Saying Goodbye to Upfront, Focusing On What Our Members Want & Embracing Gutenberg, Divi, Beaver, WPBakery and more…

In what feels like a different life ago (but was in-fact just 2010) I started to think really really hard about the future of WordPress, user experience and web design. It was a process that culminated in 2015 with Upfront and one which ends today with very mixed emotions and a announcement that might surprise you.

So, join me for yet another James-reflects-on-screwing-up-and-sets-wpmudev-up-for-a-better-future-hopefully post™ :D Promise I’ll keep this one a little shorter though.

Mostly because this one’s about product, rather than me. Well, me messing up product, so kinda about me, but with fewer bad words and more learning (no hugs mind), anyway…

We had a good run at it…. this stuff was haaaard.

Web design (for the consumer) was/is broken

I’d like to argue that the ‘consumer’ (i.e. your regular Joanne without any development or design experience) is almost equally unable to customize the design of their website today as they were in 2010. Especially when it comes to WordPress.

Now, IMO this is down to a whole heap of reasons, not the least of which being the Geocities-effect (if there isn’t such a thing… there should be) whereby any non-designer given the capacity to actually design will inevitably make all the things as fugly as possible, as quickly as possible. I certainly do.

But perhaps, I reckon, mostly down to a combination of the complexity required of a standard website (hint: it’s much higher than you thought) and the tools available for achieving that (hint: they don’t let Joanne achieve the former). Plus the small matter that if anyone *does* crack the above, the net results are going to be the blandest of bland where every site looks the same minus slightly different high-def portrait images.

I won’t go into too much detail largely because there’s just too much of it, but howabout this for an example. What do your personal trainer friends Joanne and Joe want for their individual personal training websites? I’ll tell you now, it’s *completely different*.

So, how do you cater to them both? Well, uh, I guess you need a powerful but simple platform with a bunch of different templates they can choose from and functionality suiting their requirements that they can simply integrate (for example Joanne wants a members area, Joe wants to sell training courses). Easy huh? Erm, no. The vast majority of people still find it hard to format a Word document… how on earth do you think they are going to achieve this?!?!?!?!

Give it another decade or two along with a vast vast vast amount of investment and you miiiiight, just possibly, get some sort of AI/machine-learning system that actually works and which essentially becomes your automated web designer + developer. Although I’m pretty sceptical about this (especially given that it’ll be competing against a much higher aesthetic standard) and that, simply put, conceptually and practically, the tools simply are not there.

Until that time, you’ll be using WordPress.com for your blog, Shopify for your shop, Squarespace for your portfolio and any number of other platforms for your other specific needs.

Or, a web designer/developer who will do your custom requirements for you and make it look lovely to boot.

How safe is your lunch?

Which is to say that I was right about the future (although not its proximity) but wrong about the competition.

Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify etc. are quite certainly *not* going to come and eat our lunch… at least not yet, and probably never if they continue down their respective paths.

Being those which lead directly (or at least via your nearest Super Bowl ad) towards the consumer. The person who wants a website right now and for as little cash as possible, ideally for free. For the person who will be happy with the fundamentals offered (or persuaded to be so) and content with the limitations therein, because they are traded for convenience and cost.

But that doesn’t mean that WP is safe from competition, although it’s a kind of competition for healthiness and vitality, rather than a direct threat from an open source or hosted rival. Rather that it’s tied up very much in the challenge that any utterly dominant market leader faces – namely continuous improvement and innovation.

Such as in a concerted and directed effort towards a better design experience on both a content and theme basis. Such as Gutenberg.

WordPress is creating an all new editor called Gutenberg, it’s pretty awesome.

So Gutenberg is taking over?

Well, not really.

And this was my other biggest challenge, I am simply *not* experienced, talented or focused enough to be able to create the ultimate user, or even developer (now that we’ve gotten our regular users out of the way) themes package. I was stupid to think I ever would be. And I think it’s highly likely that if you think you can, you’re a dumb as me… hey, we should grab a beer :D

I was breaking my own maxim in terms of expertise; I’m not a designer, I wasn’t being employed by anyone to implement designs for websites and my experience in terms of creating them myself (which, as I pointed out, doesn’t really matter as they aren’t my audience, you are) was limited at best.

And there are all sorts of different types of you, there are command-line-junkies, there are shortcode-fanatics, there are these folk who follow Genesis like it’s some sort of religion (geddit? ahhh) there are the Divi-division, the Beaver-Builder-belt, the WPBakery-bunch (neé Visual-Composer-crew) and even the ithemes-indigenous (sorry about that last one). There are many, many ways to create a building, and for the strength, viability and innovation that is required for WP to succeed these are absolutely required and I have no doubt at all will only flourish.

BUT the platform itself (and not to mention wp.com, ahem!) needs a robust, powerful and well considered visual design tool – inspired by and working alongside all of the above (and the many I have missed and that will come after). It’s simply not enough to be a back-translates-to-front tool, and Joanne, quite rightly, is demanding a better content creation experience. So that’s a great place for the project to start from.

And from there… why shouldn’t WP have a robust visual content creator and then theme editor??? I think it should! But there’s no way, and in fact given the way that people innovate and the reasons for the curators of the project to keep it open and flourish (rather than close it up and perish), it’s going to be the only one.

Which is why…

From now on WPMU DEV <3s you all :)

Have a think about it… what’s our expertise? To abuse a much abused term, what’s our DNA? It’s in helping web developers create and manage client websites. Be it a 1-3 people web shop, a full blown agency or an internal role managing corporate or institutional (hello CampusPress!) sites.

And while all of you want all sorts of different things, most of all, I bet, you want us to focus all of our efforts on supporting you in what you choose, by providing robust, compatible products and services, alongside broad and expert support.

Heck, we’ve been actively supporting WooCommerce, Divi and many other themes tools for years as it is. So let’s make it official.

As of today we are now officially supporting and devoting our whole efforts to compatibility with as many as possible different WP Theme and design providers as we can and when it comes to Gutenberg, we are *all in*. As in, let’s make this happen and let’s focus on every one of our products and services guten perfect compatibility with the ‘berg :)

And so for Upfront… goodbyeeeeeeee

Yep, as I mentioned at the start, it’s with very mixed emotions that we part ways.

But, fundamentally, I think that we’re saying goodbye to a more naïve James, and hopefully giving us a more mature, well-rounded and well directed company as a result. Fundamentally, a better suite of products and services that cater better to our audience and expertise.

And, if you’ve really gotten stuck into Upfront, I can only apologise (see reasons above) and assure you that we’re not going to dump you in a bunch of trouble, it’s not like we’re turning off the switch today, in fact we’re going to continue supporting Upfront ongoing (after all, members get support for *anything* WordPress!) and making sure that all of the sites using it are secure and stable for the foreseeable future.

All the time, preparing it for a release on our GitHub account where you will be able to play, fork and fumble around with the beast that it is at your leisure.

During which time and ongoing afterwards, I can assure you we’ll be doubling down on all the things that actually matter to you, our members.

Talking of which… as well as letting me know what an idiot I am in the comments (although you’ll do better to outdo me, I reckon, lol), please do let us know what you’d like us to be doubling down on and also, now that we’re out of the theme game, making sure we’re beautifully compatible with.

James Farmer
Over to you! If you have any questions we'll be here. We're sad to see Upfront go...but excited about improving integrations with our partners.

113 Responses

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    You are losing all my respect.

    I come to this blog to read the news now and then, and to check if the bug report I raised on https://premium.wpmudev.org/forums/topic/bug-report-multinetwork-compatibility#post-1147189 (and I provided the PERMANENT SOLUTION FOR THIS 19 MONTHS AGO) is still not fixed, even though new releases to Ultimate Branding are published frequently. You are giving a shit to users and paying members!!! As always.

    • Hi Renato, with all due respect your post is related to another plugin entirely and there was clearly some discussion around it at the post you cited (although I see the last update being made in 2016, maybe you could open a new ticket?)

      In terms of paying members, we’re working as hard as we can every day to bring you new services, features, products and upgrades: https://premium.wpmudev.org/roadmap/

      If you’ve got any issues, or need any help, we’re here to listen, just update the forum post or hop onto a live expert support chat, I’m sure the core developer had good reason not to make that particular code change – unfortunately it looks like that the reasoning wasn’t explained there in much detail… hopefully it is elsewhere and if not I’m sure we can discuss it further with you.

