A plea for free trials of themes, stacks

I doubt I’m alone that I’ve purchased numerous themes and stacks only to find that they didn’t do exactly what I wanted, or had some subtle interaction with other parts of my site that didn’t work out. At my count, I have two themes and four stacks that I’ve purchased, trialled, and then abandoned as not suitable for my purposes. For me, that’s over $100 in the last couple of months just to try stuff out.

I get that developers need to be compensated for their work, and so it’s not practical for them to allow unrestricted downloads in hope that people will be honest and pay for what they use. But with minimal thought, I can think of at least two or three practical ways that RealMac or YourHead could support free trials that would be reasonably secure. I’d argue that the status quo actually stifles the market. Who wants to risk buying an add-on that may not work on their site?

I’d love to see some discussion around this. Do others agree?

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Please share your ideas.

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@Nick, I would love to hear your ideas as to how this could happen.

Sharing them would be a great way of getting the ball rolling towards finding out if there is a viable solution.


Maybe @willwood could comment on this topic since he is the only developer that i know that offers a “try before you buy demos” Before when stacks were in the $5-6 range and themes were under $20, i didn’t mind much…but now when stacks can go cost $100 and some themes hit $40 … a demo is very welcomed

I would love to provide demos. I have discussed this topic with both @dan and @Isaiah. I do think that its something that could be viable in the future. I know that @willwood does this and I know how he does it. However, its outside of my risk comfort zone.

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So here’s one approach that requires RealMac to perform a modest modification to RW:

Before getting started though, we need to consider what restriction(s) should a free trial have. The obvious restriction is time (e.g., use as you wish for two weeks). I prefer the alternative approach of limiting publishing. E.g., projects using trial add-ons couldn’t be published (or exported), only used in preview mode (or cmd-P style local preview to a real browser.)

This could be implemented pretty easily in RapidWeaver itself. E.g., add-ons are distributed with a digital signature by the developer. The trial version of the signature triggers the “no publish” rule in RapidWeaver. When the user pays, they get the “real” version of the signature.

This seems pretty simple to me from the user’s perspective. They just download the trial add-on, use it, and if they like it, pay and download the full signature.

RealMac would need to do three things:

  • provide tools to developers to generate the two kinds of digital signature file
  • implement a check in RW that the signature file associated with an add-on is correct (and disable the add-on if it isn’t correct)
  • implement the “turn off publishing” feature if any add-on used in a project has a trial signature

Hi @Nick

I do not see where this should be a modest modification. This would be a huge change, not only for Realmac, also for Yourhead, and not to forget the add-on developers.

I think it is a great idea, but what in your view is a simple implementation has various implications.

Best regards, Jannis

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I once had demos of my themes several years ago but honestly this consumed so much time to always have several versions of a theme at the same state so I dropped it.
Whenever you feel unhappy about a purchase you made, just drop me a line and we can discuss it. That’s the easiest approach I can think of.


@instacks, I certainly don’t want to get caught up in the definition of “modest”, or in the pros and cons of one particular scheme that I thought up in all of ten minutes. I’m really interested in seeing a mechanism for free trials above all else. I really do think the absence of them harms the business. RW is (imho) best for single people trying to roll a site for a very small business or other organization. People in that category tend to be price-sensitive.


I was thinking of this as a RW8 kind of feature, not a “Dan can roll this out one evening” idea. The goal of my suggestion is that there is almost no overhead for stack/theme developers. It does require Realmac to roll out a new feature, but I really do think that putting support right into Rapidweaver is the only way to keep efforts manageable for add-on developers.


Alongside myself distributing addons via ThemeFlood and Stacks4Stacks (which all have free demo’s), I think @Bill over at Stack-Its also provides free downloadable demo’s for a number of his stacks too. Excluding page type plugins, I’m not aware of any others providing free demo’s. But I might be wrong.

I just had to generate a new demo version for the updated Porthole stack tonight. I timed it and it took me 22 seconds from start to finish.

In my eyes, the benefit of free demo’s far outweighs the tiny percentage of people who might be able to hack and unlock a demo version with great effort. Even if they do unlock it, they’ll still be without a security key in the addon needed for update checking!


As Will @willwood mentioned, Stack-Its does indeed offer demo versions of all my stacks. I can understand why some developers are afraid to release their products as demos, as the whole thing is based on the concept of trust. I’ve always felt it’s more important to cater to the needs of the small close-knit RW community than worry about the very few who are dishonest. Thanks for listening to me & please feel free to try out all the demos :smile:



I doubt I’m alone that I’ve purchased numerous themes and stacks only to find that they didn’t do exactly what I wanted, or had some subtle interaction with other parts of my site that didn’t work out…

This appears to be an old thread. However, its pertinent from my experience: Need a better sense of what the plug-in DOES. It is a little tiresome to keep bumping up against “we have no tutorials recorded yet.” That can be the case for months.

This ultimately, seems to require buying on faith that the particular plug-in does whatever it (often vaguely) says it does & is not redundant with another. Or involve a detail test of the particular plug-in. Test drives are just fine, though I shouldn’t have to try out every competing plug-in to decide which actually suits me best, should I?

I’ve certainly exceeded the $100 in one month the OP mentions in his post.

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As a past plugin/stack & theme avid collector, one of the issues I know I’ve run into is that I buy a plugin thinking it’s going to solve a problem I’m having. The problem however is generally I’m not sure what I want to do, or haven’t clearly planned out my design, and I’m hoping that it’ll spur some creativity. I’ve found that when I know exactly what it is I want to do, and roughly how I want to go about it, that’s when I go and look for a stack. Often the demo sites showing the stack are more than enough to show me what I need to know. If they aren’t, I’ve not once encountered a developer who didn’t quickly respond to a pre-sale inquiry.

I’m not saying that’s your issue here, but I suspect there are some people who have probably been in the same boat as me - looking for inspiration, rather than a solution, and ended up with a stack or theme or two that you don’t end up using.

I provide free demos of most of my themes too: http://www.henkvrieselaar.com/rapidweaver/themes/
There will be a free trial version of my latest one (Ratio) next Monday.


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Sanity Fox - Thanks for the comment. fwiw: In my case, I wouldn’t say that it was so much looking for inspiration, though I think you make a good point about planning out first - probably on paper, as a usual first step.

I had a short deadline to get some rudiments of a site out -
and so tried to sort through various plug-ins to accomplish some of what I wanted to do without sufficient time for a proper analysis. I wouldn’t say every developer makes it easy. Irrespective of how good their tools are.

A lot of the plug-ins tend to be advertised with a little fluff & don’t really give as good a sense of what they do as one would like without detail investigation & test drives. (No doubt that’s not true of every one & I’m sure someone will disagree).

I already had an older copy of Rapidweaver. I found diving into Wordpress messy & daunting because it felt an awful lot like building from the ground up instead of apply modules that at least partially addressed my needs. Rapidweaver is pretty slick overall, but its not without some gotchas.

However, partly through my own inexperience & partly through the lack of demos, it was hard to sort out what exactly fit my needs & didn’t overlap with other plug-ins/modules. Therefore, I think I have some redundacies. I’m still not sure how well they mesh with each other.

Now I’m trying to sort out some of the purchased (and largely unused) plug-ins to rebuild my site properly & I’m still running into plug-ins that aren’t working out of the box, but find no help from the host or developer. (Maybe due to the holiday).

It really would serve [me] better to have a proper demo video showing what the product does. As it is there is no rating system so its on advice, or catch-as-catch-can to stumble on just the right solution. That leaves it partly up to whatever one stumbles across first, or over-buying.

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