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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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Updating To Store Locator Plus 4.4.27? Update Experience Add-On First.

Some users may end up with a white-screen on their admin pages if they update to SLP 4.4.27 and skipped the Experience 4.4.06 or 4.4.07 updates that were released over the past 3 weeks.   If this happens after you upgrade to SLP 4.4.27, remove the ./plugins/slp-experience directory from your WordPress install.    Download the latest Experience .zip file from your account at https://www.storelocatorplus.com/ and install the Experience add-on version 4.4.07 or higher.     All of your settings and location data will be retained.

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IMPORTANT: Experience Add On / Store Locator Plus Upgrades

SLP 4.4.14 Info Tab

Store Locator Plus 4.4.17 was released today with several updates to increase performance.  One of the biggest issues was the use of the third party support assistant service, Freemius.    There have been multiple reports of issues communicating with the Freemius servers which is slowing down some customer sites.    Until we can resolve the issue with Freemius that code has been removed from Store Locator Plus.

Experience add-on users MUST UPGRADE to Experience 4.4.03.     The older versions were relying on some WordPress functions that were loaded by Freemius.    That was a bug.  All add-ons , Experience included, should be self-sufficient.   SLP version 4.4.13 and 4.4.14 will cause Experience 4.4.02 or earlier to crash.    SLP 4.4.17 will automatically deactivate Experience if version 4.4.02 or earlier is found on your site.    If you re-activate this and ignore the “upgrade Experience or a fatal error will occur” warning your site will crash.   If that happens you must use cPanel or FTP and remove the ./wp-content/plugins/slp-experience subdirectory.     Login to your account on Store Locator Plus and get the latest version of Experience 4.4.03 or higher, install and activate it.

Other performance features include a faster and simpler “News and Info” reader that uses the built-in WordPress RSS feed processor to get the latest Store Locator Plus news.    You will notice the Info tab has been reworked along with this update.   The How To Use page now includes the news feed on the right side as well as an introductory setting up SLP video.  This will also improve performance during the initial install and during the first visit to the Store Locator Plus Info tab each day.

SLP 4.4.14 Info Tab
SLP 4.4.17 Info Tab

 

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2016 Store Locator Plus Add Ons

 2012_NYE_Fireworks_(8331173703) (2)

A lot of things are underway for 2016 that will provide a vastly improved experience for our users and your customers.   Changes will be made to the add-on pack offerings that will simplify the product selection process and eliminate some confusion as to what to buy and what packs complement each other to obtain the best results.  Additionally, negotiations are underway with one of the most-talented WordPress and SaaS development teams in the world to bring a new and improved “Software As A Service” version of Store Locator Plus online.   We will also be expanding our support and technical team in-house at Charleston Software Associates.

Add On Packs

There will be a number of changes designed to simplify the add-on selection process, create a better and stable plug-in environment, reduce redundancy, and simplify our product cycle allowing us to focus on product improvements versus overhead and maintenance.

Legacy Add Ons

Starting in early 2016 , the legacy add-on packs will enter the first transition phase.  The plugins that are selected will only receive bug fixes and security patches going forward.   All of the Charleston Software Associates (Store Locator Plus author) products will be classified as legacy products over the next few months, For example:

  • Contact Extender
  • Directory Builder
  • Enhanced Map
  • Enhanced Results
  • Enhanced Search
  • Pages
  • Pro Pack
  • Tagalong
  • Widget Pack

Customers that have purchased these products will still have access to the downloads and will receive updates whenever a new security patch or bug fix is released.

New Add Ons

When the legacy products enter this transition phase, they will no longer be available as a separate stand alone purchase by new customers.    In their place we will have three core add-on packs in addition to a group of “ala-carte” third party add-on packs available for purchase.    We will be simplifying the add-on pack selection by offering just 3 options, Power Users, Enhanced Experience, and Premier.

Users of the legacy products can opt to retain their prior add-on packs and operate as normal.  However, users that wish to take advantage of the new add-ons, simplifying the installation process will need to purchase them as a new product package.   Once the packages are installed the legacy products can be removed. More details will be available and reminders sent as that date approaches.

Power Users

The forthcoming “Power” package add-on will include all of the features and functionality of the current Pro Pack, Tagalong, Pages, and Contact Extender add-on packs.  The focus of this add-on is the administrative side of location management as well as various features that tend to be utilized by the power user.  As part of this new offering the Pro Pack user-interface-related “Experience / View” setting, which determines the overall layout structure of the Store Locator Plus interface (map on left, right, below search form, etc.) will be moved into the forthcoming Experience add-on.

