**** MY REVIEW FOR AEC (with correct 4-stars this time) ****
Ok, i'll try to be as objective as possible.
First of all, people stop submitting 1 sentence reviews with "AEC is crap, this dont work, that dont work, dont buy it". If you don't go into details what exactly went wrong in your situation - you are NOT helping anybody. You're not helping the people who want to know more about this product (including it's problems), and you're not helping the developer to fix these very problems which offended you so much. Be constructive in your critisism. If you don't have time to write meaningful review, don't write at all - 'cause one-sentence verbal bashing of components that you dont like is really not JEDs purpose.
HOW I ENDED UP WITH AEC:
This is first time i had to use Subscriptions/Memberships component along with Joomla. I picked AEC on some remote recommendation from ages ago, plus i already had AEC 'cause some time ago i just bought membership to the site to try out the component and to support the developer by sending some money his way.(It's not much for a single person, but if more people would do it then developer might be able to make AEC better.) During my first test run months ago i saw that AEC had loads of good options and it's Micro-Integrators system immediately looked like an amazing solution for 3rd Party Component Integration.
IS AEC PROBLEM FREE or NOT:
Then couple of months ago i picked up a project that required AEC, i re-newed by site subscription got latest version and got started working with it. At first it seemed smooth and "willing", but as i started adding more stuff and memberships gotten more complicated - some problems started. SO IS AEC PROBLEM FREE? No it's not, but RARELY a component that is THAT complex is problem free. If you didn't know AEC's com file is 3MB+ and it's not loaded with crap load of graphics, its really big and complex in it's entirety.
PAID SUPPORT QUALITY:
Since this is a paying gig that i'm working on, i decided to invest some money into support and get the pros to solve my problems. Since i've dealt with their support, naturally I have to say something about Valanx/AEC support... Their support IS excellent. There is a separate person who handles most of AEC's support tickets, his name is Jake and he's helped me more than anybody has ever helped me on ANY joomla component before. He is a AEC professional who uses AEC for his own projects and HE KNOWS HIS STUFF. Most of the time he answers within 1 business day (unless he's swamped with support requests) and he solves problems like nutcracker *snap* *snap *snap* done. So kudos to him.
Plus if the problem that you are encountering is in fact a bug in AEC you don't get charged for support time - which is fair on their part.
FORUM, MANUAL, HOW-TO VIDEOS:
Not that i've dealt with it much but i think its so-so. Access to community forum is only with paid subscription to AEC site, which is horrible and unheard of. I hope the developer/owner will change it to be available openly, AT LEAST the part where you able to read the forum openly, even if only read and post for subscribers only - that would allow to read about problems people have had in the past and solutions to them which are posted in response.
Manual for this component is ALSO only viewable by registered members. Quality of the Manual is not bad, but problem is there are 70% of it missing. According to Headers which are present in the manual anyway. NOTHING pissed me off as much as lack of good manual, and the fact that when you click a header in the manual expecting to see instructions and you see just empty page with a template around it.
Good "compensation" for the manual is the set of "AEC Instructional Videos", where they show how to do certain things and explain settings panel and it's options, they show how to use CB Micro-Integrator, and many more things - thanks for the videos, those were a good idea. But problem is Videos do not show everything. You still endup going to the manual and seeing if the section that you need actually has information in it.
AEC, WHO IDEALLY SHOULD USE IT:
-People who have a big project that requires a complex setup of subscriptions
-People who ALOT of other components in Joomla which need to cooperate with membership subscriptions (Like i said Micro-Integrator system is great)
-People who need/want flexibility of their memberships/subscriptions component
-People who want to be 100% sure that whatever expansions will be done in the future, the Memberships/Subscriptions management component will be able to perform any of them
-People who are working on paid projects and that CAN invest money in paid support of AEC (It's not much for a commercial project, especially if your client can cover that cost of the support.)
AEC, WHO SHOULDN'T USE IT:
-People who THINK they are web developers, because today's CMS systems allow anybody to make a site and administer it. (Heck my 7 year old brother made himself a joomla site). If you're not a web developer, don't expect such complex components to work just 'cause you snapped your fingers.
-People who are building free/personal sites, 'cause at this stage AEC requires some investment into Paid Support like i said.
-People who are NOT willing to invest some time into making it work, though result of AEC working like you want it to seems to be worth it.
-Spoiled teenagers who like to flame people on the internet with 1-2 sentence reviews with word "sucks" appearing more than once.
MY SUGGESTION FOR IMPROVEMENTS:
All these suggestions are intended to be in respectable "IF YOU CAN, PLEASE" format, even if they dont seem like it :)
1. Complete Manual preferably with possibility of users comments (Like MySQL online doc)
(I know Manual is under re-write, but i feel like it's hasnt been updated in months since i first joined AEC site. Maybe Joomla community members who use AEC can help with it, to make releasing it earlier. I offered to write a white paper on the project i'm working on, to add it to AEC docs so other ppl can benefit from it, but i received no comment on it)
2. Open the Forum for visitors/free members. I think your forum is not as progressive exactly 'cause it's closed.
3. Post updates/bug fixes to AEC more often, i got 2 improved builds from Paid Support and you still have older version on your release page
(You don't need to make a full release, just files for update of bugs that have been fixed recently)
4. While manual is not complete (and in general), some of the options tool-tips need better descriptions.
6. Let community participate in AEC more, i'm sure now and even in future there will be some people who are willing to share their knowledge. That will take off some weight of developer's shoulders.
AEC is complex and flexible component FOR SERIOUS PEOPLE - It's not for everybody. It has it's problems but if you use it for a commercial project that can cover the support costs, you have nothing to fear. As i said - PAID SUPPORT IS EXCELLENT. After problems are solved you'll be happy with AEC and you will be able to feel safe that in future when project will get more complex requirements you wont need to re-do who subscriptions system 'cause you are forced to upgrade to another component.
Let me make this clear - there are NO subscriptions/memberships component which is as complex/powerful/flexible as AEC is... BUT you have to be willing to pay the cost. And i dont mean price alone, i mean the "cost". 'Cause you will spend time, you will be aggrivated, you will have to ask for paid support's help, but if you're working on serious project that is NOTHING special.
Some people from Joomla community got spoiled a bit with cheap extensions prices - you're forgetting what software/webware usually cost in this business.
I hope i didn't offend anyone (much anyway), and i hope this review will give better idea to people who wish to learn more about working with it.
Thank you for reading this review.