Support » Plugin: The Events Calendar » Great at First; Tread Lightly When Customizing (~3.5 Stars)

  • This is the best calendar plugin I know and it’s the one I use on all my projects. Calendar plugins are tough to do right and The Events Calendar does a lot of things right.

    Major-point releases (e.g. 3.X) are almost always quickly followed by minor-point releases (e.g. 3.X.X) so I would recommend waiting a week or two before updating.

    The general single event and events layouts are very attractive and they’ve done some great things with their responsive layouts. Creating a single event is really easy and for the most basic use-cases this plugin works perfectly straight out of the box.

    I really like the saved Venue & Organizer features (and am glad they brought them from PRO to the free version), though I find that clients have a strangely hard time using them. A long time ago, I had suggested to the plugin developers that they provide an edit link for events or venues selected on single event pages so users understand its easy to edit. It sounded like that was going to happen, but it looks like that feature never made it in. I still think it would be a great idea.

    The PRO version and paid (tickets, facebook import, user submitted events) and free [third-party] add-ons (I love the event category colors) really help make this plugin its own little WordPress ecosphere that feels quite vibrant and safe to bet on for the coming years. (Knock on wood.)

    Starting at 5 stars and working backwards, a full star gets lost here for backwards compatibility and ease of modifications. The 2.X-to-3.X conversion required a lot of work on any sites that had template customizations. Particularly the widget template override file is really bloated and not that easy to work with. Even the recent change in 3.8 that dropped the /upcoming and /past URLs left some of my clients with 404 errors on their pages. Giving either a bigger heads up or taking care of adding redirects would have been nice. While there are certainly many different ways to use this plugin, sometimes I feel like the new versions aren’t poked and prodded quite enough. I’ve found issues in the past (since fixed) with things as simple as long titles or URLs. The plugin supports hAtom markup which is nice but the CSS styles applied to those classes frequently seems to interfere with my themes.

    The final half star I would take off comes from things I attribute to the balance between a paid plugin and free plugin. Recent new versions hijack the first pageload following a plugin update to take you to a “What’s New” page. This is not appreciated and doesn’t feel like it offers me much helpful information since I always look at the changelog before updating. Also, while I appreciate the support that is offered in the forums, it often feels rushed and incomplete. The line between in-scope and out-of-scope support requests still baffles me a bit and often leaves me frustrated.

    I rounded up to four stars because of their free-for-nonprofits PRO license which is very generous and has greatly helped some cash-strapped nonprofits I work with. It’s desperately in need of a real licensing/auto-update feature, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

Viewing 4 replies - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • Plugin Author Rob La Gatta

    (@roblagatta)

    Hey MRWweb! Rob from Modern Tribe here – not sure if you recall but you and I have exchanged notes a few times over the years, and I saw your review during my pass here on dot-org today. So awesome to see someone like you – a known name in the WP community – taking the time to write a detailed review like this. I can’t say how much we appreciate it…having this feedback is great and yours is unquestionably one of the more detailed reviews we’ve ever gotten on here. Thanks on all fronts: for sharing your own experience, for being (politely) critical of the weak points and for rounding up when all was said and done.

    You make some great points here in this review. A few I wanted to touch on:

    1) You’re the first person to offer up the comment on waiting a couple weeks for dot-releases, and I’d agree that this does make sense. We recently as a team decided that we’re basically going to plan for at least one dot-release after each primary release (ie, a 3.8.1 to a 3.8) during each release cycle. This dot-release may not impact all the plugins in the suite, but it’s still being worked into our regular release cycle based on the top 5-10 issues we see reported by users in the first week after launch.

    2) “A long time ago, I had suggested to the plugin developers that they provide an edit link for events or venues selected on single event pages so users understand its easy to edit.” I see this ticket got declined in our system due to a perceived lack of interest; but I personally agree with you here and am in fact re-opening this ticket so it gets back on the radar. Can’t see it happening prior to two releases out (3.10) since 3.9 is already scoped, but I’m pushing for this too since it sounds like it’d clear up confusion among users. Thanks for mentioning this again.

    3) I will agree 100% that the 2.x to 3.0 upgrade wasn’t a particularly smooth process for anyone – totally our failure to estimate the scope of the changes and more importantly how difficult it was going to be for users to fix their overrides. That was a poorly managed transition in general and one we learned a lot from….when the inevitable 3.x -> 4.0 update comes, we’re going to be taking much greater efforts to prevent users from having the same problems. I know that doesn’t get back the time you spent already though, and I apologize for that.

