Support » Theme: Astra » Astra Pro / Brainstorm | Disappointing Sales & Marketing Tactics

  • If the leadership/owners of Astra/Pro/Brainstorm didn’t engage in what I consider questionable sales and marketing practices with respect to its Pro Plugin, then I’d rate the Astra theme (with and without Pro) a 4.0.

    It is actually really close to earning a 5.0 but there are so many aspects of functionality and cosmetic appearances that seem to fall short with the details. And the little details make a huge difference to visitors of a website.

    Some examples include the following (many have been presented in the support section at some point by others):

    • excessive loading times of fonts (astra woff, etc.),

    • astra icon fonts that get blocked by browsers that have third-party fonts blocked,

    • no fall-backs for the burger menu functionality – if a user/visitor to the website has javascript disabled. The latter is an issue for me because if a user blocks external fonts and javascript, then the burger menu, itself, disappears completely. There’s no fallback to basic CSS/html. A good example of how to use CSS/html for a burger menu is at puri.sm, the laptop/phone maker. That company is using a minimalist WordPress theme titled Purism (I think it’s just a coincidence that the theme has the same name as the computer company). If one blocks javascript and third-party icon fonts, its burger menu functions just like any javascript-based burger menu. Actually, I don’t even think the Purism theme uses javascript or font icons for its burger menu anyway.

    I can go on with all sorts of minor functionality problems and cosmetic issues with responsive headers, footer widgets, etc., but I won’t.

    ___

    As for the Pro Plugin, the terms of purchase, in my interpretation from its website (see attached screenshot), states that one can use the Pro plugin on unlimited websites and for one-year receive updates to the plugin and receive pro support. Thereafter, the purchaser may continue to use the plugin (presumably on unlimited sites) but just without receiving further updates to the plugin or receiving pro support.

    I bought it with no intention of paying for future updates or support. However, earlier this year (1.5 years after purchasing it and after receiving dozens of emails and dashboard ‘notifications’ to pay $59 to ‘renew’), the Pro plugin’s features were disabled on the two websites it was installed on. Moreover, the Astra Pro Plugin actually disabled the entire ‘customizer’ functionality in WordPress! So, if one wants to modify the website with respect to anything (not even related to the Pro features), one has to deactivate the Pro Plugin.

    I’ve communicated with the support multiple times and each person states that I need to renew the license (that is pay another $59) to use the Pro plugin for another year. However, that contradicts the explicit terms on its website (Q&A about purchasing it). It explicitly states in the FAQ section (again, see screenshot) that use of the Pro features is indefinite and may be used on unlimited websites. The only features that one doesn’t receive beyond the initial term (one year) is plugin updates and pro support. In no way should the Pro Plugin’s features be disabled or, worse, disable the entire ‘customizer’ section of WordPress in an effort to get more money from a purchaser.

    I asked for a refund a couple of times and have been ignored.

    The most recent response was that the Pro Plugin can only be used on unlimited websites during the term of purchase (so for the first year). Support still will not address why the Plugin’s features have been disabled and why the code disables ‘customizer’ in WordPress.

    Anyway, if there were a zero (0), that’s what I’d rate Astra/Brainstorm, but I guess one (1) is the lowest rating I can give. This rating is largely due to the unethical, at best, and fraudulent-like, at worst, sales & marketing tactics…and the questionable, intrusive code in the Astra Pro’s plugin that disables core functionalities of WordPress.

    Bottom line, be very careful trusting this organization and the code of Astra Pro plugin.

    [For clarification, this is the first negative review I’ve given to any WordPress plugin developer or company – and it’s primarily due to ethics and shady business practices, in my personal experience.]

    ___

    UDATED: June 14, 2021

    I appreciate the thorough response. A Brainstorm representative finally explained the problem, which you also noted:* 
    
    * If the base theme is updated but the Pro Plugin is not updated (i.e., purchase another annual license), then the Pro Plugin will not work (in my case and probably many others) conveniently due to "compatibility issues." 
    
