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Suggestions For The Hentzenwerke Website

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A Place To Suggest Improvements to the HentzenWerke website at .


The only place on the web for English VFP books could have done a much better job of it. Is it surprising to anyone that Hentzenwerke has had trouble selling VFP books online? What good will come from moving to the Linux market, given that Hentzenwerke seemingly cannot do the simplest obvious things right? Discuss.
[2004.06.24 04:41:40 PM EST] The Hentzenwerke website seems to have been modified.
Background: (Can somebody please write an introduction that succinctly explains how important and vital HentzenWerke has been to the VFP community, and why its possible that dissapointing VFP book sales of late might be due to controllable factors, like basic presentation quality, and some sensible usability tuning might improve the picture dramatically.

Problem: The link leads to a dead page. The "www" prefix is required to just get to the home page.
Suggestion: Place < meta http-equiv="REFRESH" Content="0; URL=" > in the head section of the web page.
First Reported: A long, long time ago by Steven Black. Suggestion neither acknowledged or acted upon.
14/07/2005 - This seems to have been fixed. Darren Woodford
Problem: Finding books is a ridiculously buried procedure.
Suggestion: See for how to array a moderately sized set of books for browsing. Also, pick a use case, say "Looking for a FP to VFP conversion book", and count the number of clicks it takes for an un-oriented user to determine if such a book exists. See Web Usability 101Offsite link to
First Reported: A long, long time ago by Steven Black. Suggestion neither acknowledged or acted upon.

Problem: Collecting personal information should be one of the the last steps in any e-commerce interaction.
Suggestion: See the "Buy them online here" link on the home page. The user expects to see books to buy. Instead, the user must commit personal information before starting the buying process for books, which may or may not include browsing for books (it's unclear). That's fundamentally ridiculous. More to this point, see Communicating Trust In Web DesignOffsite link to
First Reported: A long, long time ago by Steven Black. Suggestion neither acknowledged or acted upon.

Problem: The 90% use case is probably a combination of "I want to buy a book" and "I want to see about the upcoming conference". These are together alloted a minute fraction of the home page area, and the "buy a book" use case is, in actuality, labeled "Catalogs", whatever that means.
Suggestion: "Getcher VFP Icons Here!" and endless blog entries have no place on the most valuable screen real estate (the home page) of a website that's supposed to be driving business. See Top Ten Guidelines For Homepage UsabilityOffsite link to
First Reported: Late 2002 by Steven Black. Suggestion neither acknowledged or acted upon.

Problem: Dead links don't lead to a sensible place. Try, for example, Compare that to
Suggestion: Configure the error tab on IIS, or whatever you're using, to simply redirect to a home page, or a custom error page that could include, for example, a site map to help users find what they need.
First Reported: Sometime in 2002 or 2003 by Steven Black. Suggestion neither acknowledged or acted upon.

Problem: As a Canadian purchaser of Hentzenwerke books I was dismayed in 2002 to have my order for a few books turned down as it was too hard to ship to Canada anymore. Taken aback I just put off ordering them until 2003 when I decide to accept the Ebooks alone. I sure miss having the books though ...
Suggestion: Even if you have to charge a bit more, ship books to Canada! - Randy Roberts


Problem: When people take the time to make suggestions, acknowledge it, and if it involves a fixable problem, then fix it.
Suggestion: Don't bitch about the industry structure, Microsoft, the propensity of developers to pay for technical resources, or blame anything or anyone else until you've mitigated the factors you can easily control.
First Reported: [2004.02.09] by Steven Black.

Problem: The process to download files sucks! I have to enter my email and password (which BTW, I can never remember and the process to change it has never worked.) I'm then sent an email that is difficult to read and find the one download I need.
Suggestion: Just allow me to directly download the files that I need. If I'm offsite at a client, I can't always get to my email.


[2004.02.09] Steve, as can be seen in Universal Thread's today's home page:

Hentzenwerke to Stop Publishing [[Visual FoxPro]] Books February 10, 2004 00:43
From Hentzenwerke: "The opportunity for Fox book publishers disappeared in 1996, when the last book by a publisher other than myself was released. Since then, the only books for the product have been produced by a guy whose office is in a spare bedroom in his house. In 2004, that opportunity has disappeared even for me, as we will be producing no more Fox books other than those already in the works. The market is simply not big enough any longer."

