WordPress HelpCenter will close doors February 28, didn’t gain traction with developers

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Alex King has announced that WordPress HelpCenter, a real-time support center for WordPress users that launched in April of 2009, will close its doors at the end of February. King mentioned partnership and hiring difficulties as contributing to the closing of HelpCenter, but primarily cited lack of adoption from developers as the reason:

Unfortunately we were not able to get the traction with developers that I was hoping for. Part of that may have been due to the $1 payout amount, so we were planning to increase that to 10% and created a set of tools to make it really easy for developers to include in their plugins. We never made this change or released these tools because their readiness coincided with the culmination of feedback from the community that commercial support for free plugins and themes just wasn’t something they were willing to pay for.

Real-time support at WordPress HelpCenter was provided over the phone, primarily, with a price list on support issues that stayed below $20 per item. During the time Crowd Favorite was running HelpCenter it brought on four full time staff specifically for the purpose of working the support lines. King described the process of hiring difficult, saying that the combination of general WordPress knowledge and “personable and comfortable [with] customers” was tough to find. Many of those hired ended up leaving due to “rude and unpleasant” customers.

King says that while a need still exists for something like WordPress HelpCenter within the community, the model they attempted could be improved by someone else:

In retrospect (and as advice for the next person who decides to create a service like this), a different approach would have probably worked much better. I would recommend getting funding in place so that you can hire and do internal training, then come to market with a 5-6 person team (with dedicated sales and project management roles) in place from the start…

I would also recommend including a training offering, as that seems to be a service many people find valuable.

The HelpCenter will wrap up the remaining issues and projects in February and then shut down on the February 28. The WordPress HelpCenter site will stay in place indefinitely in order to keep the plugin and theme knowledge base available for those searching in the future.

King’s blog post is worth a read, as it gives plenty more insight into the closing than we can touch on here.

What do you think?

With HelpCenter closing down, support options for WordPress users become the dot org forum and, of course, hired developers. Will we see another operation try to pick up where HelpCenter left off, or is this proof that those using WordPress aren’t interested in supporting this sort of project? Sound off in the comments.

4 thoughts on “WordPress HelpCenter will close doors February 28, didn’t gain traction with developers

  1. Sorry to hear this guys, and thank you for providing insight on the lessons learned. The choke-point of finding qualified staff willing to put up with “sometimes not so nice customers” is definitely tough. I’m not sure we’ll see something as professional as this launch again. Instead, I see continued growth in 1) Educational Material, 2) WordPress.org Codex/Manual Enhancements (as per A. Nacin’s explanation in the Dec. ’10 podcast) and last but not least a couple well organized sites, i.e. WordPress Stack Exchange, etc.

  2. “is this proof that those using WordPress aren’t interested in supporting this sort of project?”

    No, I don’t think it is, because I do run into people every day willing to pay someone to answer their questions.

    I think wp help center was well known in certain circles, just not widely. It would almost have to be official, or officially sanctioned to fly on a large scale.

  3. “feedback from the community that commercial support for free plugins and themes just wasn’t something they were willing to pay for” that hit the nail on the head. If a plugin is busted, they would rather buy a commercial plugin that’s supported.

  4. Part of the issue is expectations and poor assumptions. Users blame the plugin when it doesn’t work properly when it could very well be an issue with their theme, or another plugin causing a conflict.

    The automatic assumption that if the plugin isn’t working it must be broken is a problem if the user feels like they shouldn’t have to pay for support if the product is broken, it should be fixed for free. They don’t realize that the plugin may not be broken but rather it could be something specific to their site configuration/setup.

    The Twitter tools example that was linked to in this article illustrates this point.

    As with almost everything in life, you get what you pay for.

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