Wild Apricot Software News November 2011

Dmitriy Buterin 30 November 2011 14 comments

Our product design team has already moved on from Version 4.3, our developers have stopped all the work on new features and changes quite a while ago and are only fixing bugs. Thus, our QA team has the lead on Version 4.3.

Our current estimate for launch date is still December 12th, however QA guys are not yet quite sure they will be able to greenlight the launch by that date - pointing me to some complex-looking tables like this:

Testing Version 4.3

I am not quite sure what it should convince me of :) ...but it looks pretty impressive. We should know in about a week if we can stick to the December 12th launch date, or if we would need to delay it. We still have some leeway -- we figure that if we can eradicate all the bugs, we can launch by Dec 19th. Otherwise we would not want to launch too close to Christmas/New Year's and would postpone the 4.3 release to early January altogether.

Sorry about the delays -- but we would rather launch a bit later if this means more bugs are caught and exterminated by our team rather than causing grief to our clients! 

Nevertheless, even though the actual upgrade date is still in flux, the actual contents of the new version have been fully finalized a while ago, check out this page for full details:

Help page: Getting ready for new version 4.3

We have also sent out an email to all administrators to inform about the upcoming upgrade, and have been answering questions on this Discussion forum thread: Getting ready for version 4.3

OK, enough already! What's next after version 4.3?

Our original plan was to launch Version 5.0 next, with the main focus being a totally redesigned website management system (aka CMS). However, we decided to change our plans. Let me give you some background:

  • Our internal target is to upgrade Wild Apricot (release new versions) about 3 times year, i.e. ~every 4 months
  • Version 4.3 took much longer because of all the changes in the payments processing/invoicing code -- from May till December -- 7 months
  • We also started development of Version 5.0 in parallel with Version 4.3 (which we do not normally do - usually we do development on the next version only)
  • We have now taken stock of our progress on CMS redesign and roughly estimated how much work still remains. And unfortunately, the answer was that for some critical parts of the system -- which we can not speed up by throwing more developers on -- we will need at least 7 months, probably even more (including testing)

Due to all of this we have decided to release another version -- #4.4 -- around end of April/early May. Now that we have decided on the timeline and allocated our development team between 4.4 and 5.0, we have a thousand dollar question -- which features to include in 4.4?

Some of them we have been promising for way too long so they are pretty much set in stone:

  • Email templates
  • https encryption

We do have more development resources 'bandwidth' available, so right now I feel like a kid in candy store -- so many other things we want to do from the wishlist! We have now narrowed down the list of candidates for Version 4.4 to 37 main items (including the two above). Quite a few of them are now being estimated by the development team, some others are still being finalized by our product design team. For every item we look at its 'price' (estimated development work' and priority level (which is defined by wishlist forum ratings and comments and interactions in technical support). Here are some of the top candidates:

  • Restricted access to documents and images (right now web pages can be restricted but all the files are accessible if a direct link to file is known)
  • Field explanation for online forms (so that you can provide hints and comments to people filling out your membership application, event registration and other forms)
  • Replacing the existing concept of archiving contacts first, then deleting (you would not believe how many questions we get in support about it!) with a concept of deleting contacts right away (but put them into the trash can first)
  • Batch-deleting contacts (If you have any list of contacts, have a Delete button that can put all the contacts in the current list into trash can)
  • Special 'shadow' copy of member directory accessible and indexed by search engines (main directory is generated on the fly and search engine crawlers can't access it)
  • A concept of per-event responsible person who would receive all emails for a particular event
  • Export of event registrations across all events (right now this can be done in each event only)
  • Sales taxes (big one, I doubt it would fit into 4.4, so most likely would have to go into Version 5.0)
  • Tracking of clicks on unsubscribe links in emails
  • Sending automatic event reminders right away (right now these can only go out on schedule and have to be set up at least 1 day ion advance)
  • Option to automatically generate renewal invoices (Right now system can only send renewal reminder emails and invoices are only generated when a particular person goes online and starts the renewal process)
  • One more design theme (this one is a given, already in development)

    A new template design.

There is also a number of candidates for internal-use only features, such as some improvements in support and billing administration, plus a number of security-related enhancements. 

Anyway, the final list of features to go into Version 4.4 will take a few more weeks to finalize. We should have a pretty good idea by our next newsletter, so I promise more details and screenshots for the features scheduled for Version 4.4!


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

Posted by Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 9:37 AM

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Comments

  • Bill W said:

    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 10:10 AM
    The 19th is really too late. Some of us will be on holiday break at that point, and don't want to be worrying about (or have time to address) anything that has broken with the update.

