As you may know, the Wild Apricot blog about non-profit technology is hosted and sponsored by Wild Apricot software. The main focus of our blog is technology help and advice to millions of small non-profits. Among the subscribers to this blog are many people using Wild Apricot software, so we also do occasional posts about Wild Apricot software updates. Even if you are not interested in Wild Apricot software yourself, we hope you can take a quick look.
Wild Apricot integrated software has been designed for small non-profits — and is used by thousands of charitable organizations, professional and business associations, social and recreational clubs, student and alumni organizations, churches, online activists, communities, and many others. It's web-based, so it does not require any hassles with servers and installation it has been designed for non-technical users. Wild Apricot handles membership management tasks, event registration, website content management, secure member portal with self-service and much more. If you want to check it out, feel free to open a free 30-day trial.
We just released a new version of Wild Apricot on Tuesday, September 23rd. The two most notables updates are:
- Custom URL — the ability to manually assign specific URLs to your website pages. Instead of a system-generated URL like www.abc.org/Default.aspx?PageID=12345, you can now use something like www.abc.org/about_us or www.abc.org/about_us.html to point to a specific page. Custom URLs are helpful for Search Engine Optimization (keywords within URLs count high for your ranking in search results), as well as for transferring your old website to the Wild Apricot platform (so that existing links to your site from other websites will not break).
- Group management — the ability to organize members into groups, such as "Board of Directors," "Volunteer Committee," etc. These groups are independent of membership levels — one group can include members from different levels. These groups can be used to keep track of member participation in committees, to restrict access to website pages to a particular group, or for advanced searches and emails.
The Group management feature has been requested for a long time, and we finally had a chance to make progress on this. Based on what our clients have been telling us, we think this feature will find wide use — and we know that there are many more enhancements to this feature to be considered. We will create a discussion thread on our forum to collect your feedback so that we can prioritize and plan further enhancements.
Due to adding this functionality, we had to make the difficult decision to rename the old functionality called "Group membership levels" — since using the term "Group" in two very different functions was too confusing. From what we heard from our clients, we decided that the "Groups" label makes much more sense for this new functionality — so the old "Group membership level" functionality had to be renamed as "Bundle memberships." We sincerely hope this will not create too much of a transition pain.
Other notable developments:
- Set of new design themes ("Notebook") — in 20 different color variations;
- We have also completed the bulk of work to streamline and rationalize CSS code. Our CSS customization pages have been updated with the new instructions. With this change, we are now able to plan the revision of our Point-and-Click customization functionality to properly control all functional pages;
- We have done quite a bit of work on the invoicing workflow improvements, but ended up not including this work into the current release. These changes affect many aspects of the system, and our Quality Assurance (Testing) team ran out of time to properly and thoroughly test all the details. In order not to delay the release, we decided to hold off on our current work in progress and release everything else. In our next update we will continue our work on the invoicing workflow and release it with all the other updates.
Of course, there were endless other improvements and bug fixes behind the scenes (I just checked our task management system — the total count of to-do items for this release is a nice round number: 150).
Coming up next:
Our next release, version 2.37, has already gone into development and we're targeting early November as the release date. This means that all the thinking, analysis, and design work has been completed, and the next batch of improvements selected. Here's what we plan to do:
- Continue our work on improvements to the invoicing workflow;
- Finish the page management screen — a separate screen where you can easily see and manage your website pages;
- Horizontal menu option — current Wild Apricot themes all place the menu on the left side. In the new release we will add the capability to have the menu at the top of the web page;
- We are continuing analysis and design work on what we call "Single contact database" — rolling up current separate tables of members, donors and event registrant into one master database. This proven to be much bigger change than we originally anticipated so it will only go into development in 2009. We plan to mark the milestone of releasing this major change as Wild Apricot version 3.0;
- New set of design themes — code-named "Zip";
- Rich-text formatting of customizable emails;
- Customization of event reminder notices (which currently use hard-coded templates);
- Saving email newsletter drafts;
- We also working to replace our current payment processor with PayPal Payflow Gateway Pro. This change will finally allow us to improve the online self-service functions for our clients to update their credit card information. At the moment this is handled by a lot of manual work/faxes, and it is a big pain for our clients as well as for our customer service team.
Your ongoing feedback is highly appreciated. Please keep it coming, through our online discussion forums.
We have not been moving as fast we would like to on your requests — as we've had significant resources dedicated to some major internal system changes to support our growth and maintain security and reliability of our system. Having completed a number of these, we are now reallocating more developers to address the most common client requests — so you will see us moving faster on those in the upcoming releases.