Pricing Models: Subscription vs. One Time Purchase

Out of interest Isaiah, maybe this is confidential, but have you ever considered, or asked to consider by a dev, some sort of call back/licence thingie to stop unpurchased stacks being used?

I know back in the day, when everything was a fiver, there was less pirating and less interest in stopping it. Now stacks are £20 plus, with many running £50 to £100, so I’m surprised this feature hasn’t been added thus far.

I wonder how much money devs lose due to people “sharing” stacks?

And of course, the other big question: Why has no one (you/RM) added a Stacks Store to RW? All stacks must go via it to be installed (betas can be side-loaded I guess) with a cut going to you/RM to fund development, cocaine parties, rock and roll lifestyles, etc.

It’s always struck me with RW and stacks being a one-time purchase (opposed to subscription based) that this would mean a steady revenue stream, which must be better than the present model?

yes. some type of unified licensing is on the list for Stacks v4.5. currently maintaining secret downloads is very onerous for developers. but doing serial numbers for hundreds of stacks is untenable. so… we need something in between. a way to make it easy to purchase/sell stacks that still gives complete freedom to developers and doesn’t require anything difficult from the user. i honestly don’t know what the answer is here. we might try a few things and see what sticks.

my views of piracy are less rigid than most – but some piracy became rampant a couple years ago. the encryption/signing features are all to slow/prevent pirating through the automatic update system.

Well, there is the currently the RW community – and it does glean quite a bit of revenue from the stream through advertising. But nothing built in to the app. I’m not sure that will ever happen, but it could, I suppose.

this is currently a debate the wider industry is having. the steady stream has not yet proven itself to be good at delivering value to users – however it has proven that it can generate a lot of revenue – at least from larger corporations like Adobe.
for myself, i’m happy doing the one-time purchase with irregular updates. it encourages me to keep developing and users can decide at each upgrade point whether they want to keep investing.
however, i do need to find a way to upgrade more frequently and at lower cost. i’m currently averaging about 1 upgrade every 3 years. that makes budgeting difficult.
a bit of sharing-to-much-honesty: when it gets down near the upgrade end i’m pretty close to broke. and on the other end i feel like i’m a crazy rich person. it’s a very bi-polar way to live. it would be much nicer if i could find a way to spread it out a little bit.


I think subscription-based licensing is fine for people who use software professionally. On the other hand, for amateurs who use software occasionally or not for profit (like myself), subscriptions are unacceptable. Perhaps you could consider using both subscription- and non-subscription-based licensing? Or would that add to much complication to the business side of your development?

Stacks standard: 10 domain limit, present pricing structure.

Stacks Pro: Unlimited domains, maybe some additional toys, $5 a month.

I know that blocs is a one time only affair but as yet it doesn’t have the infrasture of RW. So, putting Blocs to one side, is there any platform out there with the capacity and ability of RW/stacks that isn’t subscription for unlimited?

As a user who makes money from RW/stacks I can’t help but feel that present pricing structure, which was fine five years ago, is now holding the platform back.

To my mind, the platform has vastly outgrown its original offering and has morphed into a serious tool, but the price hasn’t changed. That can’t be good in the long run, for anyone.


I fully agree. Let us professionals pay you a monthly or yearly subscription which can be canceled any time.

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wow. times they are a-changin’. it was only a few years ago that even the hint of a subscription model would drive people to pick up pitchforks and torches and march on the castle.

i was merely considering just a few more paid releases. but perhaps a monthly pricing model in addition to the one-time payment thing would be useful.

maybe find a way to do a bit of both – or have bonuses like @steveb suggests – for larger commitments.
i’ll have to think about this a bit.

i think, for now at least, stacks 4 will be more of the same.
pricing hasn’t been settled entirely, but so far all the marketing copy says:
$50 to purchase for new users
$30 to upgrade

but i really do want to try lots of new things this year and stir up the pot a bit. everything is on the table this time. i’ve even been considering doing some more videos and/or live-streams. i know, i know, this is outside my normal introvert style – but it really seems like it’s the new and preferred way of learning for a whole generation of people. i’d love to be able to find a way to include those folks.

and, thanks for all the suggestions. i really do appreciate it. it’s been a good day for open/candid discussions. i’m kind of loving the R4A forum right now.



