How NOT to monetize a free plugin: One Click Demo Import acquired by Awesome Motive

I was surprised to see an update notice for the free One Click Demo Import plugin. The plugin was updated from 2.6.1 to 3.0.0 on March 31st, 2021.

I got a bad feeling about this update the moment I saw the changelog. These are the changes:


* IMPORTANT: Support for PHP 5.5 or lower has been discontinued. If you are running one of those versions, you MUST upgrade PHP before installing or upgrading to One Click Demo Import v3.0. Failure to do that will disable One Click Demo Import functionality.
* IMPORTANT: Support for WordPress core v4.9 or lower has been discontinued. If you are running one of those versions, you MUST upgrade WordPress core before installing or upgrading to One Click Demo Import v3.0. Failure to do that could cause issues with the One Click Demo Import functionality.
* Added support for recommended theme plugins.
* Added useful single page demo content imports.
* Added recommended plugins installer.
* Updated the UI/UX of the plugin.
* Fixed PHP8 warning.
* Fixed deprecated WP function `wp_slash_strings_only`.

After updating the plugin and running a quick test import process for one of my themes, I quickly learned that my intuition was correct. The plugin was acquired and is now being monetized in an aggressive manner.


Awesome Motive (Syed Balkhi) Acquires One Click Demo Import from ProteusThemes

It looks like this plugin was acquired from ProteusThemes by Awesome Motive (Syed Balkhi), the company behind WPBeginner, OptinMonster, MonsterInsights, WPForms, etc.

To the best of my knowledge, at the time of writing this article, this acquisition has not been announced or mentioned publicly.


What’s the problem with the New in One Click Demo Import?

Here are some screenshots of what the import process looked like in the old 2.6.1 version, while it was still owned by ProteusThemes.

Before the Update (version 2.6.1):

After the Update (version 3.0.0):

The problem with this version is that the plugin recommends partner plugins during the import process. You will notice on the second screenshot that these plugins are automatically selected, so a user has to opt-out instead of opt-in.

Also the wording is problematic:

“To ensure the best experience, installing the following plugins is strongly recommended, and in some cases required.”

A big number of plugin users will believe that these plugin recommendations come from the theme developer and not from the plugin itself.

Besides “strongly recommending” these unrelated plugins, they are selected by default. This is bad user experience no matter how you look at it.

This is a big issue. At the moment of this writing, the plugin is active on over a million WordPress websites.

Complete list of partner plugins

So this post is an open call to Syed Balkhi to reconsider the way this plugin is monetized by his company.

Making users opt-out of these plugin recommendations is a nasty way of doing things.


UPDATE #1: April 1st, 2021

Several hours later after publishing my post, Awesome Motive have reacted with an update (3.0.1) to One Click Demo Import. According to the changelog:


* Add more details about recommended plugins.
* Change recommended plugins to opt-in.

The second step of the import screen now looks like this:

Of course this is a lot better now. Not ideal, but significantly better.

Either way, this is probably a good time to at least look around for alternatives. Maybe someone can point me to a good one?

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2 Comments

  1. Syed Balkhi

    Thank you for sharing your feedback Dumitru. Our team has acted on both items and an update has been released to address both concerns (opt-out as well as messaging).

    I’ve also connected you with our team, so we can get your input on upcoming feature ideas because our end goal is to offer the best overall user experience and help make WordPress easier for beginners / non-techy users.

    With regards to the plugin acquisition, we actually acquired / adopted the plugin over a year ago (Jan 2020) from previous author since they were looking for a shift in focus.

    We didn’t make any announcement because the plugin did not have a dedicated website, but it does now (OCDI.com).

    Our team worked on it last quarter to improve the plugin UX and extend the API further for theme authors, so they can deliver full solutions including the ability to suggest plugins as well as recommend mandatory plugins that are required for theme functionality.

    We decided to add this feature in OCDI because our other API library, TGM Plugin Activation (created by Thomas Griffin – OptinMonster co-founder) doesn’t offer the cleanest UX for installing multiple plugins.

    Currently theme authors use TGMPA for all related plugin recommendations including OCDI … which is then used for demo content import, so we thought it’d be better to offer a centralized experience for users.

    The integration guide talking about the new plugin feature is located here: https://ocdi.com/quick-integration-guide/

    We’ve also added other advanced functionality here as well:
    https://ocdi.com/advanced-integration-guide/

    Long term, our goal is to make it easier for theme authors to offer enhanced demos catered towards various industries / niches.

    As always, I appreciate the feedback and want you to know that you can always reach our team directly with any feedback / suggestions 🙂

    • Dumitru Brinzan

      Thank you Syed for posting this response publicly.
      I agree that some universal solution would be great.
      However, theme developers will think twice before bundling a plugin that recommends a list of services that they have no control over.
      Today you are promoting your company’s plugins. But what about in a month or a year from now? That’s something that theme developers should think about.

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