    __
    
    So, I and others may either (A) revert back to an older version of the Astra base theme (opens up potential vulnerabilities) in order return compatibility to the purchased Pro Plugin, or (B) keep the most recent updated version of the base Astra theme and forgo the use of the purchased Pro Plugin since it would be incompatible with an updated version of the base Astra theme.
    
    End result: Customers are essentially compelled to update the Pro Plugin (i.e. purchase another annual license) otherwise they will most likely experience "compatibility issues."  
    
    Of course, if one is handy with code, one could make the necessary changes to the code. 
    
    I will elect to use another theme by a different provider -- either entirely open-source or from an author with honest and transparent policies regarding "compatibility issues."
    • This topic was modified 1 year ago by vitruvian1man. Reason: Updated with resolution
Viewing 3 replies - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)
  • Hi @vitruvian1man

    This is Sujay, CEO of Brainstorm Force. Thank you for taking the time to leave a review. Even though it is negative, we seek things to learn from it.

    Let me answer your concerns one by one below:

    # Excessive loading times of fonts (astra woff, etc.)
    = As with the latest version 3.3.0 – Astra does not use (astra woff)

    # Astra icon fonts that get blocked by browsers that have third-party fonts blocked,
    = Astra does not icon fonts anymore after the 3.3.0 release. We have switched to SVG fonts.

    More information about the 3.3.0 release here: https://wpastra.com/astra-3-3/

    # No fall-backs for the burger menu functionality
    = Thanks for the feedback. We will see what we can do to improve this. At this moment, like most WP themes, Astra needs javascript enabled in the browser for functioning.

    # It’s website states that one can use the Pro plugin on unlimited websites and for one year receive updates to the plugin and receive pro support.
    = This is absolutely true. You need to renew, only if you wish you need updates and support from us.

    # The Astra Pro Plugin actually disabled the entire ‘customizer’ functionality in WordPress!
    = We do not block customizer or any functionality if one does not renew the license. This must be a misunderstanding. If you do not choose to update Astra Pro, please note that: you should not update the Astra theme as well. If you just update the theme and not Pro addon, there will be incompatibilities that might cause issues just as you described. This is as the latest OS needs the latest versions of software for functioning. If you do not update the OS, the software installed will need to be updated too.

    # I asked for a refund a couple of times and have been ignored.
    = If you asked for a refund after one year of usage, we regretfully can not grant that.

    If you need any other assistance, please feel free to email me at: sujayp @ brainstormforce . com and I will be happy to help personally.

    Regards,
    Sujay, CEO & co-founder of Brainstorm Force.

    Thread Starter vitruvian1man

    (@vitruvian1man)

    I appreciate the thorough response. A Brainstorm representative finally explained the problem, which you also noted:*

    * If the base theme is updated but the Pro Plugin is not updated (i.e., purchase another annual license), then the Pro Plugin will not work (in my case and probably many others) conveniently due to “compatibility issues.”

    __

    So, I and others may either (A) revert back to an older version of the Astra base theme (opens up potential vulnerabilities) in order return compatibility to the purchased Pro Plugin, or (B) keep the most recent updated version of the base Astra theme and forgo the use of the purchased Pro Plugin since it would be incompatible with an updated version of the base Astra theme.

    End result: Customers are essentially compelled to update the Pro Plugin (i.e. purchase another annual license) otherwise they will most likely experience “compatibility issues.”

    Of course, if one is handy with code, one could make the necessary changes to the code.

    I will elect to use another theme by a different provider — either entirely open-source or from an author with honest and transparent policies regarding “compatibility issues.”

    sujaypawar

    (@sujaypawar)

    That is correct and quite common in all tech ecosystems actually.

    For example: if one bought an android app for version 5.0 — it needs to be updated if it has to properly function with the latest version 11.0

Viewing 3 replies - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)
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