If you go down the “Stacks Store” path please make an exception for hobbyist developers. I’d hate to jump through hoops to use my own items. I’ve bought a lot of stacks but also developed my own when I cannot find something that does some of the obscure things I need eg. responsive dog pedigree charts ;)

Looking forward to V4 of stacks


They sure are! Particularly for those making their living or a wage from RW/Stacks. There will always be cheapskates, but…

Firstly, I think people have woken up and realised they MUST support indie devs, if they don’t we all end up selling our soul the likes of Adobe.

Then there is the fact that we have all gotten used to a subscription model.

Finally, and personally this is the big one: People has learnt the that if you don’t pay a fair price, eventually the venture goes pop. This is happening all around us, businesses are failing, not because they don’t have the customers but because they’ve not charged accordingly.

I can see how “private” users are scared off from a subscription, and for them I think it’s the wrong approach, but for those of us making money from your products, it’s only fair and right that we pay a bit more, even just a token few dollars a month. Call it a social-conscious tax ;-)

Bottom line: If people want any product or service to stick around, it has to be financially viable for the person supplying the service or making/selling the product. I’m not trying to suggest all devs in the RW world are flat broke 24/7, I know that 's not the case, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be recompensed fairly for the output.


I have one additional concern about subscriptions.

Nobody deserves a continuous financial support more than Isaiah or Will or Janis (I don’t mention TAV, but only because his stacks are free, I do make donations, though). Even though I don’t make any money from website building, I would probably consider paying them a subscription fee.

But there are some developers in RW market whose products are flakey, buggy or not very well supported (surely, I won’t mention their names). Of course, I do not have to buy their products. But if those developers hop on the subscription model band wagon, soon there will be no single-purchase model left. And that’s very bad for non-professional software users.


this is something i think about quite often. the bulk of Stacks users buy a single license, a few stacks, a nice theme, and they’re done.
they can update their little website for their church or preschool or hair salon every couple months FOR YEARS and never have to pay a dime more. that’s pretty awesome.

even with the initial outlay for RW and Stacks, they can break even over monthly subscription tools like Wix in a year or two.

in a twist i did not see coming, selling a $60 add-on to a $100 app has allowed us to be the market’s “low-cost leader” — simply because we are one of the few one-time payment tools. and apple’s appstore has made anything cheaper than Stacks unsustainable. (which i am very sad about)

i want to continue to encourage at least a few simple, free, or very low-cost stacks to offer for budget conscious users. these folks don’t spend a lot, but they drive the popularity of the platform. they are our viral marketing.

and seriously, not everything has to be a $200/domain rolling license agreement. 🤑
sometimes a stack can be a $5 impulse purchase.

but that initial outlay. oof. it’s pretty daunting for a “low cost” app. i think it really makes sense to offer a $4.99/month option for Stacks too. i hope that drives MORE budget conscious users to the platform.

we’re in an interesting position: Stacks is being used for both budget conscious users and as a professional tool to build sites for hire.
this makes pricing things hard, but being liked by many is a very good thing, and surly sign we’re doing a couple things right.


Please charge more. Maybe $60 and $40 and then make the 4.5 a $20 upgrade.

I would also like to see a StacksPro version that included a more up to date, powerful set of basic stacks. I.e. better button stack, image stack with conventional URL warehousing option, max width, etc, Column stacks with user configurable breakpoints x2. Also a Basic Navigation bar. This would enable a basic site to be built with the basic StacksPro stacks.

PS I do hope v4 will work with RW7?

I don’t think the market can tolerate much more than $100 + $60 and still bring in low-cost users. Charging more and for updates is one way to solve that problem, but there are others too. Like I’ve said, everything is on the table – I need to be creative, really think out of the box, and offer more options – that’s for sure.

I know this means more work for me, but I love this idea too. But we’ll see – I’m only one guy and can’t really see myself taking on VC money to hire more developers, and can only type so fast. LOL. 😂

I’ve always shied away from directly replacing RW themes, but a lot of people are using Stacks that way today – so I think future versions of Stacks may head more in that direction. I’m not 100% certain.



The subscription model for stacks (lowercase) is problematic, I have a folder with about 30+ stacks that I no longer use, either they have become obsolete or they turned out to be not fit for purpose.
Would I/another user still be paying a monthly fee for these? how would we tell a dev “I’m no longer using xyz stack, stop charging me”?