    If you can't roll out by the 12th, please wait until the new year.
  • NL said:

    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 10:23 AM
    Please wait until after the new year for the update. We use calendar year renewal and our major renewal period is December; a bad time to deal with changes.
  • Dmitry Buterin said:

    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 10:28 AM
    Thanks for the feedback guys.
    The flipside is that the activity levels in December are much lower so that whatever problems are found, they would not affect that many people.
    So if something is broken, it will still be found out and fixed before the upsurge of activity in January.
    So for now we still aim to launch in Dec 12th-Dec 19th window.
  • Rumi Jasavala said:

    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 10:48 AM
    Has any release got the conditional fields for event registration? From all the questions/support it seems this area would beenfit from some enhancements and this goes back to 2007.
    Thanks
  • Evgeny (Product Designer @ Wild Apricot) said:

    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 12:10 PM
    Dmitri, thanks for a nice post. It was interesting feeling reading your simple and short notes about the changes that me and my design team have been working hard on for half a year :) It's a pity we cannot fit all of them but I agree with your comparison about "a child in a candy store". I want everything to be in 4.4, "I want all the candies!" :)
  • Laura said:

    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 12:42 PM
    I agree with Rumi, I'd like to see the conditional formatting in events as well. Can you respond to how and when you will address the features that are being asked for the most on your forums that are not making it into your next releases. Some examples:

    Conditional formatting for payments
    Ability to have multiple emails for one membership.

    I'm now looking at using mailchip instead of the email tools in wild apricot.
  • Dmitry Buterin said:

    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 1:18 PM
    @Rumi - conditional fields for event registrations are not in this release. In fact, they are not really on my radar right now. If there is a wishlist forum thread, can you post a comment there (I will get a notification)?

    @Laura - the best place to get update is in the actual forum threads for each particular question. Can I ask you to post comments there? Anyway, I am not sure what is meant re conditional formatting for payments. Multiple emails per record - this is something we might consider, but we have not made a decision yet and this is not on our current roadmap.
  • Patty said:

    Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 6:19 PM
    Thanks so much ! I'm impressed with the continued upgrading of the software. I'm having our volunteers continue to add the information into our site. We have recieved wonderful comments abut our site - thanks for a great foundation to build our site on!
  • Jan Smoot said:

    Thursday, 01 December 2011 at 12:25 AM
    If you are going to select features by "popularity" or chatting or complaining, why not do a real survey of your members about what features are most important to all of us?

    One of our priorities is repeat events. A no brainer feature for any calendar. and being able to become a member when signing up for an event. I thought that was in the next release.

    Will be glad to see better CMS in WA. I did a lovely custom site with weebly.com in a day. Simple interface with lots of features. Easy for my client to maintain.

    Thanks Jan
  • Dmitry Buterin said:

    Thursday, 01 December 2011 at 9:15 AM
    Hi Jan,

    The problem with surveys that very few people (if anyone) would be able to review several hundreds of wishlist forum threads and vote for them. So we have to do this ourselves by analyzing forum posts, rankings and also support requests.

    Signing up for membership together with event registration (and one payment for both) is indeed included in our upcoming upgrade 4.3

    About recurring events - yes, this is pretty high up, but a pretty complicated feature to design and implement considering all aspects of WA event registrations.

    And yes, CMS redesign is something we are working on - and weebly is one of the systems we have been reviewing.
  • Rumi Jasavala said:

    Thursday, 01 December 2011 at 11:50 AM
    Hi Dmitry,
    Thanks for the response. Please do note that this prodcut is fantastic (especially for the price) and very useful for our organization.
    We now rely on it!!

    Great work and keep it up.

    Regards
  • Dmitry Buterin said:

    Thursday, 01 December 2011 at 1:36 PM
    Thanks Rumi! Much appreciated!
  • Tim Bonnemann said:

    Friday, 02 December 2011 at 3:32 AM
    It would be tremendously helpful to have some sort of activity log available to admins so that they can always be on top of any changes that are being made (content, member records, settings etc.).

    We're a small non-profit and rely on a distributed team of volunteers and some staff, yet I hesitate to give more people access if I lack real-time visibility into their actions.

    Btw, I suggested this back in April (see: [314-1549E7A2-937D] Missing audit trail).

    Look forward to the next few rounds of updates!
  • Dmitry Buterin said:

    Monday, 05 December 2011 at 7:55 AM
    Tim, we do have something like that on our roadmap, but it will be a while before we can get to it - not a small thing, basically we would need to have a duplicate copy of each field and tracking mechanism to fully implement this. Will probably release some kind of partial solutions first.
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