The Power add-on will be selling for $250 per-site one-time fee.

Experience

The Experience add-on, being released in early 2016, will include all the features of the user-interface-centric features of the various Store Locator Plus legacy add ons.   This new add-on will include the features of Enhanced Map, Enhanced Results, Enhanced Search, and the Widget Pack.   It will also inherit the Experience / View setting from the Pro Pack.    This add-on will also make it far easier to deploy the built-in plugin styles as you will only require one plugin-in to achieve most of the visual updates.

The Experience add-on will be selling for $250 per-site one-time fee.

Premier

Technically now a “new” plugin but one that will carry over from the legacy model to the new model, the Premier add-on will continue to be the flagship plugin where new “never been done before” features are added.    While the Power and Experience add-ons will occasionally see a new feature added, anything that is completely new and introduces more complex features to the product will appear in the Premier add-on.   The Premier add-on is only available to users with a Premier subscription.

Speaking of the Premier Subscription, users with an active subscription will get the new Power and Experience add-ons as soon as they are available and will have access to the prerelease versions of both products.   There are not changes anticipated for the Premier Subscription in 2016.   An exclusive first-response Premier Forum, access to our real-time Slack channels, and access to all plugins and themes crafted by Charleston Software Associates remains in the plan.

The Premier Subscription will retain the current $250 sign-up + $30/month pricing.

Third Party Add Ons

Due to our compensation agreements with third party authors, the third party plugins will remain online in their standard ala-carte form.   These plugins will have a new forum where all 3rd party plugin questions will be answered and supported by both the original author and, as needed, Charleston Software Associates.  The following plugins will remain as ala-carte options:

  • Extended Data Manager
  • Event Location Manager
  • Social Media Extender
  • Gravity Forms Integration
  • Gravity Forms Locations
  • MultiMap

Most third-party add-ons are priced at a $50 one-time fee.

End Of Life Offerings

The following offerings will be going away in 2016.

All Icon Packs will be replaced with a more efficient loading process to be introduced in 2016 and added to the Premier plugin.

The Experience Package is going away.  This will be replaced with the Experience plugin.

The Kitchen Sink Package is going, going, gone as a separate purchase.  Users wishing to get all of the nifty features and more should subscribe to the Premier Subscription as a one-year subscription. It is less than the price of the Kitchen Sink package and provides more benefits.

 

The SaaS Project

Work will begin in earnest on a subscription-based Store Locator Plus service.    This should not be confused with the Premier Subscription.  Purchases and subscribers  of the Premier Subscription will not be automatically enrolled in the SaaS system .   The SaaS (Software As A Service) product will allow companies to sign up via a new website and use a simplified interface for managing their locations and tweaking their user interface.    When everything is ready the user will be given a short JavaScript snippet or iFrame code to place on ANY site, not just WordPress sites.

This new service will look-and-feel much like the Store Locator Plus WordPress plugin with some big visual improvements.   However, users of this system will no longer need to worry about updates to ensure they have the latest version, backing up their locations, moving their installs from a staging to live site, or other management tasks related to maintaining their locator plugin.

Pricing is yet to be determined.   Initial models include a free tier for a handful of locations and $30/month for most sites.

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WordPress 4.4 Is Out With Store Locator Plus Contributions

WordPress 4.4 was just released today and the most important thing to note with the new release is that I am now officially a core contributor.   That’s right!  Way down in the list of 400+ people that contributed you’ll find my charlestonsw user name, listed as “Store Locator Plus”, in the credits.   Woot!    After that, there isn’t really much to report in the new 4.4 update.

Store Locator Plus is an official contributor to WP 4.4.
Store Locator Plus is an official contributor to WP 4.4.

 

I mean, sure, they added things like support for responsive images and started the first iteration of the WordPress REST API as part of the core product.  They released the 2016 theme.  And they made it so that your WordPress site can be an embed in another WordPress site.   But really, what’s more important than my 2-line patch in Core?

