Out of Alpha and into Beta Testing

release news software updateWe are thrilled to announce that alpha testing of our first arpReach update has finished and we have moved into beta testing.

It’s hard to believe that four months have passed, in many respect it seems like it was only a couple of weeks ago and in others it does feel lots longer, for us and some of you too. Thanks for being patient.

What are alpha and beta testing?

Before I explain that for those of you who don’t already know, I’d like to give you a brief overview of what has been going on in the background.

arpReach was originally developed by Neil Morgan, it is software that was and still is ahead of it’s time in many key areas. Long time users will know that Neil is an excellent coder and as a result we were fortunate to have a rock solid base to start from. But that fact was also the cause of our first problem. We had to learn what worked and why, without having the experience of the development years to fall back on.

With over 100000+ lines of code to go through it is not a small task and the risk is that a seemingly ‘simple’ change in one place can cause an unexpected change somewhere else – and that happened a few times. That’s why we have Alpha testing.

Alpha testing is where we test the results of the changes we make, put another way it’s the first round of testing. The aim is to make sure that what we release publicly isn’t going to cause known major problems and that all of the important functions and capabilities or arpReach still work as expected. e.g. the nasty or embarrassing bugs and glitches are removed. I’m not going to go into this deeper but we are glad we did our Alpha testing, suffice to say the beta testers will be able to read certain pages and headings πŸ˜‰

Beta testing is the next step before the next version is released to our users and the public. It is performed by experienced existing users and testers who are independent of us.

While we test things as well as we can, the realities are that there are many different servers, set-ups, configurations and uses and it is impossible for us to test everything. As an example, while we can develop on different versions of PHP, some of our users might be using a different version with a different version of MySQL or have server modules in place that we don’t, or even less RAM than us. It is possible that in some circumstances this can cause new bugs to appear. So beta testing is essential before we release the next version.

What happens if beta testers find bugs?

Our beta testers report back to us what they discover during testing and we log their findings.

‘Bugs’ basically fall, in very simple terms, in to two categories

  1. Show-Stoppers
  2. Annoyances

So lets explain that a little more.

All ‘bugs’ that make the list need to be evaluated and fixed in order of importance but ‘Show-Stoppers’ are just that. They fall into the category of ‘critical’ and they will stop the next update of arpReach being released. Examples of a show-stopper would be if it was impossible to login or send a broadcast message.

In general ‘Annoyances’ are ‘bugs’ that appear under very specific circumstances, affect a non-critical aspect of the software or do not work ‘as expected’. It could be that there is a workaround, the probability of something happening to everyone is negligible or we need to improve our training. For the purposes of beta testing in in this context an ‘annoyance’ will not stop the next release.

When will the next update be released?

Hopefully the information above will give you a better idea of what is going on in the background. We would hope that the next arpReach update will be available within the next couple of weeks but … if our beta testers identify any showstoppers (we hope they don’t) it might take a little longer.

Can I be a beta tester to help speed up the process?

We are always happy to hear from experienced arpReach users who would like to beta test new updates and releases. If you are interested please reach out via an enquiry using this contact form.

 

We are thrilled to announce that alpha testing of our first arpReach update has finished and we are moving into beta testing. The story so far…

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45 thoughts on “Out of Alpha and into Beta Testing”

    • All in good time Ankur πŸ™‚ We will be sending out regular updates via email and in addition here on the blog from now on πŸ˜‰
      Thanks for your interest.

      Reply
  1. We truly love Arp Reach, but your first order of business has to be the UI and overall friendliness. I’ve given Arp Reach to people- this amazing fully functional thing which is next to free to run, and they take off & use a Mail Chimp because they couldn’t grok it. Sooo frustrating- this HAS to be job one for you, yes?

    If so, I’ll surely beta test this!

    Reply
    • Hi Eric,

      thanks for your comments. The way we look at this is – yes, the UI could be improved but we believe that improving the training and showing people how to unleash the raw power of arpReach will be of more help quicker than rewriting the software. Coding is not a quick process.

      Over the coming weeks we will be letting everyone know some of our plans and giving an approximate time-line. Stay tuned πŸ™‚

      Reply
  2. I don’t find people have an issue with the UI. I think it’s easy to find what you want. But what does make clients switch back to MailChimp is the outdated WYSIWYG editor in arpR.

