Jump to content
Andy Millne
 Share


4.0 - Global Sidebar

One of the goals for IPS Community Suite 4.0 was improving content discovery. In other words, making sure content still receives exposure even if it is posted in less used areas of the suite.

The sidebar that shows on the IP.Board index page in 3.x helps with this goal to some extent, however people who visit the forums app infrequently may miss out on valuable content. This became an even more important issue when the decision was made to decouple IP.Board as a standalone application. What if the focus of your site is Gallery or what if IP.Board is not even enabled for example?

Our solution was to extend the sidebar across all applications as shown below in IP.Downloads.



You may notice from the screenshot that the announcements block is not specific to the downloads application. Any block can show in any application and they are configurable using moderator permissions. This immediately addresses the issue of content discovery.

While the sidebar is now global in 4.0, it is important to note that individual areas can enable and disable the sidebar if necessary. Some areas of the suite simply require more room in order to display ideally, so the sidebar is disabled in these cases (e.g. the calendar "monthly" view needs a full page table grid to display in its ideal format). Further, you can configure sidebars differently for different areas of the suite in context-sensitive manner. You may show a recent topics block in the IP.Board application, for instance, while showing a recent files block in IP.Downloads. Or you can show both blocks in both areas - the choice is yours.

Many areas of the suite have specific things they wish to automatically show in the sidebar and will do so. This is determined at a programmatic level and is not something that can be shut off. For instance, in IP.Downloads the primary screenshot and the download button show in the sidebar, while in IP.Calendar a map and a button to download an event show. Each application has the ability to output arbitrary content to the top of the sidebar where-ever necessary.

It is also worth noting that advertisements have the inherent ability to display in the sidebar site-wide as well.

Editing

Editing is carried out inline from the front-end, rather than the ACP, and can be customized based on the application, module or individual view. The technicalities of this are beyond the scope of this blog entry but what this means in practice is that you can vary what is shown in the sidebar for each individual area of your site. Ordering of the blocks is of course fully supported using a simple drag and drop interface, and some sidebars additionally have configuration options available to them as needed.

Here is a video demonstration of how editing the sidebar works in IPS Community Suite 4.0.



Caching

With this approach it was important that performance was not compromised and for that reason sidebar blocks support varying degrees of output caching. The active users block which must always be kept up to date utilizes no caching, a more general block showing overall statistics is cached for all users at once and other blocks that rely on permissions are cached for each user group combination. The level of caching used is determined by the developer when writing the block so, while it is important to mention that this performance aspect has been considered, it is something that is transparent to end users and admins in day to day use.

Summary

Community integration is a key strength of the IPS platform and the new sidebar in version 4 expands on this even further allowing you to share content across all areas effectively.

 Share

Comments

Recommended Comments



Looks great.

 

One question: I'm a little surprised that the sidebar is on the left hand side of the page as this is usually the spot for primary content rather than sidebar stuff. Can the sidebar easily be moved to the right hand side of the page? (I'm sure that you can move it with a template edit, but a nice easy setting would be good please.)

 

and one thought: An obvious extension of this is to allow registered users to setup their own sidebar in a similar manner to customising their profile area.  Is this something that you're looking at or is it likely to be too resource intensive?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looks great.

 

One question: I'm a little surprised that the sidebar is on the left hand side of the page and this is usually the spot for primary content rather than sidebar stuff. Can the sidebar easily be moved to the right hand side of the page? (I'm sure that you can move it with a template edit, but a nice easy setting would be good please.)

 

Hope too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, this is the 1st step towards a global suite.
 
But I really hope this is only the 1st step…
Outlining new content in a sidebar (even if it's global) doesn't address the "I want to see all new contents of this website" problem.
 
I've written a feature request to improve that area:
Highlighting new and best content
 

When users visit a forum, they obviously care about the tiny friendly features of the interface, but there is one essential reason why they come to your board: the content.
And today, I think IP.Board offers a lot of nice modern technologies to post / edit / moderate the board... but it misses the REAL thing : finding content.

The "new content" page is a nice way to find... new content. But for a visitor who visits, let's say, 3 times in a week a board, he wants to know: "What [fun / important / hot topics] am I missing?".
And today, I think that IP.Board doesn't answer to that basic and essential need.

[…]

 

 

In another topic, I suggest as an answer to add a global new content timeline as the Suite homepage:

Suite feed activity

 

Today, the Social Suite is built upon several applications that generate activity.