As for Stacks (uppercase) … @isaiah >>>> charge more, I’d say the $60/$40 @Webdeersign suggested is appropriate, maybe even a little more.


I don’t think you should have a monthly price (only) because you allow immediate comparisons with services like WiX or Weebly. Weebly is £5/month including a domain. The initial attractiveness about Stacks is that you own it for life but the reality is that you will upgrade every few years it because you want the new stuff. I have an inbuilt caution that a monthly subscription model product is one that could disappear next month and the call home checking would disable my software. Paying up front for an App guards against this.

Also just to throw a curve ball, RW7 is available on the MAS for £38.99 and in the past RW7 has appeared as part of $20 choose 10 app packages and other trouser dropping promotions.

To answer the earlier question, other Apps similar to RW that don’t rely on addons are, in addition to BlocsApp, Sparkle - £43.99 for the ONE or £84.99 for the Pro and I believe Sandvox is still going. BootstrapStudio’s creative pricing is $25/year of $60 forever. All of this makes a tough pricing arena for a prospective buyer.

Also, I have always thought that there should be a version of RW sold with Stacks in some way that it benefits the user , i.e. costs less or you get something else added in. I’m guessing there are many issues to be addressed there but from a customers point of view it would be a good thing.


Has anyone suggested that? If anything I’ve said sounded like that, it was not meant to. Paying subscriptions for stacks is (imo) a non-starter in all but the most unusual of circumstances. I was talking about a subscription system for Stacks, not stacks. I might not have capitalised the S up there, so sorry about that!

To over come the hobbyist issue as mentioned by Isaiah, to me the solution is simple and obvious: Domain limit on the bi-annual update version, unlimited on the subscription “Pro” version. I think I might have said that up there somewhere.

Or, limit the scope of the bi-annually purchased version and remove these limits for the Pro version.

And on the subject of new versions/updates to Stacks, this is one of the (few) times people can learn from RM: They know how to make a fanfare about a minor update and push it out as a chargeable upgrade. There’s a lot could learn from that. Obviously it’s a balancing act, but I have to say RM do a fine job of it . But Stacks? Maybe it’s a little too far at the “I want to be fair” end of things.

I don’t think an upgrade has to be ground breaking, just better. Or as Webdeer said, do an all signing all dancing upgrade every three years but charge for the interim x.5 update.

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definitely a good way to go. it seems obvious on the surface. but really consider the numbers for a second…

currently i do amazingly crazy things to make generating, maintaining, entering, and keeping a license code so trivial that support for it is only needed in all but the most hand-holding cases. and yet is the largest support cost and the largest cost to my business by far.
adding something as complex as a subscriptions, domain-locks, phoning-home licensing – all of that will increase complexity and support cost. maybe not a lot – but nothing comes for free when support is concerned.

that cost will have to be outweighed by the revenue generated by those complications. and while these forums are mostly populated by pro users and people that would gladly pay a bit extra – you, my friends, are part of a so-called, “vocal minority” 😝. i love you guys, but you talk a lot. 😆

seriously, though: complicating the pricing structure is tough.
to break even on even a tiny pricing complication, i have to generate quite a bit more, from a very small segment of customers.

in other words: this probably doesn’t seem obvious from the outside, but the YourHead business model relies on its simplicity.

this will have to change in the next couple years. that is more certain than ever. but i have to make that change very very carefully. and i suspect it will not necessarily make sense from the outside. (it probably won’t make sense from the inside either – i have no MBA and just make this stuff up as i go – 🤪) wish me luck.



Hey, I’m an ideas kinda guy. I don’t have the answers ;-)

EVERYONE makes their shit up as they go along, especially the MBA brigade ;-)

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And then some!


there are a few already – the top tier CMS engines.

but i think it’s a valid concern. RW now sells for $9.95/month through SetApp. If Stacks goes for $4.99/month – would it encourage some stacks to follow suit? All of them?

i hope not.

and again, let’s all thank @tav. i suspect his stacks are a normalizing force keeping pricing sane for users – which benefits us all in the long run.


i don’t know how we got from Phoning Home to Stacks marketing class. i do apologize to the original poster for stealing this thread.

but it’s been a great talk. thanks for listening to my rabbles guys.