Also think this is not something to be surprised with. In September 06, 2002 Whil posted this message in The Universal Thread (Thread ID: 697505):

Title: Why Hentzenwerke isn't going to DevCon

Hi folks,

There's been some discussion on the various online forums about why Hentzenwerke won't be at DevCon this year. A lot of guesses, some innuendo, and a few half-truths, much of which implies that I'm doing this for competitive reasons and personal gain at the expense of another. It's all nonsense. Here's what's really going on:

1. I'm not going to have a booth at DevCon purely because of financial reasons. I paid less than $2000 for my first booth at DevCon a decade ago, and there were about 2400 attendees. Advisor wants $3000 for a booth and everyone I've talked to is saying that 500 attendees is a good guess for this year's attendance.

In addition, unlike other vendors, I have to ship product to and from the show. And as every owner of Hack Fox 6 will attest, that's a lot of weight. It'll run between $3000 and $4000 to ship, warehouse, transfer the several thousand pounds of books I need to have available. And then there's another grand for the trip itself: airfare, hotel, beer.... So all told it's between $7000 and $8000. For 500 attendees? Most of whom already have a sizable Hentzenwerke library?

It doesn't make financial sense anymore. A few years ago the big publishers dropped out of the Fox market because they couldn't make money anymore. I'm dropping out of DevCon's vendor area because it, too, isn't financially worthwhile. I remember when there were 40 or 50 booths in the vendor area. Increased costs and decreasing attendance have pushed most of those vendors out of the conference.

2. My involvement with GLGDW has nothing to do with my attendance at DevCon. GLGDW draws from a different crowd; primarily small shops and independents who pay for it themselves, while DevCon draws a larger percentage from companies that pay for the trip out of the corporate wallet. Given that DevCon can run close to 3 times the cost of GLGDW and has the 'official stamp of approval' from Microsoft, that's pretty much expected.

GLGDW attendance is about the same as it has always been. We had 301 people in 1994, about 310 in both 200 and 2001, and it looks like we're on pace to have about 300 this year. DevCon's 75% slide in attendance over the past six years hasn't really affected GLGDW at all. Perhaps a few people are going to GLGDW instead of DevCon, but then a few people who would have gone to GLGDW aren't going anywhere this year.

2. I'm not attending DevCon as a speaker because I'm not speaking at all this year. I turned down every speaking invitation I've received this year. That includes Essential Fox, Cttm (the Netherland's terrific DevCon), DevCon, and Rainer Becker's wonderful show in Frankfurt. I did attend Kansas City to do User-Hostile, because there wasn't a charge to vendors, and because I wanted to support Russ Swall's first shot at a conference.

3. I'm not attending DevCon at all for personal reasons. I've been to every DevCon since Phoenix, where it was a dry heat. I remember the excitement of those early shows - I'd get extra sleep the week before, because I knew I'd be up until 2 or 3 each morning, and then back awake by 7 for some event or other. I had a list of 50 people that I wanted to meet at Phoenix, just from chatting with people on CIS back then.

When I decided not to go this year, I waited for the letdown, the depression that I expected to hit when I realized I wasn't going to be at the greatest event Fox developers had each year. And that letdown never came. The excitement isn't there for me anymore. I don't know when it disappeared; maybe during the daylong bait-and-switch force feeding of .NET at DevCon two years ago?

Or maybe it was when the keynote speakers had to start asking for applause after demoing new features. I remember Dave Fulton getting a spontaneous standing ovation when he casually mentioned that you didn't need to surround "and" and "or" with periods in expressions. Now, you see a new feature demonstrated, silence from the audience, and then the speaker begs, "Isn't that cool?"

I did a poll among the HWP authors and GLGDW speakers. Of over 60 people, I only know of one (except the 15 or so people speaking at DevCon) who is attending DevCon this year. I didn't nudge or suggest or in any way attempt to influence anyone else about their attendance at DevCon; indeed, I've kept quiet about my own decision specifically because I didn't want to impact DevCon attendance. I'm only posting this now because anyone who has been considering going to DevCon has already made up their mind.