REST API

OK, maybe the REST API is important.   Why?  Because I hope to deploy Store Locator Plus endpoints in the next release of SLP coming this month.    For those of you that are not tech-nerds, why is this important?  Because it makes your Store Locator Plus location data globally accessible.    What does that mean?   Other tech-nerds and start creating robust web applications, mobile applications, and just-about-any-other-type of applications that fetch your location data direct from your Store Locator Plus installation whether or not they are using WordPress.   Yes, the data can be protected with user authentication to prevent third-party apps from stealing your data.    For those apps that are authenticated it means Store Locator Plus will be far more accessible in 2016.

What does this mean for people not creating mobile apps or pulling up location data from the Python-powered super-app?   A better user experience.   This new tool kit means that form posts and page loads can be phased out over time with new interfaces that feel like real-time interaction throughout the plugin.    Adding and editing locations.    Getting an infinite scrolling list of locations without pagination.   User interface elements that bring in location content on pages, posts, and even the mapping page.     Think of it as being similar to how the current “search for locations near this zip code” action where the page doesn’t refresh completely but just populates the list and markers.    But EVERYWHERE.

It will be a long slow process, but now that the REST API is official it can start to be deployed in places that were far more difficult to “hook into” in the past.

What is the first thing to roll out?

Most likely a new WooCommerce to Store Locator Plus plugin that lets you associate products with specific locations.   That code is already underway and barring any issues with testing now that the official WordPress 4.4 is out, it should roll out later this month in its first FREE version 1.0 release.

Embeds

What are embeds?   Why is it cool?   Well, it is not something that will likely be leveraged by Store Locator Plus but it is still cool enough to talk about.     What this does is allow you to reference another WordPress-based article from another site.  In the past you would get the content but it would be forced into your overall theme on your site.    With the new embed feature the remote WordPress site will send along ITS formatting data and your site will understand that and keep the original site formatting withing a tidy little viewing area for the article snippet on your site.   It retains the original user interface from the source article without messing up your site so things look better all-around.    No extra work required.    That’s a win for everyone.

Embed WordPress In WordPress
Embed WordPress In WordPress

Other Updates

There are a number of other improvements; some of which I wish had come out a year ago like term meta. I wrote my own 2 years ago and now have to think about replacing it with the WP Core version.   There is also  a new theme, lots of bug fixes, and other improvements built into WP 4.4.  Along with the REST API update , which is a great step forward into the current state of open and shared data in this new “Internet of Things” and “open everything” world, there are plenty of good reasons to update to WordPress 4.4.   Not too mention millions of websites will be running a piece of code I wrote.   <insert Doctor Evil laugh here>

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Locator Styles Update SLP 4.3.03

SLP 4.3.03 Genesis Plugin Style

Update 4.3.03 was released for Store Locator Plus today.   The update includes a patch to the plugin styles (formerly known as themes) and simplifies the process of applying those styles.     Shortcodes that were appearing in the results for some plugin styles has been fixed.   The directions link has also been fixed.

Change Log

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More Plugin Updates for Locator Plus

Ravenel Bridge As Banner

More Store Locator Plus add-on packs were updated this weekend.    All of the third party add-on packs have bee updated to be fully compatible with Store Locator Plus 4.3, released last week, and WordPress 4.3 which was released on the same day.    The updates will bring all features and functionality up-to-date for the latest changes to WordPress and Store Locator Plus.

The plugins that were updated today include:

Store Locator Plus 4.3.01

An update to Store Locator Plus that addresses several reported bugs in SLP 4.3 is available in prerelease.   4.3.01 is expected to be a production version in the next 48-72 hours.

This release will fix the “admin white screen” on some installs using specific versions of PHP that are unable to do “look forward” class recognition in include files.    It also fixes an issue with certain PHP environments that have strict double-colon constant definitions where users are mixing 4.2 version add-on packs with version 4.3 of the base plugin.

Premier 4.3.01

Premier Plugin version 4.3.01 is also coming out next week along with the SLP 4.3.01 patch.    The latest iteration of the Premier plugin adds the ability to turn the “Streetview Man” on-and-off on the map interface.   This feature requires SLP version 4.3.01.

Change Log

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Store Locator Plus 4.3

SLP 4.3 Default Map

Store Locator Plus 4.3 was published tonight.  If you are using a Store Locator Plus add-on pack you will want to upgrade the add-on to version 4.3 after upgrading the base plugin.

Updated Admin User Interface

The revised admin user interface leverages the WordPress Dashboard styling and interface elements.   Settings boxes can be collapsed and expanded, the slider boxes are gone having been replaced with standard checkbox elements, and the CSS styling is now consistent across all add-on packs.    The new interface is designed to work more closely with the built-in WordPress responsive design elements.

