Wild Apricot Update December 2014: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Dmitriy Buterin 30 December 2014 4 comments

2014 has been a very exciting, eventful and often challenging year – helping our 15,000 (and growing) Wild Apricot customers continue to do extraordinary things and accomplish their goals! We rolled out the biggest product upgrade in our company’s history, released our first mobile app, and launched our Small Membership Advisory Community.

So, as we wind down 2014, we look back at the progress we’ve made and the challenges we’ve encountered. We’ll also offer up a sneak peek of our plans for 2015 – from software to additional tools, knowledge, resources, and peer-sharing opportunities – to help you succeed in the coming year!


2014 In Review:

We’ve had a busy year that included extensive product enhancements – such as the launch of our re-designed website builder in the Version 5 upgrade, as well as the development of extensive resources – from peer sharing within our community to expert knowledge sharing via our new Webinar series. Here’s a brief look at 2014 in review:

Membership Software Enhancements in 2014:

Here are highlights of new features and updates to our membership management software in 2014:

Product Roadmap

Our customers have always actively participated in offering feedback and ideas for software enhancements through our product Wishlist forum. This is our main tool for collecting ideas from our clients and discussing possible solutions. Requests supported by 10 or more people get prioritized for our Product Roadmap. In an effort to collaborate and provide as much transparency as possible, we made our Product Roadmap public in 2014. This document offers current status and indicates future plans.

Version 5

This release was the largest in the company’s history. Version 5 was designed and developed to address customer requests for easier and more flexible site design, and more modern website themes. Consequently, much of this release focused on an entirely rebuilt website builder module (AKA CMS – content management system). In total, Version 5 addressed more than two dozen wishlist threads.

Since this release impacted thousands of customers’ websites with hundreds of thousands webpages converted, we employed a special 'gradual upgrade' process to help acclimatize our clients in a few ‘waves’ (instead of converting everyone immediately).

Customer Feedback to Version 5 Upgrade 

As always, we surveyed our customers (a few months after the upgrade). The overall rating of the Version 5 roll-out was a 7 out of 10, with 75% rating the upgrade process at 8 or higher.

However, there were challenges for both Wild Apricot and our customers. We had underestimated the volume of support tickets from the upgrade. This combined with some staffing challenges, meant that our response time for customer requests suffered for a number of weeks.

Mobile App launch

In October – just in time for fall membership meetings and events – we launched our iPhone App to help with mobile check-in and remote contact and member management. The app can be used to check in your attendees at your upcoming fall events, or to search your contacts list or change member details whenever and wherever you like. You can review the features of the mobile app here or watch a brief video here.

Version 5.1

This release continued the improvements to our CMS, including new and enhanced gadgets: a new featured member gadget, the ability to choose to display members in random order via a member directory gadget, and enhancements to the social profile gadget.

This release also included Version 2 of our API (Application Programming Interface). With Wild Apricot's API, you can create programs to automatically retrieve or update data stored in your Wild Apricot database. The data can be backed up, used to update another database, displayed on a web page, or passed onto another program for further processing or reporting.

Version 5.2 

Version 5.2 offered 14 new features from our Wishlist and solved 40+ issues identified by users. This release included built-in site searches, social network logins, sortable membership levels, more exporting capabilities, and much more.

New themes – including a fully responsive theme! 

In addition to all of the new features, we’ve also launched many new themes this year. Some of the new website themes – Fiesta (formerly Food Service), Clean Lines, White Space, Dark Impact and Treehouse – are somewhat responsive, but not completely so.

However, with the release of Version 5.2.1 (on December 24th) we launched our first fully responsive, out-of-the-box mobile-friendly theme – “Bookshelf”. We plan to roll out a number of other mobile themes in 2015.

Help and Support:

As we noted in Software News back in October, a combination of support ticket volume (largely due to the Version 5 rollout) and staffing challenges impacted the level of support provided during the late summer and early fall. However, we’re pleased to note that we’ve staffed up (adding a number of new support apricots) and are committed to setting the bar even higher in terms of the provision of product support and information in 2015.

Enhanced help resources

We continually add to and revise our online help documentation. But over the last three months, we’ve made a concerted effort to build our product video library for those customers who prefer to learn via video. In the last three months, we added 20 new or completely overhauled help videos, bringing our total for the year to 55. We’ve covered such topics as managing site administrators, custom domain setup, controlling the delivery of automatic emails, tracking event attendance, issuing refunds, using email templates, and membership renewal settings. If you have any suggestions for future videos, go to our help videos page and fill out the form at the bottom.

Fuzzy Watching WebinarsProduct webinars and live Q & A sessions

In addition to the 5 pre-recorded (on demand) webinar videos available on our Webinar page, we’ve also started offering live Q&A (question and answer) sessions led by one of our friendly and knowledgeable support apricots. Check the webinar page and our monthly newsletter for schedule times.