And when Advisor called me about having a booth, they had no idea who I was, nor did they have any idea that I've had a booth at 8 of the last 10 DevCons; when I said I wouldn't be having a booth this year, they just said, "Oh. OK." and hung up. Is this how you treat long-term customers?

I'm rather disappointed at nasty things people have implied about my attendance or lack thereof, particuarly when those people don't know me but still feel entitled to make suppositions based on third-party heresay and an incomplete set of facts, and when people don't have the courage to sign their name. Everyone who knows me knows that I firmly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. I've worked with other conference organizers year after year to help them put on good conferences (well, except the DevConnections folk, but that's a different, rather sordid story), and I've worked with and encouraged authors to get them published with other publishing houses.

I'd much rather have a smaller chunk of a bigger pie than try to grab the whole pie myself. I'd rather have one of a half dozen conferences in a vibrant, growing market than the only conference in a stagnant market. I'd rather be one of several publishers each battling to produce the best books in that same vibrant, growing market. But that doesn't seem to be our lot in life these days.

I'll do all I can - by the end of 2002, I'll have produced 10 new Visual FoxPro books, have our sixth conference, and ship an issue of Fox Talk every month. And there are some other things going on behind the scenes that I can't talk about right now, but you'll find out about soon enough.


It seems to me that Whil is somewhat disapointed with FoxPro, its community, Microsoft etc, to a point he doesn't wants to participate in this market any more. Just my feeling. Please pardon me if I put these comments where they might not belong. - Fernando Alvares

Good input, Fernando. I'm suggesting that Whil, and especially Whil's website, aren't without problems. If one cannot make a living as the sole supplier in a niche market like VFP, then either the market is too small, or there is something wrong with the products or the processes used to sell those products. I'm suggesting that, given that Whil demonstrably doesn't know how to present his business on the web, we cannot dismiss the notion that his woes will simply follow him wherever he goes until he addresses the core problems with his sales and marketing processes. Maybe the VFP market is, in fact, amply viable and potentially profitable for a focused VFP book publisher. To make sales you need to sell, and Whil's website is, in this respect, demonstrably atrocious. Whil cannot say he wasn't told. -- Steven Black

Whatever the reasons, it is sad to see these books being discontinued. I have purchased many of the Hentzenwerke titles (not just VFP) and have always been delighted with the overall quality of the content compared to the larger publishing companies. I have wondered myself why a little more "spit and polish" was not applied to the Hentzen website, although I'm not sure how much difference it would have made in the long run. As for myself, I still consider the Foxpro "job" market itself to be a viable market for application developers as a whole. This does not seem to recently "bubble up" to the tools and book publishers that cater to this market. That may be the sign that VFP is mature, but not dead. In other words, not much new to write about that you can't find on the internet, etc. It also may be that some developers are just "cheap" and will spend as little $ as possible, even if that means stealing. My company continues to maintain and develop new applications using VFP and several related 3rd party tools. However, if you look at our web site you will not see much mention of this fact. I think this is because our philosophy as a whole is that we are selling the talent pool we have and not the specific tools we choose to use, which could vary depending on requirements and available resources. Our company as a whole uses many different tools and technologies. I just happen to be one of the VFP specialists and I don't see these talents being wasted or cast aside for the near future. In other words, I plan to exploit the "niche" I'm in as long as possible and hopefully will not come to regret this. FWIW, we still have people cranking out and maintaining COBOL code. Haven't seen many new COBOL books lately either... gd&r -- Randy Jean

Let's be clear that Whil hasn't said that he's discontinuing existing VFP books. They'll continue to be available, though in some cases, only as e-books. What he said is that he won't be publishing any more new VFP books, except those new in the queue.-- Tamar Granor

Thanks for the clarification. Just out of curiousity, Tamar, any plans by you to start work on a VFP9 hacker's guide for a different publisher? -- Randy Jean

I notice Whil has also criticized the .Net movement at MS. From where I sit, there hasn't been a good explanation of just what in the hell it all means to developers and users alike that is clear. I still can't explain it properly to anyone. Regardless of what you think about the viability of .Net, the vagueness of .Net is the fault of MS. However, I thought publishing books and articles on technical topics was something that was supposed to clear up things like this. So, I fault the publishing trade for not presenting a clear message on .Net as well. Some may already "get it", but many don't. And without help, those who don't can't even start to join in the fun. - AnonymousUser

