January 2020 updates and beta announcement!
@anderfernandes | Wednesday, January 15, 2020 at 02:10:10 AM

In 2019, Astral received many updates and improvements, but none of them made me as proud as the ones I released at the end of the year: A full rework of cashier as well as a membership wizard and automated email alerts for field trip confirmations. Somehow, these new features were challenging and fun to work on at the same time and I am not really sure why I feel that way. However, I would defintely say that the best part of this project is still coming.

In this blog post I plan on introducing two new features: the “New Membership Wizard” and automated email alerts for upcoming field trips.

New Membership Wizard

Back in the 90’s I remember using “wizards” in Microsoft Office to get certain things done because all I had to do is give it data and it would do what I needed it to do. When I was approached to simplify the way memberships are created, I almost instantly thought of creating a wizard. Let’s take a look!

After you login into Admin, go to Members and click the “New Member Wizard” button.

The wizard is split into four parts:

1. Primary

In this step, the wizard will ask for information on the primary user. After you enter the email of the primary membership holder, Astral will check if that email is already associated with an user account. If there is, Astral will use that user as the primary in the membership and there will be no need to enter their information.

If that email is new, you will be required to enter user information such as address and phone number so that at the end of the process, a user account for the primary can be created along with the membership at the end of the wizard.

Click on the “next” button to go to the next step. It will appear only when you enter valid data in each of the fields. Double check the information entered if it doesn’t appear.

2. Details

In this step you will select which membership package that member wants. These come from Settings. Whatever membership packages you have there are going to be listed here. Select which one the prospect member wants by clicking in one of them. Next, select the start date of the membership. You can select a different date for the end date of the membership, but by default, will follow the following formula: start date = start date + duration. You can see that the duration of the memberships is 365 days. The default end date for the memberhsip will be 365 days in the future from the start date selected.

Note how each membership package option shows all of its benefits, including number of free secondaries, as well as price and length.

Click on the “next” button to go to the next step.

3. Secondaries

In this step, you will enter free and non free secondaries if necessary. Astral will make sure that you add all possible free secondaries before you start adding non free secondaries for the membership. Not adding secondaries is also okay. Again, Astral will check the emails to see if they are not associated with any user accounts. If they already exist in the database, you won’t have to enter any of their information.

One big thing I did see very common is that many secondary members had the same address as the primary. In order to speed things up you can check the box below the for for each secondary to use the primary’s address and phone so that you don’t have to type it again in case it’s the same.

You will be allowed to add only the permited number of free secondaries. There are no limit to the number of secondaries. It is up to your science center to figure out if you want to limit that or not.

You can add as many secondaries as you want on this screen. Their user accounts will be created at the end of the wizard if they don’t exist.

4. Payment

It is now time for the customer to pay for the membership. This screen will show the totals, including tax and each non free secondary added and calculate automatically. Enter the customer’s payment information and you are all good.

The next screen will show you all the data the wizard gathered. You may go back to any step to fix anything or add anything you might have missed. Make sure you got everything right. At this point, nothing (user accounts, memberships, sales, payments) has been created but it will be once you click the confirm button on the confirmation screen.

An done!!! A membership, as well as user accounts, sales and payments have been created, just like that!

Long story short, here’s what you can do with the New Member Wizard:

Automated email alerts for upcoming field trips

After the Mayborn Science Theater switched to Astral, the demand for field trips increased in a way we were not expecting. This growth caused problems when we had to confirm field trips. With most of the staff being part timers, it was hard to confirm all the field trips because someone has to call and since we are dealing with teachers, they may be in classroom during business hours. In order to solve this problem, I made it so that teachers can confirm their own reservation via email. If your instance of Astral has been updated today or later, you will have this feature. Also, if you can’t see items shown in the next few screenshots, that means that your installation is not capable of this feature. Please update to get it to work. Also, email sending should be properly configured.

In order to have automated email alerts for upcoming field trips to work, the first thing you need to do is go to Settings / General / Self Confirmaton Settings and enable it. Select how many days before each field trip the group leader on record will get the email.

Once you set it up, once a day, at the time you set, Astral will go through all sales that have events going on in whatever amount of days you have set and email the group leader responsible for them. In the case of the screenshot above, Astral will email all field trips that are happening in the next 7 days, at 7:30 AM.

One important thing to mention is that the group leader will keep getting the automated email until the sale is marked as confirmed. Hopefully the email won’t go to their spam folder. We are hoping that they confirm it themselves or call your science center to make changes and confirm.

After enabling the self confirmation alerts, the work flow is pretty simple:

The self confirmation process also adds memos when it sends the emails and when the reservation has been confirmed. The first one is a system memo and the second will have the group leader’s name.

That’s it!

Beta announcement

At this point, Astral accomplishes many things, but not everything I have envisioned. In order to get closer to that vision, we are going to recreate the entire application using better coding standards, newer technologies and a new but familiar user interface. In order to do that, we will start from scratch. The first beta of Astral will do everything it does up to this point, but better, faster and prettier. We are looking to have our first beta out sometime during the second quarter of 2020. I will be posting some of the progress here so don’t miss out.

See you next time!