Current Projects

The last 12 months have largely been spent rearchitecting large portions of the application.  This can be extremely time consuming, even for some of the best developers in the world. Recoding and refactoring the backend, while simultaneously launching a new front end framework requires a lot of man hours.   The good news is that we are currently working on two projects which will update two very important components of the application and will be very visible once launched.

Online Booking Pages

The Lodgix online booking pages have not been changed since the launch of the company in 2008.  Much is required of the interfaces and much is required of the code powering those pages:

  1. Mobile friendly.  Super important to have the pages make booking as easy as possible on phones and tablets.
  2. Simplicity.  A move to a one or two page booking process is essential.
  3. Skinning.   Lodgix users need much greater flexibility in skinning the look and feel of the Lodgix booking pages to match their website.
  4. Customization.   The ability to add / edit fields in the booking form, as well as to make certain field mandatory are super important.
  5. Design.   Updated, fresh design to make the booking process easy and simple on all screen sizes.
  6. Integration of new travel insurance partner.  Optional ability to offer travel insurance during the booking process.

and much, much more.

We are two weeks into the development process.  I should have some screenshots available soon!

Merged Rates and Rules

Lodgix currently has separate interfaces to setup nightly, weekly, monthly and per person rates.   Then we have separate interfaces to setup minimum night stay, arrival day and departure day rules.  All of that property setup can be time consuming.   Yes, we offer property cloning, rate / rule copy, etc..   However even with that, adding and updating rates / rules requires too much time.

Our new interfaces will allow all rates and rules to be setup on one page and will make the updating of those rates / rules for future periods a simple component of the universal property interface.

This project has been in progress in various stages since the summer of 2015.   The next stage will be an interim stage, still using our old display framework, but merging all current rates / rules.   The backend code will be completely new, but we will utilize the old display framework to ease the transition and testing to a completely new property setup process.

I expect we’ll start testing the new code in a couple of weeks and then perhaps a couple of weeks after that we’ll launch it to the production server.   So barring any huge fires, possibly a June 1 launch of the interim interfaces.   We’ll then move immediately to begin coding the new interfaces which will make things all nice and pretty and even more simple!

Imagine being able to say, “i’d like all my properties to reflect a 10% increase for 2017” and then making one change, applying it to all properties and five seconds later, all of your rates are 10% higher in 2017.

Or perhaps demand is running ahead of last year and you want to make an adjustment to your primary season pricing for all remaining available dates by increasing rates 5%, click a button, make the adjustment, apply to the correct dates and to individual or all properties and wah lah!  The change is complete.

This will set the stage nicely for more advanced automated yield management in the future!

HomeAway adding Pay Per Booking Model

as I predicted long ago…..the fools that are vacation rental owners and managers will sign up in droves, even though it will cost them 3 to 4x what an annual flat paid listing would cost.

http://news.investors.com/092713-672818-homeaway-users-like-new-pay-per-booking-model.htm?ven=yahoocp&src=aurlled&ven=yahoo

I guess I need to start offering pay per booking as a model on Lodgix? Since it seems vacation rental owners and managers are so happy to throw their money away….I can see it now, “All Lodgix subscriptions are now FREE! Pay just 3% of all bookings!”

I am sure I would get a ton of new customers as a result…but I just can’t do it.  I simply think that pay for performance is a dirty model that takes advantage of what Rush Limbaugh calls the “low information voter”.

Please enlighten me where a model like this is a good deal for the subscriber?

Email Deliverability

Lodgix requires specific permission to “send emails on your behalf”.  This requires the Lodgix subscriber to configure their SPF (Sender Policy Framework) records for their domain and make a change within the important settings area of Lodgix.  Once complete, Lodgix can send emails on your behalf and emails delivered from Lodgix to your guests will appears as though they were sent from your domain.

If you do not have SPF records configured for your domain, then Lodgix historically has sent all guest emails from “noreply@lodgix.com” with the reply-to address sent to the primary contact defined within Lodgix.

Recently many email service providers made some changes which resulted in some emails from noreply@lodgix.com being marked as spam.  We’ve done some research and apparently, noreply@ addresses add points to the spam filter algorithms that many email service providers use to determine if an email is considered spam or not.  Thus each email is assigned a score which varies according to how the email is being scored.  In some instances the additional points assigned as a result of “noreply@” email address was enough for the email not to be delivered.