As IP.Board is the main component of everything, there are some hooks, on the board index page, that display new subjects, new blog entries, etc.

 

But everything is very "board centered", and a new member in 2013 should not have to search in every IP.app to find new content. Especially when this member is used to Facebook.

 

 

So, I hope this global sidebar is a bonus, but that the new IPS Suite will have a real answer for finding new content!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh yeah, and I forgot to add that, like Edward Shephard above, the sidebar really should be placed on the right side.

 

It has a become a real standard that the left side is for browsing the content (like menus…), and the right side is for "bonus" content… like this global sidebar.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The feature itself (global sidebar) is okay. Personally it is not my favourite one, but everyone has different needs and expectations...

 

BUT [!] the way you implement the feature (frontend editing) is just great! I hope to see as much frontend editing as possible in v4, especially in combination with WYSIWYG such as drag and drop and/or visual editors. It makes using software a lot easier, especially for people with little or no knowledge about community software, and definetly a lot faster. Good work!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the video I can see that it showing how to edit the blocks to the side bar. I was looking forward to editing the block that is already in the side bar and wanted to see what it looked like. Can someone video that part, please?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does this work with IPContent? Can we add blocks to this and take blocks away? I already have custom sidebar blocks " in my forum sidebar "  that cover what "I" need and want. including advertising. Putting blocks into the forum sidebar has always been an issue because it needs to be done through the back-end, A real improvment imo to the sidebar would be to have this truely as part of the suite working with IPC

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One question: I'm a little surprised that the sidebar is on the left hand side of the page as this is usually the spot for primary content rather than sidebar stuff. Can the sidebar easily be moved to the right hand side of the page? (I'm sure that you can move it with a template edit, but a nice easy setting would be good please.)

+1

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When you say they are global, just how global? For example, I would love to have them show on the topic listing within the forum, however not sure I would want them showing on a topic page, and if I did decide to show on topic page it may only be on one forum. Is this level of customisation possible or am I over thinking it?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When you say they are global, just how global? For example, I would love to have them show on the topic listing within the forum, however not sure I would want them showing on a topic page, and if I did decide to show on topic page it may only be on one forum. Is this level of customisation possible or am I over thinking it?

 

You don't have quite that level of control. Every page that supports the sidebar will show it, because there may be other controls available (e.g. in the topic listing, 'create new topic' functionality is at the top of the sidebar). You could in theory remove all the sidebar blocks for that page though, and just leave those controls. Also, sidebar configuration isn't per-forum (or per-category etc.). If you update it on a topic listing page, it would apply to all topic listing pages, regardless of forum.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

You don't have quite that level of control. Every page that supports the sidebar will show it, because there may be other controls available (e.g. in the topic listing, 'create new topic' functionality is at the top of the sidebar). You could in theory remove all the sidebar blocks for that page though, and just leave those controls. Also, sidebar configuration isn't per-forum (or per-category etc.). If you update it on a topic listing page, it would apply to all topic listing pages, regardless of forum.

How much control will we have there?

 

e.g. if i want to show a block only in forum 1,2,3? or the newest threads block should show only the last threads from forum X , if i'm viewing a thread in forum X

will this work?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How much control will we have there?

 

e.g. if i want to show a block only in forum 1,2,3? or the newest threads block should show only the last threads from forum X , if i'm viewing a thread in forum X

will this work?

 

That would be nice!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many areas of the suite have specific things they wish to automatically show in the sidebar and will do so. This is determined at a programmatic level and is not something that can be shut off. For instance, in IP.Downloads the primary screenshot and the download button show in the sidebar, while in IP.Calendar a map and a button to download an event show.

You don't have quite that level of control. Every page that supports the sidebar will show it, because there may be other controls available (e.g. in the topic listing, 'create new topic' functionality is at the top of the sidebar). You could in theory remove all the sidebar blocks for that page though, and just leave those controls. Also, sidebar configuration isn't per-forum (or per-category etc.). If you update it on a topic listing page, it would apply to all topic listing pages, regardless of forum.

So then, even if nothing else is in the sidebar, the entire side will be taken up just for app/category/entry specific controls or information? I believe it would be a good idea to make it so that if the only thing in the sidebar would be programmed items, then those items should appear outside of the sidebar and the sidebar shouldn't be there at all.

Also, from the example given, I'm sort of confused.  Download button to download what, the file being viewed?  If so, why inside the sidebar?

Link to comment
Share on other sites




Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...