      • Design Lord, Child of Thor

        More of the same thing, James! Excuses. Unacceptable excuses.

        Couldn’t you update the forum thread there or ping the plugin developer?

        If it was the case (not well explained enough) you should have told me that. Instead, I provided DETAILED step by step instructions on how to reproduce the problem and Rupok told me:

        ======
        I’ve pinged our developer personally and I’ll update you as soon as I get something from him regarding this. I believe, he will come up with a feedback soon.
        ======

        Unfortunately, “as soon as I get something from him” seems to be “never”.

        You, definitely, lose my respect.

  • Make Sense

    I expected this – sooner or later. In fact IMO you shouldn’t try to compete against Divi&Co. They are doing mostly a good job for their customers and the maximum you could achieve going that way would being one of them doing the same thing.

    I think it’s much better to concentrate on creating new plugins and services (as you do), but also on updating older ones, giving them modern features (IMO you’re not doing this enough) AND making all of them 100% GDPR-compatible (that would really help me sleep even better)!!

    I never used Upfront for a serious project, so i’m already using WPMUDEV according to your new way of thinking. And to be honest, i guess a lot of members are doing so. Go on with your work! ;)

    • Funnily enough Divi landed while we were mid development of the original Upfront release, so we weren’t really trying to compete with them, just to provide something new… but as you say (and I think I did too) they have provided a much better product for their/our audience and as we want to do the best for our members… acknowledging and supporting that is a big deal.

      Hopefully the work we’re currently putting into some of our older plugins as well as the new ones and services (and they will *all* be GDPR compatible… I’m pretty certain most already are already) will more than make up for us not nailing this for you.

      Thx for the feedback :)

    • Syntax Hero

      Dear James,
      Thank you for your post.
      I mostly agree with Achim, especially when it comes to GDPR and updating your old plug-ins (or maybe merging them all into hustle ? :p).

      But also, I’d like to add that I never use builders such as Upfront, Divi or Gutenberg (I right my articles directly in HTML) and it has been very benefitial to me and my clients that WPMU was able to provide real insights, tips and solutions at a low-level.

      Most of you competitors focus on a large number of high-level users (which, in fact, might results in them not being actual competitors) and I think that what you do for developers who want to get their hands right in the code is awesome !

  • friend of Bill. W.

    wow the end of upfront !!!
    “mixed emotions” is an understatement :-)
    but a mature & tuff decision to honestly face and make.
    this is highly respectable !!!
    however … my question is why ? how did it come to this ?
    i don’t believe the above completely answers the question.
    example …
    “Divi landed while we were mid development of the original Upfront release”
    so wpmudev was indeed NOT that late to the dance.
    BeaverBuilder started out with two(2) guys and still has a very small fraction of wpmudev’s staff.
    a couple years ago i emailed them to ask their honest opinion of BB vs UpFront –
    i kid u not, their reply was that they could NOT compete with the huge amount of developers that wpmudev has.
    yet BB is a lot easier to use and a much more pleasant UI/UX and now no longer has UpFront to take any of their lunch.
    i believe that even GoDaddy uses it and supports it in their managed wp hosting and even provides custom templates.
    so again, why ? how ?
    why did UpFront initially choose the ugly dark blue to match its branding ?
    why do even the new plugins still litter the backend with silly cartoon characters and branding ?
    did the members ask for this ?
    is it impossible now to find a plugin that actually has the same style as wp core so that a site owner/new user wont feel like they are building a puzzle with different pieces from different boxes ?
    i can appreciate this on the free versions in wp repository.
    UpFront had GREAT potential indeed ! too little too late ?
    even if going forward with new plugins/services and to better provide for existing ones, the real answers should be provided (at least internally).
    i am sure that a HUGE amount of money, time and resources were thrown at UpFront,
    point is, waaaaaay more than probably BB, Divi etc, combined yet it was like chalk & cheese. why ? how ? lol honestly i understand and appreciate all the philosophical ramblings above but i do not think they are the root cause of how and why upfront seemed inferior to the rest. no one ever asked for a sophisticated AI. just a clean, pleasant, easy on the eyes, simple to use drag and drop to make it fun to build for both novice and agency (Novice most importantly).
    invite more members into initial design UI/UX testing stages ? what is missing ? honestly i am not trying to be pessimistic, maybe i to need to grab a beer ? :-)

    • Chief Pigeon

      This is my perspective. :)

      When we first set out to make upfront it was like someone (no names mentioned) had huge ambitions and set his goals really high, but lacked some of the stuff mentioned in this article. We pretty much had a small company of people working on this. The decisions were fueled by a number of things, including another project this would be used in and I think that contributed to the issues and complexity in Upfront. We’d done themes before, but as a customer (when I was) I never saw those as a strong product. Despite the passion and drive, we got it wrong, well James wants to fall on the proverbial sword so he did and now you made me mention names! ;)

      We set about redeveloping it based on all we learnt the first time, and the second time was so much better. But… I feel personally that we made mistakes in trying to make something for everyone, we aimed to be everything, but often it seemed convoluted, we needed more focus but we lacked what was required. It was a huge pain to support and develop too once it got to a certain point.

      So we discussed it again, there were two logical steps, we either develop a third version or we call it a day. I personally kept asking for the latter. ;) By this discussion, Gutenberg is becoming a real thing and I love the direction it’s taking despite the controversy it appears to garner, and you know the plans they have to continue to grow that. But most of all, there are some incredible people like Justin and Billy (sorry, not yet met Robby yet) from Beaver Builder and Nick from Elegant Themes that are dedicated specifically to this kind of thing and that’s been a core focus for a long time. This is the product they make and they do it darn well!

      We had members involved in the development of Forminator, could you tell? :)

      We plan to do that again too.

      But ya, you definitely need a beer too. Come see us at a WordCamp and we’ll all grab that beer and maybe chat a little more in-depth too. ;)

      • friend of Bill. W.

        for those already with live upfront sites a beer might not be enough lol
        just kidding.
        third time’s a charm :-)
        wish the former was chosen
        wpmudev is a subscription model of plugins, support and …. (themes?) thats it.
        would have been great to have a strong theme framework/builder there as well.
        i agree totally, i never understood what all the fuss and negativity was about Gutenberg.
        shameful the community behaved that way.
        it should be embraced and not looked at as competition among theme builders/frameworks ;
        eg. bb mentioned in their blog post since August 2017 ;
        “Imagine if Gutenberg “Blocks” we’re interchangeable with Beaver Builder modules, or if you could drag a saved row into a Gutenberg page. Or, Gutenberg’s text editor could be used inline in Beaver Builder. Lot’s of fun potential, right!?”
        that was since the middle of last year,
        the point is there was and still is a lot of very positive forward thinking for their product.
        now their new 2.1 beta already has “a block to switch between the Beaver Builder and Gutenberg editors.
        the huge wpmudev community could have been used to brain storm ideas/solutions if staff was not able to.
        oh well, no use crying over spilt milk now if theres beer to drink :-)

  • Slave to Beagles

    Hi James,
    Painful as it is to drop something in which you have so much time & energy invested, you are smart to realize when it’s time to walk away. UpFront was a great concept but many other talented shops had the same idea at roughly the same time. Adding UpFront’s development to WPMU DEV’s other two missions of good plugins and (unparalleled) support for all things WordPress, was too much.
    You are smart to learn from this experience. I can’t call it a mistake, since it was unforeseeable mis-timing.
    And don’t beat yourself up about not being super-techie (let us do it for you, it’s more fun for us…). Steve Jobs wasn’t all that tech-oriented, but understood what users wanted. Any company is going to fail without that insight. Mr. Jobs blew it with the Apple Newton, but learned from that and moved on.
    Good for you, for not letting pride mislead you. That’s a rare thing.
    I have more confidence in WPMU DEV than ever now. Go get ’em!

  • The Crimson Coder

    Good day James,

    This sucks, but is understandable. I am a little saddened as I feel upfront offered the best editing experience ( I know others may disagree ) other than quickly editing text (divi wins there). But, the writing was on the wall.

    I know this topic is about upfront, but it also seems to be on the realignment of WPMUDEV to focus on core products. Understandable. Hummingbird and hustle are great products.

