A Little Love for the Helpers

In the next week or so, we will be rolling out a major update to the MyWP site that we think your volunteers will really love. I’ll detail it out more in a blog post the evening we roll it out, but here are the highlights, plus a little screenshot to whet your appetite.

  1. Fancy calendar that shows their assignments and rehearsals.
  2. Cleaner assignments page with much more intuitive access to service and team information.
  3. Default worship flow display with Extra Notes for the Helper showing by default.
  4. (and this is a BIG one) Ability for authorized Helpers to view services details of ALL services.

We are in the last phase of testing, so keep an eye on our Twitter, Facebook, and Blog updates for when we roll it out. And we plan on updating our video tutorials in time for the roll-out as well.

WP iPhone App…Testers Wanted

Our iPhone app is oh so close to Testing phase. If you are interested in helping test and being the first to use this slick extension of WorshipPlanning.com, we invite you to sign up now using the link at the bottom of this post. Here are answers to a few questions you might have:

Q: Can anyone be a tester?
A: We have a few requirements.

  • Own an iPhone or iPod Touch.
  • Have a Planner or Helper account with a church that is currently subscribed to WorshipPlanning.com (no trial accounts).
  • Be willing to give us feedback on the app.
  • We are also putting a limit on the number of testers, so if you want to sign up, don’t dilly dally.

Q: When will the app be ready to install?
A: We are hoping around the middle of February.

Q: How long will the test phase last?
A: It depends on the kind of feedback we get. Ideally, a month of testing would be nice. But if our testers find many things we need to fix for the first public release, it could be longer.

Q: How will I provide feedback on my experiences?
A: A few times throughout the test phase we will create some brief online surveys using our 360WP site. If you need immediate support, or just can’t wait to give us your thoughts, we’ll ask that you use our Support Center (http://support.worshipplanning.com) to contact us.

Q: What can I do with the app?
A: The app offers most of the functionality of the MyWP pages: view services, respond to assignments, access contact info of team members, download (some) files. If you find it is missing functionality you’d like on your mobile device, let us know. We plan on updating the app on a pretty regular basis.

Q: What happens after the test phase?
A: Once we certify the public release version as being ready, we will submit it to the App Store. Current estimates for app approval by Apple are up to 3 weeks.

Q: Will the app cost anything from the App Store?
A: No, the app will be free. Of course, it will only be useful to people with accounts in WP.

Q: Will trial accounts be able to use the App Store version?
A: Yes.

Q: Once I sign up to be a tester, what will happen next?
A: When the app is ready for you to install, we’ll email you a couple of files and the instructions on how to install it (using iTunes 9). Then, you’ll need to take an old ball cap, write “Quality Assurance Tester” on the front of it, and wear it whenever you run the app.

Merry Christmas!

This year we decided to step things up a bit and do a little fancier of an e-card. Plus, we will email this card to all active master accounts. Through the magic of computers (err, Photoshop) Joel was able to join us, even though he works several states away.

I have also also included a second picture showing our passion when it comes to WorshipPlanning.com. We all just want you to know how much we appreciate your support, encouragement, and feedback for this little worshipplanning.com ministry. We all so very much enjoy the chance we have to serve you and Christ.

Things are on track for 2010 to be an exciting year as we continue to add more resources to expand WorshipPlanning.com’s features and market presence. Just to mention a few, we are actively working on native smartphone versions for WP, an improved user interface experience for Helpers, more drag-n-drop capabilities for the worship flow construction, and greatly improved 360WP.

Thank you for a wonderful 2009! Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Eve Service Like Last Year’s?

I recently got a question from a worship leader asking if there is an easy way to build a worship flow that is identical to a service they did last year. In this case, he was talking about a Christmas Eve service, but the answer could be useful year round.

The best way is to perform a “copy” of the service from last year. Here’s how:

1) Get to the worship flow of the service from last year (Admin >> Services >> “show past and future services” link >> right-arrow next to desired service).

2) On the service flow page, open the “Menu Options” panel on the left side, then the “Copy This Service” link.

3) On the Copy Service page, select to either clone the service (if you haven’t created the new service in WP), or simply copy the worship elements (called “Activities”) to a service you have already scheduled.

If you think the worship flow might be worthy, you could also create a “template” from it that you could use in the future. Learn more about service templates on our Video Tutorial page (http://support.worshipplanning.com/tutorials.cfm – near the bottom).

More (and shorter) video tutorials

As promised, we have added a few helpful items to Worship Planning support, both on our support site (http://support.worshipplanning.com) and within the main and My WP sites. All have centered around video tutorial improvements.

In the main and My WP sites, we have broken down many of the large (8+ minute) videos to shorter ones that allow you to jump straight to the “how to” information you need. This is especially helpful for new team leaders and volunteers as they try to figure things out.

On the Support site, the tutorial page shows a complete listing of all the videos. But, we have also created video “tracks” that allow Helpers and Planners easily walk through a set of videos to learn about certainly functionality of the site. Right now we have only 3 tracks, but we will certainly be adding more. Also, when you perform a search on the support site, the results now include a list of relevant videos that you might find helpful.

Our goal is to make it very easy for everyone, including team leaders and volunteers, to use the site. Got feedback on how? Post a comment and let us know!

