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Wild Apricot Software News - March 2012

Version 4.4 updates

We have covered the upcoming Version 4.4 quite a bit in our previous updates, but there are a couple of things we have not mentioned yet:

  • Auto-saving of email drafts. The system will now automatically save your work while editing emails. I am sure this has happened to many of you - you work for a long time on an email, painstakingly editing and formatting it - but don't save your draft along the way. And then, due to some browser glitch, all your edits are gone! The upcoming version 4.4 of Wild Apricot will automatically save your edits every 10 seconds.
  • Changes in PayPal integration. PayPal support in Wild Apricot was released  a long time ago (about 5 years, to be exact) and PayPal has released many updates since then. We have kept Wild Apricot compatible with all of their changes, but there were some leftovers in our interface and functionality that we are finally updating:
    • For starters, PayPal no longer uses original names 'PayPal Standard' and 'PayPal Pro' - that would be too simple :-) They now offer a plethora of accounts (Personal, Premier, Business, Student) and other options (Website Payments Standard, Website Payments Pro). So we are getting rid of old terms in the Wild Apricot interface and spelling out in detail what accounts and options can be used. Specifically, PayPal Standard gets renamed to be compatible with its current name 'PayPal Redirect'
    • Second, PayPal's new payment option "PayPal Express Checkout" is added as an explicit option. It handles recurring payments much better than PayPal Redirect - and does not cost more! If you were ever confused as to why Wild Apricot was charging your recurring members $99.99 and then $0.01 instead of a whole $100, this was due to some limitations in PayPal Redirect handling of recurring payments. Express Checkout does not have this problem, plus it is much more reliable in terms of letting Wild Apricot servers know about each payment. So we are recommending all users using PayPal Standard (aka PayPal Redirect) switch to Express Checkout once we release Version 4.4 - it takes only 5 minutes to copy-paste settings from your PayPal account into Wild Apricot.
  • Automatic generation of renewal invoices. At the moment (in version 4.3), member have to login into your website and go to their profile to initiate the renewal and generate the invoice. In other words, the system is not making an assumption as to whether a particular member will renew or not. Some of our clients have been asking for an option to automatically pre-generate and email invoices to members, so that renewal process can be simplified. This option will be added in Version 4.4 (click to enlarge screenshot).
    Auto Renewal Invoices
  • More obvious way to change settings/link for pictures inserted into a page. You can actually change these now - but you have to know to select the picture and then click on the Picture or Link button in the toolbar. In Version 4.4 we are adding an explicit button displayed over the picture when your mouse hovers over it. 
    Picture Edit

All in all, Version 4.4 is on the final development stretch (even though it is scheduled to be released in mid-June - April and May will be devoted to testing and polishing the new version)

Peeking into version 5.0

We are also hard at work on Version 5.0. One of the things we plan in 5.0 is refresh our web editor and I wanted to share this prototype with you (click to enlarge screenshot):

New-Editor

Some notable changes we are considering for editor toolbar in version 5.0:

  • Change how header and formatting styles are selected
  • New option to select bullet point styles
  • Move most important options to the right, with bigger buttons: Picture, Link, Document, Table, Art
  • New decorator options: inserting buttons, rulers, icons (we plan to create custom ones for new themes)
  • New option to do 'absolute positioning' of images (move them around with your mouse vs. automatically snapping them to text based on selected alignment option)

This is far from final, we are brainstorming and analyzing various options (click to enlarge screenshot):

Text-Formatting

In other news, we have finally selected the option for a new user interface to access page structure, page history and trashcan when editing web pages (click to enlarge screenshot):

Structure-History-Trash

Prioritizing product enhancements and new features

We frequently receive comments like "I think your Wild Apricot system is great, but how come you don't have this <Feature X> which should obviously be number 1 priority in a system like yours". And that #1 feature X varies widely based on the type of organization, the person's background and technical knowledge. For example, people bring up these features:

  • recurring events
  • recurring donations
  • storing second email for all contacts
  • allowing people to log in with username instead of email
  • forum moderation
  • and many (many) more

If you have a few days to spare, you can read the full list on our wishlist forum - currently at about 530 items (!).