    This leads to the question though of Marketpress; Is their a future for it? As with upfront to on lookers the writing appears on the wall. I mean what and when was the latest feature update or notable enhancement? It appears to only be bug fixes. Plus, as Woocomerce is almost a complete part of WordPress now. Which is almost the same scenario as upfront and Gutenberg.

        • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

          Maybe you can consider (and I’m really pleading here) placing the upfront team focus and design elements to the MarketPress Store Presentation/Frontpage Design.

          With the inherent multisite feature-set and a facelift I believe that upgrading the MarketPress comparable feature-set to Woo can be easier achieved and can make it a force to reckon with and a great alternative to WooCommerce with the extensive WPMU plugin integration . . . definitely a good reason for me to ‘come back and stay home’.

        • Mr. LetsFixTheWorld

          “MarketPress … is feature frozen”
          “Pfff…..you don’t promote it like that though.”
          I’ve had similar thoughts about MP and other plugins, and voiced them onsite with no results. The company tends to profile all offerings equally when it’s clear that the offerings do not have equal standing in the internal priority lists. This leaves us to naively post questions and suggestions, as if we’re all in agreement that there’s any value.

          I’m hoping the re-focus described in this post includes better communication with members about the directions in which you want us to lean, so that we aren’t wasting your time or ours leaning in the wrong direction. Case in point, the world needs a better alternative to the Dominance of Woo (coming soon to a theatre near you). This is especially true when they messed with their pricing. MarketPress was/is well-positioned to be that alternative but it’s clear that WPMU DEV does not desire to engage in this kind of competition. Does the same apply to Membership? Events? The guide I use for evaluating a WPMU DEV plugin is the placement in the list – the lower it is the less likely I am to (re)install it for fear it will be retired. Just let us know that’s a good metric for us to use as we continue to respond to ongoing business challenges with software choices.

          The WP ecosystem is like an ocean of rising and ebbing tides, with plugins and themes coming and going as the interest of developers floats from one project to the next. I became a member largely because I thought WPMU DEV offers calmer waters (stability). I spend money to save time. I don’t want to spend excessive time hunting for new plugins or themes, as my previous choices in this ecosystem tend to go obsolete within 1-2 years. The waves here continue to be less choppy than elsewhere but I’m increasingly thinking my boat is rocking way more than is comfortable. My thinking is no longer about stability versus instability, in terms of the longevity and quality of my plugin choices, but more about just getting less instability in return for a yearly fee.

          The retirement of Upfront, to me, is welcome and was foreseen with the first announcements of Gutenberg. That part of this announcement is obvious. What’s less clear is what the refocus is about. Please help us to understand where you would like to go. With more clarity (via a roadmap) I believe most of us will be happy to join you for the ride.

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    Hi James,
    Got to know I love your overall work, being in and out of membership and convetsation with you and your team many times over the years.

    But, if you go back to when WPMUDEV was working on Upfront, you were getting tons of requests simply for “responsive themes”, and not so many on full scale page customizers. By the time you released Upfront, many of the tools in it were already available in both free and premium plugins. My personal take is that it was worth a close look. I did not find the combination of the customization tools with your early release theme frameworks worth pursuing.
    Overall Guttenberg indicates that core WP will continue to absorb currently premium, or at least successful, plugin features going forward. Assuming you’re aligning in that direction, it’s a good move forward.

  • HummingBird

    Amen for this, thank you!

    I for one am just glad I never took the Upfront plunge on any live projects after diving into it many times. It is fantastic that you will keep supporting those using it…unlike a certain other major theme player who recently shut down development of numerous themes with a note saying they would no longer support them!

    Keep up the good work.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    The writing seemed to be on the wall, although apart from spotty support (your chat system is about as terrible as it can possibly get) when it came time to address bugs or nits in the system, there were some very well-done elements of UF that I really wanted to see grow. I had to stop using it because I was on a serious deadline and could not handle one more “your connection to Haberstrom (or whomever) was lost”, so I went to my Divi subscription. And that is where I’ve stayed, yet for every Divi install, my WPMU dashboard goes along with it.

    That all said, Divi has many shortcomings, and I’d say Mr. Roach and co. are trying to do too many things at once (I think Divi is now at 3.00000000239) and can’t seem to EVER get to a real 3.1 release so they just do something nearly every three days to fix some general bugs, or add some other functionality nobody asked for. Also can’t seem to get the visual builder working properly for responsive sites to the degree CSS Hero can if you use a tool like it. Upfront had WAY more potential to outdo Divi.

    And while I had technical issues with the WPMU chat (still do, ahem), Divi’s support is pretty awful. But they have so many users, their groups on Facebook are amazing.

    This wasnt meant to be a DIVI rant, but here’s what I HOPE to see. I would LOVE to see you guys develop a low-resource plugin as part of your portfolio that sings with DIVI and others like CSS Hero does. A usable interface, bug-free (as much as possible) and light on resources… holy grail time. And to me, that is where WPMU could dive into core competency as such a plugin would to me reinforce everything you said above.

    Did I miss the ‘announcement’ above (I skimmed your long post, sorry).

    Best of luck, and I look forward to it.

  • Not really thrilled with you guys here 😒 … Not because you’re eliminating Upfront ( I agree it has too many hurdles compared to other builders), but because when I was working practically NON-STOP last month to build a site in Upfront Builder and continued to run into problems over and OVER but no one cared to mention this was planned.🤨 As someone with a continuing PAID annual membership, this detail would have been important insight. 😠 Now, I need to figure out if I keep dealing with the headaches of Upfront or find another theme to use and have to work on the site ALL OVER AGAIN, making the last month I spent in Upfront a waste of my time. NOT cool guys. 👎🏻

    • Really sorry to hear that Katrina :( In terms of planning, it really was a difficult decision and something that we didn’t take lightly or too long ago. I’ll personally make sure that we make it up to you (email should be on the way shortly) and I besides that I really can only apologise and promise that we’ll do everything we can do to support whatever approaches you want to take and if we can help you transition to them.

      Sorry again :(

    • WPMU DEV Initiate

      Hello, and I feel very similar to Katrina, in that I ran into some problems trying to figure out how to use the UF Builder over that last several months and saw many shortcomings that I asked about while on Chat with support. But, I was trying to get my daughters photography website up and figured that I didn’t want to pay for any other services until I knew I could put something worthwhile together for her to try and get a start in selling her creative works.
      I too spent at least 40-60 hours or more in trying to figure out all this new stuff. I am a mechanical engineer that supports complex software for engineering, and have just dabbled with website stuff when I have to for my own use over the years. When I ran across WPMU, it seemed like a good fit with many different plugins that I could make work for the few things I was trying to do since they should be compatible with each other.
      Although, time after time, I start to build a site, get it working and then a year later the plugin, theme, direction all change. This is tragic for the casual user that doesn’t spend time doing this for their job and have to go a different direction and spend countless hours time and again after WPMU decides to go a different direction. Now, this means I need to again look at some other subscription or purchase to implement a different theme after the support for UF is outdated and no longer functional, then jump in on some other technology that I don’t know and spend that massive learning curve to get up to speed on yet another platform.
      I think half of the problem with the learning curve on something like UF was the very poor documentation. Yes, there were pages of instructions on what the different features do, but hardly any videos showing the process. Explaining where to pick with the mouse, (for some unknown term or button) is terrible and much too complicated when the terms are unfamiliar. This was very poorly written for the novice and first time user of UF. If there were videos of what the write-ups explained, this probably would have taken care of half the frustration so you can see what the term referred to in the video.
      It seems this is common among all the plugins, there is lots of write-up on what they do, but they lack the practical side of why something is happening so that I can understand some of the logic behind what is happening, so I can apply this in the future to other steps of the plugins or UF pages. If there were videos walking through the processes, that would go a long way for the likes of me and others that are trying to learn this and how to use the plugins.
      I don’t know if these constant changes and dropping of some great plugins/themes make it worth my money to continue to know I will have to beat my head against a proverbial wall in the future to try and figure out how to replace something that is dropped that I was using on my sites.

