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Wednesday, 23 September 2020 04:14

Exciting Week for pbxHQ!

What an exciting last few days it has been here at pbxHQ!

We officially opened registration to all (in US and Canada) last week, Thursday September 17th.  It was a hectic time, as we were under quite a bit of pressure to have our service ready and had some technical issues with our automated signup and verification processes.

Major Design Decision Has Been Costly

When work began on pbxHQ, I made the decision to keep all logic in an external system. Let's call it the engine, or core of pbxHQ decision making and processing.  The alternative was to code everything into the pbxHQ website itself, but I didn't feel this was scalable, and I didn't want to be stuck using a Joomla website forever.  So while there are definite long term benefits to having our entire system ran from an API driven core, it has caused a lot of our technical issues and delays in launching.  Many changes we make have to be done in two places now instead of one.  The benfit however, is that in the future, the entire customer dashboard can easily be moved off of the Joomla based website and into a nice portal much like our actual pbxHQ portal. Our pbxHQ telephony solution does not rely on the pbxHQ website, and in fact, it doesn't rely on our core backend API.  If it did, that would defeat the purpose of all the work done to deploy pbxHQ in multiple datacenters to make it fully redundant.

Thankfully, most issues have been worked out.

While our signup process may seem the same now as it was on launch day, there have been a ton of changes in our backend systems.  I will be honest, a lot of the issues stemmed from oversights on my part.  There was some improper validation of inputs, where we had certain criteria on the forms, and different more strict validation in our backend.  And to make matters worse, our forms would often show that the data was accepted, when our backend had refused to accept it.  Validation errors have been resolved, and our onboarding process is now displaying more data in terms of how far along in the process you are.

All that work on the onboarding, and it's time to re-do it all

I really liked a lot of the ideas that were put in place when they were being designed.  Looking at it now, although it could use some refinement to make it more user friendly, it just isn't a great onboarding flow.  Now that we have all the proper code in place to connect our front-end and backend API, plus the forms already built it, it won't be difficult to redo the process.

One thing I really don't like about the current setup, is the separation between being in the "onboarding" state, and then transitioning to the "registered" state.  It doesn't make much sense to me, so I can imagine it doesn't make any sense at all to our users.

New signup process

A big factor that has to be taken into consideration is fighting off fraudulent users, or users attempting to use stolen credit cards.  We have not put any effort into spreading word of our service yet, so it hasn't been a problem so far. Once we start advertising and really creating interest in our service, without a doubt this will be an issue that needs proper handling.

New Approach

The new approach will be a much simpler stage 1 of onboarding.  I'd like to merge the registration page with parts of the current account profile page.  Basically, a single form with your account details, name, login information, and that's about it.  Once this form is completed and e-mail address is verified, you will become registered.  Payment method and phone verification will move to within the registered account dashboard.  This way, everyone after signup, will have access to the full account portal.  Once we add further capabilities there such as buying global phone numbers, managing aspects of your pbxHQ system, and more, it will show users what they can do once verifying.  It should help the process along and make it less confusing.

Fighting Fraud

Instead of not letting users progress to the registered state if they have a high risk score, we simply won't allow creation of a pbxHQ system account if everything doesn't check out.  That allows us to put all of that verification in one place and give proper details as to what needs to be done in order to have the ability to launch the PBX.  Users who get a high risk score will have the ability to upload verification documents right from within the account portal.

I feel like I am rambling now, so let's conclude our first blog post with what to expect in the very near future:

Plans for the Immediate Future

  • Major improvements to our website content to showcase how we are different from the competition
    • Detailed pricing information with comparison charts
    • A solutions section showing "industries" or situations where our solution would be the perfect fit.  While I believe our solution would be a great fit for most SMB, there are certain cases where we really blow away the competition.  Having no contracts, being Pay As You Go with the option to purchase unlimited calling channels, which can be added and removed at any time, and all of the other flexibility we offer--all automatic and able to be done by our users through our portal--really make us shine for companies who expect rapid changes or have uncertainty.
  • Adding two-way trunk purchasing to our pbxHQ portal.  This will allow us to compete with all of the other Hosted PBX providers who offer unlimited calling albeit at a much lower overall cost.
  • Most exciting change, is we are working out a deal for auto-provisioning softphone clients!  This will include desktop applications for Windows, macOS, and mobile clients for iOS and Android.
  • We will also begin to start development towards our global coverage goals.  DID purchasing will be done through our backend API, which will be accessible to our users through the pbxHQ account dashboard.
  • Single Sign On via oAuth2. On the fence about this one, but the benefit to our users would be enormous in terms of ease of use.  A single sign on that would work for our pbxHQ website, our pbxHQ portal, our support ticket system, and our community forum.  Four logins would become one single login, which you could also login to with a connected Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc account.  The work to implement this is quite high, and it isn't absolutely urgent at the moment, but it is something I'd like to see done sooner than later.  User migration and connecting will become more and more difficult as we increase our userbase.

I apologize for the long post, but there has been quite a bit happening, and a lot planned for the future here at pbxHQ.  Let me know in the comments how you feel our launch went, and thoughts on our plans for the next few weeks.  Our number one goal is always to make our users happy, so feedback is always taken into consideration, more than you would probably think!

One last thing, I wanted to personally thank everyone who has given our service a shot. Everytime I see a user ordering a number, or making calls, it really makes me feel good about the great value service being provided.

Until next time,

Aaron Shames
CEO - 1pbx Solutions Inc

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