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Táve 2012.9 Released

As you may have noticed, Jason and I have been releasing a series of small updates over the past few months without much fanfare. However, a few of the items released last night need to be called out as they affect the way you interact with your clients, so we’ve labeled it Release 2012.9 (previously called 3.0.9) and put together this blog post to highlight the updates.

Automatic Invoice Reminders

We’re all about making you more money with less work, and now that’s even easier with automatic invoice reminders. These brand-level settings (found at the very bottom of the brand editor) allow you to send up to 3 reminders to your clients about open invoices and even use your own quick response templates for each of them:

In this example, we’re sending a reminder 2 weeks prior to an invoice’s due date, on the day that it is due, and then finally when it becomes 5 days past due. In order to soften the first email we’ve customized the template to talk about the invoice simply being ready and payable online. The past due email on the other hand has been customized to be more explicit about what will happen if it remains past due.

We send the reminders at 8am in the studio’s local timezone each day and only on the exact day specified (so, for example, a new invoice due in just one week will never receive the “two weeks before due” email. Likewise, an invoice due today but created after 8am will not receive the “on the due date” email).

If we’ve sent reminders on behalf of your studio, we’ll send a summary of the activity to your studio’s email address so that you know what we’re doing on your behalf. You’ll also be able to fix any emails that couldn’t be sent due to a recipient not having an email address:

If your brand has a bcc address for outgoing mail, you’ll also get a copy of the actual emails as well.

You have to enable these reminders, as they are off by default.

Payment Promises & More Offline Payment Options

Not every client wishes to pay online, so we’ve expanded the list of offline payment options to include “Pay by Phone” and “Bank Wire Transfer”. You can also include these payment options and instructions on printed invoices too, which is especially helpful if your client needs to take a printed invoice to the bank.

In addition, we’ve removed the payment options page from client access entirely. Instead, the payment option buttons are included directly on the invoice page:

One of the downsides of your client selecting an offline payment option is not knowing that “the check is in the mail”, so we’ve reworked the offline payment page to add a form so that your client can easily let you know when to expect their payment to arrive. The email includes which offline payment page they used as well.

Contact List Exports

While T3 does nearly everything T2 did and a whole lot more, there are a couple things it doesn’t yet do. One of those things we hear about most are contact list exports. In T2 this was one massive export via a link in Settings. In T3 we’ve made it a lot more useful by adding the contact list exports, both CSV and vCard, directly to the Contacts section.

So now you can export only booked clients, only leads, just clients with balances, or vendors, etc.

Recent Updates

Speaking of features from T2, the other most-requested T2 feature was also released to T3 recently; the agenda calendar on the homepage now shows you all of the events on a given day and lets you create new events from there as well. Here’s an example we posted to our Facebook page when the availability calendar flyouts were released:

A common request we hear is “where should I start?” as well as “what all does Táve do?” We’ve helped address these two questions with a new setup progress bar. Clicking on it takes you to a page full of important areas to look into and ways to get more out of your account:

Also, just in case you missed it, we opened a new public chatroom a couple months back where users can come and chat with us or other users. It’s a great way to get instant answers to your questions, make suggestions, or just get to know us. You can join the public chat by using the box on the right side of any helpdesk page or directly by going here. Please use your real name so that it’s easier to help you with any support tickets or issues.

System Upgrades

Did you notice how insanely fast most pages load now? Our average page load times are now a third of what they were when our last blog post was published, with some pages regularly clocking in at only 0.08 seconds!

While our system was minimally affected by last month’s major Amazon AWS outage that took down the likes of Netflix, Intagram, Pinterest, and many other popular websites for half a day, it lead us to make some changes to our infrastructure. The net result of our work over the past month is that we’ve doubled the amount of CPU power and quadrupled the number of web servers powering T3. Instead of several powerful machines, we’re now using many mid-range servers across multiple availability zones. We’ve also adopted the AWS Elastic Beanstalk service for managing application deployment and autoscaling to further improve the ease of bringing new servers online when needed.

If you’re interested in how we’re doing on the systems front; our third-party availability reports are publicly accessible at status.tave.com. Clicking on the application, such as “T3” at the bottom of the page let’s you dig deep into our availability history. For instance, you can easily review our uptime for the entire month of July or see when we were briefly affected by the major AWS outage at the end of June.

What’s Next?

Our development roadmap is loaded with important updates and great ideas that we’ve assembled from talking to users via the helpdesk and our public chatroom. Our focus for the near future is on the items that most broadly improve the system for the most users.

We’ll likely continue to roll out new features as they become available, rather than waiting for a major release. Keep an eye out on Twitter and Facebook for the latest.

Release 2012.8 – Client Portal, Direct Contracting, and enhanced iframe support

Last week we published Released 2012.8 (previously called 3.0.8), which adds several frequently requested features and usability improvements.

Client Portal

The new Client Portal mimics “Client Access” from Táve 2, by providing a password protected page for your clients that links to all the available pages for them. Unlike Táve 2, this is a completely optional route to book your clients. One of the most useful benefits of using the portal is that you can link to your portal from your own website. It also adds a profile editor so your client can update some of their own contact information. The pros and cons of using the Client Portal are detailed in this Helpdesk article.

With this came a new client overview page, which summarizes your open or future interaction with a contact similar to how the Job Overview works. Here’s an example featuring Karen and my beautiful long haired miniature dachshund, Maya.