Update JavaScript Processor

The JavaScript engine that drives all interactions with the locations map has been updated with a new callback system that works much like the WordPress hooks-and-filters.   For the non-techie people out there, that means it is going to be a LOT easier for future add-on packs to add very cool interactive map features without requiring full system updates.    Add-on packs can now change how the interface works without having to “hack” the base plugin.  For the techies, the AJAX processor now includes full raw location data in addition to massaged data.    New shortcode options make it easier to get exactly what you need into results and map info bubbles.

Faster Manage Locations

Further refinements to the Manage Locations interface improves performance.  Version 4.3  simplifies the codebase to make it easier to add more advanced features in future releases.  Update JavaScript libraries improve performance by eliminating server queries for tables that list all locations on a single page.   A single “expanded view” mode means less data I/O processing while rendering the screen.    Admin users can selectively hide columns on the manage locations interface, with different admin logins having their own column settings saved between sessions.

SLP 4.3 Locations Manage
SLP 4.3 Locations Manage

 

SLP 4.3 Locations Edit
SLP 4.3 Locations Edit

Better Admin Performance

Admin pages for Store Locator Plus have reduced database I/O calls to the WordPress options table.   Logic changes eliminated nearly 60 extra data I/O calls when loading the Experience tab.   On the info tab the server based news feed and current plugin versions as well as update information for installed plugins is cached, significantly increasing performance when checking plugin information.

SLP 4.3 Experience Search Settings
SLP 4.3 Experience Search Settings

Better WPML Support

The WPML engine in Store Locator Plus has been updated to work with the newer WPML 3.2 filters while retaining legacy support for older versions of WPML.   All base plugin strings are pre-registered when Store Locator Plus loads into memory.   Most text in the application now uses gettext or WPML data I/O operations which should make the entire experience far easier for international users and sets the foundation for faster turnaround for polyglot related issues in the future.

Improved Settings Upgrades

The entire settings upgrade system has been rewritten ensuring more consistent transfer of legacy settings when upgrading, whether upgrading from one version back or 10 versions back.   “Lost settings” during an upgrade will now be a thing of the past.

Patches And Fixes

A number of minor patches and updates were made in 4.3 including apostrophe search on manage locations, admin page styling mishaps from various add-ons, extended data fields not always registering with the main plugin, fixes to several shortcode attributes.

Change Log

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Store Locator Plus 4.3 for WordPress Is Imminent

SLP Version 4_3

Right on the heels of the WordPress 4.3 update, Store Locator Plus 4.3 has passed testing and is ready to be released to the general public. Normally I would suggest updating to the latest patch release of WordPress immediately prior to upgrading your Store Locator Plus installation. As fate would have it, WordPress Core pressed the publish button a touch faster than we did. Since WordPress 4.3 is “fresh out of the oven” I recommend upgrading to WordPress 4.3, then TESTING your site thoroughly, or at least testing all of your Store Locator Plus functionality then upgrading to Store Locator Plus AFTER you have completed full testing.

Backup Your Site

WordPress tells you to do it before upgrading to 4.3.

I’m telling you to do it before upgrading to 4.3.

BACKUP YOUR WORDPRESS SITE.

What’s that?  You don’t have a backup?   Go spend $9 on VaultPress now.  Wait a few hours for the backup to complete.  THEN upgrade WordPress and Store Locator Plus to 4.3.

Upgrade ALL Components

When upgrading to Store Locator Plus 4.3 you should IMMEDIATELY upgrade all of your premium Store Locator Plus add-on packs. Every single add-on pack will need to be updated for cosmetic reasons. Some add-on packs will need to be updated to restore functionality that appears to go “missing” as there are significant changes to the underlying communications engine within Store Locator Plus. Your data and settings don’t go away, but some settings for some add-on packs will not function properly until your entire Store Locator Plus plugin stack is updated to version 4.3.x.

Don’t Panic

We have spent nearly a month testing, patching, and re-testing SLP 4.3.    We have kept up with the latest WordPress development releases right up through the production release of WordPress 4.3 that came out tonight.   A handful of customers have been installing and testing Store Locator Plus 4.3 and the related add-on packs and have helped us ferret out some of the bugs in the new release.    Despite hundreds of personal invitations that

Reporting Plugin Versions
Reporting Plugin Versions

were sent out to long-time customers of SLP,  we had far less people testing version 4.3 than we had hoped.