Peers & Experts – Learning Opportunities


Expert Webinar Series

In addition to our product webinars, we recently launched our Expert Webinar series. These sessions are designed to provide the volunteers and staff of small membership organizations with insight, information, best practices and actionable tips on membership topics from expert presenters.

So far, these sessions have included:

Small Membership Advisory Community

In 2014, we launched our Small Membership Advisory Community. We developed this group to connect the volunteers and staff of small associations, clubs and non-profits with similar people, in similar roles, facing similar obstacles – to share best practices, success stories, mistakes to avoid and key lessons learned. We’ve been hosting conference calls with small groups of community members each month to share ideas, information and tips with their peers on a specific topic of interest. After the session, we provide resources on the topic and also create a blog post (on the Wild Apricot Blog) to share the insight and ideas. We also share the audio recordings of some of the sessions on via our SoundCloud stream.

So far this year, these monthly gatherings have included topics such as:

1-On-1 Interviews

In addition to sharing insight from the Small Membership Advisory Community calls, we’ve also begun conducting 1-On-1 interviews with some of the stand-out members of the community. These interviews are recorded (and shared on our SoundCloud stream) and also summarized in blog posts. So far, we’ve published posts from the following 1-On-1 interviews:


What’s planned for 2015?

We’re excited to share some of our plans for initiatives we have in the works that should make 2015 a banner year.

Software enhancements:

Here are some of the new features and product enhancements in store for the coming year:

  • Mobile app for Android
  • Additional mobile-friendly themes
  • Usability improvements, such as: simplifying newsletter composition or copying text from MS Word; reducing number of automatic emails sent during event registration and membership application
  • New product features, such as: online store and WordPress login integration
  • Support for additional payment systems
For a complete list of planned enhancements, check out our Product Roadmap.

Additional Resources and Learning Opportunities:

In the coming year, we’re committed to providing even more access to expert advice, tips and practical guidance to help you and your organization succeed and grow. Here are some of the initiatives we’ll continue in 2015:

Expert Webinars

Since these webinars have been well attended – with an average of 200 participants per session – we’ll continue these on a monthly basis. So far, we have the following webinar scheduled:

Additional topics we’re considering for 2015 include:

  • Getting Started With Social Media
  • Building Sponsor Partnerships
  • Membership Engagement
  • and much more.

Advisory Community

We’ll continue to provide monthly conference call sessions with interested members of our Advisory Community. We’re enhancing these sessions by surveying members ahead of time and trying to move some of the peer discussions onto social media platforms, such as Facebook. We’re also committed to offering additional sources of information and resources on session topics.

1-On-1 interviews will also continue, as we publish the audio and blog posts for sessions we’ve conducted with Connor Finnigan (Young Men’s Business League) and Jim Carney (Rhode Island Academy of Physician Assistants), and schedule additional interviews with Advisory Community members.

Transformation of our Knowledge Hub

Another objective for 2015 is to build out the resources in our Membership Knowledge Hub. We’ll be consolidating all of our video, audio, and online documents, and re-designing the format of our Hub to a wiki environment to facilitate better searchability. Stay tuned for more details on this in the first quarter of 2015.

We are working hard to help you help your organizations grow

All of these efforts – from product enhancements, to help and support materials, to additional resources, learning and peer-sharing opportunities – are all designed to help our customers build effective, user-friendly websites and email communications to connect with your supporters in order to grow your membership and meet your mission.

All of us at Wild Apricot wish you a happy, successful and prosperous 2015.



Image source:  Superheroes, Businessman brainstorming and Group of people – all courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com


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

Posted by Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 30 December 2014 at 8:30 AM

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Comments

  • jeff said:

    Tuesday, 30 December 2014 at 3:33 PM
    Maybe you could do a better job with the mobile version of your site.
  • Chief Apricot said:

    Tuesday, 30 December 2014 at 4:10 PM
    Jeff - we will. But wanted to take care of our customers mobile needs first.
  • Andrew said:

    Friday, 02 January 2015 at 10:40 PM
    Hi Dmitriy,

    This is a great product, thank you. I think 2014 was very successful, and we have been very pleased to watch the development of WA since we started in late 13. The ability to select which fields the members see when registering for events - alone- would have been enough value to justify 5.1 for us. We need to switch from a download to an API interface with our Access application, and I am looking forward to the Android app, so we both have stuff to do in 15.

    Thank you for the journey, you will hear more from the Australian contingent.

    Andrew
  • Chief Apricot said:

    Saturday, 03 January 2015 at 10:35 AM
    Thanks Andrew, great to hear!
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