    4) Interesting to hear this feedback on the 3.8 release. We recently started making more of an effort to highlight “significant” changes via blog posts like this one (http://tri.be/the-events-calendarproadd-ons-3-8-things-to-be-aware-of/), but it’s clear we failed if you weren’t aware of the post-in-question. Out of curiosity: what additional information would you like to see in such a blog post, to make sure you felt comfortable in your understanding of the major changes? How technical would you envision such a post being? We’re planning to do these with each release going forward so any feedback you have will be incorporated when we ship the next build.

    5) QA is a tough one. I can see how the perception of things not being prodded/poked enough would shine through, if you are consistently seeing updates that include quirks/odd behavior. That’s a failure on our end QA-wise for sure; though I can say with certainty that we’re spending a TON of time manually QAing (usually between 50-100 hours on average for a basic release) both individual issues and working off a huge checklist, there are a lot of use cases we still miss in spite of this. We recently added automated testing to our arsenal and it’s finally in use this release cycle. It’s impact will be small at first, but with each release we’re going to automate another chunk of our QA…so that in time all the manual work we’re doing now is automated. I think it’s going to help a lot.

    6) You’re the first person I’ve heard raise a concern about that activation screen, but it’s welcome feedback. It’s sort of funny: we actually added that because a lot of users felt we were blindsiding them with new features, and wanted an easy way for them/their clients to see what had changed with each release. In talking to a number of other plugin devs we got the sense this approach had worked for them, and added it accordingly. Curious: would a setting or snippet of some kind that allowed you to hide this (so it was “off” by default going forward) work for you here?

    7) I could write a whole novel on the support process, but I worry I’ve already used more space than I expected to so I’ll keep it brief 🙂 I’ve found the biggest issue related to support is that we aren’t setting user expectations properly; more often than not the complaints/frustrations I’ve seen with our support system are from users who expect it to work a certain way that is very different from our own team’s expectations. Are you referencing the forums here at WordPress.org, or the premium ones at tri.be? I can see how the WordPress.org forums would feel a bit rushed – and I admittedly am not sure if that’s particularly avoidable, given that it’s free support. But if you’re seeing the same at the PRO forum that’s definitely a red flag for me and something I’d love to exchange notes on to flush out a bit further. For someone who has been with us as long as you have, not delivering the service you’d expect is a major fail that I think we can learn from/rectify.

    8) Glad to hear some of your non-profits have been making use of the program. I hear you on the idea of a licensing/auto-update feature…that’s less a matter of IF and more a matter of WHEN. There is budget for it and the work has been started, just not wrapped. It’s a pain point for us too – we are doing a lot of work manually that could be taken off our hands with an automated system – and one that should be addressed pretty soon after our forthcoming EventsCalendarPro.com site launches.

    Wow: despite an attempt to be brief, this ended up being one of my lengthier responses yet 🙂 But I felt it important to follow-up on these points and to let you know we’re listening/hear to discuss further if you feel inclined to elaborate on any of the points above. Even if you don’t – thanks again from the team for your support so far. You’ve given us a lot to think about with this review.

    mrwweb

    (@mrwweb)

    Hi Rob,

    Please know that despite the delay in my response, I really appreciate the time you put in to responding.

    Quick responses as needed:

    4) Those posts have been good and I am frustrated that I can’t offer more specific feedback. All I can say is that I still worry about things going wonky on updates. It may just be that I need to get used to them.

    6) Just this morning, I filed a bug report about the activation screen. In some cases, it’s locking out my admins with modified capabilities. A filter would be nice, though. For most of my users where I’m the one selecting, installing, configuring, and updating The Events Calendar, they really don’t care about the new features. I do, and I know that they unknowingly appreciate the improvements, but what they care about is having the “Events” item in their admin menu and the calendar on their website.

    7) My frustrations are a mix of the PRO and free support. I think they’re best explained by the three links I posted in this support thread on the forums about AJAX and TEC. Particularly in the first two support posts on the PRO forums, it looked like the ticket was closed and only vague “a fix is coming soon” posts were considered sufficient. As someone dealing with the same issue, it was frustrating finding these “resolved” tickets when the root issue didn’t seem to have been addressed yet. I’ve had a very similar feeling regarding the Facebook Importer’s duplicate imports bug (that’s me post on behalf of client). (As a plugin dev, I very much appreciate the fact that you can’t fix a bug without duplicating it, but the sheer number of people with the problem makes it seem like there should be more effort involved in addressing the issue.)

    Again, thanks for the response. Much appreciated.

    Hi, the update to 3.8.1 locked out my admin screen…
    Whererever I click, it goes to this page: wp-admin/edit.php?post_type=tribe_events&page=tribe-events-calendar&tec-update-message=1

    I’m stuck!
    Please help… urgent!

    @tvgodoy,

    This is a review comment thread and not the support forum. You should open a new thread in the Support Forum for this plugin.

    This thread may be helpful: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/tec-upgrade-screen-permissions-bug?replies=9

Viewing 4 replies - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
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