 

That means there are likely to be some hiccups in the 4.3 release that have not been caught.    Don’t panic.    Post your issue in the forum and be sure to post ALL YOUR SLP ADD ON PACK VERSIONS by copying the version text off your Info / Plugin Environment tab into your post.   If you can, provide a screen shot of the version like the one above.   Windows and OS/X have screen capture utilities built in, or try SnagIt by TechSmith. Provide a site URL and a clear description of what is wrong and what you expect to happen.   DeBaat, CiCi, and I will address any new issues as quickly as we can and issue the 4.3.01 patches as necessary.

 

 

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Store Locator Plus 4.3 Release Schedule

4.3 RC Status Aug 6 AM

Store Locator Plus 4.3 is expected to be released into production during the week of August 17th along with 4.3 versions of all add-on packs.

4.3 RC Status Aug 6 AM
4.3 RC Status Aug 6 AM

Store Locator Plus is now in Release Candidate status.  You can download the prerelease near-production-ready version from the StoreLocatorPlus.com website.   The prerelease version is available at no cost from the store.  If you’ve already added the prerelease version to your account you can login and download; no need to re-purchase.

Most add-on packs are now in RC status as well.   If you have purchased the production version of an add-on pack you can download the prerelease version by logging in to you StoreLocatorPlus.com account.

The more people that can test version 4.3 of the Store Locator Plus plugin and add-on packs the faster it can be released to production.    Prerelease, including RC versions, of the plugin should not be used on a production system without first testing your environment on a staging (testing) copy of your site.  Companies like WP Engine make creating staging copies of your live site very easy.  If you do not employ staging sites as part of your website management strategy you really should consider switching to a hosting company that supports easy site cloning for testing purposes.

 

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Update: SLP pre-release alpha to 4.3 Locations Manager New look

Hello all…the countdown has started for the much awaited Store Locator Plus pre-release to version 4.3 to go live.

The Manage Locations Interface will have a whole new look, including a hide columns and sort feature replacing the expanded display from SLP 4.2 views. A cleaner and simpler design for the User Interface without losing functionality. There will be some buttons that have been moved, or boxes that are renamed. We will try to get the majority of changes documented with screenshots so stay tuned! I am excited about this release I hope you will be too.

If you are upgrading from 4.2.xx to 4.3 there is a new look and simplified labels
If you are upgrading from 4.2.xx to 4.3 there is a new look and simplified labels
SLP 4.3.00 will add locations  same as before
SLP 4.3.00 will add locations same as before

 

Store Locator Plus 4.3 Video Manage Locations preview
Follow us on Twitter for updates,tips and news!

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Getting Ready For SLP 4.3

In case you’ve missed the notes from CiCi, I’ve been writing a TON of code over the past 2 weeks as I prepare to launch version 4.3 of Store Locator Plus.

SLP may not work as it did before if you updated Store Locator Plus to 4.3 but did NOT update the add-on packs.  Upgrading add-on packs to 4.3  should restore any prior features/functionality that went missing.  Another post will be published detailing known issues when mixing 4.2 add-ons with SLP 4.3.  The goal is to make 4.2 add-on packs NOT BREAK your website when the update to SLP 4.3 rolls out.   The best way to help me achieve that goal is to test the SLP 4.3 as soon as the RC prerelease versions are available.

After upgrading to SLP 4.3, if something stopped working please check the SLP Versions page and see if a 4.3 version of the add-on is available.  The auto-update notifications may not tell you about an update, especially if your site is running dozens of plugins. WordPress only checks as many as it can in 30-seconds then waits 12 hours to try again.

You may need to perform a manual update.   Login to StoreLocatorPlus.com and download the latest add-on pack updates, preferably version 4.3.xx.  Go to the WordPress plugins page, deactivate then delete any 4.2 SLP add-on packs.  Add new, upload the recently downloaded add-ons, and activate them.

SLP 4.3 Info Example

Want A Smooth Transition to SLP 4.3?

Take a few hours and launch a staging version of your site.  If you are on a service like WP Engine it is very easy to do.    Once you get your STAGING version of your site up-and-running, install the SLP 4.3 prerelease as well as any prerelease copies of your add-on packs.

Let me know what breaks.     The more people that can help test the prerelease builds the better.   

