…Annnnnd, we’re back! It has been just over a year since the last post, but as promised, the site rolls on. As this is being written, towards the end of March 2016, a major revamping of both this site and the AOM Skins template site has taken place, with sleek, modern looks, and now fully responsive.
However, the bigger news of course is that the next upgrade, V6, is underway. A few people have written in lately, asking for a status report. Rather than continue to reply to these requests individually, I’ve decided to address the AOM community at large. But before we go any further into details about the upgrade, let’s review our current status for the benefit of new users.
As most of you should know, we are still using v5.6.0, which was released back in July 2014, nearly two years ago. I’m sure some of you have been asking – why has it been so long? There are several very good reasons why there have been no further upgrades until now. First and foremost is that little has changed on Amazon’s side. It’s no secret that Amazon’s API data feed (which Associate-O-Matic and similar products use) is just a drop in the bucket compared with their overall business. The majority of their business comes from people shopping directly on their website, with a sizable fraction using text ads, widgets, banner ads, etc. Even their own online shopping portals, such as the aStore and recently shuttered WebStores have never impacted their total sales to any significant degree (BTW, anyone claiming that “14,000” customers are using their Amazon-affiliated product is almost certainly making it up).
So there’s not a lot of pressure to spend much time or money on continuing to develop the API. Amazon could probably get by just fine without it if they had to (in my opinion). Consequently, little or nothing has changed in the API since v5.6.0 went online. Part of the reason this site has been dormant for nearly a year is because there was little left to say that was new. This current version has also been very stable, perhaps the most since v4.5.0. A few little oddities have turned up recently, such as items displaying the back instead of the front image (a problem with t-shirts, books, etc.), and the built-in shopping cart not displaying items unless you click the ‘View Cart’ button a second time. We believe these are the result of tweaks on Amazon’s side of things. So in terms of bug fixes, the time is ripe for addressing these niggling pitfalls (as well as other, smaller glitches that require a fix).
Another factor is that while the status quo has held steady all this time, Justin and I have pursued other things we’ve wanted or needed to do (as I alluded to in my last post back in May, 2015). Like everyone, we both have families and responsibilities away from AOM. Even if you know there are things that need addressed, it’s not always easy to make the time to do so. I apologize to anyone who has been waiting for the upgrade, or some particularly detailed resolution, but time is always the enemy. Anyone who has opened a Support ticket in the past year knows that they do get a response (and usually an answer) PDQ; it’s never been the case that the helm has been left unattended. But until these aforementioned bugs turned up, things have been quiet on the development front.
So we’ve both taken advantage of the quiet time for our own personal reasons. It can, and has been difficult to now get the time set aside to spend the hours of focus required in order to create an upgrade. Slowly but surely however, the hours are being carved out. The reason I’m explaining this in detail is get the point across that while the upgrade is definitely underway, we do not yet have any idea when it will be released. A number of internal deadlines for various things have been set and missed for one reason or another; so we’ve decided that in order to keep the pressure off, we will no longer attempt to work to a deadline. The upgrade will be ready when it will be ready. Having said that, I can also say that progress has been good the past few weeks, and things look set to continue. We know everyone wants to upgrade right now, but we do ask your indulgence in order to make the upgrade as good as it can be. There are upcoming windows of opportunity where we hope to cover a lot of ground.
Okay; that’s the state of the nation at the moment. Now, what can I tell you about the upgrade that’s confirmed?
The big news is that it will include an updated, fully responsive, new template. Here are some screenshots (note that all images are still provisional and subject to change).
The new template has been tested down to a screen width of 240 pixels, and with current versions of FireFox, Chrome and Edge. Because of Windows 10 and the number of people who have taken advantage of the free upgrade from Win 7/8, it has been decided to not worry about any compatibility issues with Internet Explorer. We are aware of very minor display issues with IE8 (in XP!), but if later versions of IE have any difficulty, they should be at least no worse than 8 (if at all). Some features such as the Mall Home Page option and the built-in Sitemap have been totally revamped to collapse the columns gracefully as screen width changes. A new scrolling tab option is available, and the header section has been revamped from the ground up to make all options accessible as well as stylish. For mobile users, a ‘Back to Top’ hover button will save having to manually scroll back up, and the side columns also have new space-saving features to keep from wearing out your finger while navigating the site. Some buttons are oversized in small displays, to make them easy to tap, and the shopping cart has been remodeled fully in CSS, removing the last vestiges of HTML table code.
Some of you have taken advantage of the Default Responsive theme currently available at AOM Skins. While this new theme does use some code from that layout, it is not a simple rehash. The DR theme tried to adhere as closely as possible to the look of the original AOM template. This new theme throws most of that out the window, and asks, “How can this be improved?”. If it could be improved, it was (hopefully); otherwise it was left as is. The result should be a stable platform to allow you to customize your AOM site in a multitude of ways.
As we draw closer to completing v6, we will try to keep everyone updated on our progress. Our goal is to get it out the door and into your hands as soon as we can.