System Update Planned for 12 January 2011

Happy New Year! The BC team is back onboard after a refreshing holiday break and ready to rock in 2011. Just posting to let you know that we have our next scheduled system upgrade on 12 January 2011 1:00AM US PST (check local times here). This upgrade is actually the one we've been holding off since mid December because of the holiday period. To get the full release notes please read my full post from last month.

Quick Recap of Planned Upgrades

  1. Export/Import functionality for Products and Web App Items has been overhauled to make it more robust - this means BC will be exporting CSV files making large exports faster and more reliable.
  2. Product codes will become mandatory for new products being created or existing products being edited. If you have existing products that do not have a product code as at 12 January we will run a batch process to automatically generate a random code to fill it in for you for those products. For products with duplicate codes we will give you a warning and provide you with the tools to correct this.
  3. OpenSRS Mail will be enabled on all new sites created from 15 January onwards. If you create a site after that date, upgrade it to a paid site then add a domain, the users of that site will receive improved mail functionality with a new interface and 2GB mail storage. Existing users will be migrated to the new mail system in February
  4. We are removing Sitewalk - for users who wish to use InContext Editing inside Firefox, we recommend that you download the Firefox 4.0 Beta otherwise please use a different browser. To clarify, we are awaiting a Firefox bugfix that's coming in 4.0 so that InContext Editing will work properly
  5. Pricing Change - we will be streamlining our plan naming and pricing structure, in some cases lowering the monthly hosting fees for new client sites. Please read here for more details
  6. Email Marketing with 1000 included emails/month to be included in the 'Websites' Plan - This means if you have any customers on a 'Websites' plan they will be able to see the 'Marketing' tab starting and use its functionality from 12 January 2011 unless you disable it for them. New sites on the "Business" plan will also receive this feature.
Thanks for reading!
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What's Up at Business Catalyst in November

Apologies for it being a bit quiet on the BC blog lately, we had a large portion of the team preparing for and attending the Adobe Max conference in LA a couple of weeks ago. A big thank-you to all the Partners who made it out there, we genuinely enjoyed meeting with you. It was an enriching experience especially for our engineers to meet both new and established customers and talk all things BC over the course of the conference.

Now back onto topic; we'll be making our November release on 17 November at 1:00AM US PST (check local times here). This is a maintenance release with bug fixes only because the team has been tied up on longer term initiatives.

List of Bug Fixes to be Delivered in this Release

  1. Corrected a web app export bug which was generating an incorrect format error when trying to export
  2. Fixed a webpage copy bug so that users can now correctly copy pages that include the '|' character in the page name
  3. Culture and country code are now preserved from when going from a standard URL to the secure URL. This problem was generating incorrect currencies on invoices and within payment processing
  4. Fixed a redirect issue that was causing the system not to use HTTPS protocol when communicating with payment gateways (SagePay 3D secure)
  5. For our UK based sites we've fixed a payment processing issue where we were sending incorrect country codes to payment gateways. We now send "GB" instead of "UNITED KINGDOM" which has fixed payments processed by Sagepay
  6. For sites using the Mollie Payment Gateway, we are now passing the error messages from the gateway directly to the customer checking out so it's easier for them understand the issue if the payment fails
  7. We've updated our nameservers to point to rebranded nameservers i.e ns01.rebrandeddomain.com instead of ns01.businesscatalyst.cm when doing a NS lookup
  8. Newsletters quotas are now consumed in the correct month (the month they are sent) when a campaign is scheduled for delivery on the first of the month
  9. Updated the email newsletters report counter to accurately reflect the number of newsletters sent
  10. Fixed an intermittent email campaign bug causing one-off campaigns to hold for all BC sites when somebody tried to send a campaign with zero recipients
  11. Product search results tag { module_productresults,1,,,weight,,,} can now use the weight attribute (if specified) when sorting products
  12. Updated affiliate programs to correctly record commissions when using non-seamless gateways
  13. Fixed a Blogs bug causing articles to be published before their set release date
  14. Updated site invoices to display the discount value when using a promo code at site upgrade
  15. Fixed a problem that occurred when validating email addresses between the BC system and Paypal admin where case sensitivity was preventing the order from being created inside BC even though the payments were processed inside Paypal

Why we won't be implementing Customizable Web App URLs (in the near term)

I've been receiving mail on this topic as well as other high-ranking wishlist items. Earlier in October I asked the team do some estimating on how long it would take to develop Customizable URLs for Web-Apps hoping we could squeeze it in before the end of the year after completing the DNS work. The outcome is as follows: due to the major changes we have to make to the web-app import/export engine to accommodate this combined with the complexity in making the new Web-App URLs work with legacy Web-App URLs meant that this feature was going to take 2-3 months. As a Product Manager, I've decided that this is not the best use of our engineering resources and I've made a final decision that we won't be going forward with this in the near term, the engineering cost is too high.

