Phyllis and I are just about to start making some major upgrades to the software that makes this site work.
Our goals for these changes are:
- Make the membership system more generic so that in the future we will be easily (relatively) able to upgrade and improve. (We like our current membership software, but being tied to one vendor by the difficulty of changing is not good business.)
- Improve the way we present our content to search engines, particularly Google. (Vital because half our new members find us initially through a Google search.)
- Make it easier to market and sell to non-members, while shielding members from any of that. (We already do this, but we want to make it even better.)
- Make it easier for existing members to renew and non-members to join.
- Change our primary credit card processor from PayPal to Stripe, which will allow us, in the future, to offer even easier ways to join and renew.
Improvements You Will See
We are calling this an “Engine Room Refit” since, unlike two years ago, when we improved the design, most of these changes will be invisible. The exceptions are:
- Members will no longer need to type in their email (and website) each time they comment.
- Our best deals on membership, that automatically renew, will no longer require a PayPal account, although that will still be an option for those of you who prefer PayPal.
Small stuff initially, but the refitted engine room will let us roll out more good stuff in the future—if you have suggestions, please leave a comment.
This Might Not Be Fun
That’s the good news. Now the cold reality: Despite the fact that we have spent a good chunk of the winter planning and testing every step, the chances of us pulling this off without breaking something, or more likely several somethings, is slim to none.
Or to put it another way, I suspect that the next few weeks at AAC will feel like a shakedown cruise after a major refit on a boat—not that much fun, but we know it will be worth it in the end.
Rest assured that we will be working our butts off to fix stuff that we break.
We know for sure that each member will need to log in again, as this change will clear the “remember me” cache. Sorry, there is no way around that.
(Don’t forget to check “remember me” when you log back in.)
The good news is that, except for about 15 members who have special characters in their usernames, everyone’s login will remain the same. (We will work directly via email with those 15 to make the change as painless as possible.)
Keeping the same passwords was not a trivial thing to pull off since your passwords are encoded—hashed and salted, for you techies—so even we can’t see them. So this required some kinky database manipulation.
Talking of passwords, we have made the automated passwords that you get if you have forgotten yours much easier to type, particularly on mobile devices.
We will be taking the site down for maintenance several times while we make these changes. Most of these outages will be short (5-10 minutes) but there will be at least one longer one of a couple of hours or so.
We also know that the site will be a little slow while we are doing this since the old and the new will be running in parallel for a week or two.
Let me close by asking for a favour: If you experience anything at all that does not work properly, or even that’s just inconvenient or irritating, please tell us with a comment to this post, or an email. We will get right on it.
One more thing, our posting schedule may be a bit erratic while we do this.