I was planning on getting the theme.. It looked so awesome. I was like : yeahhhh :D
    Then I read this article and I was like: nooooo :(
    Then I read the comments and now I’m like: okay :)

    I’m planning on using the theme for a fairly large project. I have a little php coding experience, but not very much. I’m a little worried about incompatibility problems with other plugins..

    Does anyone know of other issues? How about issues with plugins such as S2member, Buddypress User Account Types lite/pro or baw easy invitation codes?

  17. I appreciate this article and the discussion which has followed. I’m a user of both though only seriously started using wpmu products very recently. I love salutation for the power it gives to create a wide range of site layouts with the buddypress integration.

    I’m hoping to integrate a few wpmu plugins into my site running salutation v2 and see how that goes. I have found Andy’s support very good, though I do believe standards are very important as well especially when people want to customise things beyond the customisation that the developer had in mind.

    All in all healthy debate which I think will benefit the community. I do think it would have been even better to discuss amongst yourselves first and come out with a joint solutions type post though I don’t see any problem in anyone having experienced enough problems with a product to publish their findings.

    I will certainly do the same if I found wpmu to be giving me a pain ;) wink

    Both companies are create excellent products. Keep pushing the bar!

Participate