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The Future Direction of Store Locator Plus

If you’ve been following the recent changes to the Store Locator Plus website and product offerings you have likely noticed a change in general strategy and direction with respect to the add-on options. The over-arching theme is to have fewer add ons with more features.

In the past the decision was made to keep premium options as affordable as possible and allow an ala-carte approach. As the product has grown the options have become numerous. Having many smaller add-ons allowed people to pick-and-choose what they wanted to keep costs down. That option has come with a number of downsides that have slowly grown to outweigh the benefits. Therefore a new method of providing grouped add-ons with locator-specific features will be the way ahead for the following reasons:

  • For new customers it is a challenge to figure out exactly what combination of a dozen add-on offerings will help them achieve their goal of building the best locator experience for their business or customers.
  • For existing customers it is a chore to keep up with a half-dozen Store Locator Plus add-ons they may have installed and to ensure the add-ons are updated to the latest release. Despite the built-in update notifications they go unnoticed unless they are logged into the WP admin site, which many do not do once they have a site working the way they want it to.
  • For our support team checking for the myriad of combinations of plugins installed and various versions and how they affect each other is a challenge.
  • The R&D overhead of managing dozens of code repositories is an even larger challenge, especially with a new team of developers coming on board.
  • Documenting all the add-on packs and options is a full-time endeavor for a part-time support person.

The New Add Ons

Going forward we need to reduce the footprint of the options if we intend to keep Store Locator Plus current and a viable option for the WordPress community. Therefore, SLP has decided to go in a new direction and offer a few premium plugins that augment the Store Locator Plus product.  This solution will simplify the development process, improve stability, make it easier for customers to pick the one-or-two options they need to build the perfect locator for their business or customer, and make it easier to keep up with the updates for both the developers and customers.

Moving to a few larger plugins will address many of the aforementioned issues.

​At the end of this year there will be 4 plugins that are “mainstream”:

  • Store Locator Plus
  • ​​Experience : User experience options  – replacing Enhanced Map/Enhanced Search/Enhanced Results + Widgets
  • ​​Power : Functionality options that effect Imports, SEO, and categorization – replacing Pro, Tagalong, Pages, Directory Builder, and Contact Extender
  • ​Premier : Advanced features and 3rd party integration features as well as enhancements to all of the above

Benefits Of Fewer Options

Customers can easily find which add-on has the feature set they need. Existing customers will be able to purchase an upgrade and replace several add- ons with a single add-on and reduce WordPress site overhead in the process; new features not found in stand-alone Legacy add-ons.  As the new add ons become the norm our support staff will be more efficient at answering questions, providing solutions, or addressing issues.  The reduction in overhead on documentation, testing, compatibility checks, and update notices will allow our R&D team to focus on code improvements for stability and adding advanced features.

These changes will make it far easier to ensure cross-option compatibility. For example:  Our code logic will know which Pages settings are going to include options for X,Y, and Z while Tagalong has A, B, C and how they work together. This makes the code more efficient; often using less memory and faster execution of processes while contributing to a more stable environment.

As Power, Experience, and Premier mature they will continue to reduce the calls needed to the WordPress database (Experience turned 24+ data requests into 3 for faster startup), reduce the WordPress code stack, and as a result utilize less memory per website visitor.  All these things are minor incremental improvements to the speed at which the locator product works. Faster locator = faster page load times. Faster page load times = less lost visitors & better SEO page ranking.

Going Forward With The New Add Ons

​​As for  upgrading to the new add ons, we are working hard to ensure the settings from the products (add-ons) it replaces are kept intact.  Most settings appear to come over properly, but again with all the combinations of how plugin X impacts Y it is very challenging to get all combinations to update perfectly without an occasional  glitch. It should be a relatively painless process.  Our goal is for NOTHING to change, but with 15,000+ active installs on a bazillion combinations of WordPress added to some misbehaving themes/plugins/servers that is not always possible without a few hiccups.  The nice thing about the new add ons is that going forward you will only need to worry about keeping 4 SLP plugins updated at any given time.

The Experience add-on is already available and is out “in the wild” on a number of sites.  The Power add on is coming with an anticipated release date of March 31st, 2016. Premier is available to all Premier subscription holders and will continue to get all-new functionality as requested by our Premier members and will automatically receive the Experience and Power replacements (as long as the Premier subscription is active).

If you have purchased one of the ala-carte add-on offerings recently you can obtain a discount if you decide to replace them with either the Experience or Power add-on. Purchases need to have been made within the past 45 days.