      • Recruit

        Hi James,
        @knobby34,
        I tend to agree with what is said in this post; that is: that in part what let you down with UP was the lack of good media information, proper UF videos and extra written explanations for the very basics of WP. If a WPMUDEV course instructor says: ‘…here it is… I cheated!” It is easier an you’ll find out… You’ll learn etc, then members (without this basic knowledge) need to learn how that is achieved ‘by cheating as well’ before they can progress to the next stage of couse(s)
        You do not have to tell us that you’ve lost members, ( not just your pride, I say unfortunately and regrettably ) and this might have been one of the reasons. There is another area that I already tried to point out to staff your support, that could be doing you harm and that is, ignoring these members with limited knowledge of the English language looking for answers in plugins documentation and other in their own language. You can’t ignore this kind of support for first ‘port of call’
        Look into the incentives offered by WPMUDEV for this special kind of work and you’ll have your answer.
        Last appologise for going outside the topic a bit but this is the only way I can contact you, I believe.
        Kind regards

        Manuel

  • The Bug Hunter

    I understand the decision well and am even glad to have resisted the temptation to use upfront so far.

    Having said this I would like to know which of your plugins may be discontinued (streching “may”).
    It would be enough for me to learn which of your plugins your team evaluate the EOL about.

    I have at least 2 projects in the pipeline where I need to evaluate how to deploy a calendar/booking feature, so “Appointments+” or “Events+” and their alternatives will be considered and tested. Each testing causes effort and the less plugins I need to evaluate the better.

    I have tried to check the date of latest release or update of your plugins, but neither their changelogs nor version-information provides this information!

    If you would at least tell your clients honestly about which of your plugins are considered to fall out of the roster it will help us saving time. You should apply a badge or something on your plugins sites, e.g. “Abadoned, maintanance only” on MarketPress! Since Aaron has commented here about MarketPess not being really developed anymore and any update will provide compatibility only but no new features can be expected, I know that I will never evaluate this and so it saves me effort ;-)

    Anyway, apart from this I’m glad to have joined this community and membership. Well, this excludes your chat & ticket-system, so I totally agree with Smithwood. One of the good things here is to know that you are always open for requests and critics. Keep up the good work!

    • The Incredible Code Injector

      I really liked A+ with MarketPress in principle, but it never got fixed to work as described and Aaron’s comment that you reference just makes me livid. IMHO the WPMU marketing is so often at odds with the reality in WPMUDEV.

      I did find an appointments plugin that would do what I want with Woocommerce but actually have opted for a SAAS which although paid, is far far away better than anything I’ve seen in WP.

      Happy to chat if it’s of interest to you.

    • Thanks for the comments guys, even though (understandably) you obviously have reservations. One thing we did do a *lot* of work on last year was really actively making sure that *all* of our plugins, especially those that are more complex (A+, MP, E+ etc.) were as absolutely bug free as possible and we’re actually still bringing that to fruition (you almost literally wouldn’t believe the amount of work that has gone into the next version of CoursePress, that is still yet to be released, and most members don’t even care about it that much).

      So I guess that’s my roundabout way of saying we do care deeply about everything on the site and that we offer to members, and yet sometimes we also have to make hard decisions (like this one) and I definitely agree 100% that the marketing material doesn’t always accurately reflect the exact current opinion and perspective that I, or example, may have on a project (see CoursePress comment above… right now the project page says it’s amazing, but I really don’t think it is personally, but I *do* think the next version is amazing and more importantly everything on that page that can be factually accurate (features, functionality, support, releases etc.) is actually accurate. Imagine having to update your services page based upon how you felt each week, I think I’d rather give up lol.

      But that isn’t denigrating or in any way trying to disrespect your opinions, just attempting to explain the practicalities from our/my perspective.

      And we are totally reviewing how we communicate the new feature priority status for each and every one of our plugins and services here transparently for all to see… it’s been a long time coming and that’s my responsibility and I will get it fixed!

  • Flash Drive

    I too have been beating my head off a wall whenever I went anywhere near Upfront, and this pulls apart my plans for three major proposals – while I haven’t lost as much as others, it’s frustrating. Mostly because I have to make sure I have something in else in place and TBH, not all builders match up.
    That said, I’ve learned, painfully, that your site *unerringly* goes down when I use you guys in a presentation. I don’t run WPMU on any presentation sites now, so…(I can explain exactly why, but it’s not a public rant. Happy to (well, I can do it, I mean), if someone in the management team contacts me, but I won’t post it in public).
    That said, it’s a brave, honest and most of all, a learning experience, which is important for business growth.
    That said – it’s important to acknowledge that this is going to screw people. And support them. But… I think the difficulties this will cause for some makes for issues, but… it’s the nature of evolution, everywhere. The net is no different. And your post is a learning experience and a good exercise for everyone to understand. So, thank you for that.
    At least I found out before the proposals went in. Thanks for the notification.

    Kai

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    When I joined WPMUDEV as a paid member about two years ago, I had a lot of hope in Upfront and I even tried to create a website with it to test the waters.

    What I realized at the moment, was that it was still under development and there were some problems that I didn’t have time to try to solve.

    Later I noticed that the promotion of Upfront started to being reduced and I even forgot about it. So I think it was something you see coming.

    Anyway, I stayed with the membership because of all the other things it offers: the hub, hummingbird and having help available when you need it.

  • Fake Russian Bot

    Must have been a tough decision, but a smart one as well. More developers for and more time spent on your core products. Should be good for everyone in the long run :)

    I suggest you add some sort of visual indicator or a clear notice on the plugin pages for those plugins that are only on life support now, so that people can make better decisions on which plugins to use in their projects.

    Also, I’d like to ask what you mean exactly when you say you want to support other themes and page builders? Does that mean you’ll make sure your products work with those, or do you mean a deeper integration? Are you going to build blocks or elements for those page builders?

  • joe
    The Crimson Coder

    Upfront was a disaster from day1

    However, it threw up a glaring work practice still employed by WPMU to this day which is using paying customers as Crash-Test-Dummies with hastily rushed out non-production ready plugins.

    Of course this is steadfastly denied by staff, but we would not expect them to agree would we? Overall WPMU is still a force to be reckoned with, but there is a huge risk it could all crumble, just like the ill-fated Upfront, unless serious steps are taken to actually treat customers properly.

    Cartoon characters are nice and cute, but what we want are products that work, as promised. I wish you all the best as I continue to use WPMU products, but sadly I no longer believe the ridiculous hype.

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    Proud of WPMUDEV for this. I’m an all-in Divi user and knowing I can trust you to support and own integration is super comforting.

    And if you are really ‘all in’ on this move then, as a ‘plugin’ company, I’d love to see you develop plugins FOR Divi. There is already a reasonably vibrant community of after-market bolt-on plugins that enhance the platform, but none of them have the brand name, trust or support channel as WPMUDEV and if I could ‘plugin’ a new (i.e. better) menu system, or more natively add drop-in overlay forms, or create custom 404 pages easier with the Divi Builder, all powered by WPMUDEV and right from my dashboard, that would be killer.

    There are several plugins I’ve bought that I thought were awesome, but then ‘kinda clunky’ to use so I don’t use them – but I still want/need them to extend Divi.

    Count me on in on the team when you decide to do this…

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    Hi,
    Well guys, this could lead to me leaving WPMU DEV….
    Having ONE builder on all my websites and that editor was included in WPMU DEV membership was one of the points which made me tu subscribe to WPMU DEV. Now you are taking my builder (which I learned in a hard way) away and expect me to buy a separate theme with editor for every site plus pay for WPMU DEV.
    Well, my lunch is getting thinner at this point and one will probably have to go: WPMU DEV or the website building part of my business.
    If you would at least replace Upfront with some other builder enabled theme…

  • Recruit

    Excellent decision. Was a non-starter from the beginning … sorry to say.

    I think your paragraph “Now, IMO this is down to a whole heap of reasons, … whereby any non-designer given the capacity to actually design will inevitably make all the things as fugly as possible, as quickly as possible. I certainly do.” explains the “DIY web market” to a T.

    Now to just get rid of all those sharlatans out there that keep on punting the belief of “its easy and anybody can do it”. Its a slap in the face to any designer who spent years at design school and on the job experience – and makes the justifying of quotes a nightmare.

    I salute your courage to come to that decision – could not have been easy. We support your clarity of thought and focus going forward. Do what you do best!