I look back at 2010 and sure enough we've made some big modifications to DNS, we delivered Customizable URLs for Products and Announcements, we gave you a Redirect manager, we opened new Datacenters, we gave you FTP access to layouts/templates etc etc but none of these developments has really changed the core of the BC Application. I understand that some of you are eagerly waiting for more features like Customizable Workflow notifications and custom CRM fields populated via Webforms. I'd love for us to work on adding those features BUT for the record our focus has to be kept strictly on BC V3 for now and the medium term, we really need to get the core of our new platform built as quickly as possible. 2011 is all about BC V3 and our primary goal is upgrade core functionality for BC. Every time we divert resources away to do a small feature here or a small feature there we slow this process down.

A Sneak Peak at BC V3

I thought I'd sign off these release notes with a sneak peak of the preliminary UI design for the new dashboard - click below to enlarge. BC V3 is going to have more of a 'desktop' feel where each module or feature is contained within an App that is launched from the BC Dashboard. For example, to manage your blogs, you will open the Blog App, for your photos you will have a Galleries App, ecommerce gets a Store App, the CRM gets a Customers App and well, you get the idea. The aim of this approach is to provide for all of your end-to-end workflows within individual apps rather than trying to make you skip around the system. You would only turn on the Apps that your customers needed to run their Online Business to keep the system easy for them and the side dashboard navigation menu uncluttered.

BC Dashboard Preliminary UI Design

Furthermore we will be building the whole UI in HTML not Flex (turning BC into an Air App) as some have feared so it will work in all your favorite browsers. One of our primary UI requirements is to be accessible from iOS devices as well so you and your clients will be able to use BC from an iPad! As the team builds more and more of the App we'll be able to sneak more previews and details over the coming releases. Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving!

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We’re planning to deploy our next system update on 29 September 1:00AM US, Pacific Daylight Time. The deployment will take a few hours but we anticipate no major disruptions to the Business Catalyst service during this time. This is a smaller release consisting of various improvements and bugfixes, as the Engineering team have been working on larger features you’ll see further down the release pipeline

What new features are being delivered in this release?

  • Assign Newsletter Templates to multiple/all sites in one go - we've upgraded the workflow inside Partner Portal > Tools > Newsletter Templates to make it easy for you to select multiple sites or all sites when assigning custom newsletter templates.
  • Improvements to Newsletter Overages - starting with this release, we’re improving the way we charge your clients for additional newsletters. You will now have to pre-purchase credits for your sites inside the Partner Portal. These will get consumed after the 10,000/month free emails are exhausted. Any unused newsletter credits will rollover to the next month and last for up to 12 months from the day of purchase.
  • Added extra parameters to {tag_totaltaxpercentage} - to display the sales tax amount where the product price is inclusive of sales tax we've added 2 parameters so you have {tag_totaltaxpercentage, percentage, calculateBeforeShipping, calculateBeforeDiscount}. Using 'true' for both new parameters will calculate the tax on the product before shipping and discounts are applied.
  • Blog Post List Default Layout Updated - so that it no longer renders comments and trackbacks as hidden divs in the list; they are now rendered as links that will take the user to the post detail page where the comments and trackbacks are accessible. This change applies only to new sites and existing sites that don't have the list layout customized yet. If you want to take advantage of this change, just reset the "Blog Post List" to original; however, this change will revert any changes you may have made previously to "Blog Post List" layout.
  • New Payment Gateway enabled for Affiliates - customers will now be able to use Payment Express (PX) Gateway with Affiliates