    In arpReach, we can only create responsive emails by using a third party html editor. Some people just can’t be bothered with that, so revert to MailChimp for its excellent email composing features. With MailChimp, the emails that land in the inbox look (pretty much) like what you designed and none of your code gets broken while you are editing.

    That should be a high priority for me.

    Thanks for the update.

    Reply
    • Hi Debra,

      thanks for your feedback, we appreciate it!

      You bring up a great point about creating responsive emails which we are going to address, more on that in the near future. As a hint, this will be an opportunity for one or more users of arpR – our next update will be responsive πŸ˜‰

      Reply
    • Hi Emilio,

      you’ll be able to see the new features when this release comes out of beta testing. We are ‘hoping’ that that will be in the next 2 or 3 weeks.

      thanks for your question.

      Reply
  3. I started out many years ago with Auto-Responder-Plus and was there when it was transformed into Arpreach.

    On/Off over the last several years I’ve worked with the program which I believe is one of the best things that could have happened to independent marketers.

    These are not criticisms:
    1. but sometimes Arpreach required a person to do 4 to 5 mouse clicks to do something that should only take about 2 or 3.
    2. Sometimes with Arpreach I feel like I’m pulling the pieces of a puzzle together, other than a smooth work flow.
    3. The file import section many times would not configure the fields correctly.
    4. The content/template section’s HTML was not always accurate when reviewed in the browsers.

    Again these are not criticisms, just suggestions and I would love to see these issues improve in the new updated version.

    Otherwise the Arpreach program is a great technology and I appreciate the Arpreach program for giving me independence for my marketing data and lists.

    Thanks, Jerry.

    Reply
    • Hi Jerry,

      We really glad you think like we do – arpReach IS one of the best things that has happened to independent marketers – and some of the things we will be letting out of the bag will make all smart marketers wish they were using arpReach!

      Thanks also for your constructive thoughts! Let’s go over some of them:
      1) Yep. We want to do something about that but in the bigger scheme of things, given the raw power and capabilities of arpReach, it’s not high on the list of things we need to improve.
      2) Phew, glad to know it’s not just me πŸ™‚ – seriously though we know and we have spent some time looking at what we can do. Initially we will be addressing this with improved training.
      3) This is an issue that we’ve discovered is mainly browser dependant and Firefox is the main culprit. With that in mind we recommend people use Chrome while importing.
      4) That’s not an arpReach issue, that’s an industry wide issue. The same HTML email looks different depending on where you view it. Gmail displays it one way, AOL another, Live yet another etc etc. Again this is something we intend to cover in future training by providing some ‘best practices’ and a deeper understanding of the wider problem so that people can focus on the right message at the right time rather than pixel perfect pictures.

      Reply
  4. Thanks for the update. It had gone very quiet.
    I look forward to some idea of the changes being made in the new update, and hopefully it fixes a couple of bugs I reported a long time ago πŸ™‚
    Cheers, Paul

    Reply
  5. Great news! This is what we are waiting for. The new updates and progress about arpReach.

    Some functions that I believe most of the users want to see in new arpReach:

    1. ability to select and auto insert dynamic / personalize tags to the message title and content (similar to GetResponse / Aweber).

    2. mobile friendly theme

    3. API function

    Thanks!

    p.s arpReach rocks and keep up great works guys!

    Reply
    • Hi Amirol,

      Thanks for your kind words and we intent to keep up the good work.

      I’m not able to tell you much other than at least one (and maybe more) of the things on your list have been dealt with πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  6. Really looking forward to the update. Been using the system for years, back when it was autoresponseplus – Really appreciate the forward progress!

    Norm

    Reply
  7. Glad to hear there’s improvements in the works!