Sales Order Receipts

Another client-facing improvement with this week’s release is a new sales order receipt page. The new page includes the payment schedule, with both the payment history and future invoices shown. From here your client can print their order or pay an invoice. I used a demo studio brand that highlights the default client page layout.

New Sales Order and Invoice Printouts

This week’s release includes a completely new printout for sales orders and invoices. The new design is both much more readable and attractive than the old version, which was a holdover from Táve 2.

The line items in the order printout now match the display used throughout the application, including package items and descriptions. Note that we scale the invoice graphic down to fit in 300×150, but uploading an image up to 3 times the size will result in most users seeing a high resolution graphic when printed.

Direct Contracting

If you’ve ever run into the situation where you need to have your client sign a contract, but they’ve already booked your proposal, direct contracting is the solution! Now you can add a contract to a job to be signed at any time separate from proposals.

Just head to the Job’s contract page and select the contract to add. In case your contract uses placeholders, you’ll need to select the contact who will be receiving the contract request as well as which order the contract should reference.

From there send your client the link and they’ll be able to sign the contract any time.

Website Inlining for <IFRAME>

Some of you use Brands as if they were themes in order to embed your contact form on your existing website with an <IFRAME> while still having a full version for booking using another brand. The problem here is that you have to remember to switch the brand after they contact you, and that’s both tedious and error prone. Luckily, that’s a think of the past!

Now, just use the one brand and use a special URL when embedding your contact form (or Client Portal, public questionnaire, etc).  You just use a modified version of your secure URL that includes “-inline” in it, which adds a special class to the <BODY> tag, which means you can customize that look even more using the Brand’s Advanced CSS Editor.

If you’re interested in doing this, the instructions are here on the Helpdesk.

Táve 3.0 Preview: Client Access in Beta 5

With our final and largest beta being readied for release to our beta testers, today’s 3.0 preview post will be longer than usual as Beta 5 covers a lot of ground.

Beta 5 is all about the client facing items. Proposals, questionnaires, invoices, and contact forms are all added or recreated with this release. Client Access as it was in T2 is no more. With T3, clients access items directly, be it an invoice, a questionnaire, or a proposal. With this, Brands become much more important and far more powerful.

In T3, your public look and feel, your contact information, and even custom domains are all determined by the brand. As part of this, we’ve added more color and image settings, including separate email and printout graphics (as well as container HTML for emails and printouts in the advanced configuration page).

With these options you can easily create highly customized pages without ever touching the advanced configuration page. With the exception of the invoice screenshot that illustrates how customizable the design is, all of the screenshots below use the default options. If you don’t provide a page background, we add a texture to your background color to make the page a bit less plain.

We had to change the proposal editor inside the app (compared to the prior version) to handle the additional features. The advantage of the new layout is we can show more information on the page.

When you hover over the recipient, several icons appear, including one to email an invitation to the recipient and another to open the direct link in another window. Using the Email Proposal button at the top, all of the recipients will be sent their own trackable direct link in an email you compose. Unlike T2, there isn’t a preview mode as that often caused confusion for users, instead we added a button to resets the statistics for the proposal. Clicking on the direct link icon pulls up the proposal either on your brand’s custom domain or its secure tave.com subdomain.

In this example proposal, I’ve provided two quotes, which are displayed along with my introduction (the order is customizable too, another new feature in T3). You’ll notice that the links showing the steps to book the proposal are now textual, allowing your brand to completely customize the look of them, a welcome change from T2 with its hard-coded Client Access navigation design. The orange colors in this Brand come from the default accent color seen in the first screenshot above.

The contact information below the page is all configured on the Brand as well. The screenshot above highlights two completely fictional quotes, one using a package and the other not. There’s an option to show individual package item prices as well as the package discount, but it isn’t enabled in this screenshot. Another new feature here is the ability for your client to explicitly decline a quote, which may provide more insight into what your client’s are looking for. The final item in the second quote, “Wedding Art Prints”, is followed by a description from the new product editor.

In the next screenshot, the client has selected the Gold Collection above and is prompted to select the payment schedule that works best for them. If you only added one payment schedule to the proposal they skip this step and continue on.

The subsequent pages are exactly what you’d expect, so I’ll skip them here, but the configuration for two of the steps are worth highlighting. Contracts have been improved with more explicit “initial here” boxes, many more placeholders, a copy of the sales order, and 1-4 signers (T2 was only 1 or 2, and it could only be set on the contract itself). Here’s a small clip from the Proposal’s contract editor, where you can configure those signatures and preview the quote based on which quote and payment schedule are selected.

The payment system in T3 has been enhanced to add an “Offline Cash Payments” option and you can now enable multiple payment options, so your client can select to mail you a check, pay with PayPal or Google Checkout, or use a credit card with your merchant account.

To illustrate just how customizable the new client facing pages are, here’s an invoice page using Karen’s brand design. When you or your workflow email an invoice to a client, they receive a direct link to this page.

There you have it, the highlights from the final Táve 3.0 beta!

 

Táve 3.0 Release Plan

With only a few small exceptions, like simplifying the new New Lead Wizard, this beta essentially brings us to feature complete status. That’s quite a milestone when you consider my very first code submission labeled as 3.0 was on November 2nd, 2009 (changelist 3009 and we’re on change 5960 now, though we did release 2.8 and 2.9 between then and now it still illustrates how nearly as many changes have gone into 3.0 as have gone into all prior releases combined).

We’ll be working out the details and scheduling of the public release over the next couple weeks and will post more details about that then.