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Wild Apricot Software News April 2010

Dmitriy Buterin 06 April 2010 0 comments

Wild Apricot software version 3.4 was successfully launched on Sunday, March 28th. Well, almost successfully. Backing up the whole system and converting data (especially documents and pictures being moved to new storage) has taken much more time than we had estimated and our dry runs had indicated. So instead of restoring the service at 8 a.m., as planned, we were only able to restore it by 1 p.m.

We knew there was a risk of this delay (even though we estimated it as very small) and that's why version 3.4 upgrade was scheduled for a Sunday. Because statistically that is the day when our systems are used the least, upgrading on Sunday was one of the ways to mitigate potential risks during the upgrade. (And this was the first Sunday upgrade for Wild Apricot ever, even though we have now released more than 40 upgrades over the last few years.) The biggest culprit in making this upgrade a risky one was the changeover from our old storage system for files and documents to the new one. And indeed, in the following days, a number of problems were raised to our tech support and addressed by our development team as quickly as possible.

Now all that is behind us, we can sit back and enjoy the results of our hard work for the last three months. Thanks to all our clients who have expressed their appreciation for the enhancements we have introduced — and thanks for their understanding to those clients who were affected by the upgrade downtime and upgrade glitches.

A summary of key updates in Wild Apricot version 3.4 is available on our online help website.

Well, we can't really afford to sit back for more than a few minutes anyway — our pipeline of enhancements is bursting at the seams, so we have immediately switched our focus to the next version 3.5.  In fact, some of our developers have been working on features scheduled for version 3.5 since January — because financial management redesign and import redesign required so much work that they could not fit into a normal development cycle for our upgrades (~10 weeks).

The list of key changes planned for version 3.5 looks deceptively short:

  • Redesign of financial management
  • New Import wizard
  • Customization of event emails per each event
  • Photo albums functional page
  • Gadgets to simplify embedding external forms
The first bullet point in this list, however, hides a huge number of changes in Wild Apricot — both in the internal system guts and in the user interface (screens/page). Possibly our biggest change ever (including the major redesign undertaken a year ago when we combined all types of records into a single contact database).

For starters, there will be a new tab in Wild Apricot administration - Finances. Second, every operation in Wild Apricot that involves money (event registrations, membership applications, renewals, upgrades) will now generate an invoice. It will be possible to view, print, email these invoices at any time — as well as to settle payments against them. It will also be possible to make adjustments and delete things as necessary. Sounds pretty boring — this is what any good accounts receivable system should do, after all — but we've never had a proper AR system in Wild Apricot until this forthcoming release.

We are also designing a better way to deal with so-called 'Pending transactions'. This stems from our own over-eagerness a few years ago. Let me digress for a second to explain this: It is a very common occasion for any ecommerce website that some people will start a transaction but do not complete the payment. This is typically referred to as "abandoned shopping cart" and rates of these occurrences is usually quite high — see http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1007156. Now, for many websites, owners do not even realize that this is happening, as their ecommerce software sweeps this under the rug and only shows completed transactions. In Wild Apricot, we were so eager to serve our clients that we did not want to silently hide these transactions. Our thinking was that some clients might be interested in seeing them to follow up with those people and try to help them completing the transaction. So we have proudly displayed these transactions in Wild Apricot with a very "useful" label — "Pending transaction." Then we muddled the waters even further by also using the same term for situations when people start the transaction on website but chose the "manual" payment option — meaning that they plan to mail a check, pay cash at the door, etc. So, over the last few years, we have received and responded to a few hundred panicked questions like "What's wrong? I am getting all these pending transactions: how do I finalize them??" — and patiently explaining our (apparently not so brilliant) thinking. Anyway, we are now finally tackling this thorny issue.

New import wizard is another big item — our tech support team knows quite well that one of the first hurdles people have in migrating to Wild Apricot is transferring their current data. We do have a nice (and very long) help page explaining the process, but, frankly, it requires way too much effort for people and assumes too much knowledge of technology and Wild Apricot. Well, we have now come up with a way to radically simplify the import process.

So even though release 3.5 is quite some time away (July), I am very excited about the things we have in store for Wild Apricot clients!

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

Posted by Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 06 April 2010 at 3:30 PM
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