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Andy Millne
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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.

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The sidebar will be used to show contextually relevant things (i.e. the map for a calendar event when viewing a calendar event that has location data available), interaction buttons such as the "add new topic" button,

 

Any chance you could show a screen shot of the interaction buttons in the sidebar? Would they be in a block or just in a list? What other interaction buttons? Follow this forum kind of thing?

 

Thanks

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Any chance you could show a screen shot of the interaction buttons in the sidebar? Would they be in a block or just in a list? What other interaction buttons? Follow this forum kind of thing?

 

Thanks

 

Take a look at the IP.Downloads Submission blog. The video shows both the Downloads homepage and 'file view' pages, both with contextual items in the sidebar.

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Probably one of the most favorite feature so far LOVE it

 

Now three questions

 

1 - can we have a block allowing us to add custom content or are those side blocks come predefine?

 

2 - when we press edit can we add remove tabs under the header?

 

3 - When press edit do we have the option to select a show/hide option to add two chevrons that would allow users to expand/collapse blocks vertically to show only the header bar. This would be interesting if we we stack like five blocks on the sidebar

 

 

Please tell us that you plan releasing IP4 in a quarter of 2014 :-)

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The way the controls in the sidebar are generated, another theme could easily relocate them if they choose to do so. It's all handled via simple templates - the controls themselves don't know/care where they are.

Okay so then if there is nothing in the sidebar, the programmed content will still show but otherwise the sidebar area is 'collapsed' so it's not just empty space?

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Probably one of the most favorite feature so far LOVE it

 

Now three questions

 

1 - can we have a block allowing us to add custom content or are those side blocks come predefine?

 

2 - when we press edit can we add remove tabs under the header?

 

3 - When press edit do we have the option to select a show/hide option to add two chevrons that would allow users to expand/collapse blocks vertically to show only the header bar. This would be interesting if we we stack like five blocks on the sidebar

 

 

Please tell us that you plan releasing IP4 in a quarter of 2014 :-)

 

1) Has already been answered - no, you will not be able to create pure custom blocks (unless you have IP.Content installed which has custom block support built in).

 

2) No, this edit area is for the sidebar not for the site header

 

3) I'm not sure I understand, but I think you are asking if users can collapse individual blocks?  If so, that's a minor interface detail that may change between now and release but presently no.  We have taken the approach that the site administrator is defining these blocks for areas and as such it should be the site administrator that controls whether a block displays or not.

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There ya go in the latest IPS blog post (reordering) the toggle is down in the footer.

 

Perhaps here too the Manage Sidebar should be moved to the bottom footer area as a text link vs the > button to the left of the screen

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3) I'm not sure I understand, but I think you are asking if users can collapse individual blocks?  If so, that's a minor interface detail that may change between now and release but presently no.  We have taken the approach that the site administrator is defining these blocks for areas and as such it should be the site administrator that controls whether a block displays or not.

 

 

Yes allow collapsing individual block was what i have in mind.

 

I have IP content, If it work as I picture it, Then it is possible i have mulitple block stack on the side bar, collapse will definetly help in those cases

 

Thank you for following-up

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Is there any way to control block visibility?

 

You have skin switching with URL mapping, perhaps such a thing could work for blocks too? 

 

The blocks really need to be different depending on where you are. 

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Broken links here... broken links there... broken links everywhere.

 

Makes it hard for a new licensee to find out how to do stuff when it's "Watch this video" and the video link is a broken image.

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On 6/28/2015 at 4:31 PM, Tracy Perry said:

Broken links here... broken links there... broken links everywhere.

 

Makes it hard for a new licensee to find out how to do stuff when it's "Watch this video" and the video link is a broken image.

Yes!!! This is so true... argh!!!

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