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    Honestly, I’m somewhat relieved with the decision and it makes my decisions for the path forward much easier. I am a designer but not a developer or code expert so I did struggle with the Upfront experience. Overall I liked the process but the details eluded me. My issue with Upfront is that it’s difficult for me to make my site look the way I really wanted it to look. But my site is really just a personal journey for me and I’ll not be affected too much with the loss. In fact, I never released my site to the public. I do feel for those who may be losing a lot of time and effort invested in their projects. Like others have said though, I think “the writing was on the wall”.
    I’d turned away from work on my site for some time and was just about to take a deep breath and dive back in. So, I’m greatful the announcement came now, before I got too involved.
    I will say, that for me, the WPMUDEV team experience was great! I always got the help I needed and maybe more than I deserved. It was always offered in a friendly and concerned manner. I’m sure that level of support will continue as I move ahead with other WPMUDEV plugins.
    As to “failure” well, one can’t succeed without also failing. If you never failed you couldn’t possibly know what real “success” is.
    Thanks for all you’ve done for me with Upfront!
    Terry

  • Just A Community Member

    I tried Upfront and didn’t like it so never used it for a client’s site. But I really appreciate that you will be maintaining it as is and aren’t just dumping it like many WP developers do when they choose to discontinue a plugin or theme framework or fork it off in a new direction. The fact that you are placing your members first is one of the reasons I stick with WPMUDEV.

  • Flash Drive

    This was not surprising at all, after using Upfront for a couple of sites, it had to be stopped, the tool were not good enough. Now I wonder what to do with those sites.

    I can see some people here loosing respect, well, this has not stopped our love for the wpmudev-community. Still worth every penny :)

  • joe
    The Crimson Coder

    I am absolutely amazed

    Quote
    We made the MarketPress decision a few years ago, WooCommerce won… It’s feature frozen, and just maintained for security/core updates
    End Quote

    And when was this announcement made?
    The advertising hype regarding Marketpress is still in full flow so I’m wondering where honesty and transparency fits into the WPMU world?

  • The Crimson Coder

    Ok guys I was hit with the WHMCS fiasco which gutted 2 years of development I then switched to an upfront webcreation platform e-commerce using upfront themes and developed several e-commerce websites based on marketpress platform.

    I will carry my business to Beaver builder as I cannot have a situation where I am using a plugin and next it is pulled and for business continuity it is pure madness.

    I expect marketpress will be next.

    If that happens i’m gone for good!!!!!

  • Took the class a few weeks ago – so that’s a waste of time ;-)

    If this means more focus on the core plugins, consolidate some to have a better overview (see hustle vs some other ‘same’ plugins), enhance plugins (i.e ProSites) … and remove those who don’t make sense anymore … then I guess you’re doing the wright thing. There are enough pagebuilders out there already, better see all works well with the major ones rather then spending effort and time trying to develop yet another one.

    Took the class a few weeks ago – so that’s a waste of time ;-)

  • The Crimson Coder

    Hi James and WPMUdev,
    I was actually really happy to read this. I feel bad for those who have sites built with upfront, and I’ve used other plugins that wpmudev has retired, so I know how it feels. But it’s hard to compete with Divi (can’t imagine Gutenberg will get even close for many years). I’ve always used some plugins from wpmudev (mostly smush and hustle) but I’ve always found the main value of wpmudev is the support. Especially when you added live chat, that was a real game changer, and I can’t imagine the thousands of dollars and hours (not exaggerating even a little) it’s saved me. I’ve dealt with so many other companies’ support team, and they all suck except for wpmudev (and wpengine, but hosting is a different discussion.) I’m not going to drop my membership anytime soon, and I hope I never do! I would love some more info on the details of supporting other platforms, mainly divi and woo. I know there is a TON of gray area when it comes to software support, but some info on how you plan on supporting those services would be great.

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    Although, I respect the ability to hold your hands up & say we’re taking a different course, this decision is particularly devastating. I have spent the last month moving all my sites to upfront & done my best to get all of them working with solely WPMU DEV plugins, which I have done, bar 1 site & 1 plugin for a gallery.
    I have spent a lot of time on the excellent online chat support (thank you Nastia, Katya, Luis Lopes, Sohag et al!) even expressing my goal of being totally WPMU DEV in themes & plugins & not once there been any mention of Upfront being retired.
    Now I can see that maybe not all the support knew this was going to happen but surely it would allow your clients to make a better decision on plugins if you could give us some idea of what is current & what is likely to be retired in the near future.
    Literally this week, I have have had a meeting with a new client to discuss market press for their online shop!
    I love the service you guys provide but this is a huge pain.

    • The Crimson Coder

      I have asked about the future of marketpress. here is what I got back

      “We made the MarketPress decision a few years ago, WooCommerce won… It’s feature frozen, and just maintained for security/core updates, as it is integrated with a few of our other products as the payment gateway provider. That was my painful realization being the original developer of MarketPress :-(“

  • The Crimson Coder

    Sorry for posting again, but after taking some time, settling down and getting my thoughts together. My response is WTF.

    A Jack of 100 plus plugins and a master of … one (Im looking at you smush)!

    The real question that I keep seeing raised over and over in the community forum and that even people that did not use Upfront should ask is, “What is your core?”

    In the James post he says

    “And while all of you want all sorts of different things, most of all, I bet, you want us to focus all of our efforts on supporting you in what you choose, by providing robust, compatible products and services, alongside broad and expert support.”
    And
    “a better suite of products and services that cater better to our audience and expertise.”

    So, 100 plus plugins, most of which are out dated and just maintained for bugs.

    Marketpress which is apparently no longer, but still available. Pop-ups pro that should not be listed any more because we have hustle that does the same thing. So, more of your clients can download it and evaluate it, convince their clients to use it then you drop it.

    Honestly I am perfectly fine if you said we are dropping 70 plugins and are going to focus on a core suit of plugins and functionality. Ok. Tough decision, but ok. I knew going in what is going to happen.

    I currently have little faith in your plugins, because I am not confident of your future of your products. I like the Idea of WPMUDEV. But, the idea seems to over stretch reality. One place for everything? Smush, hummingbird, defender, snapshot, and smart crawl I love. Your other plugins though all seem to be on the chopping block and only receiving support.

    Every business has to make hard decisions. I applaud you for bitting the bullet and making the hard decision and dropping Upfront. I loved it, and praised it as the best (potentially). I get it though, I’m in the minority, but there is a difference to hard decisions and just throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.

    Example, Forminator. How many form builders are there for WordPress already? In 18 months will competition be to much in that field and then will WPMUDEV drop that plugin because you need to refocus resources on your other 100 plus plugins?

    Repeating your quote again
    “And while all of you want all sorts of different things, most of all, I bet, you want us to focus all of our efforts on supporting you in what you choose, by providing robust, compatible products and services, alongside broad and expert support.”

    Wouldn’t that suggest that it is better to build gravity forms, ninja forms, and contact 7 forms, support into your products instead of throwing more stuff to the wall, and building another form plugin and another form api.

    I’m not trying to crap on Forminator, I’m just making a point from your statement. A common point that I have seen made over and over on your forms. Most of us here run businesses and we make decisions for products we are going to use not just based on if we like the product, but the life span of that product. If you have products that you know are on their way out why not have at the very least an end of life on it. Example I have several ubuntu servers, which currently use 17.10 which clearly say end of life support July 2018. If I download it today that is on me I knew going in.

    But, can you tell us that Events+, Marketpress, Appointments+, Enewsletter (which is like 3 years outdated), chat many of your 100 plus plugins are not on the chopping block? If you know something is on the block why not let us know. This is the point that every WPMUDEV member should be worried about. Stuff just disappearing. After you research it, evaluate it, learn it, convince a client to use it, then the next day after you setup a client site. Sorry guys we decided to shift focus.

    DOUBLE TAKE WTF! Is what you would say. I know that a lot of you are not worried because you did not use or like Upfront. But tomorrow it could be the plugin you use that is just gone.

    • I agree with Bryant. When looking at the long list of plugins you something loose overview. And for sure when you look at Pop-Up Pro and the see that Hustle does the same. And there are more. Some others you ask yourself … how old is this stuff and when will they update it (see Pro Sites)?

      I’m putting up a multisite where I’m going to propose a lot of wpmudev (was going to include upfront so luckily I’ve seen the post so I can take it out before going live).

      So I fully agree that it would be nice that you guys make up your mind asap, decide what needs to be decided and publish it to your members.

