One thing the #eecms tag on Twitter made clear is that everyone has an opinion about the changes EllisLab made to their site and their products this past weekend. We put together a quick round-up of the EllisLab changes on Sunday. It covers the basics but read through some recent stuff for more details. There is some misinformation out there about what did change, so get caught up on that first.
All set? Good. Let’s break this down.
New Support Plans
I was asked by EllisLab earlier this year what I thought about private, paid support. I encouraged them to do it. I had no influence beyond a single email exchange in January. In short: I am happy that EllisLab switched to paid, private support for ExpressionEngine.
No matter how it may look to the customer, support is never free. It is either built into the price of the product or charged for separately. Up until this weekend, EllisLab supported their CMS for almost nothing. $299 for a software license plus unlimited support doesn’t work as a business model with goals for growth. The new setup allows EllisLab to give better support to those that need and want it while allowing them to grow the support staff. The paid support support funds the staff. It’s pretty basic stuff.
In case you think new customers are left out: new ExpressionEngine license purchasers are supported for 3 months as part of their purchase. This time limited support should be enough to help them work through issues during the site build. Agencies don’t have to pay for support per site license. It’s one fee that covers as many sites as you work on.
The lack of private support has always been a problem for me. I work on client sites and sometimes I need to explain a problem in detail. On a public forum, where all official support took place up until now, I can’t always do that because part of a project might be confidential. In a private support thread, however, I can lay it all out without worry that someone will find it through a Google search.
If you’ve been following along, you know that this isn’t a surprise and was pretty well telegraphed by EllisLab (had to use a Google cached version because the post no longer appears on the blog). Over the past several months EllisLab has been testing out its private support feature with select customers in the forums.
What wasn’t hinted at were the price tiers for support. I mentioned on Twitter that I thought the prices were a little high for the support response time in the $299/month mid tier. I’ve pulled back a little in my initial criticism after reviewing the support options from the competition. However, one business day is the wrong waiting period. One calendar day should be the standard. The traditional business week doesn’t work anymore–especially with small business owners and freelancers–and isn’t as flexible across the world’s timezones.
Sunday morning, EllisLab sent out an email to all Pro Network members stating that effective immediately the Pro Net was suspended.
The reaction on Twitter made it clear that some people relied on the Pro Network as a way to back up their reputation and the recommendation of using ExpressionEngine to clients. Many also found it useful for project leads (others, however, did not. One person even described the types of leads that result from it as just a bunch of “tire kickers.”)
Right after launch the inbound Pro Network links redirected to the Enterprise Partners page, which understandably rubbed some people the wrong way. EllisLab quickly corrected that yesterday and old Pro Network links now redirect to an explanation page. This should be a satisfactory interim solution until EllisLab–with input from the community–decides the future of the Pro Network.
I don’t have any strong opinion about the Pro Network other than it wasn’t working for EllisLab and it’s their right to discontinue it. Some advanced notice (like they did with the affiliate program) beyond a Sunday morning email would’ve created a lot of goodwill and made it seem less like a last minute decision.
EllisLab has once again simplified the license options. There is now only one license option for $299. Freelance and non-profit licenses are no longer available. I understand that only having a $299 license is an adjustment. However, any web project today where EE is a good fit should be able to support that license fee.
To dig up some old skeletons and pick a bone: I am firmly in the camp that removing the EE Core version was a bad idea. It has likely decreased adoption of ExpressionEngine among users of other systems and prevented new people from tinkering. I don’t think it was a bad idea to simplify to just one license type but I still want Core (or something like it) back.
This is the part of this piece where I’m struggling because I had such a strong negative reaction to the redesign. I’ve spent the last 24 hours trying to figure out what I don’t like about it and how I can explain that without just rattling off a bullet list of negativity. I care about how ExpressionEngine is marketed and sold because its success directly affects me and my business. As it does others, too.
In all, the entire website feels like a flashback. And not in a good way. The logo is a step backward for a company that is taking a firm, bold step forward in its business through new product offerings.
As I browsed around the site it felt unfocused and wordy (like me when I’m over-caffeinated). An example is the introduction on the homepage. It’s a 31-word paragraph that could be summed in 5 words: “Solid software. World class support.” Cut everything else.
As I continued to browse, I wondered about the site’s identity. Is EllisLab.com a superhero-inspired quirky company site or a site where I can come learn about ExpressionEngine, other products and support? There’s also a science theme with the periodic table listing the staff members and their geographic locations (clever treatment; I like it). Can it be all of these? Right now it is and it’s not working very well for me. They could have benefited from some content strategy and unified design direction.
(I wish there was a Skip Intro on that support page animation. Do I have to watch that every time?)
On the homepage, the company history is a long, horizontal pencil drawing. There is no copy included so people brand new to EllisLab will have no idea what this means and it provides very little value to them. It’s fun and I like the idea. I just don’t know how it fits in with everything else or helps someone choose ExpressionEngine over another CMS.
The product pages, especially for ExpressionEngine, have no product images and do very little to sell me on ExpressionEngine. Don’t be so shy! Show me the goods and make me understand why this is the best choice.
As a site that sells EE as a product, this site, in its current form, is far behind where the old one was. It feels like there are a lot of inside jokes and motifs that I don’t get. It feels like it was designed for the enjoyment of EllisLab and not for the good of the customers.
The good news is that the web is a living, moving, and changing medium. Nothing is permanent. Launching a fully fleshed out site with all new copy is very hard to do. I know EllisLab will refine and tweak their new site as the days, weeks, and months go on.
The sum of the changes EllisLab made will be good for them. Now that the site is launched they can refocus their time on refining their messaging, improving ExpressionEngine, and showing that their new support platform is a good deal.
I know not everyone is happy with the changes but nothing EllisLab did yesterday changes why I use the software or why I recommend it.