    Like a few others here, I have used ARP since before ARP3. I used to have a script installation business and ARP was one I did a LOT of business installing πŸ™‚

    ARPReach is a very powerful program indeed, but I would have to agree with the “pieces of a puzzle” analogy. Even as a VERY experienced user I have trouble at times. Training will definitely help – the current document is somewhat helpful, but like the UI, it’s not very intuitive πŸ™‚

    However, for the long term you really must move the UI up in your to-do list. I have worked with MANY developers over the years and have learned that the user’s experience will more likely determine whether they continue to use a product over features. It HAS to be simple as can be. I am a “case in point”… even though I have had ARPReach for a few years I don’t really use it. I continue with Aweber because I really don’t have the time to re-learn a new system. So here it sits on my server πŸ™‚

    Also, it could use some better tracking (clicks, open rates, etc) and it could use some html pre-made templates for emails and newsletters.

    Looking forward to the coming changes and improvements!

    Mike

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      great to hear from you and not just because you’re another ARP/3/Reach user.

      arpR is powerful and we don’t think that all of our users fully understand just how powerful and flexible it is. With recent trends in the monthly AR marketplace we have a sneaky feeling more people will be coming back to arpReach to safeguard their futures (see: http://blog.arpreach.com/training/setting-up-smtp-services/ for a clue).

      To reiterate, we are not ignoring the UI issues, we want to deal with them but Neil’s code is so solid we don’t want to rush into making changes that could break what we all rely on. We have lots to do we know and we will be working with the community to deliver as much as we can.

      On tracking: it could!
      On templates: we agree πŸ˜‰

      Thanks again for stopping by, the improvements are on the way!

      Reply
  8. I’ve got my fingers crossed that there will be an upgrade and improvement in the User Guide. It’s 3 years old and needed help when it was released.

    It’s not exactly what one might call user friendly.
    β€’ The table of contents items are not clickable
    β€’ Typos (Example “Handing incoming email” should be “Handling incoming email”)
    β€’ Using PDF search to find a particular set of actions such as for something using novice or new user terms like β€œlist cleaning”, contact maintenance or list maintenance is impossible.

    The list goes on but the β€œUser Guide April 23rd 2012” will be outdated as of your update and it needs to basically be redone so a client of mine can use it effectively and find out what they need to know without having to call me.

    Just my 2Β’ worth.

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      thanks so much for your feedback.

      We have slightly updated the user guide and as you’ll appreciate (we hope) it can’t be the ‘all things to all people’ we would like it to be, which is why we will be putting more effort into ongoing training as a way of supplementing what is meant to be a basic guide.

      Thanks for pointing out that typo, Handing/Handling , that had passed us by – after all they are both real words and the spell checker didn’t show any red πŸ™‚

      Reply
  9. These days, more than 50% of emails are first viewed on a mobile device. I will not send out emails without ensuring the recipient will have a good response when viewing on ANY DEVICE.

    arpReach really MUST address this. It should be easy and intuitive to create outbound messages that will work *well* on all display sizes.

    Cheers, Peter

    Reply
    • Hi Peter,

      thanks for your comment. You’ve got a great point but the reality is that arpReach has been able to send emails that are viewable on any device since it was initially developed. This is one of those training issues we want to cover.

      In short all you need to do is create a responsive template, add it in to arpReach and use it when writing your message. We’ve found lots of useful resources to enable you to do this which we’ll be sharing over the coming weeks and months.

      Reply
  10. Glad to hear about the update we are excited to see what new things you have in store.

    We are a non-profit and use arpReach for all emails but this requires us to frequently import lists from our donor management system. We have been using you guys since 2008 and there is just no beating the price and functionality of what you have put together, we love it!

    The thing that is difficult for us is that arpReach does not update an existing account’s first name field when you import a list. So there is no way for us to update our 40,000 donor’s records. We just had a 6 figure donor bring to our attention that he has been divorced for 4 years and his current wife does not like seeing his ex’s name on the emails, we have had the same thing happen with spouses who have passed away. Our donors stay on our list for years so it would be very convenient to be able to update everyones accounts at once when lists are imported.

    This one little “annoyance” is the only reason the powers that be are trying to get us to migrate to a new system. Would love to see this fixed so we can stick around for another decade or so!

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi CJ,

      You’ll be able to tell the powers that be that you don’t need to move away once the new release comes out of beta.
      If you’d like to send in an enquiry I’ll happily explain a bit more to you personally.

      And thanks so much for the kind words and the trust you’ve shown arpReach. We love that you love it.

      Reply
  11. Good to have an update.

