A quick disclaimer:
I really don’t love writing about directory themes for wordpress.
Truthfully, I don’t. But, I get more questions about WordPress directory themes and frameworks than just about anything else these days, mostly on the basis of the 20 some odd posts (and 1 mega series) on building, monetizing and developing authority sites.
Vantage 4.0 FINALLY was released a week or two ago, and I’m getting at least one question per day about whether or not it’s worth buying, or not.
I bought it on the very first day it was available – which was a good thing, considering they pulled it down hours after I clicked “pay” simply due to some issues some old Vantage users (3.X version) were having with the new theme, over-writing the old theme automatically (with the updater) and nuking some sites that didn’t want to convert to the new theme and framework just yet.
So, having had the theme for a few weeks and installing it on several different test sites, (it’s now version 4.01 I believe – and is back on the market for purchase) here are the reasons why I think, from my perspective, buying Vantage 4.0 is a no brainer. I’ll also include, in the interest of fairness, who you ought re-consider as well.
1 – Vantage is the absolute easiest directory theme to install and execute on a new project…..bar none. If you are used to the Listify’s and Listable’s of the world, which ARE in fact really easy to install and get running, Vantage 4.0, much like it’s predecessor (3.X versions) just straight up works out of the box. Payment packages are set up and easy to modify, maps WORK out of the box (no fucking around with all of the various WP manager extensions or search extensions to get your maps working in hour 1) and in general, you install it – and other than adding your Google Maps api credentials, you have a directory up and running and ready for your marketing process in under an hour.
2 – It looks pretty slick. In my view, Vantage 4.0 does NOT look as good, aesthetically, as the WP manager suite of themes (Listify looks better, so does Listable, and so do some of the other Themeforest directory themes – in MY opinion, which of course, is highly subjective) The truth though, is – it really doesn’t matter nearly as much what your site looks like from the public’s perspective. (as YELP! can attest) They want a directory that provides information clearly, quickly and with their obvious intuitions about where what should appear to be accurate…and Vantage delivers this in a really smooth and dare I say….ALMOST sexy way. (much better than previous versions, from the aesthetics side)
3 – There is great “child” theme support and enhancements from the appthemes community to extend the theme in some super cool and creative ways….COMING. The previous versions had some really cool extensions, and some good child themes for improved aesthetics, and I know there are some even better things coming for Vantage 4.0. (as several child theme developers have told me what they have coming in the weeks to come) This means, if you don’t love the “out of the box” looks, there will be some super inexpensive ways to enhance this, using child themes – and plugins too, for enhanced functionality as well.
4 – Vantage is coded in a way that supports WP best practices, and the new version (4.0) supports all sorts of things that you couldn’t do with previous versions. Woocommerce, in particular, is fully supported in this version, meaning you can literally EXTEND your directory with a full marketplace, using Woocommerce functionality. (you can use this to create a SHOP for your directory, or….even more creatively, allow your vendors (listings) to sell THEIR PRODUCTS, on your store, using the WC external product type, with an affiliate link (yours) or as part and parcel of a premium listing package, etc. There are tons of cool ways you can now improve, extend and enhance your directory running Vantage, and this overcomes the biggest challenge I had with previous versions, and why the themes that WERE integrated with WC were more preferable before.
2 Reasons you might NOT want to buy Vantage 4.0 just yet?
1 – I’m not 100% sure I’m in love with their support. I just can’t quite decide yet. I tend to make a little bit of noise, so I do find that I get a pretty good response when I post questions, etc on the blog, or now, in the forum.
But……there is something a bit odd that I can’t quite put my finger on when it comes to how they run their operation, that feels a little bit aloof and even a tad off putting to me. David, the guy who runs Appthemes, seems like he controls a lot of the front facing comments and communication (comments, even when you’ve posted several, are ALWAYS moderated on the blog – and in the forums, there are only a few moderator voices for what appears like it should be a bigger operation) There are also people who have been in the Appthemes forum much longer than me who post things like “I see support still sucks” – which troubles me to read – as in my view, supporting the folks who buy your stuff is the one non negotiable when doing anything online.
Note – there are plenty of forum posts answered well and plenty of people happy with appthemes – I’m just holding off judgement for now – but I know my own intuition is that they aren’t quite as “people friendly” – as many other small software companies are, and I think that’s probably a reflection of their owner, who is probably more comfortable with code than customers.
2 – At this moment, visually, you can include alot more information on Listy/Listable, etc – per the listings themselves. (listing owner icons/logos/featured/etc – are either baked in – or look better, than what is available now on Vantage) There are also some limitations in how listings appear on the directory, the ability to “randomize” listings (like previous versions had) and so forth. There is just a little bit less functionality baked in, at the present moment, than you could achieve with a base install of one of the alternatives.
I also don’t love that REVIEWS (which were standard in Vantage 3.x) are now a premium plugin (CRITIC) that needs to be purchased separately. It’s not expensive ($29 or so) but it feels like removing something critical, only to add it as a fee based option on the upgrade, is an iffy intuition about how to launch something new. I get it though – (the other directories also have premium review plugins) and in fairness to appthemes, the theme itself is LESS today, than if you would have purchased a year or two ago. ($99 vs $69 today)
So in general? I think Vantage 4.0 is pretty awesome, especially if you are total newbie, or are a tech challenged marketing type like myself. (because believe me, the tech AIN’T my strong suit, and everything I know has been learned by sheer brute force neccessity, and a lot of booze)
And – if you disagree with anything I said above, feel free to let me know in the community comments, by email or anyplace else!
Note: Vantage is running a very special bundle offer to celebrate their 4.0 launch – it’s running until April 21st, 2017, and gives you immediate access to 3 killer plugins you can use to enhance your directory in some really appealing ways – Critic (the review plugin mentioned above 🙂 Coupons, and Stripe integration. You’ve got to buy it before the 21st though to get these thrown in as part of the bundle – AND, if you use my affiliate link (here) – I’ll give you a free email or recorded audio strategy session on directory marketing. (something I only do for my 12 month online agency launch course – which is over $2300 for the year) If you buy Vantage with my link – just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me know, I’ll double check with appthemes, and you’ll get the bundled plugins (from them) and an email consultation, OR a recorded audio (I’ll do this based on what you tell me you’d like to achieve with your business) for free, from me. 🙂