If you choose not to replace your add-ons with Experience or Power they will continue to work with Store Locator Plus 4.4.   We plan to keep legacy add- ons compatible with Store Locator Plus for as long as possible, however there are architecture changes planned for Store Locator Plus 4.5 and 4.6 that will remove years-old functions and features from the base plugin in order to improve performance and stability and stay current with the Word Press updates.   Some older legacy add- ons may lose some options or stop working as the base plugin is cleaned up.

A Whole New Offering

You may be wondering why so many changes.  Why the focus on simplifying the code and improving performance?  Why is overhead such a big issue?  The answer is two-fold.

First, we want Store Locator Plus to be a good “citizen” in your WordPress install.   We want to ensure outdated code is removed for security purposes.  We also want to use as little memory as possible and to make the database processing as fast as possible.  This all leads to a better experience.  On websites with tens-of-thousands of visitors viewing their locator pages every day this makes a big difference in the user experience.

Second, we are building a locator service that will be handling tens-of-thousands if not hundreds-of-thousands of visitors per day   We are in the very early stages of building a full SaaS offering built on the WordPress + Store Locator Plus framework.  Our intention is to bring the full feature set of Store Locator Plus to non-WordPress websites.

My Store Locator Plus, our  future SaaS offering, will run a fully managed locator for everyone.   WordPress users included, if they opt for the SaaS service over the “buy it and own it” model we employ today.  Users of the SaaS service no longer need to worry about keeping the locator software updated or ensuring it does not break their custom work or settings.  We’ll be handling the upgrades after full regression testing has been performed.  MySLP will ensure your location data is always backed up and that new locations are quickly goecoded and ready to deploy.

As we work toward a high performance locator offering via the My Store Locator Plus SaaS product, the main plugin will continue to be refined.   The user experience, performance, and feature set will continue to evolve as we work toward building a world-class locator offering at an affordable price.

We hope you are as enthused about our plans for 2016  as we are.   As always, we appreciate your patronage and your support.

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Version updates: SLP 4.4.27, Experience 4.4.07 Janitor 4.4.03, Pro Pack 4.4.02, Gravity Forms Integration 4.4.02

This work is considered to be in the public domain
Peter Brueghel the Younger ” Village Lawyer”

Store Locator Plus 4.4.27

If you have the Experience add-on and had not already updated to 4.4.06 or 4.4.07 prior to SLP 4.4.27, you must do so FIRST

Highlights and Updates:
There were settings in the distance parameters that effected the radius results used for ranking settings and effected the radius behavior settings that is used for pagination (a Premier feature) as well as Additional results features in Experience add-on.  The DOM structure for the info bubble has changed. As a result , the div# rule for the sl_ info bubble needs to be “non- generic”. The new div# rule needs to have the slp_id.  This may require some updating and additional changes to fix some of the SLP plug-in styles.  New plug-in styles have been added and older SLP plugin styles have been updated.  As the SLP development team moves closer to the SaaS goal the intent is to simplify the amount of maintenance that is inherent when updating multiple add-ons and legacy SLP coding that is less efficient, less than optimum performance, and time consuming. Sites that have not been updated for years may have issues when “jumping” versions or not updating the add-ons to maintain compatibility with WP and base Plugins.
Always be sure to Check SLP and Add-on versions if you see issues on your site.

Store Locator Plus Janitor

SLP Janitor Product Image

Janitor is a free add-on exclusively for use with the SLP base plugin and add-ons.  The Janitor user interface has been retooled to work with the new Expereince and Power add-ons and to patch some bugs that prevented the resets for options_nojs.  Janitor provides  tools to reset, delete, and manage UI settings.  It also provides a tool for  deleting location data, cleaning up extended data and Store Pages.   A bug was reported by a forum user that the reset tool for admin_locations_per_page was not saving. Since it had been set to show 5000 locations per page, the locations admin page would not load, preventing management of the locations. The default is 10 locations per page. Some systems can accommodate 100 locations per page but more will usually break the upload of this page.

Janitor Release details:  through 4.4.03.  Requires SLP 4.4.27

Highlights:

  • Add Gravity Form Integration and Gravity Forms Locations settings.
  • Simplify the admin interface to have tools and settings displayed
  • Cleaned up the settings interface.
  • Show SLP Installed Base version (such as 4.4.27) which is used to trigger the activation/update code.

Fixes:

  • Resetting of individual options_nojs settings for base plugin (reported in the forum)

Pro Pack v 4.4.02

Fixes:

  • Delete duplicate report table indexes.
  • Fix the index creation SQL.

