Wild Apricot Software News October 2010

Lori Halley 14 October 2010 2 comments

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).

Receivables Management

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

    Support Ticket Volume

  • 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 problems)

  • 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 support! 

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 January.

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 session.

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 releases.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 14 October 2010 at 4:33 PM

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Comments

  • Nan Johnson-Curiskis said:

    Thursday, 21 October 2010 at 7:19 AM

    I am incredibly happy with the new update. The new features are excellent. Thank you

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

    Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 21 October 2010 at 7:55 AM

    Thanks Nan, I am very happy to hear this!

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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