by Chief Apricot
Fall is an interesting time. I love beautiful colors on the trees,
crisp and sunny days - but hate those days when it's all bleak, foggy
and rainy! All in all, I think it's great to have changing seasons like
we have here in Toronto and while I sometimes get envious of people
living in places like Singapore or California, I would not want to trade
places with them!
We finally launched version 4.0 on September 26th and I love how it
made management of accounts receivable in Wild Apricot much easier, made
it much easier for people to import their contact and member records -
and delivered many other improvements (see our release history).
I love that the upgrade went very smoothly and even a bit faster than
we planned. I am very grateful to everyone on our team who worked over
the weekend to upgrade our system and convert the data for thousands of
clients, many terabytes of data.
Huge thanks go out to:
- our development team for their hard work on our longest-ever
release 4.0 (which took 6 months vs. our usual 10 weeks) and quick
reaction to address any issues that came up after the upgrade
- our testing (QA) team for diligently testing
- our customer service team for writing and updating dozens of help
pages in our online help to bring it up to date with the new version,
conducting a webinar to preview the coming changes, providing ongoing
support after the upgrade
- our marketing team for updating our main website according to the new version
And, of course, there are may things that I hated about the recent upgrade:
- a spike in customer service requests and calls which resulted in slowed than normal response time over the last two weeks
- that even though after many cycles of testing and development we
caught and fixed almost 500 bugs, several still slipped through and
resulted in hassles for our clients. (And that we had to publish a
number of patches in the last two weeks to address the most acute
- that we had to bite the bullet and convert the data from the old
version to the new version, which inevitably caused some pain and
confusion for a number of clients missing out on some unforeseen consequences of our changes which inconvenienced some clients
- that even though we had very positive feedback overall from
clients, we also had a number of them angry with us for making changes
and forcing them to do things differently then they used to.
The bottom line - for an upgrade of this magnitude (which totally
changed the underlying architecture of how we manage financial
transactions), it went very well and I am happy to see that our product
keeps getting not only more powerful but also easier to use at the same
time. Thanks to all our clients for your understanding and ongoing
The first couple of weeks of October our main focus was to
troubleshoot questions and problems from our clients - but at the same
time we have been working full speed to finalize our next release
(version 4.1) and development just started in earnest.
This release will be much smaller in scope - also due to the upcoming
winter holidays so we estimate that it will get launched some time in
Here's the list of key things we plan for version 4.1:
- (finally!) allow administrators to import and add manually contact
records without email. (We have quite a few organizations transitioning
to Wild Apricot with records without emails and this is a very frequent
question in our tech support!).
- Online forms which will allow visitors to your website to subscribe
(e.g. for newsletters) and basically get added to your contact database
as contacts (vs, current approach where the only way for people to be
added is via membership application workflow - which is an overkill in
subscription situations and other cases).
- One long overdue change is the ability to customize event-related
emails (Announcements, reminders, confirmations) separately for each
event. In our current version one common template is used for all
events. As a result, we frequently have to help clients deal with
situations when this common template had some information left over from
another event. Then it gets used for emails related to another event
which creates a lot of mess and unhappiness on all sides! I hope we can
finally address this in version 4.1.
- We are also automating some internal billing procedures
(specifically, automation of renewals for annual subscribers) so that
our customer service team can spend less time on mundane manual tasks
and more time on answering questions and helping our clients with their
(sometimes tricky!) questions.
- We also plan to make it easier for clients to see the list of their
support tickets from within their Wild Apricot account so that we can
speed up our dialog and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. (E.g.
some clients email and call us and are frustrated and angry that we did
not get back to them on their previous emails... and then most of the
time it turns out that either we did not received the original message
in the first place - or we did and replied promptly - but the client
never got our reply for some reason!). This change should definitely
help with many of these situations.
- One more thing is the ability to limit individual event options (vs
only one overall event limit as we currently have). For example, if you
arrange a conference and it has breakout sessions with various room
capacities, you will be able to set registration limits for each
Finally, we have 4 developers working on something which will not see
the light in version 4.1 yet - but will serve as a stepping stone to
subsequent updates in version 4.2 and 4.3.
Even though the real strength of Wild Apricot is in our membership
management functionality and the overall integration of all the pieces
into one system, website content management is something most of our
client deal with most frequently. Over the last few years we come to
realize that our current CMS technology is too limiting for what we want
the system to do - and what some clients and designer partners want to
do with Wild Apricot. So throughout 2010 we have been researching and
analyzing how to change this and now we are finally starting the
redesign of our CMS in version 4.1. The overall focus of this redesign
can be summarized as follows:
- Make it easier for clients to tweak and customize the visual design of their Wild Apricot website.
- Enable our designers and developer to add new design themes faster
and provide more sophisticated and better looking designs in our themes.
- Give web designer and partners more power in customization of
website designs as well as make it easier. (e.g. current design
customization is CSS based only and we plan to add the ability to change
the HTML of templates as well.
(If you are a designer and want to share your perspective, we would love to hear from you on this discussion thread: http://community.wildapricot.com/thread/19216.aspx)
The proof of this pudding will be when you can eat it - which will
not happen after version 4.1 but I hope can happen soon in subsequent