On May 5th we went live with our new membership system and I’m happy. Truth be told, I’m like a little boy with a new train set—OK, smartphone these days—so I’m going to tell you all about it. And I expect you to make appropriate ooh and ahh noises just like a doting parent would, even if you are bored witless with the whole project…as is likely.
What It Means To Us
Seriously, this whole membership system upgrade was a horrible experience, dragging out over nearly two years. It got to the point that I was starting to mumble about retirement and learning to play golf—yeah, that bad.
And the actual conversion was brutal, particularly on top of the total fail of the first system we tried. Transferring thousands of members from a creaky legacy system, with existing recurring memberships spread across two payment processors, to a new modern system, was a process rife with chances to screw up in truly spectacular ways…and I did, several times.
But, in the end, Phyllis and I got it all sorted out without many of you having to even change your passwords (that’s a tricky-trick), or any of you having to mess with your accounts at PayPal, an even trickier-trick since the PayPal merchant system is…let me see if I can put this kindly…total crap and their merchant support is virtually non-existent.
Now that we have worked with the new system for over a week, both Phyllis and I are ecstatic. This upgrade cuts our administration time by at least 20% and makes the day-to-day running of this site a pleasure instead of a huge chore.
Memberpress, the new system, is extremely well-designed and coded. The developers can be truly proud. Stable and bug free, but still powerful and flexible, the trickiest-trick in all of this.
And the support people at Memberpress are amazing. Special thanks to Paul who came up with some code to work around one of PayPal’s more egregious bugs…err, operations limitations.
Enough about us, now you talk about us. No, wait, that’s not what I meant to write.
What It Means To You
Rather, let’s talk about how this improves things for you members. The changes are subtle, but added together will make a real difference.
First off, the site is a lot faster without the load of the old and creaky system. According to our speed monitoring service, page load time (time after a click and before you can read) is half what it was. Way cool.
But maybe the best thing is that you can now manage every part of your account from a single page, including what membership you have and your payments to us. (The latter is only for the last 12 months because trying to upload all PayPal history since 2013 would have been seriously hazardous to my mental health.)
Other Good Stuff
- Signing up for a membership or renewing is streamlined—vital for membership growth and retention.
- The forgotten password process is a huge improvement on the old. (Requests for help with a password reset have fallen from an average of a couple a day to near zero.)
- You can now update your credit card right on the admin page. Don’t worry, we are not storing, or even seeing, your card, it’s just a secure window to Stripe. Sorry, there is no way to provide this for credit cards at PayPal…no surprise, that’s PayPal for you, but we do have good instructions to help deal with their…OK, I’m going to say it…shitty system.
Way Better Mailing
And it gets better: Our old email system was bolted on to the old membership system, and a complete kluge/mess that often sent out emails that should not have been sent as well as missing ones that should. It was also common for members to have one email address in the member system, another in the mailing system, and even a third at PayPal…yuk!
Now the mailing system synchronizes elegantly with the member system and, as part of the conversion, we created a new clean mailing list just for members.
And, best of all, you can change your email address and manage the emails you get from us right on the account page.
Once again, a caveat. Guess what? We can’t change your PayPal email address for you…surprise, surprise. So if you get emails from them at an old address, there’s nothing for it but to go through their email change routine. (By this time I’m sure you are sensing the overwhelming love I have for PayPal.)
All that said, we need you to do five things to improve your experience still more:
- Check that your email address is correct, and change it if not. (In the conversion we used the one in our member system that you entered when you joined, so it may not be your current and/or preferred address.)
- Check that your email notification preferences are set the way you want them.
- Tell us if you are still getting emails from us (probably duplicates) at a different address from the one in Step One. This is possible since you may also be in the prospective members’ list under a different address.
- Tell us if you find anything at all that does not work, or is even the tiniest bit confusing. Memberpress is a great system, but it has hundreds of set-up options, so I’m near certain we can further improve things with your help.
- If you have used the password reset and noticed anything difficult, please tell us.
The best way to report problems is (unless there is a privacy issue) as a comment to this post.
And thank you for putting up with the whole conversion process and all my related ranting and raving.
Now let’s get back to what matters: Going voyaging. To that end, we have two exciting new sets of articles ready to go:
- From Colin, a four part series on making challenging coastal passages in a safe and seamanlike way.
- And from me, several (I’m up to four already) articles on buying older boats.