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Wild Apricot Software News November 2012: The Case of Unexpected Version 4.5

Any other fans of Erle Stanley Gardner out there? The rest of you probably thought this post has a strange title :-)

Anyway, let me jump into the actual matter of this post.

As you probably know, Wild Apricot is a pretty big piece of software - with a lot of parts to it. It has grown many times bigger since we launched it back in 2006. It can now be used to:

  • Update your website (CMS)
  • Run discussion forums and blogs
  • Manage your contact database (a basic CRM)
  • Send out emails
  • Manage members
  • Handle online payments
  • Track finances (AR)
  • Accept donations

As the system has grown bigger and bigger, our release times got slower. With every new release we now have to avoid upsetting thousands of existing users too radically, and triple-check each and every function...in 4 major browsers on two major platforms!

The reason we need to re-check every function every time is because our current system is pretty ‘monolithic’, i.e. it has lots of interdependencies between its constituent parts. We have been working for some time now to reduce these interdependencies and remake Wild Apricot internally into more of a loosely coupled collection of various services. (I am talking about the internal system stuff - the actual experience for users would not change, and all modules would still be fully integrated out of the box.)

There are many benefits to this. The main driver is to be able to update parts of the system separately, reducing the risk to mess up other parts. In this way, we can release individual changes and enhancements sooner - instead of always having to wait to bundle them all together in a single release.

The very first part of our system we have rebuilt in this way is what we call internally WACCP - Wild Apricot Credit Card Processing, aka the code responsible for integration with online payment processors. The reason we did it first is because we had an additional incentive to do it - so-called PCI security. In a nutshell, the credit card industry (rightly so) is very concerned about security so they enforce strict security requirements on everyone involved in the payment processing. And even though our system is an intermediary (we don’t store the credit cards, we only have them for a fleeting moment between the time they are entered into our secure payments web page and forwarded to the actual payment processor), we still have to meet very stringent security requirements.

So that we can provide this extra layer of security to credit card transactions without having to overhaul our entire system, we have isolated and separated the payment processing code. It is hosted in a separate place at a special PCI certified secure hosting.

And here’s finally why I am explaining all of this :-)

At the moment, Wild Apricot is integrated with Authorize.Net, Google Wallet, and several flavors of PayPal (see our help documentation.) For the last couple of months, we have been working to integrate 9 (!!) new payment processing options, specifically:

As with the existing options, these will be integrated to deposit money directly into your own merchant account - we will never charge any per-transaction fees or hold your funds.

Now, from our previous posts, you might recall that we are now working on a major new Version 5.0 which is mostly focused on CMS. It's going well - but it is only planned to be released in April 2013 at the earliest. Normally, newly integrated payment options would have to wait and be released with the release of 5.0. However, the work we have done to transition the payment code into a separate module means that we are able to release them separately! So we have decided to release a new intermediate version 4.5 with these new payment processors (and nothing else - unfortunately all other changes are either in the queue behind the CMS - or belong to the same main ‘monolithic’ code.)

Our current plan is to release this Version 4.5 in February 2013.

Here’s how we plan to change the payment screen to accommodate this change:
New Payment Screen

Some important caveats

  1. All of these new payment options will be initially released as Beta - we will do full testing and all, but we have to do this in a special testing environment (aka sandbox) so only live usage will be the final confirmation that everything works as designed.
  2. To reduce risks and implementation time, these will be released without some advanced options:
    • Automatic recurring payments would not be initially supported (we will add them later - for systems that do support them)
    • Refunds processed in the payment system will have to be manually recorded in Wild Apricot (in the future we will work to make refunds record automatically - again, if a particular payment system provides for that)

Other interesting happenings...

Our Picky Apricot Steve Andrews has been hard at work in the last two months updating many of our online help pages based on the comments we received. Check out this thread which lists recent updates - and you can subscribe to email notifications if desired: http://community.wildapricot.com/26524/ShowThread.aspx

Spicy Apricot Kathryn Ang visited our Moscow office in late October. An excursion was arranged and a guide took Kathryn and the Moscow team with family members on a tour of the great sites of Moscow including: Christ The Saviour Cathedral, The Kremlin, Red Square and many sites along the bus route.

Kathryn in Moscow

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Dmitry Buterin [Chief Apricot]Dmitry Buterin [Chief Apricot]
Posted by Dmitry Buterin [Chief Apricot]
Published Wednesday, 28 November 2012 at 3:00 PM

Comments

  • Matt Adlai-GailMatt Adlai-Gail

    Matt Adlai-Gail said:

    These changes sound good. Are those payment processors all the same, or do they have particular advantages? Which is the cheapest? Why would I want to switch?
    Wednesday, 28 November 2012 at 3:58 PM
  • Chief ApricotChief Apricot

    Chief Apricot said:

    Matt, there are quite a few differences, e.g.
    - different rates (we can't really say which one is the cheapest as their rates change all the time, also the rates are extremely complicated with so many types of transactions and cards and whatnot)
    - easier or harder to get an account with
    - which merchant accounts it works with (e.g. your current bank might only work with some)
    - account currency supported
    - merchant country
    All in all, personally I don't think this is a critical business decision, it is more of a convenience factor.
    Wednesday, 28 November 2012 at 5:26 PM
  • Cheryl PosnerCheryl Posner

    Cheryl Posner said:

    Sounds great--where do I sign up for Picky Apricot's updates? I didn't see a button on the page. Thank you!
    Wednesday, 28 November 2012 at 6:09 PM
  • Chief ApricotChief Apricot

    Chief Apricot said:

    Cheryl - you need to be signed in into the forum site to receive email updates, you will see 'Enable email subscription' at the top, before the first post. To sign up, go to http://community.wildapricot.com/user/CreateUser.aspx?ReturnUrl=/26524/ShowThread.aspx
    Thursday, 29 November 2012 at 8:40 AM
Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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