      • Flash Drive

        Yup. My proposal for work (which is a whole new sale for them – I’ve not even bothered looking to see if they have an affiliate scheme, I’m just proposing stuff) for a huge company, and they wanted three sites with the complete suite. Now…I’m not sure I can recommend it, because we’re trying to keep the learning curve and update cover down to a minimum. Using WPMUdev would mean one panel, which was one of the requests, so…I don’t know.

        Kai

    • You make a lot of fair points which I wish weren’t the case, but of course I also think that there are a lot of things that we do also offer that are extremely valuable to members and will continue to be increasingly so… but to really really get into this I reckon I’d need to have about 2 weeks sitting down with you alongside a looooot of data and feedback and alike, which is obviously a bit hard here.

      I will touch upon the forms question though – essentially we had a great deal (a massive amount in fact) of members asking for a more user friendly form plugin that they could rely on and that they didn’t need to pay extra fees for every year (i.e. it came with membership), and we listen to our members.

      But yes, we (well, me really) have made some bad decisions over time and failed to live up to and achieve the standards that we wanted to achieve, and for that I can only promise to continue to listen and do our absolute best to communicate and provide what our members – current and future – want.

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    I’m So Sad to visit the hometown (WPMU) and learn about lost friends this way (MarketPress, ProSites & others) . . . and to learning so long after the fact that they were long abandoned and dismissed! . . . Hoping and looking for reasons to come back home (to WPMU) but still searching . . . any help, guidance or trusting support will be welcomed.

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    Well done on making that tough decision.

    Another service bites the dust, but that’s the nature of the industry and I commend your ability to know when enough is enough, no matter how much time and money has been sunk into it.

    I think part of the angst you’ll feel in the responses above is an overall reaction to the constant changes in this industry I oftentimes find unsettling. I suspect that WPMUDEV’s role as a helping hand and comfort buffer between designers etc and software providers will only increase with time.

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    I guess, I’m not your ideal customer as I mainly only use WPMUDEV for my own sites, I’ve recently started moving away from the Marketpress and A+ because the broken bits, haven’t been fixed in 2 years. Moving to SAAS FWIW

    And they were pretty much the last WPMUDev plugs that I used, and now you’re abandoning the theme framework that I use to.

    TBH I was thinking about moving away from Upfront just today, but was frustrated about the number of customised pages that I have to work out how to move/rebuild elsewhere.

    Support, is great, sometimes extraordinary, but I feel that i’m left with nothing that I want to use anymore, and desperately wanting you guys to focus.

    I’m not convinced that you’re even focusing on anything now and honestly I don’t think there is one product of WPMUDev’s that I would trust.
    You abandoned themes to make Upfront, you abandoned old plugs to focus on new ones. You ‘focus’ on trying to do everything, where in every instance I find that there is someone doing each thing better.

    Dilettantes

    I hope that you work it out, I’m grandfathered into a pretty sweet deal, so I may stick around, but there’s just nothing else that I currently use and i’m all out of trust.

    At least this has made my decision about Upfront easier.

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    To James – Maybe you can consider (and I’m really pleading here) placing the upfront team focus and design elements to the MarketPress Store Presentation/Frontpage Design.

    With the inherent multisite feature-set and a facelift I believe that upgrading the MarketPress comparable feature-set to Woo can be easier achieved and can make it a force to reckon with and a great alternative to WooCommerce with the extensive WPMU plugin integration . . . definitely a good reason for me to ‘come back and stay home’.
    (repeat post)

      • Recruit

        Blowing off innovating MarketPress for something like “Automate” is a terrible mistake. Don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again. You have powerful plugins that have a viable market – stop ignoring them to waste development time on “toys”.

        People – users! – really do want a valid alternative to WooCommerce. Woo is nothing but a total pain in the a$$. People are leaving WordPress in droves for Shopify and Square because Woo is so difficult. MarketPress is easy – but almost no one knows about it and you refuse to continue to innovate and fix the bugs and user issues.

        If you’re relying on that survey to lead your development, you’re making a mistake. That was a crappy survey. There are users right here and now telling you to work on MarketPress. Stop telling us “no”!

        Gain some trust back and start saying “yes”. We’re paying customers and we’re telling you, straight up, what we want. Try listening.

  • Volunteer Pizza Eater

    It’s a bit of a shame that you guys are saying goodbye to what is effectively your baby, and I have to admit I’m a little bummed out, I see your reasoning behind it and respect it in its entirety.

    I’m only in my trial but I have every intention of subscribing further once it’s up. This is a great community driven place from what I’ve experienced!

    Best of luck with the rest of the products fellas!
    Jordan.

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    This might run a little long, so I hope you’ll bear with me. I wanted to give you a little perspective on who I am, just to show another facet of your wide-ranging membership.

    I run a retail vintage shop, and sell online both on my own website and on many other venues. I built my own site before I’d ever heard of you guys, though I had no idea what I was doing. I came to WPMU DEV a regular Joanne, as you say, mainly for the support, but my skills in and enjoyment of website building have increased exponentially since I joined, to some extent because of the membership. I found myself making websites for a couple of organizations I belonged to, then from there got asked by friends to put together sites for them, and eventually, discovered people would pay me to do it, because, though I’m inexperienced, I created sites that aren’t cookie-cutter, that represent the identities of their owners well. I’m proud of that, and I love doing it, but it’s still a sideline. I work an insane amount of hours in my “day job” and this is fun for me, something I enjoy learning. But I have to choose my moments of immersion, because it’s just not possible for me to make it my priority.

    Until maybe 3 months ago, I didn’t even know the Upfront editor existed. Since I discovered it, I’ve used nothing else. Like a previous commenter, I’m pretty bummed to have invested so much time and energy learning the ins and outs, not to mention the quirks, of a system that was about to be jettisoned. I understand, you didn’t know for sure what your plan was. But I was actually planning, this week, to convert my OWN site to an Upfront site, as well as 2 others I built on non-Upfront themes. How pissed would I be right now if I’d done THAT?

    I’ll be 100% honest with you: I don’t even really know what Gutenberg IS. I’ve seen little mentions of it when I log in to my WP dashboard off to the side, but have not explored it at all. So, no clue. Maybe it’s the greatest thing ever, but right now, it’s just something on the list for me to look into sometime, and I don’t appreciate being forced into that sometime being right now.

    I’m aware I’m not your typical subscriber, and I don’t expect you to cater to me. You can’t make everyone happy. But my fear is that despite you saying you’ll continue to “support” Upfront, you won’t be maintaining or updating it, and it will just gradually fall apart before I’m ready to embrace Gutenberg or anything else. I hope you’ll keep this in mind as you move forward. It’s not out of a fear of new things, a lack of skill, a reluctance to embrace your decision, or whatever that I find this frustrating: it’s a lack of available time and energy. I appreciate your honesty, but I wish the transparency had come a little sooner, while the decision was being considered, instead of waiting until it was a done deal. I think I would have allocated my limited resources in those areas differently had I known.

    • Sorry Mary :( Please be assured that you will *not* be left in the lurch right now, there is and will be lots of time to even continue and finish Upfront projects and we will support the movement of everyone who needs it to other platforms when they are ready.

      Timing-wise sooner would always hav been better, that’s my bad but I hope that this post (and comments) have helped to clear up the different possibilities and could I have made it sooner, I would have.

  • The Crimson Coder

    Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify etc PURE GARBAGE. I hope Guttenberg doesn’t end up in that dumpster with those goodballs by trying to do too much with their page builder template whatever. I installed gutenberg on a sandbox, played for half an hour and haven’t thought about it since.

    Your Upfront decision is amazing. You dumped ego and went where most of us need you… it takes guts and a company that really cares about it’s paying members to make such a bold move that is sure to piss off those real developers that are so tremendously helpful to us morans on the forums. A huge thanks to the real developers and dev support for always being there to correct our many snafus’.

    Snapshot, Defender, Hummingbird, Smush, Support for Multisite, Automate, the somehow always timely Articles & Your Roadmap of coming attractions. I’m in! and you’ll never make more mistakes than I have so forget about it, support those who need Upfront the best you can and let’s make this the membership for those who want Quality.

    A member for life
    –rick

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    Hi,

    all our current sites are based on Upfront. Killing UpFront will create a lot of work, we have not planned for. I think its fair WPMU DEV give all UpFront user and their customers a clear upgrade path and advice on how to handle this situation in the best and most efficient way as possible.

