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iPhone App Users – Meet WorshipPlanning.com Mobile

October 4, 2011 Leave a comment

WorshipPlanning.com Mobile DevicesAfter much discussion among our team, we have decided the future of accessing WorshipPlanning.com on all mobile devices will be via the mobile website version of WP rather than a native app, like something from the App Store or Android Market. We are very excited about this decision because we truly believe it will offer the best user-experience for a broader range of mobile devices.

All you have to do is point your mobile device’s web browser to http://wplan.me, and sign in. Like the main website, there is nothing to install, authorize, or sync. You might even consider removing the WorshipPlanning.com app you installed from the App Store, since this new way of accessing it will give you more functionality with better performance.

Here are the specific reasons we think you’ll love the new mobile version:

1. HTML5 is as good as native apps – Unless you’re programming math- or graphics-intensive applications, the technology in modern mobile browsers (known as HTML5) allows developers to create interfaces as good as, or better than, native apps. In fact, the current mobile version of WorshipPlanning.com (we’ll call it WPM) actually does more and performs better than our iPhone app.

2. Shorter development cycles – Coding native apps for all the different smartphones out there requires specialized skill-sets and complex project coordination, costly from both time and financial perspectives. We already know how to code web pages and WPM is simply an extension of that knowledge. We can update WPM as fast as we can update the main WP website. The native iPhone app requires at least a week for Apple to approve each version update (no matter how small).

3. Instant updates – Just like the main site, when we do roll-out updates, you’ll see them instantly without having to wait for approval from Apple and then manually update the app on your device.

4. One app, many devices – WPM is smart enough to detect device attributes like screen size and OS type. This means we can make WPM show different features depending on the capabilities of your device….all from one site (one web address, one code base).

5. Launch WPM from a home screen icon, just like a native app – In just a few steps, you can create a shortcut to WPM from your home screen. After doing this, you’ll probably even forget that it isn’t actually a native app.

Many developers are moving away from native apps in favor of web-based mobile apps for the reasons we’ve described above (among others). The technology is here to make this a seamless experience for users. We loved being able to say we have a native iPhone app; but we believe our mobile users will be much better served with the new web-based mobile app of WorshipPlanning.com.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post a comment or contact us via our support site: http://support.worshipplanning.com

iPhone App – Finally!

WorshipPlanning.com iPhone AppThe big news we have been waiting for has finally arrive. The WP iPhone app was approved by Apple this afternoon, and we are delighted! It is now available in the App Store (just search for “Worship Planning”). Once installed, you may notice the version number on the splash screen to be 0.9rc2. If we had our druthers, it would have said version 1.0. But the source code is virtually identical. In the confusion to get Apple to approve our app (see our June 15th blog post), this 0.9rc2 version was submitted instead of version 1.0. Again, they both contain the exact same code, just a different version number.

What you can expect from this app is functionality similar to MyWP. Future releases will certainly contain functionality that more closely resembles the main site. But for this release we wanted an app that had features used by both Planners and Helpers.

So, feel free t

o install and give it a try. We look forward to your feedback to help shape the future releases. And, as always, if you have any questions or issues, feel free to give us a call (1-877-399-3342) or send us an email (support[at]worshipplanning.com).

O iPhone App, Where Art Thou?

June 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I know many of you are wondering this exact question. The short answer is that it appears to be “stuck” in Apple. Read on….

Back in February and March, a few dozen WorshipPlanning.com users beta tested the iPhone app we developed. By the time beta testing was done, it was receiving very positive reviews by most beta testers. On March 24th, we submitted it to the App Store for review. A few days later, Apple moved it from the initial “Pending” queue, to the the “In Review” queue. For 8 weeks, it sat in this queue, despite my email pleas for Apple to do something with it. We would have even settled for a rejection so that we could fix whatever the problem was and resubmit it. But Apple only responded to one of our emails, stating something to the effect of “Don’t bug us. We’ll tell you when we are done.”

On May 27th (9 weeks after the original submission), we removed the seemingly-stalled app from the review process, and resubmitted it. Our hope was that by resubmitting, the app would not fall into the mysterious black hole that the previous submission had. A few days later, it entered the “In Review” status (again) and we detected they were actually testing the app (we got an assignment response notification). That was about two weeks ago. At the time of this blog post, the app is still “In Review”, and our frustration is on the rise again.

So, what is our next steps? If there is no change in status by this Friday, we will begin sending emails to Apple in hopes they give us some indication of what is going on, or what is wrong with our app. If we ever find that out, it will be our highest priority to get it fixed. In the meantime, we will resume our plans to develop Android and Blackberry apps, as well as the Facebook app. And, of course, we will be praying about it.

I sincerely apologize for the delays. We are so very excited to make this app available to you.

WP Version 3.9 Update and iPhone App Status

April 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Greetings WP’ers! It has been a little while since we’ve posted an update, but that certainly doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy. This Sunday night (April 18th) we will update WorshipPlanning.com to version 3.9. There are a couple significant changes you will notice right away, and many other subtle changes that will simply make your experience using WP smoother.

The biggest change Planners will notice is an extremely helpful menu system that makes getting to the pages you need quick and efficient. For those with the proper security settings, creating a service, series, or new Planner account is always just one click away.

The other significant change we made was to the worship pages (flow, roles, etc.). Our goal for this page was to more efficiently and intuitively use the space on the page. Rather than describe the changes, take a look at the screenshot below.

This shows one of the menus opened (when you hover over the Service navigation link), as well as how we’ve cleaned up one of the worship pages. The space above the worship tabs is now more efficiently used to show the general service info. We also pushed the date/time/location of the service into the top blue banner. The left side now has the clickable calendar opened by default, and the various team panels listed below. And, by the way, if you are using Internet Explorer, many of the nice rounded corners you see in this screenshot will appear squared off. That’s simply a limitation of IE (and one of the many reasons we recommend using FireFox or Chrome).

Here is a few other enhancements we made that might interest you:

– Planners can now indicate their own skills
– Helpers can specify their own profile picture
– Fixed a number of graphic design inconsistencies
– Fixed a number of mixed term references (i.e. “finalized” vs. “locked”)
– Improved process by which user passwords are changed (more intuitive and secure)

For those looking ahead, let me share with you a few things in the development cycle right now. First, we are nearly done with a feature update that will allow Planners to upload multiple files at once. We are also working on some very cool enhancements to the Songs Library page(s), which will include the ability to create “sub-libraries” of songs. This should make finding and organizing songs much easier and personalized. Finally (as in, that last one I am going to mention here), we are looking into making mobile versions of MyWP available for Android and Blackberry devices. For an update on the iPhone app we’ve developed, read on….

iPhone App Status
Most of you know we have developed and beta tested an iPhone app for WorshipPlanning.com. We had great feedback from the gracious folks that were willing to help us make the app the best it could be (for version 1.0). The app was submitted to Apple for review on March 24, and it is still officially “in review” by their app development review team.

This review stage is taking longer than we expected, though it is still well within the “typical” timeframe, according to Apple. We suspect the cause for delay might be the influx of iPad apps they now have to review. As soon as we learn more about our app’s approval status, we’ll certainly pass that information along to you.

WP iPhone App…Testers Wanted

February 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Our iPhone app is oh so close to Testing phase. If you are interested in helping test and being the first to use this slick extension of WorshipPlanning.com, we invite you to sign up now using the link at the bottom of this post. Here are answers to a few questions you might have:

Q: Can anyone be a tester?
A: We have a few requirements.

  • Own an iPhone or iPod Touch.
  • Have a Planner or Helper account with a church that is currently subscribed to WorshipPlanning.com (no trial accounts).
  • Be willing to give us feedback on the app.
  • We are also putting a limit on the number of testers, so if you want to sign up, don’t dilly dally.

Q: When will the app be ready to install?
A: We are hoping around the middle of February.

Q: How long will the test phase last?
A: It depends on the kind of feedback we get. Ideally, a month of testing would be nice. But if our testers find many things we need to fix for the first public release, it could be longer.

Q: How will I provide feedback on my experiences?
A: A few times throughout the test phase we will create some brief online surveys using our 360WP site. If you need immediate support, or just can’t wait to give us your thoughts, we’ll ask that you use our Support Center (http://support.worshipplanning.com) to contact us.

Q: What can I do with the app?
A: The app offers most of the functionality of the MyWP pages: view services, respond to assignments, access contact info of team members, download (some) files. If you find it is missing functionality you’d like on your mobile device, let us know. We plan on updating the app on a pretty regular basis.

Q: What happens after the test phase?
A: Once we certify the public release version as being ready, we will submit it to the App Store. Current estimates for app approval by Apple are up to 3 weeks.

Q: Will the app cost anything from the App Store?
A: No, the app will be free. Of course, it will only be useful to people with accounts in WP.

Q: Will trial accounts be able to use the App Store version?
A: Yes.

Q: Once I sign up to be a tester, what will happen next?
A: When the app is ready for you to install, we’ll email you a couple of files and the instructions on how to install it (using iTunes 9). Then, you’ll need to take an old ball cap, write “Quality Assurance Tester” on the front of it, and wear it whenever you run the app.

12 Tips for Using Click Tracks in Worship

Or, how my team survived aural water-boarding…

A few weeks back I wrote about The Most Loved (And Hated) Member of My Team: the click track.

I won’t go into all the background of how we got to the point of using it all the time, but here’s a quick review of why:

Since “the band” every Sunday is actually a different combination of rotating instruments, we don’t have the luxury of putting in the hours and days and months it takes to get tight.

I went on to say that,

If you have rotating musicians, you know that creating a tight sound is tough. The first step in playing tight is playing in time. We leverage the click to keep us all together.

The carpenter uses a level.metronome

The baker uses a measuring cup.

The accountant uses a calculator.

Even the freehand of an artist paints within the confines of a canvas.

Our tool for tightness is the click track.

So I wanted to follow up that post with 12 practical tips for using a click:

1. Start simple. 
Just use a metronome that has a headphone jack out and the the ability to subdivide (we’ll get to that in a minute). Don’t try to learn Ableton or other loops based stuff. Just learn to play with a click first.

2. Sell the right people.
There will be a backlash (See #10). So as you’re starting down this path, get key members of your team to buy in and help support the decision to use a click.

3. Learn this mantra: “Better to be together than right.” 
I’m not sure it’s the exact words of the venerable Carl Albrecht, drummer extraordinaire with Paul Baloche and others. But I heard him say it at a worship conference as he was exhorting drummers to turn off the click if the band gets too far off. His point: You can stay with the click and be “right,” but it won’t sound good. Just get back with the team and hold to the tempo as best as you can.

4. Learn how to bail. 
Because of #3, the person operating the metronome (most likely the drummer) needs to know how to shut if off quick in those moments of irreversible dragging and rushing.

5. Subdivide. 
It is SOO much easier to stay on tempo if there is a subdivision of the beat. For most songs, having the eighths in is enough. For really slow songs, sixteenths will give you that extra connection between downbeats that you need. Most modern digital metronomes do this.

6. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Warning: the beeping of most metronomes can cause the loss of one’s sanctification. And if the volume is too loud in your in-ears, that aural water-boarding turns into a sonic icepick traveling horizontally through your head.

If you can find something that makes a more natural woodblock sound, great. However, the click does need to be a high enough pitch so it won’t get lost in the mix.

Just a side note: I actually prefer my iPhone’s $4 Tempo Advance metronome app’s click sound to one on our far more expensive Boss DB60.

7. Make individual practice a priority.
If the team practices with a click on their own, the learning curve will go so much faster. And don’t forget to “strongly encourage” your singers to practice with a click. They don’t like to admit it, but vocalists are some of the biggest culprits of tempo issues. Many are used to the fluid flow of a choir, or the accommodating accompaniment of the lone piano player.

8. Use only in rehearsal (at first).
Don’t push your team too far, too fast. Start in rehearsals where train wrecks are far less fatal. But don’t stay in practice-mode forever. Have a ‘go live’ date and stick to it.

9. Require everyone on in-ears to turn up the click.
Occasionally, I plug into another team member’s Aviom (personal monitor mixer) and wonder what in the world they’re singing/playing too (other than themselves). If a player is on in-ears (and that’s my whole team now), they’re strongly urged to turn up the click in their ears.

10. Be prepared for emotional outbursts.
Yes, really. For the uninitiated, playing to a click is akin to hearing your voice recorded for the first time. Most of us don’t realize how poor our timing truly is. The click track is this full-length, unforgiving, magnifying mirror that shows every last tempo blemish and blackhead.

Its ugly.

But that’s why people need to practice on their own.

11. Put tempo markings on your charts.
If you want people to practice on their own with a click, you’d better add tempo markings to the charts. And don’t be afraid to stray from the original recording tempos. Find what feels right for your team.

12. Keep after it.
When you go live for the first time, don’t get discouraged that you had to turn it off in the middle of EVERY song. That’s OK. Keep working on it at the next rehearsal, and try again the next Sunday.

