RocketTheme Themes & Plugins

Posted by on Apr 28, 2018 in Blog, WordPress

Review of RocketTheme Themes & PluginsIf you’re looking for beautiful WordPress themes, RocketThemes.com can be quite alluring. But as in Nature, beauty can be dangerous!

My client needed to convert a large Joomla website to WordPress, due to Joomla’s security issues going so long without remedy, dwindling support for extensions and the bugs that pop up when abandoned extensions can’t be updated, etc.

“Fortunately” her website’s RocketTheme Cerulean template was offered in both Joomla and WordPress versions, simplifying the conversion process.

To help ensure a smooth migration, I used RocketTheme’s “Rocket Launcher” process which sets up WordPress, database, Cerulean theme (template) all in a single process.  Or so I thought.

Nope.  Rocket Launcher did not include several plugins required by their Cerulean theme, so the site did not work properly.  Ouch!  But OK, I downloaded and installed the plugins right off of RocketTheme.com’s website.  Now we’re “good to go!”.  Nope.

RocketTheme - Cerulean - errorsThe theme had a few bugs and was giving javascript errors and I couldn’t setup the home page slider without a clumsy workaround.

So I went to the RocketTheme.com website for support and found I had two choices –

  • Post to the community website and hope someone (likely another customer) would take pity on me.
  • Pay eighty bucks (rounded) for support.

What a great business model, eh?  Sell cheap buggy themes then charge bigger bucks to fix the bugs!

Well, it goes against the grain to pay someone to fix their own bugs, so I first searched the RocketTheme community  website for help with the Cerulean theme problems.  I did find a similar posted issue, but it was over five years old!  Several other posts are there, but they’re just more people with problems to solve.  Only one post offered help, and that was in the form of a bad link!  (404 Page Not Found).

RocketTheme's deceptive business model?So I posted a new topic thread, needling them about about RocketTheme’s apparent lack of support.  I was surprised to find a rather quick and helpful response from one of their UK moderators.

He quickly determined that two of the required plugins were “out of date” (although they were downloaded from RocketTheme just two days prior!)  and suggested that I update them.  I’m thinking the only possible explanation here is that they found one or more bugs in the RocketTheme Cerulean theme that my client is using and the “updates” were to fix those bugs.

RocketTheme plugins no auto-updates

No indication of needed updates!

But wait!  WordPress’ “Dashboard” was not indicating that the plugins (RokBox and RokSprocket) needed updates.  I went back to the page where I’d downloaded them just two days before and sure enough, they’d just been updated!

Not only was there no dashboard indication, nor email notices that they needed updates, there was no way to update these RocketTheme plugins from the dashboard.  They would have to be totally uninstalled (which removes data from the database!) then reinstalled.

Even this did not solve the problems, but from this point the story takes on an importance far greater than any one client or WordPress theme.  In a world where updates could mean fixing a gaping security vulnerability or keeping a website from crashing because of core updates, etc., it is imperative that every website keep current with updates – preferably on a daily basis, certainly no worse than weekly.

But, based on this experience, if you’re using RocketTheme plugins (which many of their themes/templates require), your dashboard will have no indication that updates are needed and no way to easily perform the updates.

With our managed hosting, we manage many websites with one, two dozen or even more plugins.  It’s not uncommon for us to have to perform updates on these sites two or three times a week.  Can you imagine how unworkable it would be to have to browse to the RocketTheme website every couple of days to check if there’s been any updates to plugins or themes?

Even if you got an email alert (which apparently they do not do), you’d have to manually download each plugin/theme; uninstall the current version (crossing your fingers it doesn’t wipe crucial data); then install the new version and probably have to go through the theme/plugin setup process all over again since data gets removed in the uninstall process.

rockettheme outdated & buggy plugins not indicated

Proper display for outdated plugins

Most theme and plugin authors use the WordPress API to handle updates so that they appear in your dashboard (or extensions like WordFence will notify you via email) and you can update all with a click of the mouse.

But as of today, RocketTheme is not utilizing this API.  I’ve advised them of the need to change and sent links to pages showing two different ways to handle things.  So, maybe RocketTheme will learn and change.  Or maybe not.

Either way, these seem to be mostly Joomla people, unaware of the ways of WordPress.  Who knows what other things they are not aware of and what hidden dangers lurk within RocketTheme plugins and themes?  Their failure to use SSL/TLS seems to indicate a lack of internet sophistication in general.  Especially when many ssl solutions are free and easy to set up.

I’ll be advising my client to switch to a similar ElegantThemes.com theme.  ET, like most WP vendors, uses the WordPress API’s so that updates are a snap.

So be forewarned – find out if a vendor uses WordPress API’s for updates before purchasing themes or plugins and steer clear of those who do not!

UPDATE –

Their support person confirmed the bug and said he was referring the issue to their developers. Then he explained..

“When we update our plugins we do not go through every single template that we have update the rocketlaunchers to those latest plugins. Rockettheme has an extremely large number of templates and plugins across many platforms (probably the largest) – we’re a small team and we simply don’t have the resources to do that.”

Incredible! The way I see it, he is making several astounding admissions –

  • They’re not using good programming practices where different apps share a common library of functions so that only one file needs changing to update dozens of applications (or templates).
  • Since we know that many updates are for security purposes, without testing or inspection they will have no idea if a new vulnerability has been introduced.
  • Their business model is unsustainable since they introduce a new template each month and already have too many to properly maintain.
  • They have no sense of responsibility to their customers, since they must realize that under these conditions choosing one of their templates (themes) is a terrible idea for any WordPress website owner.

My “go-to” WordPress theme provider is ElegantThemes.com.  I have a lifetime license with them, so I can use their themes for my clients.  I’m sure there are other theme providers that also offer good choices for WordPress users, but at this time RocketTheme.com is not one of them.

RT’s response –

1. We (like any other software supplier) do not claim that our products are 100% bug free – no company could ever guarantee that. Where an error is brought to out attention we raise an internal bug ticket and our developers then investigate the issue and release an update as soon as practical to do so.
2. We do use WP API updates* – but I acknowledge that the latest RG update did not show and we are investigating why that is.
3. We have hundreds of products, we regularly release update to those products and each product is test before it is released. What we don’t do is to go through our entire back catalogue of products to update them to include the latest versions of the currently release products – I.e. We do not update the Cerulean template rocketlauncher every time we update rokgallery.

RT is one of the biggest suppliers of WP, Joomla, and GRAV templates. We have been the leader in this field for many years and have thousands of very satified members using our products.

CompuSolver.com –

*I can attest that these plugins, RokBox and RokSprocket did not indicate needing an update nor did they offer clickable updates via the WordPress API. Even their own website admits that they often do not utilize the WordPress API –

..This feature is not available for all plugins. For example, commercial plugins that are not listed on the official WordPress Plugin Directory may not be automatically updated.

CompuSolver.com –

No. It’s apparently not just “commercial plugins” that aren’t using the WordPress API for updates. The two mentioned here, and required for many, if not most of your WordPress templates, are free downloads on your own website.

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