    – Why not write a step by step guide or a series of blog post about converting UpFront stuff to another solution that WPMU Dev recommend for the UpFront users.

    Cheers

    Acke
    http://www.idesystem.com

  • Naj
    Design Lord, Child of Thor

    I definitely respect the decision to do what you feel is in the best interest of the members and WPMU, but I honestly have to say that this is devastating, to say the least.
    This time last year, I had been using Divi for my entire multisite agency, debating a switch to Upfront. Which I ended up doing after two months of research on the reliability and longevity of Upfront and talking with support.
    I spent most of last year rebuilding my entire website agency (our marketing site and clients sites) with and around Upfront. To just see that it is now out of the plans for development, with no warnings, after putting trust into it, hiring and educating staff to use it is just not cool.
    As many problems (support tickets) that I’ve encountered with the builder, along with being a member and using WPMU products since 2014, it would have been nice to have known that I should’ve started thinking about looking into our builders.
    Now I have to basically rebuild our website and every client’s website from scratch, which isn’t ideal as we’re dominating SEO and getting frequent client website registrations weekly basis with Pro Sites.
    I’ve made a direct effort over the last few months to eliminate just about ALL other major WP plugins and solely use WPMU products, but this really makes me suspect as to what other plugins will be dropped or no longer updated.
    I know this comes across as venting but, I opened The Whip Upfront email this morning hoping it was about the better integration update with Pro Sites or the membership front-end design controls, but instead I see this. I invested a lot of trust in this builder, going against my business partners objections.

    This has really put me in a tough position right now, not a great way to start the day.

    • I’m really very sorry to hear that Naj :( I only hope that we can help support you through the transition and assure you that we are not just cutting you off here, there will be plenty of time to move and improve your sites and I very much hope that we can be of as much assistance in that to you as possible… and that they the other products and services that we can now focus on will make up for this as best we can. My apologies again.

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    I’m severely disappointed.

    I’m about to launch my first fugly course website…I’m the trainer you are talking about.

    Shot please. Whisky.

    I’ll definitely need help to find out what direction to go to next. I had projects envisioned for my business that I was planning on carrying out using upfront and the upfront builder.

    I’m not sure what other platforms offer what you guys have. I’ll need a list ASAP.

    And, I’ll need to know if it’s viable that I launch my first course and then try to transition it to another platform over time. You stated that you’ll still be providing support for it so maybe I can launch it still? I’m beta testing it right now.

    I’m with everybody else that stated about the need to know if any plugins are on the chopping block or what stage they are in.

    I’m looking for the ability to make simple course sites and membership sites. Do you continue to plan development for those plugins, i.e. membership pro etc.

    I’ll be sticking around because of the support you offer and the plugins.

    I can understand this was a hard decision to make and I am disappointed in it because of the plans that I had set with the products you offer(ed). But, I’ll survive and you guys have great support that should keep me moving in the direction I need to go.

    I’ll just need maybe a little more assistance now than before. And another shot. Whiskey.

    -Eric

  • Recruit

    Now I’m glad I never used Upfront…

    When WPMU first started letting plugins slide a bit to focus on Upfront, I commented that you were straying away from your core business, which at the time was premium plugins. I became a paying member of WPMU for the plugins – either ones I couldn’t get anywhere else, or the ones no one was making as white label. That was the selling point: Capable, supported, white label plugins.

    Now… Plugins aren’t really white label anymore, as they are plastered with Superheroes. They are supported, but as many have noted, many are not supported well. There are many bugs that have gone unsquashed – some for years. Of the 140 original plugins, I think only the top 10 really get any meaningful attention.

    But, for some insane reason, resources are being diverted to build a form plugin. Sadly, unless it can (quickly!) accept payments and allow for site registrations, Forminator will soon fall into disrepair and bug ridden hell. Another failed plugin that attempted to hurl itself against giants.

    WPMU has some great stuff in its catalog, but not the will or the manpower to maintain it. And that – more than any new products or experiments – is what WPMU obviously needs right now.

    In light of the downfall of Upfront, I truly hope that WPMU decides to focus on what made their company so powerful in the first place: premium, supported, white label plugins.

    Concerning the discussions in this thread about MarketPress — I think WPMU should keep it. Squash the bugs, listen to those who use it, and make it happen. Why? Because WooCommerce is a gigantic pain in the ass, and MarketPress is clean and simple in comparison. I use MarketPress and would love to see it not only kept up, but actively developed. I view it as a total keeper. Same with many other WPMU plugins.

    But, they have to be maintainable. CoursePress has been asking for unit re-ordering since the day it was released. Still hasn’t happened. Why? Not sure. I heard early on it was because resources were being diverted to Upfront – the future of WPMU. Well, we see how that worked out.

    People will pay for good plugins that are simple to use and that work well. WPMU should choose the plugins they mean to maintain, get rid of the rest (Seriously, just get rid of them. Cut the dead weight, you’ll feel so much lighter!), and then put real effort into developing and maintaining them.

    I’m sorry Upfront didn’t work out the way you wanted, but this was well predicted by your paying, long term customers. I saw many, many voices in the forums decrying the distraction of Upfront at the cost of the plugins we were paying for. Many left, tired of their concerns being pushed aside. WPMU needs to recognize that, and I hope moving forward they learn that lesson.

    Some plugins, like MarketPress or SmartCrawl, are solid alternatives in a space dominated by a single vendor (WooCommerce and Yoast, respectively). That doesn’t mean WPMU shouldn’t compete in them. It means they need to address the weaknesses of those existing solutions and exploit them. WooCommerce is incredibly complex and vastly overpriced with it’s complicated add-ons. Yoast is similarly complex, and certainly not white label. WPMU, with some attention to detail and a marketing effort that focuses on the simplicity of the plugin, could make headway in each area.

    Forminator is a loss – there is no reason for it to exist in a world with Gravity Forms and Ninja Forms, both well supported, white labelled, and easy to use. But, the tech from Forminator could be used to improve existing plugins, such as Hustle, CoursePress, Membership, ProSites, Appointments+ and Events+ which all make use of forms.

    Snapshot could either be better as a site migration tool, or leverage it’s tech into a dedicated migration tool (which the Roadmap seems to indicate).

    MarketPress could be leveraged for more than a product sales tool to also serve as a payment gateway hub, making multiple paying functions much, much easier. Imagine a single set up to use Stripe for memberships, courses, and merchandise sales. What would normally require three webhook gateways (and lots of user frustration, I can assure you) would only need one extensible set up with WPMU tools. This was suggested years ago, but WPMU was too focused on Upfront to do it. Maybe now you’ll find the time.

    There are lots more iterative, thoughtful, and powerful improvements that WPMU could do with their top 10-15 plugins. I hope now that they will.

    • Some really good feedback here, thankyou for that, I’ll get stuck into this more in the community thread about it (FYI if you’re not a member we have an exclusive private members area which has some pretty deep and quality discussions).

      The one thing I would say here is that it’s exactly this kind of feedback that we seek every year (our big survey will come out later this year) and which we base many of our business development decisions on – last years took me 2 weeks to read an analyse – but more real-time discussion on how we can best help members is always welcome!

  • New Recruit

    I’ll have to weigh in here, since I’m also a returning former annual member. I have been looking at the github repositories in which a number of the retired plugins have been archived and the upfront theme and builder, is there. Anyone who is truly exorcised about the way this has been dropped, may be able to pick it up and develop it as a unique solution. You may be able to clone and carry on the development. You can find the repository at: https://github.com/wpmudev. Hope that’s not too obvious but there has been a lot of development gone in… as has been painfully commented on, but for some, the important features that we are looking for i.e. the ability to shield clients from intricacies they may be better served not accessing, are there for the grabbing (speaking, however as one who has never used upfront:)

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    Hey James,

    Don’t beat yourself up too bad – the only people who don’t make mistakes are the ones who never take any decisions.

    It takes guts to sunset a product which you’ve poured so much energy into but it’s the right decision hard as it may be.

    It takes even more guys to admit you’ve got it wrong. Some people are lucky enough that the decisions they make never go wrong…but there is definitely an element of luck and circumstances to it all – it as much circumstantial as it is skill.

    Onwards and upwards.