We also handle several thousand support calls and tickets every month - and that generates lots of ideas for product improvements as well, though this is only visible internally as opposed to publicly visible forum threads. 

So one of the toughest challenges for our product team is prioritizing all of these changes and enhancements for our new versions. I have written about this process before so won't repeat it now. I do want to share one recent idea we are trying to use in this process.

On a very high level, Wild Apricot is mostly used by 'non-profits'. But how do we define a 'non-profit'? This includes so many widely varied types of organizations - professional associations, trade associations, foundations and charities, chambers of commerce, community services groups, activist groups, homeowner and condo associations, service clubs, social clubs, sports clubs - I can list dozens and dozens of other types. (and that's not to mention other kinds of organizations using Wild Apricot - small businesses, membership websites, event organizers etc.)

There are many similarities - but also many differences in how these organizations operate. So here's our idea:

  1. Create a classification of non-profit organizations activities 
  2. Create a detailed hierarchy of non-profit organization types (We tried many existing ones such as ICNPO but none of these have quite suited our needs)
  3. Select a handful of specific types of non-profits which are already served by Wild Apricot well 
  4. Determine their priorities and key activities and map these against Wild Apricot functions to find our biggest gaps
  5. Also prioritize 'horizontal' features, i.e. the ones common across all/most non-profit segments
  6. Address those gaps as soon as possible, make Wild Apricot as perfect a solution as possible for these organizations
  7. Proceed to other types
  8. Continue with other world domination plans :-)

This might seem obvious - but it is much easier said than done, In fact, we have tried this a couple of times in the past - so now it is time to tackle this problem afresh and progress a bit further. 

Even our first very rough attempt to classify activities of our clients produced hundreds of lines long multi-level hierarchy. It is a bit easier to select our top segments of non-profits - historically we know that associations are our #1 type of user, though we now need to dig much deeper and define and select more more specific types of associations. 

This is a long-term initiative anyway since Version 4.4 is already at the end of the development phase and Version 5.0 will be mostly about our CMS (web page content management system) redesign - so the fruits of this labor will probably start to surface only in Version 5.1 in the second half of this year. 

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Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

Posted by Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 9:43 AM

Comments

  • Bridget

    Bridget said:

    Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 10:20 AM
    You guys are doing a FABULOUS job! Can't wait to see what you come up with next!
  • Katie Fritz

    Katie Fritz said:

    Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 10:42 AM
    The automatically-generated renewal invoice will save me and my members so much time next year! Thank you! I think the PayPal changes will be useful for us too. As for the other things that would save me time and trouble... well, I'm active in the wishlist forum. :) But your team is doing a great job.
  • Dmitry Buterin, Chief Apricot

    Dmitry Buterin, Chief Apricot said:

    Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 11:05 AM
    Thanks Bridget and Katie!
  • Sunil Gupta

    Sunil Gupta said:

    Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 3:05 PM
    Thanks for enabling me to daily enhance content for my members! I look forward to taking advantage of the new features.

    Thanks also for working on making it easier to search and identify member searches on member-only pages. As you may know, members have high expectations to save time.

    Regards,
    Sunil
  • Dmitry Buterin, Chief Apricot

    Dmitry Buterin, Chief Apricot said:

    Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 4:50 PM
    Thanks Sunil. Can you drop us a line into support? Not sure what you mean re member searches.
  • Rose

    Rose said:

    Thursday, 12 April 2012 at 11:14 AM
    I appreciate the unique challenges you face in working with non-profits. Having been serving that sector as an association management consultant for over 25 years, our needs evolve at a rapid pace just as they do in a for-profit business model, yet our constituency often assumes we can tax-and-spend like government. We strive to satisfy the expectations of corporation executives who "pay" for membership in our organizations, and assume the mechanics of our industry are identical to the for-profit sector specific to workflow and project time. Integrating a single feature that may save us as little as 30 minutes per week is monumental. I'm currently designing a WA site for a second client, and am particularly eager for the web editor enhancements projected for 5.0. Thanks.
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