Release Candidate builds of Store Locator Plus 4.3 and the add-on packs (those that do NOT end with alpha-xx) should be out soon.   Once you see RC-xx on a prerelease build, go ahead and test.   These are the release-candidates that I hope are stable enough to launch to the public but have not been fully tested yet.

Premier Members have early access to every single prerelease build of every add-on pack.     Other customers should see a download for both the production release and the prerelease of add-on packs they own.   Store Locator Plus Prerelease is a FREE product available from the StoreLocatorPlus.com store.

What Is In 4.3?

SLP 4.3 is the “stabilize, bug fix, performance” release.    It has gone a long way toward making the code easier to maintain and more stable.    For example, there were no less than FOUR different ways to save/access/interact with various plugin settings; Saving the radius options was done differently than saving the address search label.       Most of that is gone now, using a simplified code base.     The new code also uses more of the WordPress best practices internally and on the UI.

There are some visible UI changes on the admin interface.    There are a lot of settings where the text descriptions or labels changed.   Things have moved around a little.  MOST of the changes are to make managing locations and settings easier on tablets and small-screen laptops.    The documentation and screen shots may be out-of-date for a while, but most things are easier-to-find and can be cross-referenced with the 4.2-style documentation fairly easily.

SLP 4.2.67 vs 4.3 Experience Results
SLP 4.2.67 vs 4.3 Experience Results

There are also a lot of new ways to extend the inner workings and, more importantly, the user-interface elements of Store Locator Plus.    The changes pave the way for cool new ways to interact with Google Maps, the user interface, and the back-end data using the WordPress AJAX interfaces and advanced Google tool kits.    You will see more of the “goodness” those changes will bring after 4.3 launches when new features start to roll out via the Premier plugin.

The 4.3 Schedule

These are the target time-frames for the various updates with a Friday release target.

Significant compatibility or functionality issues may push products up on the release schedule.  The goal is to accelerate the schedule for all products when SLP 4.3 goes into production.

July, Last Week:

Release Candidates for Store Locator Plus, Premier, Pro 4.3, and Enhanced Map/Search/Results.

August, First Week:

Release Candidates for Tagalong, Pages, Directory Builder, Widgets.

August, Third Week:

Production launch for Store Locator Plus, Premier, Pro 4.3, Enhanced Map/Search/Results, Tagalong, Pages, Directory Builder, Widgets.

Release Candidates for Contact Extender, Location Extender (likely to be merged into a single product).

Work with DeBaat on Release Candidates for Event Manager, Gravity Forms, Multimap, Social Media Extender, and User Managed Locations.

September, First Week:

Production launch for Contact Location Extender, Event Manager, Gravity Forms, Multimap, Social Media Extender, and User Managed Locations.

Note: Due to lack of interest, Real Estate Extender will be sunset during this update.

A Note About Premier

What’s that?  You’re not a Premier member?  You should be.    Yes it is a monthly subscription, but the sell-it-once-support-it-forever model makes it difficult to improve Store Locator Plus and provide support to the ever-growing customer base.

Did you know the are more than 12,000 sites are running Store Locator Plus right this very minute?  12,000 sites that want support, bug fixes, and new features.   Unfortunately, less than 20% of those 12,000 sites purchase an add-on pack.   In order to continue improving support AND adding new features there needs to be more than a one-time sale of $50, or even $500, from a select group of customers.

Lance's Daily SLP Email Deluge
Lance’s Daily SLP Email Deluge

Between CiCi and myself we answer dozens of direct email messages per day, dozens more forum questions, take dozens of screen shots, sh0ot videos, and do all the other things that come with supporting customers from around-the-world.   That is on top of writing hundreds of lines of code and keeping up-to-date with the latest WordPress Core developments to ensure compatibility when the WordPress 4.3 release comes out next month.

The best way to ensure the longevity of the product and retain YOUR investment in time and energy you put into employing Store Locator Plus on your site is to purchase a Premier membership.    A $250 one-time-fee and $30/month goes a long way toward creating a sustainable product.   That steady stream of monthly payments provides the means to hire another coder and another support person to make YOUR experience better.

SLP 4.3 Premier
SLP 4.3 Premier

It also ensures you get all those cool new features that are coming out in the Premier plugin.  Things like cluster maps that came out last month, results pagination the month before, and the forthcoming geo-boundary address search influence this month.   You also get priority access to myself and CiCi to answer your questions or get your feature request on the top of our development queue.  $30/month gets you a lot more than a buy-once-and-forget-about-it plugin.