As a result we changed the noreply@lodgix.com address to mtalodgix@lodgix.com, and now email is being delivered as normal.

Setting up your SPF Records

I can’t encourage you enough to find a local computer guru and setup your SPF records.  This action assures that the highest level of email deliverability and it presents your brand in a consistent manner for all guest communications.

For those of your that have a gmail.com or some other email service provider address as your primary contact address and not an address like “info@yourdomain.com”, you will have to work with your developer / computer guru to:

  1. define a new email address for your domain.
  2. setup the spf records for that domain to allow Lodgix to send emails on your behalf.
  3. Enable send emails on your behalf with settings > important settings
  4. Configure Gmail or your alternative inbox to fetch mail from your new email account, so you aren’t having to manually check two separate inboxes, etc.

All pretty simple stuff for someone who knows what they are doing.

More instructions can be found here:

http://docs.lodgix.com/s/vacation-rental/m/5502/l/84226-using-an-external-email-domain

 

New PDF Renderer is Being Tested

We recently upgraded and consolidated our HTML editors across Lodgix to the latest version of ckEditor. This is great and allows much more flexibility when creating pretty emails that you want sent to your guests. ckEditor was also implemented within the PDF templates area of the application, replacing fckEditor which was old and outdated.

So now we have this beautiful new editor, with many new features but we are still using an old PDF rendering engine that doesn’t support most of the more advanced HTML now possible with ckEditor. What to do? The most logical solution is to replace the PDF rendering engine with something better!

The problem with this is that the PDF rendering engines are tricky. It’s just not real easy for a pdf renderer to support all the various types of formatting and styling allowed by HTML and CSS1, CSS2 and CSS3. Our old renderer works well on the existing templates we designed because we designed them specifically to work well on the old renderer.

The new renderer might cause some small (or large) styling issues on existing templates. We are going to do our best to limit styling issues, but we do need to improve the renderer to allow subscribers to create much nicer looking PDFs that more closeley match what you create in ckEditor. That’s really the issue, is trying to match as closely as possible what you see in ckEditor in the PDF that is create using the rendering engine. With our current rendering engine only simple documents will render correctly.

So be prepared, there may be some editing of existing PDF templates required to have them render correctly using the new editor. Hopefully the changes will be small, but please bear with us as we work to make the system better for everybody!

Blogging from Beech Mountain, NC

I sort of stumbled into taking a short working sabbatical. My wife is attending photography school for the week and my in-laws volunteered to come down from Minnesota to spend some time with the kids. So for the time really since I got engaged and married eight years ago, I’ve got five days all to myself!

Hmmm..what to do, where to go? Ultimately, I am cheap and when traveling alone I don’t really care much about where I stay. I just know that I need high speed Internet as I must work and I need my phone to work. To that end, I ended up in Beech Mountain, NC. I’ll be writing more about this place tomorrow but needless to say I’ve never been and it’s very cool if you like the outdoors.

This quick blog post is just a little blurb about entrepreneurship. Some would argue that you must create a business to get “huge”, if you aren’t thinking of growing large, you will fail. I’ve read those books. I understand their point and they might be more right than wrong, but sometimes I think growing large is less about the thought of growing large and more about growing large as the by-product of working hard, being innovative and staying organized.

Lodgix started small and we are still small. But yet we’ve somehow managed to grow to 8000+ properties under management and are on track to facilitate over $100 million (that’s right million) in total bookings this year. That’s cool. I mean it’s a heck of a lot of work, and there are many trials and tribulations, but overall it’s rewarding to be able to build a product that more and more and more people want to use to manage their business. It’s satisfying to help people by providing a product that is unique and innovative in it’s approach to vacation rental (and customer) management.

I discovered a couple of other entrepreneurs who have some very good advice to other entrepreneurs or entrepreneur-wannabes, one of them comes right out and says “don’t do it” and the other uses micro-entrepreneur examples to illustrate some key points. Take a look:

CEO of Evernote, Phil Lubin, “Don’t Do It”.

Six-Figure Businesses Built for Less than a $100

Anyways, thought I’d share those articles. It’s Sunday and blogging is not a lot of fun, a nap sounds much better. Until tomorrow.