Gravity Forms Integration 4.4.02

GFI is a Third Party Add-on by Debaat that interfaces with the Free Gravity Forms Location add-on within the Store Locator Plus Add-on suite. The GFI updates fixes the create pages integration and has been retooled to work with the SLP 4.4.xx version layout. Questions for DeBaat can be posted in the Third Party Add-ons Forum

Change Log for SLP

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Swedish Translations for Add Ons

Several add-on packs have been updated today with the Swedish language translation thanks to Piani Sweden AB. The updates are available now to any users that has purchased the add-ons.

Enhanced Map 4.2.03

Enhanced Search 4.2.04

Pro Pack 4.2.02

The Swedish language pack will also be part of the next Enhanced Results and Store Locator Plus releases when they are released later this month.

The Change Logs

Enhanced Map

Enhanced Search

Pro Pack

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Widget Pack 1.1 R&D – Goes To Testing

An update to the Store Locator Plus Widget Pack version 1.1 just completed the development cycle today.    It will be tested over the next 48 hours for compatibility with Store Locator Plus version 3.11.   If it proves compatible with that version of Store Locator Plus you will be seeing the update posted within a few days.

The Widget Pack has been updated as follows:

  • Enhancement: remedy some gettext calls so language translators work better.
  • Enhancement: Basic Widget form is now wrapped in a div with class “slp_basic_widget” for easier skinning.
  • Enhancement: Radius Label option added. If not blank the form will show a radius drop-down with a label unless Enhanced Search “hide radius drop down” is set. If blank it will use the default radius entered.
  • Enhancement: Radius Drop Down, loads from main Store Locator Plus settings if radius label is set.
  • Enhancement: Basic widget works with early or late loading JavaScript.
  • Enhancement: Added complex results output. The results output format will now match that under the map, unless “Use Simple Output” is checked.
  • Fix: Use placeholder checkbox on Basic Widget now saves setting.

You can see the new widget pack in action in this demo video:

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CrowdFunding Plugins and Add Ons?

I often receive product customization requests for various features.

However in order to keep food on the table I must work on paid projects before anything else.   That means a lot of other things are done before I code anything for Store Locator Plus.   With private consults earning $150-$300/hour I simply cannot turn those opportunities down.  Add to that the fact that some people do pay for Store Locator Plus support, which takes precedence over this forum and doing product updates, and I end up with little time left to add new features to the product.

However, I recently have had people asking for the SAME features over the past few months.  They always ask “how much would it cost to do X”.   The typical project is a few days of coding to a week of coding.   Even at a rate that is steeply discounted from my private consulting work, $1500 – $2500 is not within the budget of many plugin customers.

However, I think I may have a solution to that problem…

CrowdFunding

There is a crowdfunding plugin I am considering adding to this site.   It would allow me to setup private crowdfunding projects on this site, similar to what you would see at a place like KickStarter.     It would allow me to list various projects and a fundraising goal.   For example “CSV Export of Locations : $1000”.    Several people could fund the project.  $25 here, $100 there.

If the project goal of $1,000 was met I’d schedule the work for the new add-on pack.

If the project goal was not met before the deadline all funds paid in to support the project would be refunded.   The project may be re-listed at a later date if there were more interest shown or the project can be revised to be produced at a lower cost.

That is the basic concept.  Obviously I need to work out more details before putting this online.

Project Examples

Some of the projects I am contemplating based on most-requested features include…

Store Locator Plus : Location Export

Export the full list of locations and the base data to a CSV file.  Would not export Store Pages (you can do this with various WordPress plugins already).

I would make this a new feature of the Pro Pack.  Much like the “Import locations with CSV” I would add an “export locations to CSV” to the manage locations tab.

This would be released in a future version of Pro Pack.

Estimated Cost: $1500

Store Locator Plus : Featured Locations

Add a way to mark certain locations as featured.   Enhance the listing on the search results on the user interface.

This would be an update to the Pro Pack and Enhanced Results add-ons and may possibly require a new “Super Extendo” (ok, I’ve not thought of a good name yet) add-on pack.

The admin interface would require updates to the add/edit location form, possibly the manage locations screen, and add some settings to the map results output section so site admins could mark a “highlight featured locations” option.   It would require some tweaks to Enhanced Results to be able to access the featured location flag to change the output.   Initial release would likely be to simply make featured listings bold or highlighted in a different color as well as an option to “put featured locations first”.

Estimated Cost: $3000

There are plenty of other concepts people have asked for but these are the two most recent and most-requested options.

Your Input Wanted

So what do you think?

If I added a crowdfunding option where the user community could pitch in small amounts to fund cool new add-on packs, new plugins, or even enhancements to existing products, would you be interested?

What features, new add-on packs, or plugins would you propose?