I understand that sometimes a one-time purchase is all you need.  Not everyone needs a premium add-on.      The free plugin will always be there and the buy-it-and-own-it add-ons are not going away any time soon.    For those that have supported this project, even through a single add-on purchase, it is very much appreciated.

For those that have purchased a Premier Membership, thank you for your continued support.  It is helping achieve new goals, such as bringing CiCi on board to improve support, that would not be possible otherwise.   Enjoy the exclusive Premier Plugin features that are coming your way each month!

 

– Lance

 

 

Posted on

Cluster Map Markers Now Available

Cluster Marker USA Banner

Now that Store Locator Plus 4.2.66 has been put into production, the Premier add-on pack is now able to implement clustered Map Markers for the popular WordPress location finder plugin.   A single checkbox in the admin panel enables and disables the cluster feature.     Map markers are automatically clustered based on the proximity of the markers to each other on the map when rendered.  As users zoom in or out the clusters will regroup or break apart automatically.    Results shown under the map are not impacted by clustered markers.

Premier 4.2.01 - Cluster Markers
Premier 4.2.01 – Cluster Markers

Clustered Map Markers is the newest feature available exclusively to Store Locator Plus Premier Subscription members.   Last month paginated results was added to the Premier plugin.   A half-dozen new features are planned for Premier release only over the coming months.   Subscription holders must retain an active subscription membership to obtain the latest feature releases.   Subscriptions that lapse will not cause installed functionality to cease, however new features such as Clustered Map Markers will not be available as the plugin update system will not allow inactive subscriptions to update the plugin.

Premier Plugin version 4.2.01 is available for immediate download for all current Premier subscription holders.

Clustered Markers Video (early release candidate):

Change Log

Posted on

WordPress Map Solution Improves Initial Display

Store Locator Plus, a WordPress plugin that makes it easy to add the “enter your zip code to find our stores” map on a website, has improved the initial map rendering and location processing algorithm.  The product no longer includes the “center of the country” as a defining point when first rendering the map with the locations.    This allows the product to focus the map display around the initial group of locations being displayed with a tighter zoom level. The recent update removes settings that remained in the product for the past 18 months for legacy compatibility.   The change was made in the interest of improving the user experience for a majority of the install base as well as new customers.

Single Location Entry

Some of the most notable changes show up when rendering the first entered location on the map.  Version 4.2.60 and 4.2.61 vary dramatically on the initial display.

Version 4.2.61 Update

SLP 4.2.61 Single Location Query
SLP 4.2.61 Single Location Query

With version 4.2.61 the data queries remain essentially the same, however removing the requirement to drop a home location marker on the map, which happens to be in Coffeyville KS for US-based maps, allows the map to zoom in tighter on a single location.   Your location will need to be within 10,000 miles of the center of your country to display.  If it is further away you should either set “Center Map At” (User Experience / Map) or change “Radius To Search Initially” (User Experience / Results).

Address based searches, including those that are using the GPS location sensor provided by the Pro Pack add-on , will still drop a home marker at the address entered by the user (or selected by GPS).

 

Version 4.2.60 Behavior

SLP 4.2.60 with a single location
SLP 4.2.60 with a single location, USA.

In version 4.2.60 and earlier, entering a single location would yield a less-than-optimal map display with the map being centered halfway between the center of the USA and the first location brought up by the search.

In version 4.2.60 the locations would be selected using a query that returns the first 25 locations with 10,000 miles of the center of the USA.  If you leave the Center Map At entry blank , SLP will set your “starting home location” for the initial search in the center of your country.   For the USA this is near Coffeyville KS.   The other defaults are to search within 10,000 miles of that location and display the first 25 results.

SLP 4.2.60 Single Location Query
SLP 4.2.60 Single Location Query

The map rendering engine would then drop a marker at the home location in Coffeyville KS and from there extend the boundaries to include the locations returned from the search.  Think of it as though the edges of the map are one big elastic band with a pin stuck in Coffeyville KS.  Every time a  new location is added the band stretches and the center of the map changes.

Once all of the location pins are added and the boundary has been stretched the map would then zoom to show the locations.   The legacy zoom calculation in SLP 4.2.60 was overly complex and sometimes yielded strange results.  In the screen shot above the zoom would go in so far as to not show the home marker in Coffeyville or in Mount Pleasant, as shown here after zooming out EIGHT LEVELS (ouch).

