Wild Apricot Software News September 2010

Dmitriy Buterin 13 September 2010 1 comments

During the month of August our main focus continued to be on version 4.0 - reviewing and addressing feedback from clients who volunteered for beta-testing, testing, and retesting (and retesting again, and again...) each and every feature/change in the system. A little factoid: previous version 3.4 included 293 'tickets', or work items (and that was a pretty big release in itself). Version 4.0 included 664 tickets.

We did find several spots where we had to smack our heads and shout "How the heck did we miss that??!" -- and then proceed to come up with ways to address those problems at the last minute in such a way as not to tip over the already huge edifice of all the other features. Here's just one example:

In version 4.0 we are doing away with 'import templates' -- so that now people can simply upload their existing data files in various formats instead of having to manually transfer all of that into special Wild Apricot template in XML Spreadsheet format. Then they would proceed to interactively map their fields to the Wild Apricot system -- and instruct Wild Apricot to generate new fields on the fly where necessary. You have to take my word for it until the version 4.0 gets out, because I have done it many times in the 'old' way, and now many times in the new way -- and I can vouch that new way has greatly simplified the import process, especially for newbie users. HOWEVER, if you have ever imported data from one system into another, I am sure that you know it never works perfectly well the first time. You realize that you forgot to map some fields or had some old messy junk in some of the records which could not be properly imported (say, Membership levels like, "I do not know where this one should go, I should ask John"). So, in our old import, once you were done with the manual (and painful) process of moving your current records into Wild Apricot template, you now had the import file all set -- and if it failed, you could tweak it again, import again, and so on. In our new import process there was no import template -- great!... until you needed to repeat your import to fix some initial errors. What we missed is that in this scenario people would have to repeat the process of mapping their fields into Wild Apricot fields multiple times...and THAT would be even more painful that using the template. We had to scramble and find a way to address this -- which we did -- by storing the mapping for each import file and then automatically reloading it if you import the file with the same name.

 Import Wizard

We had a few of similar-scale issues -- and several dozens of smaller problems -- and as a result, we had to postpone the release date from the original estimate of mid-September to the currently planned date of September 26th.

Now it's September, a few weeks before the release date, and we are down to the last phase, doing so-called 'regression testing'. Basically it means that we have finished developing and testing all the new features and changes, but now have to go back and retest the whole system from scratch, including those areas we have stayed far away from. Modern software is extremely complex so even a tiny change can have major unexpected repercussions in other places. That's why we have to go through the regression testing with many possible combinations and system configurations. I am very happy that we have a professional and dedicated testing team to handle this; personally, I would die if I had to repeat this as many times as they have to. (And we have looked into automating this many times, but the reality is that nothing can quite replace good old manual testing done by humans...especially in the modern world where there is much more complexity and thus testing is required for the user interface side of things, vs. old times when you mostly had to test complex server procedures doing complicated calculations. Those were relatively easy to test automatically by throwing known sets of data at them and comparing the results with known correct answers...)

In a parallel stream, our support team have been working on the updates to our help website. We have 65 (mostly pretty lengthy!) pages to update and 23 new ones. And there is a good reason we involve our support team vs. dedicated writers, actually more than one:

  • they talk to our clients every day so they know what is the right language to use, what are the typical questions we should pre-empt and so on
  • we find that by working on help pages, using the system and creating screenshots is the best way to learn the new functionality to be able to hit the ground running when it's released

Last but not least, we also have to finalize the plans for our next release 4.1. There is still a lot of uncertainty about it because there is one major piece of redesign we have been working on, and we are not sure yet if we will be able to complete detailed analysis and design and plan Phase 1 of implementation in time before we have to move ahead with release 4.1. The codename for this is 'TE' (for Template Engine) -- basically a redesign of our website module (aka CMS - Content Management System) -- to make it easier to customize Wild-Apricot-based websites for our clients, as well as for the designers they engage. (On this note, if you have any input into this, we would love to hear from you: http://community.wildapricot.com/thread/19216.aspx)

Onward and forward -- by this time next month I hope to be writing about the success release of Version 4.0, and the river of appreciative and grateful comments from our happy clients who now have even more power and capabilities from Wild Apricot WHILE also making it easier to learn and use!


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

Posted by Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

Published Monday, 13 September 2010 at 4:37 PM

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  • PRAVEEN said:

    Wednesday, 22 September 2010 at 1:07 AM

    Very nice to see the improvement. Now our website look is very impressive, and we are getting a lot of regular traffic and in the top from search engine search. Since the shifting to Wild apricot, we have made a wonderful improvement and hassle free to handle our members and membership. Keep it up and look forward to your new edition.

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