Flothemes, a popular WordPress photography website builder, abruptly shut down on September 20, leaving tens of thousands of photographers scrambling for a new website template.
For now Flothemes’ customers will retain an operating website, but with no new support or updates they’ll need to make a decision about what comes next. Future WordPress updates won’t be compatible with the current Flothemes theme or plugins. While minor WordPress updates won’t likely cause a website to collapse, eventually a major update will come along and create major formatting issues. WordPress updates are optional and photographers can continue using a supported version, but this leaves them vulnerable with no access to the latest security as well as new features. And as appearances slowly change with new technology and trends, an old website may become clunky and outdated.
Many professional photographers setting up a website with WordPress settled on a Flothemes theme. The customisable themes and plug-ins provided photographers the ability to easily design a sleek-looking bespoke website. Flothemes offered several different designs, ranging from Bold & Ambitious, to Feminine & Elegant and Airy & Minimalistic. They’re popular with photographers specialising in most sectors: weddings, commercial, advertising, portraiture, landscape and so on.
It was immensely popular. In 2021 the business was purchased by Pixieset, a competing all-in-one platform for photographers to host a non-Wordpress website and client gallery, which boasted that Flothemes had more than 40,000 customers. Despite the acquisition by a competitor, the roadmap remained business as usual along with a promise to keep it that way. Until now.
Flothemes’ closure was leaked on September 20, before an official announcement, prompting Pixieset to expedite the news. Customers were encouraged to join Pixieset, although there is no migration tool and they’d have to build their website again from the ground up.
‘Effective September 20th 2023, the Flothemes store is closed and Flothemes products is no longer available for purchase. We will no longer be releasing new themes and features for Flothemes products,’ the statement said.
The messy handling of the closure resulted in a bunch of unhappy customers, as highlighted by Melbourne photographer and Flothemes customer, Katrina Ferguson, who wrote the following in her terrific photography business blog, Photo Geek:
‘As a result, on top of their collective frustration with the ‘doors closing’ announcement, a strong distaste began brewing for controlling company Pixieset, given the lack of transparency and mishandling of the situation. As if it wasn’t going to be bad enough announcing the permanent closure of Flothemes and subsequently, the long-term functioning of all websites built with their platform.’
In her blog post, Katrina pulls commentary from a Facebook live session hosted by photography SEO experts, Corey Potter and Dylan Howell, who run Fuel Your Photos.
‘”I really do believe, for a very long time, [Flothemes] served the photography market; that they tried to build the best product possible for WordPress; they’ve listened to feedback from photographers to try to build that solution that people have been asking for…Flothemes was doing a great thing,’ Corey Potter said in the session. ‘They really believed in it and wanted it to continue. Pixieset has decided that’s not their business…they want everything to be an all-in-one platform. Their website builder has been getting better…but clearly WordPress is not part of their business plan and they had to make the decision to cut it.” ‘
The SEO specialists feel that migrating to Pixieset is a bad move, as the platform has ‘technical issues’ and isn’t SEO-friendly compared to competitors, and they speculate that Flothemes users have about six months to make a change.
Katrina has written more commentary about Flothemes closure, and compiled plenty of information about the situation including migration options for Flothemes customers. Read her post here.