SLP 4.2.60 Single Location Zoom Out 8 Levels
SLP 4.2.60 Single Location Zoom Out 8 Levels

 

Multiple Locations

Multiple locations have less variance in the output, but the 4.2.61 experience has been improved.   The zoom and boundaries are a simpler calculation which means less overhead on every map rendering whether initial display or subsequent address searches.

With version 4.2.60 the same rules apply to multiple locations, however the zoom algorithm is not as egregiously errant in the calculation.   The map shows all 15 locations but still includes the default home marker in Coffeyville KS.

SLP 4.2.60 15 Locations Test
SLP 4.2.60 15 Locations Test
SLP 4.2.61 15 Locations Test
SLP 4.2.61 15 Locations Test

Other Changes

In addition, Store Locator Plus 4.2.62 addresses issues with the manage locations search and sort order, removes more legacy code to reduce the memory footprint and simplify the codebase, and includes minor revisions to the manage locations interface for new installs.

Change Log

 

Posted on

Google Map Styles Come To Store Locator Plus

Custom Bluegreen Map Banner

Enhanced Map 4.2.05 was published today with support for Google Map Styles.   The map style rules are JSON-style settings that define the inner map look-and-feel.   Change your map style form the standard Google street map view to something better tailored to your site.   Give the map a dark “midnight mood” or high all the features other than the highways and water or highlight the highways in bold dark red lines.  It is possible with the discreet control provided by the Google Map styles now available in Enhanced Map 4.2.05.

EM Map Style Midnight Commander
[{“featureType”:”all”,”elementType”:”labels.text.fill”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#ffffff”}]},{“featureType”:”all”,”elementType”:”labels.text.stroke”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#000000″},{“lightness”:13}]},{“featureType”:”administrative”,”elementType”:”geometry.fill”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#000000″}]},{“featureType”:”administrative”,”elementType”:”geometry.stroke”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#144b53″},{“lightness”:14},{“weight”:1.4}]},{“featureType”:”landscape”,”elementType”:”all”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#08304b”}]},{“featureType”:”poi”,”elementType”:”geometry”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#0c4152″},{“lightness”:5}]},{“featureType”:”road.highway”,”elementType”:”geometry.fill”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#000000″}]},{“featureType”:”road.highway”,”elementType”:”geometry.stroke”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#0b434f”},{“lightness”:25}]},{“featureType”:”road.arterial”,”elementType”:”geometry.fill”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#000000″}]},{“featureType”:”road.arterial”,”elementType”:”geometry.stroke”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#0b3d51″},{“lightness”:16}]},{“featureType”:”road.local”,”elementType”:”geometry”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#000000″}]},{“featureType”:”transit”,”elementType”:”all”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#146474″}]},{“featureType”:”water”,”elementType”:”all”,”stylers”:[{“color”:”#021019″}]}]
EM Map Style Subtle Grayscale
[{“featureType”:”landscape”,”stylers”:[{“saturation”:-100},{“lightness”:65},{“visibility”:”on”}]},{“featureType”:”poi”,”stylers”:[{“saturation”:-100},{“lightness”:51},{“visibility”:”simplified”}]},{“featureType”:”road.highway”,”stylers”:[{“saturation”:-100},{“visibility”:”simplified”}]},{“featureType”:”road.arterial”,”stylers”:[{“saturation”:-100},{“lightness”:30},{“visibility”:”on”}]},{“featureType”:”road.local”,”stylers”:[{“saturation”:-100},{“lightness”:40},{“visibility”:”on”}]},{“featureType”:”transit”,”stylers”:[{“saturation”:-100},{“visibility”:”simplified”}]},{“featureType”:”administrative.province”,”stylers”:[{“visibility”:”off”}]},{“featureType”:”water”,”elementType”:”labels”,”stylers”:[{“visibility”:”on”},{“lightness”:-25},{“saturation”:-100}]},{“featureType”:”water”,”elementType”:”geometry”,”stylers”:[{“hue”:”#ffff00″},{“lightness”:-25},{“saturation”:-97}]}]
In addition to the map styling update a patch has been included to retain custom per-location map markers during map address searches.   A bug in a previous release removed the custom map marker when an address search was performed even though it the marker was loaded when the map was first rendered.

Change Log