Missing too many key features

Discussion in 'Testimonials' started by mmba_webmaster, Mar 10, 2006.

  1. mmba_webmaster

    mmba_webmaster New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2004
    Messages:
    20
    We purchased aMember Pro to handle our 2,000 member organization. Unfortunately it's missing critical features for day-to-day use and we will be switching to an alternative soon. It seems to be designed more for subscriptions than membership processing -- and it may work fine for that application. That's not what we do. We are a common non-profit membership-based organization.

    Perhaps the most glaring flaw is it doesn't support basic membership renewal backdating. By my estimates, this aMember issue will cost our organization over a thousand dollars a year in lost membership dues. This is membership processing 101, so I don't understand how such a basic feature can be missing. Suddenly aMember doesn't seem so inexpensive.

    Another major miss is the phpBB module we bought. It basically doesn't work if you have an existing phpBB setup. We noticed this during testing when aMember started removing people from our moderator group. I basically had to disable most of the phpBB module to prevent it from requiring a database restore from tape. The lack of a single login with phpbb is also a major disappointment.

    Given the availability of the source, you'd think these downfalls could be averted because the code can be modified. Unfortunately the programming style and data storage designs make this difficult at best. If you're used to modifying phpbb code, this code will come as big disappointment. If you're used to writing code like this, you might be okay.

    if ($old_field['additional_fields']['sql'] != $nt = $field['additional_fields']['sql'])

    Not having usable custom SQL fields is another major problem for us. aMember lets you configure a variety of SQL custom fields then never stores the data in them. If you were expecting to create mail merge documents using Word and an remote ODBC data connection, forget about accessing those custom fields.

    aMember also does not do a good job of helping an organization retain its existing members when their memberships expire. They only get one email. There are no reporting features to track expired members or to send emails to recently expired members. There's no support for generating mailed renewal letters. The software doesn't even provide basic information like your renewal rate.

    Then there are the small issues that up to a big issue:
    ** You cannot send emails based on user record selection (e.g. city, custom field)
    ** The export doesn't output a header record, which makes mail merges more work.
    ** The reporting is very limited. Do you want to know your membership level trends? You'll have to export your data and write it yourself.
    ** The user passwords are not encrypted, which makes the phpbb sync less useful. You can't synch the aMember password with an existing phpbb account.
    ** aMember has no support for membership fulfillment processing. I ended up writing a PDF welcome letter generator.

    Like I said at the beginning, if you doing subscriptions, this software might work for you. If you're just starting up a membership org, you aMember might be a good starter choice. However, I'd also recommend you pick up a copy of the ***********************.
  2. alex

    alex Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2004
    Messages:
    6,020
    aMember Pro is a script to manage subscription websites and to sell downloads/etc.

    aMember Pro was not designed for members assotiations/etc and really miss some critical features for this task.

    However, I cannot agree with many other things you mentioned here.
    - Latest version of phpbb plugin supports single-login;
    - phpBB plugin does not modify moderators - just don't create these usernames in aMember and it's all!
    - aMember stores content into SQL fields for everything but checkbox fields;
    - Programming style is a question, but why would you change existing code if aMember has plugin hooks support that helps you to solve most problems?
    - We will implement several expiration notices in next release as promised;
    - Emailing on selection is really not implemented;
    - It would be 5 minutes to implement headers in export if you asked us;
    - User passwords are not encrypted SPECIALLY to make integrations with MANY scripts working, specially it works well with phpBB; And if you import an MD5 password from phpBB, aMember will recognize and use it correctly;
    - I don't understand last thing: "membership fulfillment processing". What do you mean here? And why PDF email is used? I personally would not install Adobe Acrobat to just read one message.
  3. mmba_webmaster

    mmba_webmaster New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2004
    Messages:
    20
    "AMember Pro is a script to manage subscription websites and to sell downloads/etc."

    I agree and that's the problem. The web site says "aMember is a flexible membership and subscription management PHP script." Memberships and subscriptions are similar but different beasts. If aMember was "not designed for membership associations" then it's not membership management software. I would recommend that that admission be displayed prominently so that others don't travel down the same dead road we have and get our panties bunched up.

    As for the other items, we have a fairly recent phpbb plug-in script and it removes phpbb users from groups that are unrelated to aMember. Many phpbb sites have moderator groups to simplify their forum management. Existing phpbb user groups are incompatible with the aMember plug-in. That's a major design limitation that should at minimum be noted.

    As for custom SQL fields, it's not just a problem with checkboxes. The multi-select doesn't work either.

    Fulfillment processing is when someone becomes a member or renews, you send them something in the mail (e.g. a letter, membership card.) It's a pretty basic feature in membership management. aMember doesn't generate printed welcome letters, doesn't tracking who needs to be sent a packet, etc. That's why I wrote a php script that generates a welcome letter in PDF format. I print the letter and mail it out with the other membership items.

    Backdating renewing memberships wasn't addressed in your response. For membership processing, this is a huge problem.

    I really would suggest you make sure potential customers know the real limitations of this software with respect to membership management. If you want to make aMember into a membership management program, I would suggest getting the Toolkit I described earlier and even spending some time doing membership processing. The latter is perhaps the best way to see the deficiencies in the software and how they can be addressed.
  4. alex

    alex Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2004
    Messages:
    6,020
    I agree with you, but I also saw lot of membership assotiations that are using aMember and are completely happy with it.

    Regarding phpBB script, I cannot believe in this, it designed to just do not touch users that are not exists in aMember. We could easy debug and resolve this, but it seems little late :)

    Thank you, I will take your advice and try that.
  5. mmba_webmaster

    mmba_webmaster New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2004
    Messages:
    20
    No, the plugin removes members from *all* usergroups whenever they signup/renew -- even groups that are completely unrelated to aMember. I eventually fixed your plugin last year after you responded to my trouble ticket by saying "If user was added from aMember, aMember must have full control on this user."
  6. alex

    alex Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2004
    Messages:
    6,020
    If user exists in aMember, aMember will control it in phpBB as well. If you don't want that - remove user from aMember. I thought it is clear from the plugin readme, and it is not a bug, it is a feature.
  7. mmba_webmaster

    mmba_webmaster New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2004
    Messages:
    20
    You can call it a feature, but I suspect it's a bug for most everyone else who manages memberships.

    Here's a scenario: One of your phpbb users is in some usergroups, e.g. moderators. Perhaps they've created their own phpbb usergroup as well. One day they decide to join the organization and sign up through aMember. The first thing aMember does is remove them from their groups. Sure they can add themselves back in manually, but let's say they're one day late in renewing their membership. Too bad, aMember once again has removed them from their usergroups which have nothing to do with their membership.

    But like I said, I ended up fixing this. My modified plugin only adds and removes phpbb users from aMember usergroups.
  8. alex

    alex Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2004
    Messages:
    6,020
    It is not a problem to make modification which you made. However, it may keep database inconsistent in case if some time plugin was misconfigured. In case of standart plugin, you may click every time aMember CP -> Rebuild Db and get everything fixed. In your case, there is no such choice.

    In any case, we recommend to :
    - don't create moderator users in aMember, just give them different usernames in aMember and it will work. They can check a box "remember login" and don't worry anymore about different username in aMember.

Share This Page