I’ve been promising a refresh of Simply Syndicated and related services to go live on September 30th, as I write this it’s the 9th. I had planned to do a daily blog article about what I was working on up until the release but quickly realised that you can spend as much time and energy writing about what you’re doing as you can when actually doing the thing you’re doing. With that in mind, here’s my 22 days to go update.
Ooh it’s going to be good. If I were Google, Apple, Microsoft, or any of the big named tech companies, I’d probably have a plan of action and I’d know what I wanted to end up with. I’m not any of those big name tech companies so I have absolutely no plan and the only thing I know about what I want to end up with is that it should be better than what I currently have. It’s an interesting, and some would say irresponsible way of working. However I enjoy it because it means that the end result is almost as much of a surprise for me as it is for you.
At the moment there’s a rough design for the main part of the website. It doesn’t look that rough, but it is because it’s probably going to change dramatically. The front page of the site won’t change all that much because it doesn’t have to. Of course the front page of Simply Syndicated should be a way to quickly access the latest episodes of shows, and to present the best way to reach other parts of Simply Syndicated. That’s working as it is.
The most significant changes are going to come to the individual show pages and to Simply Everything. The main web page of a podcast can be a tricky thing. I suppose it would be easier if there was just one podcast to worry about. If that’s the case you only need a basic website. Simply Syndicated has loads of shows and they all have their own web page. There are even pages for shows that haven’t been running for years. All those pages have to stay because they’re part of Simply Everything.
In the last version of the website Simply Everything was integrated into the show pages. There’s a list of episodes you can listen to, each with their own “listen on Simply Everything” button. I really don’t like that way of doing things, especially those Simply Everything buttons. A new way of organising data is required, and that’s what I’m working on at the moment.
Sadly things aren’t that simple. The new ways of presenting this data need to fit in with what I can do with the new subscription system. Currently I’m using the Cart66 WordPress plugin to run our store system and Simply Everything. The new version of the site will use S2 Member, which comes with all sorts of different functions. Of what I know so far I can tell you the following. First of all PayPal is going. We’ve used it for years as it’s a great way for people to pay for things, and it’s handy for running subscription services. For a long time they were pretty much the only gig in town. Yes there have been other online payment systems but none of them are aimed at smaller digital retailers. If I want to pay £250 per month my bank has a brilliant online payment system I can use. I don’t want to pay £250 per month so we use PayPal. From the 30th of September we’ll be using Stripe. You’ll probably run into it right away when you sign up for the new Simply Everything. The thing that you’ll notice first is that you don’t have to have any form of special account to use it. With PayPal subscriptions you have to have a PayPal account. That’s a major barrier for some people. It’s also not possible to pay for your subscription with anything other than your PayPal account. Really that’s not the ideal way to do business. Traditionally services add PayPal payments later, they don’t make it the only way to pay for something right away. With our new system you’ll be able to sign up for Simply Everything using your credit or debit card. You don’t have to have an account with Stripe, you just need a method of payment. Heck, I could even accept Bit Coin as payment (I’m not going to though). Just this simple change in merchant services means paying for things will be quick, easy, and painless for you, and it means that Simply Everything is going to make more money because of all the things I just said. A shoddy payment system really puts people off. Not only because they can’t figure it out, but because it’s difficult to trust. Is it really going to work? Will it take my money and leave me with nothing? Until now, the answer to those questions has been a solid maybe. Soon it will be yes and no. I have to point out that Simply Syndicated still will not be storing your payment information. Credit card data is some of the most important information you can request from your customers and I simply don’t want to have it. I’ve got enough to worry about in life without taking on the task of protecting your credit card number. Stripe will take care of all of that. Your data will be safe.
The next thing I can tell you is that the entire subscription system will be different. You’ll have an account page that you can log into and make changes to your subscription. That system will happily work with Last Pass, 1 Password, or any other password protection system, unlike the current version of Simply Everything. I use those services too and I’m also annoyed by the fact that they seem to struggle with our current sign in process. It is being fixed.
The price of Simply Everything will be increasing from £4.99 per month to £5.99 per month. I know I put something out yesterday about what will be happening to current subscribers but I didn’t include that little bit. Ideally I would like to offer all current subscribers a coupon that will continue their subscription at the lower £4.99 price, however I’m not sure that that’s technically possible so there’s no way I can promise it. All I can say is that it’s something I’d like to happen and if there’s a way to implement it then I’m going to. There’s a lot hinging on what I can get S2 Member to do. It’s an extremely clever system but that just means it’s harder to work out what I can do with it.
Speaking of price, the two week free trial is returning. I must be honest and say that I never wanted to get rid of it in the first place. It was removed because the Cart 66 and PayPal never once handled it well. The idea was that you’d pay an initial payment of £0 and in two weeks time you’d be charged £4.99. The real world experience was that you’d pay £0 and in two weeks your account would shut down. There will be no more of that.
With just 22 days to go panic has set in. I’m reminded of decorating our living room a couple of years ago. Sure you can just start pulling off the wallpaper, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to pull off some of the plaster with it, and moving those wall plugs is going to be much harder than you thought because there’s not actually enough wire in the walls. I have actually been through the process of looking into nuking the entire Simply Syndicated site and starting again from scratch. We’ve been running off the same WordPress install for six years. It’s not that I’m pushing it to do anything that it isn’t intended to do, it’s just that over time crap builds up. There are database tables that don’t do anything. Loads of folders on the server that have nothing in them. Piles of images that are no longer part of any active website. You get the idea. Basically instead of decorating the living room I was willing to demolish the house and rebuild it with the living room I wanted all along. It’s a dumb idea that would have resulted in Simply Everything being completely broken for everyone trying to use it. I’m just going to have to clean things up as best I can.
I know there’s nothing too exciting about this particular update. I haven’t even started talking about new content, and all the content that hasn’t managed to make it on to Simply Everything yet. That information will be coming in a later update.
In the meantime if you have any questions, suggestions, or anything else, just give me a shout on Twitter and we can chat.