Improved People Availability System

Last night we updated the site with a significant improvement to the People Availability feature (where Planners and Helpers block off days they cannot serve). Prior to this update, people could only only block off the AM and/or PM hours of a given day, one day at a time. With this new update, Planners and Helpers will be able to mark themselves unavailable for:

– Specific services (whether or not the services have been created in WP) – Time range within a single day (i.e. Jan 3, 9:30am >> 3:30pm) – Time range across multiple days (i.e. Jan 2 – 6:15pm >> Jan 5 – 11am) – Inclusive date range (Jan 1 >> Jan 8)

As before, Planners with a high enough security level can change the availability of Helpers and other Planners. But we have also added to the Teams page an “availability” tab that displays a calendar of dates/times/services blocked by team members. Only team leaders have access to see their team’s availability calendar. Team leaders also have the ability to change the availability of their team members, regardless of security level.

In the next few days, we plan on adding some enhancements to our support pages, as well as more video tutorials to assist team leaders and helpers with using the site. That will probably be our last enhancement update until the new year. With Christmas just a few weeks away, we want to avoid the risk of creating new bugs or issues with the site.

We continue to develop a mobile version of WP that will be a native app for iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Android, and Symbian devices. We also are working on some exciting improvements to the Songs Library and Worship Flow pages. Stay tuned for more info….

Secondary Email and SMS Text Messaging

This evening we applied an update to the WorshipPlanning.com site that has been frequently requested. Planners and Helpers can now receive WP communications through multiple email address and/or text message numbers. On your Account Settings page, you can add additional channels of communication, and specify which types of communications should be sent to each channel. The image below shows an example of a Planner that has one secondary email and one text message number set up.

Notice that the Primary email address ALWAYS receives the message, regardless of the type of communication. But each secondary channel can be individually configured based on the type of message being sent:

  • Assignment Notification
  • Assignment Response Notification (Planners only)
  • Message Board Updates
  • Service Changes
  • General Team Communications
  • User Account Updates

When a secondary channel is added, WP will send a short confirmation code via the new channel. Once received, the Planner/Helper will need click the “confirm” link and enter that code. This will activate that channel.

Messages sent to secondary email addresses will be exact copies of what is sent to the primary email address. However, messages sent to text message numbers will be very abbreviated in attempt to keep the message all in a single text message.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to post a comment here or contact us via our support site (http://support.worshipplanning.com).

New Worship Flow Printout and Roles/Skills Tool

As the busy time of year approaches (one them, anyway), we are continuing to work very hard at providing you new enhancements and functionality to the site. To get these new features to you as quickly as possible, we try to update the site as soon as they pass our testing process (as opposed to waiting for a bunch of them to be ready before do the update).

This evening we made a couple of quick updates, and have a few more coming in the next few days. Tonight we added another Worship Flow printout style; one that has been requested by a few folks. The style is called “Flow and Assignments”. The top part of the page is similar to the Standard printout, except with better use of page space and zebra row shading. The bottom part of the page shows the service details/notes on the left side, and assignment lists of your team(s).

The other update we made can be seen by clicking on the People navigation link. You will notice a new tab called “Roles/Skills”. This new tab has taken the place of the Roles page linked from the Admin page. What’s more, you can now click on the role name itself and a window will open showing the role details AND a list of your people that have that role specified as a skill.

Stay tuned for more feature updates in the next few days (possibly a week)….

So…Where have you guys been?

Despite the lack of activity on our blog and twitter accounts, we have been quite busy with both development efforts and marketing campaigns. And on both fronts, we feel we’re making great progress.

From a development perspective, we have one feature nearing the end of selective-church testing, and another feature that is in the middle of internal testing. The former is our Assignments Auto Reminder feature. Each team can be set up to have WP automatically send a reminder email to members that are assigned to an upcoming service. Team Leaders can specify the number of days prior to the service that the message should be sent, as well as the message subject and body.

The other feature will allow Helpers and Planners to add “channels of communication” to their account. Currently you can only have a single email address associated with your account in WP. This feature allows you to add additional email addresses, and even text message phone numbers. What’s more, you can specify the types of communication you’d like sent to each secondary communication channel. We hope to add Twitter and Facebook direct messaging as communication channels, but for the time being we’ve run into some API limitations with each of those systems.

So, what else is in the hopper? We have started laying the ground work for mobile and Facebook versions of WP. There is an effort afoot to make the process of building worship flows a little more intuitive. Also, 360WP will soon be getting a face-lift. And, of course, we have several other initiatives that we are yet ready to share. But it continues to be exciting times for both our staff AND our subscribers!

Updates Applied on Aug 30

Yesterday evening we applied a performance update to the Team Scheduling page (where people scheduling for all future services is displayed) that should be quite noticable, especially for churches that have many teams and/or many future services scheduled. The enhancement should render the entire page within a couple of seconds, rather than a couple services at a time over the period of 10 seconds or so. For those curious, we did this by changing our code to generate most of the HTML on our server, rather than passing raw data and asking the browser to process and render the HTML. We also made a small tweak to our database that helped optimize the way data is retrieved.

With this update we also made two non-critical fixes. First, if a Helper marked himself as unavailable for a day that he had already been penciled in by a Planner, the Planner would not know of this change in availability and be able to schedule the person. To handle this, we now do a check for penciled-in assignments as the person marks a day as unavailable. If a conflict is found, the penciled-in assignment is changed to status Declined, with a note stating that the person has recently marked that day as unavailable.

The other issue fixed was that the file description in MyWP was missing on some pages. That description now shows as it should.

We are continuing to add many video tutorials to the site. Just look for the “Video Tutorial” link on the left side of pages in WP. We hope to soon index these in such a way that they can be easily searched on our support center.

Skip ahead with these bookmarks: