Clover Sites 3 - Q & A
Hey everyone -
As Jenny mentioned last week, we're planning on doing a much better job communicating what's going on over here at Clover. As a part of this effort, we thought it'd be great to directly answer some outstanding questions you've had about Clover Sites 3.
Rather than writing a super long blog post going over the in's and out's of what's been going on and where we're heading, Jim and I thought it would be best to do a simple Q & A on our blog. Hopefully this way it will be easier to digest (and you can skip over the items you don't really care about).
Why has Clover Sites 3 been taking so long?
I think Jim and I feel the weight of this question more than anyone. When we made the first version of Clover Sites, it took just over three months. The second version took a year and a half. By the time we launch Clover Sites 3, it will have been nearly three years from when we started.
One of the reasons is that the last six years of real time has been about 50 years in web time. Websites and web platforms are expected to do a lot more than they used to.
Another reason is we’ve had to design and code absolutely every piece of CS3 from scratch. It’s a totally new product. (And we couldn’t use anything from the current version, because it’s in a completely different technology).
Bottom line, though, if we could have launched last year, I would have given my left arm to make it happen.
Why haven’t you announced a release date?
If I were you, I’d probably have asked this question every three months for the past couple years. We understand how crucial it is for some of you to have an accurate timeline so you can make plans for your site.
The simple answer to this is that we just couldn’t have done it yet. When we started, we would have probably said “late 2012”. It is really that difficult to estimate a timeline for a project of this scale (and one with so many new elements that no one has ever done before).
After missing past dates (sometimes painfully… ahem, Greenhouse 2.0), we realized that it was probably better to not give a specific timeline than to provide one that we don’t hit. While this creates a buffer for us, it doesn’t help you. We’re still working on finding the right balance, but moving forward, our plan is to stay in constant communication with you and to be more transparent. This way, when the official CS3 launch date nears, you are not only informed, but you also know exactly what it’s taken to get there.
Seriously, though. When is the new version launching?
We are pushing really hard for October 20th.
For the last few months, this has been our internal deadline. We have (literally) about a hundred pages worth of project planning details to get us to that day, but there is also a good chance that additional details will come up. We have always made the choice to release a better product a little later, than to sacrifice quality to hit a deadline. We’ll do our absolute best to release CS3 by October 20th, but we want to make sure that the version we launch is right for you.
I still don’t believe Clover Sites 3 is ever coming out. Are you guys actually working over there?
Our team is allowed to see their families on the second Tuesday of each month. Other than that, they stay in their work cages. Don’t worry, the CA Department of Labor is cool with it. We gave them a free website.
In all seriousness, though, our team has been working harder than we’ve ever seen them. You’ve probably also read that we’ve hired three more developers in recent months (after interviewing 25+ others!), and are working with outside designers and developers.
We know that there are other companies who came out with HTML5 website platforms over the last couple years. We also know that one of the reasons so many of you have chosen to stay with Clover anyway is because of how well our product works and how easy it is to use. And because of the care we put into every site design.
It might be tempting to slap together an off-the-shelf solution for our core editor, or to cut corners to ship a new product on a tight deadline, but as you already know, that is not something we will ever do.
We believe in quality, and it takes ten times longer to make a product that works amazingly well and doesn’t require a brain surgeon to learn. A lot of solutions out there today use a third-party system as their starting point and at most slap a semi-custom layer on top of it to get something out the door fast.
It probably goes without saying, but we believe that products that are created from the ground up with the people who will use them in mind, are remarkably better than the ones that aren’t.
Ok, I’ll step down off my soapbox now.
Either way, when you use CS3, we hope you’ll agree that the extra time we’ve spent creating it has been worth it.
Why has there been so much time between updates on your blog?
This is something we just have to apologize for. I’d like to say that we’ve been so busy working on CS3 that we haven’t had time to talk about it. This is true, but it’s a bad excuse. And we recognize that the radio silence on our end can make it feel like no work is going on.
We have (finally) hired a communications manager who will be doing a much better job of keeping you regularly up to date. We’re hoping she’ll bridge the gap between our development team and the rest of the world!
What features will CS3 have?
There are so many new things in the works that they won’t fit in a short answer. In the next few months, we’ll start posting them all in detail.
We’re attempting to address the major feedback you’ve given us over the years - hidden pages, multiple Greenhouse users, full site on mobile, more control over fonts/colors, embedding html and social media plugins, etc, etc. You can read more about some of CS3’s features in our earlier posts.
There are also several big, new features that are hard to describe in a bulleted list. One of the biggest is that you’ll be able to make multiple sections on each page. This will give you a ton more freedom to add content and style it in interesting ways. But again, we’ll explain everything in more detail as we go on.
What aren't you going to launch with?
It’s been a process of difficult decisions, but with all of the new features, there are also a few things that CS3 won’t have when it first launches.
Here are the major features that won’t be included in the initial version:
- Password protected pages
Just to make it clear, these features will be included in CS3, just not at the moment we launch.
We definitely recognize that every feature we currently offer is highly important, and that not launching with these initially is a big deal. Unfortunately, there’s just no way we can squeeze them in without pushing off the launch date much further. In the meantime, we’ll be recommending other tools that you can use until we launch these additional features. You can even get started with many of them now if you’d like.
The good news is, we have a comprehensive list of features that we’ll be continuing to add, starting immediately after the initial launch. We’re also planning to release a roadmap of when we’ll be completing each new feature so you’ll know what to expect, and when.
Finally, we’re approaching this product and all future ones differently than we ever have before. Instead of large updates that come out every few months, we’ll be making much more frequent improvements and feature releases across all our products.
Will CS3 be easy to use?
We certainly hope so! This is one of our core values. And although we’re adding a lot of features and freedom, we’re making sure to include as much “magic” as possible, to ensure that things just work and look beautiful without requiring knowledge of design or programming.
We’re also creating this version of the Greenhouse with the easy and advanced mode toggle (like we did for Clover Donations). We think this does an amazing job of balancing power and simplicity.
How much will it cost?
CS3 will continue to cost $1000 and $20 / month. And even though CS3 is a completely new product, we’ll be giving it away as a free upgrade for all our current sites customers.
Most companies make their money by charging for new versions of software. We’re really excited that we can provide this new product for free, and just serve the church and your ministries without worrying about how it affects our bottom line.
Do we have to upgrade, or can we keep our current site?
This might sound like a crazy question, since most of you who are reading this have been chomping at the bit for CS3 for two years now. But there is another side to our customer base that doesn’t necessarily want the latest technology and who don’t like thinking about needing to change their site soon.
You will not be forced to upgrade to CS3. We will be continuing to support the current version of Clover Sites and at this point, we’re actually planning on continuing to sell it.
I don’t care about Clover Sites 3. What’s happening with Clover Donations?
We have a lot of upcoming features planned for Clover Donations. And like with Clover Sites, we wish we could have done them yesterday.
One great thing that has changed is that we have a large enough team now to devote resources to multiple projects at once. So our plan is to start working to add new features to Clover Donations as soon as CS3 launches.
By the way, if it’s left up to us, we’ll continue to make more and more great tools for the church until we’ve built an enduring legacy of life-changing software.
Speaking of which, there is a small side project we’ll be announcing soon that we’re very excited about. (Don’t worry, we outsourced all the programming so we wouldn’t delay CS3!)