I don’t remember when the first Sunday was that we finally didn’t have to turn the click off. But now, we’ve been doing it long enough that I don’t remember the last time we had to stop it in a service.

I’m telling you, the click track has really made us better, and better than we actually are. The experience of playing with a click has given us all a better sense of time. And the unifying factor of the click really does make us tighter as a band.

For discussion – how have you migrated to using a click? Any other points and tips for using a metronome or click with your team?

If you’re just starting down this path, any questions this post didn’t answer?

(This article was originally posted on WorshipTeamCoach.com. Used by permission.)

SongSelect Integration and WPMobile Updates

September 29, 2011 3 comments
SongSelect by CCLI

A few weeks ago, CCLI enabled a technology that allows services like WorshipPlanning.com to integrate directly with their SongSelect service.  This means is that SongSelect account holders will be able to search and import SongSelect songs right from your WorshipPlanning.com account.  You’ll even be able to import the chord sheet (if available) directly, in the key of your choice.

The SongSelect integration features is in active development here at WP, and we hope to have it ready for you by the end of October.

WP Mobile Update

WP Mobile ReorderWe recently made an exciting first step with the WP Mobile site (WPM) that’s in the direction I know many Planners have been wanting WPM to go.  If you are a worship editor (security level 1) or higher, you can now change the worship flow order.  This may seem small, but believe me when I say that adding and editing worship flow elements is not too far behind.  And shortly after that will be the ability to manage team schedules.

For those of you using the native iPhone app, we strongly encourage you to try the mobile site.  Most people agree it performs much better, and it already has more functionality (including the ability to scrub through MP3s and view PDFs).  You can easily access the mobile site by pointing your device to http://wplan.me. (accessing this link with your computer will take you to the main WP site, so feel free to use it on your desktop/laptop as well!)

Updated Audio Player

June 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Updated Audio GUI

We are excited to tell you that the audio player in WorshipPlanning.com has been updated (finally!) with an interface that is much more useful.  The biggest feature improvement is the added scrub bar.  And a less-obvious feature that you’ll soon reap the benefits of is that this new player supports several different audio formats.  We’ve got a little more work to do before that is ready, but it is coming.

This new audio player was actually first implemented in our new mobile app, which is currently accessible to Android and iPhone/iPod/iPad devices (see our blog post for more details).  In fact, we recently updated the mobile app player to fix a known scrub bar issue for Android devices.

Happy listening!

WorshipPlanning.com Mobile – Public Beta Now Live

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment

WorshipPlanning.com Mobile App

WorshipPlanning.com Mobile (WPM) is a mobile version of WorshipPlanning.com for Android and Apple devices.  Many of the functions you can do in MyWP can also be done in WPM, with more functionality on the way.  WPM differs from the native iPhone app in several ways:

  1. Performance is much improved.
  2. The audio player is more functional, and other types of attachments (including PDFs) can be accessed.
  3. It runs in the mobile browser, as opposed to an app that needs to be installed (though we plan on making WPM be the update to the native app).

Ready to give at a try?  On your mobile device, point your mobile web browser to: http://m.worshipplanning.com (NOTE: If you go to this web address on a regular computer, you’ll be redirected to the main WP site.)

Keep in mind, since this is a pre-release (beta) version you may encounter some bugs.  Feel free to report them via our support center.  We are already aware that the scrub bar (audio fast forward and rewind) does not function properly for Android devices.

WorshipPlanning.com Mobile

May 19, 2011 3 comments

WP Mobile

The wait will soon be over, smartphone fans.  In just a few weeks, we expect to roll out a version of WorshipPlanning.com that is designed to run in the mobile browser of most fairly-current smartphones on the market.  The initial functionality will be similar to the current iPhone app, but  more responsive and polished.  Here are some reasons we are really excited about this mobile web version:

  • Android owners will finally have mobile access to their WorshipPlanning.com data, with the ability to respond to assignments, view service and song details, access contact info, and listen to audio.
  • iOS owners will be able see an improved audio player, be able to open PDFs, and submit notes with their assignment responses.
  • We will be able to develop and deploy more functionality much more easily (read “a lot quicker”) than before.  If you, the user community, like how the mobile web version works, we should be able to easily leverage what we’ve done to make device-specific apps (including tablet apps!).
So, keep an eye on our blog, tweets, and facebook updates!