I think what this all boils down to is that Whil is excited about the Linux movement, and he's focusing his efforts in that direction. While no one would give up a cash cow, I'm not sure changes/improvements to his web site would have made enough of a difference to affect his decision. -- Joel Leach

We can only guess, of course, and we'll never know. But considering that
  • Whil was at best indifferent towards foreign customers, which accounts easily for 2/3 of the FoxPro market,
  • Any e-commerce site that collects personal information in Step 1 will lose a majority of purchasers...
  • ...assuming the people got to that point through the shitty website.
  • At Amazon, the books have long shipping availability, which frustrate most.
    It all adds up. I wouldn't be surprised if the website sold a quarter of what it could have. It's obviously way sub-optimal and, on the web like in retail, that's the kiss of death. It's ironic that most problems would cost less than $10, some less than $1, to fix.-- Steven Black

    I have to DISagree that Whil was indifferent with foreign customers. My initial purchases sometimes came directly through and sometimes were stopped for collection of GST and whatnot. In 2 cases these charges (allegedly customs clearing, GST collection charge, GST administration charge, xxx) amounted to over $40. CDN!!! When I contacted Whil to try to find some way to avoid these excessive charges he bent over backwards trying to solve the problem.
    It is true that, ultimately, he couldn't, and so stopped selling to Canada directly, but I wouldn't call that "indifferent". -- Jim Nelson

    Since you have a real problem with how he runs his site/business, why don't you show him how it's done. I'm sure he'd give you a very large discount on his books if you bought in quantity - set up a web site 'how it should be done' and sell books to the thousands (well, hundreds...) of Fox developers that still buy books. Or, just start you own publishing house since you evidently thing there is plenty of money to be made publishing FoxPro books - AnonymousUser

    I tried. See the problem reporting history above. As for the other suggestion, my core strengths are not at publishing books. I think this wiki diffuses VFP and general development knowledge quite effectively, don't you? -- Steven Black

    I concur. This wiki and all the other web resourses are enough to supply FoxPro info to experienced developers; There are also very few new FoxPro developers, so that market isn't there either. From your comments it appears that we agree that there isn't any real (i.e. non-trivial) money to be made in selling FoxPro books - so why the harping on Hentzenwerke getting out of a non-profitable market segment? - AnonymousUser

    Because, if you read his reasoning, Whil is playing the victim card. He's not the victim, it's very possible that he's just another clueless internet retailer. I think we've seen ample refernces to conclude this, or to consider this as a driving factor in all of this. Whil just never gave a hoot about his website, just like he didn't give a hoot about customers in Canada and elsewhere. Spot the pattern? -- Steven Black

    Just bought an ebook from Hentzenwerke site (Feb.11, 2004), actually attracted by the discussion on UT and here about Whil's site :) I wonder if this could be a kind of concealed advertising :) -- Anatoliy Mogylevets

    Although there are arguably significant usability issues with the website it's all available on Amazon and (I've even seen a few of the newer titles on the shelves at bn!). I think a more serious underpinning of the VFP slump in general is that there are no introductory titles to bring in new developers. I have a copy of the ver 6 book and it basically looked like it was written for people who essentially already knew the product. If I were a beginning programmer I would be much more inclined to peruse the ocean of introductory .net titles. Think about the title of that book. Building Studio. Huh?!? Sounded like a title for someone (again existing programmer) wanting to port over VS apps to Fox or something. Anyway... -- Anonymous author
    So, we need to write a Learn VFP In 21 Days? -- Bob Archer
    I am looking at my bookshelf and I count 9 books from Hentzenwerke that I ordered. I never had a single problem. While I have never had a problem with either, to the best of my knowledge doesn't publish the books they sell, speak at user groups, put on a great show like Whilfest, nor run a consulting company. -- Chris McCandless
    See also The End Of Fox Talk And Other Things
    Contributors: Steven Black
    Category Web Category VFP Marketing Category VFP Books Category Business
  • ( Topic last updated: 2005.07.25 12:47:43 PM )