Many companies that sell premium WordPress Themes will make “Lite” versions available, free of charge, via WordPress.org. It gets the theme known, gives them a promotional springboard and allows people to try many of the theme’s features. For me too it also gives you an opportunity to see what their support is like.

So, I was trying such a theme (which I will keep anonymous) when I was looking for something new for this site. I had two issues when I tried it…

  1. It supported Infinite Scroll but, when activated, the pagination options kept appearing after every 10 posts (or whatever you’d defined the number of posts per page to be).
  2. It doesn’t resize a featured image so if it’s not the same ratio as how they display it, particularly the squarer the image is, you get whitespace around it. As a developer I know you can normally just adjust a parameter to crop images differently, so was asking if a theme option could do this (otherwise I was hoping that they might tell me how to do it by changing the code).

Nearly 5 months later (precisely, 4 months and 3 weeks) their support responded. Needless to say I’d given up on this theme by then and had moved on.

Their answer to my first query was…

do you have a link to test it?

I explained I was no longer using the theme as nearly 5 months had passed but could set it up on a test site if they’d like. But, rather than actually give me an answer, their response was..

we asked you if you have now a site with the theme active, to make some tests.

Erm, okay. So I’m no near an answer as to whether they want me to set this up – I’ve now pointed out that it should surely be an easy task for them to switch on Infinite Scroll on their own test site, far quicker than it would take me to re-install the theme from scratch and do this but, none-the-less, would if they wanted. I await a reply.

So, onto the second question – the whitespace around featured images. Their reply was…

please don’t use square imagse for featured images.
if you need more options to customize the theme you can update to the plus version

Which didn’t answer my question as to whether an option existed to change this behaviour but I can read between the lines assume it doesn’t. But, oh, a link to their premium version and a promise of more customisation options – I can only assume from this that they’re saying the premium option allows me to do this? I ask them to confirm this.

here Layout Options you find with the plus version…

This was followed by a link to their premium documentation. So, rather than give me a “yes” or “no” answer they’re pointing me to their documentation, but not even a specific part of it. I read through it and, surprise surprise, it doesn’t have an option to change featured image cropping. Personally, and I guess this will come to do individual interpretation, but I find this to be misleading in the least and, at most, downright wrong – to me they are very much suggesting that I should be using the premium version to resolve my problem.

But if we return back to the first query for a moment, another part of their initial response tells you all you need to know…

sorry but this is a free support forum and we do not always have time to answer all of our users!

Et voila – that’s their response in a nutshell. It’s the free version so they’re happy to provide slow and, in some case, unhelpful assistance. Upgrade to their premium package? No thanks. As I pointed out to them in my response…

But free support doesn’t need to mean terrible, slow support.

They eventually (and still not answering my original question) replied with…

free support means that all the community (not only the theme author) give support for free. it’s not our responsibility if no one have answered you.

Which is true. They don’t have to give ANY support. However, as my question was a bug, this is hardly something the support community (which includes myself), can do much about.

Their wp.org support forum is littered with responses not answered for months. One, older than mine, they haven’t even replied to because the poster hasn’t been very clear on what their issue is (clue: ask them!).

How you represent yourself in all situations, such as the free version of a theme, is just as important as how you present yourself anywhere else. Providing a quick, helpful level of support for the free edition is surely going to make people more keen to stick with them and buy the premium version? As is stands I wouldn’t touch these guys with the proverbial barge-pole.