    I have to agree with others on the UI, even a simple thing like a checkbox to automatically create tracking links in emails instead of having to actually create individual tracking links would be a HUGE deal.

    Reply
    • Hi Gary,

      thanks for your thoughts. While a simple thing like creating automatic tracking links is a great idea it is far from simple to implement. And without wanting to upset people we haven’t included that feature in this update. And with good reason. Let me go over one of the key issues we identified.

      Imagine if you have a list of 10,000 readers and you include 3 links in an email you send out. Immediately your database needs to monitor and process at least 30,000 new records. While that’s not too bad now imagine if you have more subscribers or you mail out to the same group two or three times a week. Quite soon you have a really large database.

      For heavy/pro users with their own servers that might not be a big issue but our research showed that we have enough users who are still using shared hosting or old daemons that the impact on our support desk would be significant. We also took into consideration that the current release requires PHP 5.3 and based on the overwhelming feedback we got was that bringing arpR upto date to utilise PHP 5.5 & 6 was a higher priority.

      We ourselves want simpler tracking and reporting but we have to balance many things as we move forward. We will be providing more information over the coming weeks and months that will relate to our decisions and roadmap and we’re sure (and hope) there will be lots of lively debate πŸ™‚

      Reply
  12. i am very glad that i have ARPreach but yet when i tried to make it easy for others to use it as well, i am the one who got confused.

    If it is user friendly as Aweber and the support or Forum is active at least, it would be much better.

    I still have my heart on ARP, but i am still stuck with aweber for the time being.

    Hopefully after the upgrade, we shall see major improvements and i would gladly promote it to my fellow internet marketers.

    Reply
    • Hi,

      thanks for your thoughts. While Aweber and other monthly services seem to be the darling of email marketers you are tied to a single source of sending out your messages. We think that’s wrong. Using our unlimited third party SMTP capability arpReach put you back in control and allows you to push up delivery rates.

      We will be improving arpReach and we welcome people like you sharing the good news. Don’t forget we’ve got an affiliate program πŸ™‚

      Reply
  13. I am also one of the very happy users of arp. I am scared about any updates because currently all works well for me and my customers.
    I have read each of the suggestions, and yes, improvements are great for new users.
    I can’t say that I am keen to upgrade unless it is as simple as uploading the upgraded version without needing to do anything else. If you can achieve this simple upgrade process then I will celebrate new versions when they come along.

    Reply
    • Hey Dietrich,

      Updating anything that works is always a scary thing, even for us πŸ™‚ – We have some useful tips to make the process simple and that starts with making sure you do a backup. In fact do two or three back-ups πŸ™‚

      The important thing is to secure your database backup. You can always overwrite folders and files but without a database (which has your contact records etc) you’d be in real problems IF things went wrong … and you are backing up daily anyway .. we hope πŸ˜‰

      And don’t forget, if you don’t want to do it yourself we can put you in touch with one of our trusted partners who will do the update for you for a small cost.

      Reply
  14. I’ve been using ARPLUS and ARPReach for many many years.
    ARPlus was simple and easy to use.

    When the release of ArpReach was announced, it was described as a 3 steps system easy to use.
    Without blaming Jill and his coder(s) this is not exactly what happened.

    In fact ArpReach has way more features and can be a hard and long learning curve for may users.

    I know how hard it is to code scripts to meet all the server configurations and so far ArpReach is doing well with this.
    If you have a poor hosting, don’t expect much of it, it’s pretty obvious.
    So in this case don’t blame the script developers.
    Arpreach is well written, if you don’t believe me check your MySQL DB, always clean, never a KB of overhead… (Not like a WP DB…)

    Tutorials, Tutorials, Tutorials…
    I’ve reduced my customer support time spent by 85% just by spending a few hours creating tutorials in PDF and Video format. I only had to do it once!
    A clear explanation of each feature and what it’s aimed for would be great.
    Sometimes things seem very simple and or clear to a developer, but customers don’t always have the technical knowledge to understand these things.
    Google is a good friend to find answers but it’s also time consuming and when you pay for a product you don’t necessarily want to spend your time doing researches…

    A few recommended enhancements:
    – HTML editor
    – Easy Tag Insertion for both text and html
    – Email Templates
    – Responsive Email
    – Integrated Help
    – Accurate GeoIP recording for country, state…
    – API and integration with other well known scripts

    I’m pretty sure I could add more to this list, but this is a good starting point.
    I would be happy to test your new release and to provide as much feedback as I can.