    David

    • Hi Drew,

      As per a few comments from above I definitely agree that we can demonstrate better what we are focused on, although I personally prefer members being able to have access to every plugin and every service plus all the support plus 10GB backup space plus Hummingbird CDN on unlimited sites for the one flat price, it makes for a much more straightforward setup (and for heavier users a vastly vastly more cost effective solution).

  • Site Builder, Child of Zeus

    I think this was a great decision James. I never considered upfront a contender especially going against Divi. I don’t even think Beaver or WPBakery can slow down Divi’s momentum at this point.

    Just skimming through the comments I noticed that you guys aren’t developing Marketpress any longer?

    I was considering Marketpress for my next multisite etsy style project. I like the idea of what Marketpress brings to the table.

    I’m definitely not sold on the Woocommerce idea. I’m not a fan of the nickel and “diming” part just for a small feature add-on. I can say the same about shopify. I like shopify but I’m an avid WordPress user so I’d like to stay within the WordPress ecosystem.

    • Yeh, there’s a bit of a misunderstanding there, MarketPress is still very much being developed and you should feel comfortable proceeding with it on your project… to be honest, if anything this comment thread has helped to push us towards really giving MP a proper push as an alternative to WooCommerce… as per my comment above I also don’t like the way you can easily find ourself outlaying hundreds for a few extensions.

  • Mr. LetsFixTheWorld

    I believe you have good reason to retire Upfront. It was a noble effort to match supply (and innovation) with demand. I only see it as a true mistake for someone with a crystal ball, to foresee that Gutenberg and other offerings would obsolete it before its maturity. For someone without such a magical device, I see Upfront as an arguably-good business gamble (even though I wasn’t personally fond of it). In business we don’t get the big wins without taking some risks. I commend James and DEV for *trying*, regardless of the outcome.

    My hope for Upfront is that someone will modularize HOW it does what it does, so that components can be integrated into other offerings. It might not have a long life as a product in itself, but the expertise built-in must have some value to others seeking to do complex UI operations in WP. Without modularization for use in other projects. I fear the monolithic code will eventually be forgotten with all of those great bits of know-how lost and unused.

  • Mr. LetsFixTheWorld

    James is falling on a sword for one plugin but I don’t see Upfront as being The problem. It’s an example of an ongoing problem. I think Upfront is just the latest example with a trend that should be reconsidered: “This didn’t work, lets’ do something else.” That’s actually an OK model for a dynamic company, but only if it’s a conscious corporate strategy, where occasional tactical misfortune isn’t a problem, it’s fully expected.

    MarketPress is, apparently from comments here, another highly visible example of a plugin that might follow the pattern. I think MP is beloved by few, and otherwise off the radar for most. A product needs a lot more love to get “tier-1” attention – like Hustle, Smush, Forminator, etc. Is lack of interest in MP from DEV and members a cause for its status as a tier-2 offering, or an effect of its status as a tier-2 offering? In other words, we see it’s not getting attention, so we don’t use it … you see we’re not using it so you don’t give it much attention. Apply that to all plugins now in tier-2 status or now retired. This perpetual “chicken and egg” cycle is the problem – it’s not the individual plugins. This costs DEV a lot of investment time and money, and inflicts frustration on members. When a product gets deprecated like this, and one more offering is removed from the membership package, people start to question why they’re members, DEV loses revenue, priorities need re-evaluation, the cycle continues.

    Can we break this cycle? This comes back to an ongoing theme of mine. Like other WPMU plugins, MP isn’t extensible with hooks, so it only does what the company builds in (again, this applies to all plugins, not just MP). Out here we’re faced with this huge wall between what we need from an ecommerce package (or Jobs or Events or…) and what you have the time and budget to build in. People can’t wait for DEV to build-in business requirements that need to be satisfied immediately, so they’ll move on to whatever package has those features – for MP that means Woo, for all of its own faults and woes.

    What we’re seeing here is that without the extensibility that successful packages like Woo offer, and community engagement that results, that the whole DEV plugin is being retired. That’s a Lose-Lose scenario that’s completely unnecessary – and we’re seeing it with all of the plugins here – “Goodbye to Upfront” indeed, and many other DEV offerings.

    My answer to all of this is to strive toward extensibility, and community engagement with the code in a conscious partnership. Humans are tribal – they like to be where other humans congregate. Create industry buzz around these offerings and I believe you’ll get more buzz in the form of membership revenue. Rather than continuing to build huge monolithic products where DEV controls all functionality, and ironically has no time to process requests for the more successful products, consider building smaller, highly extensible offerings. Don’t build up your code. Break it down into a smaller plugin with lots of addons. Plugin to your own framework and aggressively encourage others to do so to add in all of those features we crave. Make your functionality a default suggestion, not the only way for the software to work, because “one size rarely fits all”. With that model you only need to support what you create. The responsibility for prioritization of many features goes away as third-parties take on those challenges – and as with WP plugins in general, competition will help better solutions to thrive.

    You’re now looking toward a shift to integrate with Divi, Beaver, WPBakery, and Gutenberg. How does that happen? Those platforms have been built with extensibility as a priority, not an afterthought. You are falling back on the concept of integrating with other offerings, because you can, rather than thinking about how you can make your own products more like them – and getting others to put your products into that list of platforms to be embraced. You don’t need (exclusively) to follow, you can still lead. You have the foundation for doing this in terms of established software, industry positioning, staff, and audience.

    I started this with a focus on MarketPress. I personally want an alternative to Woo but I don’t care so much about MarketPress (yet). I’m thinking about the frustrating wall I hit with every DEV plugin, where most requests go into a black hole because each tier-1 plugin is so large and has such a long roadmap that individual requests get lost in forum posts. In addition to the latest hero-backed flagships, I’m thinking about Jobs and Experts, Events, Membership, Support System, E-Newsletter, Forums, and all of those others that get little more than acknowledgement here. All of these can rise to the status of tier-1 offerings if their core size is reduced, they are refitted with an API (and documentation), and functionality is abstracted into addon modules which implement the API.

    If the tactical details of this aren’t in line with your desired strategic model, please at least consider that larger picture of whether retirement of Upfront is an isolated incident or one in a chain of related events. None of us want to see blog posts like this again.

    Thanks.

    • Recruit

      WPMU has a ton of great products and plugins but, apparently, an enormous lack of vision for what to do with them.

      I agree with @tg above and feel strongly that WPMU should be looking at how to make their plugins work better together. While external integration with massively popular features/services (MailChimp, for example) is a necessity, making the plugins work better together and actually solving real member problems should be higher on the priority list. Instead, that seems to be near the bottom.

      I don’t know what data WPMU sees/gathers/uses to make its decisions, but I’d hazard to guess at this point that whatever methodology they are using is faulty.

      In other threads we’ve been discussing scenarios of what running a site would be like if the WPMU plugins were up to date and had been made to smoothly interact with each other. Those concepts are amazing, and I can only pray that James and the leaders at WPMU are reading them and taking them seriously.

      Imagine if MarketPress was more that just a product sales platform and instead provided a financial backbone for the other plugins to tie into (Appointments+, Membership, ProSites, Events+, Forminator, CoursePress, etc). How smooth things could be if you only had to set up payment gateways once and could then easily and automatically access them anytime you activated another plugin?

      Or if Forminator, ProSites, New Blog Templates, and eNewsletter all worked together to provide a customized and extensible onboarding system for multisite that automatically recognized the member level and templates chosen and issued personalized welcome and follow up emails specific to that member level and template choice? Or even a system that could activate individual themes and plugins and such according to the options chosen in that custom form, instead of only a pre-constructed template?

      That WPMU originally built all of their plugins with a very limited concept of connecting them is sad. That they’ve never corrected this and continue to make new, unconnected products is almost absurd. The recently released Forminator connects to nothing in WPMU. When Hustle was first released it didn’t connect to either eNewsletter or Subscribe By Mail plugins – indeed, when members suggested it, WPMU staffers were genuinely surprised. As if they had forgotten eNewsletter existed.

      Indeed, when Upfront was first released, almost none of the WPMU plugins worked with it. It was almost a year before MarketPress would function in Upfront, and I don’t think CoursePress ever worked on it. A flagship product that wouldn’t work with the other flagship products…

    • I absolutely agree that extensibility is a huge thing that we should have focused more on from the start… and you can bet we are absolutely focused on now. As Tony and I have discussed at some length, how to best build that into our product and service suite along with supporting the community that wants to engage with that it right up there too… lots of work to to do!

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