Bug Fixes that will be delivered in this release

  • Re-use domains from canceled sites - when canceling a site, the domains associated with it are now also deleted. You can use re-use these domains on other BC sites
  • Domains are now prevented from being added to multiple BC sites - each time a new domain or a new hostname is added, we now check to see whether or not it is in use within our system even if it is hosted externally. If it is already in use we won't allow it to be added.
  • Search Engine Referrals Report fixed - for sites with large numbers of visits you will now be able access you reports for Search Terms and Referrals without it timing out
  • eCommerce Report fixed - customers can now create eCommerce Sales reports where the payment was successful and the time period covers the last 6 months without receiving an error
  • Inquiries Report fixed - in the Reports Summary page under Leads > Inquiries, reports can now be generated for periods exceeding one month
  • Affiliate Program tag fixed - {tag_clickthrustotal} has been fixed to display accurate values
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This is a note to inform you that the scheduled system upgrade for last Tuesday 25 August was canceled due to the Quality Engineering team detecting 2 bugs that warranted a roll-back. The bugs were found during the validation stage of the deployment and included:
  1. Web-App items displaying full HTML markup in the editor while it was in 'Design' mode when they should have been marked-up while being edited. For example text that should have been bold was displayed as <strong>text</strong> in the WYSIWYG editor.
  2. Comments previously submitted with an empty 'Website' field would cause 'An Error Occurred' screen when the comments were viewed in the Admin Console.
Although these issues seem relatively minor the engineering team decided the most prudent course of action was to rollback the release, investigate the causes and fix the bugs rather than continuing ahead and introducing them into the production environment.

We have now fixed the bugs and rescheduled the system upgrade for next week. I've listed below the deployment time across the major timezones our Partner Community is present in:
  • Tuesday 31 August 1:00 AM PDT (San Francisco)
  • Tuesday 31 August 4:00 AM EDT (New York)
  • Tuesday 31 August 9:00 AM BST (London)
  • Tuesday 31 August 6:00 PM AEST (Sydney)
While we do not anticipate any major disruptions to Business Catalyst service the system upgrade will take a few hours. During this time you may experience some slight degradation in system performance and it is advisable to schedule your work and client demos around this window.
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Business Catalyst has scheduled it's next major system update on 25 August 1:00AM US PDT. The deployment will take a few hours but we anticipate no disruptions to the Business Catalyst service during this time. The scheduled release includes new features as well as fixes for some of the most important issues reported by our customers.

What’s new in this release of Business Catalyst?

  • Customizable SEO Friendly URLs for Announcements: Continuing the work started with Catalogs and Products, we're extending the support for customizable URLs to the Announcements module. To take advantage of this feature for your announcements, you will need to enable it from Admin > Search Engine Optimization settings page. The new URL will look like: http://www.yoursite.com/announcements/announcement-title. You will also have the option of customizing the 'announcements' folder name not only the 'announcement-title' segment.
  • Updated "Training" Section in Partner Portal: with this release we're rolling-out a number of new training videos to provide standard and premium partners with on-demand advanced technical training. Look in your Partner Portal in the Training Tab and you'll see the new Core Courses and Advanced Courses tabs. You will find a series of training videos covering eCommerce, Webforms & CRM, Email Marketing and Web-Apps. We hope this helps our new Partners build more sites on BC!
  • Improved Image Thumbnail Generation: We’re introducing a simplified method to generate image thumbnails which will replace the exiting ShowThumbnail.aspx method. To use the new functionality to generate an image thumbnail for an image located at /images/cat.jpg users can query parameters in the URL like so: /images/cat.jpg?action=thumbnail&width=80&height=80. By default, the output format of the thumbnail will match the original image i.e if you request a thumbnail for a jpeg image, it will also be generated as a jpeg. A specific format can be forced using the “format” parameter, with possible values including 'jpg', 'jpeg', 'gif' and 'png'. The old method of using ShowThumbnail.aspx will remain available for at least a few months, but we plan to deprecate it eventually as it's usage decreases.

Over the coming week, we will be publishing articles on this blog to describe some of the new features in-depth and show how to take advantage of them. In addition to building new features, the team also worked on fixing the following key bugs.

Bug fixes that will be deployed with the August Release

  • Updated DNS management to allow users to set domain names hosted externally as default URLs
  • Fixed a tax computation issue that was causing the {tag_productsubtotal} to add 0.01 cents to the total price of some combinations of 3 products
  • Deleting an URL redirect from the Manage URL redirects interface no longer deletes the source page
  • InContext Editing Save and Save & Publish buttons are now correctly functioning even when page does include widgets (ex: twitter, bookmark/share this)
  • Fixed an InContext Editing issue which didn't allow users to Save and Publish when the template contained a link to a css file on another domain
  • Updated site search engine so that deleted web app items and products are removed from the search index.
  • Fixed a currency symbols display issue in the secure PDF sent via "Process Offline" payment gateway
  • Added better messaging & warnings describing the steps required to prevent automatic payment of already issued invoices when disabling a recurring payment
  • Fixed a site enable/disable issue causing user disabled web app items to become enabled when the site is globally enabled by the system
  • Fixed a resource problem causing the Main menu in Admin section to remain in English, even when language changed to something else; note: some resources are available only in English;

These fixes will be deployed along with the system update next week.

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