    Great to see you guys are moving forward.

    Marc

    Reply
    • Hi Marc,

      thanks for your comment and sharing it with us, we are really glad to hear how much you like arpReach and know that you’ve found out how lean the coding is πŸ™‚

      I’ll add (or rather update our numbers) for your recommendations. Some of them are already there πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  15. We’ve been using ARP (ARP3 & now ARPReach)
    FOR YEARS! One of the things we’ve ALWAYS sent
    messages into support about is having the ability
    to create a nice looking form that we can paste
    to our websites & landing pages.

    Amongst other things that a few folks mentioned here.

    It’s my our hope this is one of the things addressed!

    Warm Regards,
    Tony

    Reply
    • Hi Tony,

      We’ll be covering forms in greater depth in the weeks to come. Rest assured we are aware of the ‘problem’ and have some solutions in place for people. For the time being please understand that Neil’s original aim with arpReach was to provide the ultimate in flexibility when it came to creating forms and that’s what he delivered, the trouble is that you, us and many others now expect things to be super simple as well as looking awesome.

      Stay tuned πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  16. As an avid user and fan of Arpreach it’s been a frustrating couple of years feeling that this amazingly powerful software had simply been left to rot and die a slow, agonising death.

    In fact, this year I made the decision to finally move back to Infusionsoft before Mutual Advantage took over. As soon as I heard that Arpreach development had picked back up I immediately cancelled further discussions with Infusionsoft, so I’ve been waiting with bated breath for any further news.

    Any update about Arpreach is welcomed pleasure and I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to behind the scenes.

    Fingers crossed for an API πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Hi Neil,

      Really good to meet another user who understands just how powerful arpReach is and has stuck with it.

      I’m even happier to hear you’ve turned your back on InfusionSoft in favour of us. All I’ll say at this time is your wait … and decision was worth it πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  17. I’m wondering if you’re going to be adding the Feedback Loop Processing to ARPReach?

    Also it would be great if there were some kind of official Arpreach hosting. That way everything could be setup right for us people who don’t know how to setup our own servers.

    It’s these two things that have kept me back from using ARPReach. I used ARP3 many years ago and also loved it. But had to stop because my deliverability started to tank.

    Ideally the hosting would be on the inexpensive side. The idea being to use or be able to use (affordably) many different SMTP services like SendGrid, Mandrill, SMTP.com, Amazon SES etc.

    Instead of how you used to do your previous hosting (which seemed expensive to me) which I suppose was designed to mail without needing to use an SMTP service. While that sounds good it doesn’t give us the flexibility to switch to use a number of SMTP services simultaneously.

    And this is one of the HUGE advantages of Arpreach.

    So I’d want relatively cheap hosting from $20 to $30 a month so that I could mail through SMTP services and or the option to pay more and mail out directly from the email hosting company.

    I’m no expert on this so maybe I’ve made some incorrect assumptions. But this way I can communicate to you how things appear to me at the moment.

    Thanks,

    Roger

    Reply
    • Hi Roger,

      FBL processing will not be in this release but we are looking at providing hosting in the very near future. The fact that you could (and in some cases should) use various SMTP services instead of the hosting MTA makes it viable as it would negate spam being sent from our servers. Stay tuned!

      Reply
  18. A few things I hope will be covered in the new release:
    1. an option for subscribers to update their info (i.e. change their email address, etc); right now, all they can do is cancel/change subscriptions if they click the ‘manage subscriptions’ link in an email. I just assumed an update option existed, and was very surprised to find it did not.
    2. explaining how to use the third-party program integration (where ARP will respond to signals from outside software); there is currently zero explanation on how to use this.
    3. payment integration; so the program will interact with at least some payment processors (this is probably related to #2 above).
    4. explain how to use ‘pass subscription form data’; this option exists when creating sub forms, but no explanation exists on how to actually use it.

    Looking forward to new info and features.

    Reply

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