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Managing successful online communities


4.0 - Profiles

Profiles are one of the key sections of a community, as everyone knows. They are what represent your users; where their information is shown and their content is gathered. When users contribute quality content to your community, their profile is where other users go to find it in one place. In short, it's an important area.

In IPS4, profiles have had a complete makeover. There's a lot to cover, so I'll start with a numbered screenshot, and address each section individually (please note this is a large image; if you're on mobile, you may wish to wait to view it full-size).



1 - Header images

In 3.x, users could customize their profiles by uploading a background image. In practice, this didn't work well when the software was integrated into an existing website design, and the options presented often ended up with a garish profile. In addition, social networks like Facebook and Twitter have adjusted user expectations on how profiles are customized.

In IPS4, instead of page backgrounds, users instead get to customize their profile header image. This provides the best of both worlds - ample space to choose something creative, but it's contained and won't mess up a website design.

2 - Reputation

The user's current reputation count is shown prominently in the info column, letting other users know if this member is an asset to the community.

3 - Warnings

For moderators/staff, the profile now provides quick access to warning tools. By expanding the panel, they can see a brief history of recent warnings:



And clicking one of these pops up the warning details:



New warnings can also be issued inline, of course.

4 - Followers

Followers replace friends in IPS4, and the user's followers are shown in this block. Instead of requiring mutual acknowledgement as with the traditional friends system (an approach that isn't entirely useful in a community of anonymous users), in IPS4 you follow users whom you find interesting in order to be updated when they contribute to the community. Users can of course prevent others from following them, if that is a concern to them. We'll have more details on how followers works in a later entry.

5 - About the user

Traditional information about the user is shown in the next block, including custom profile fields.

6 - Recent visitors

Recent visitors to this user's profile are shown next. As with 3.x, this can be toggled on and off by the profile owner. In 4.x, this is done by clicking the X in the corner of the block.

7 - Follow/Message member

These primary buttons enable others to follow the user (if enabled), and send a new message inline, without leaving the page.

8 - User's content

In 3.x, browsing a user's content was handled by the search area of the community (though links were available in the user's profile and hovercard). We felt this wasn't the best place for it, though. After all, a user's content should be available in their profile.

That's what this button does. It switches the profile view to 'content browsing' mode, where you can see everything the user has done. It's smooth and buttery, and because it all loads dynamically, it feels like a true part of the profile. Here's a video of it in action (14MB)



9 - Long-form custom profile fields

IPS4 supports various kinds of custom profile fields, including rich-text editors for long, styled content. Those custom profile fields will be shown in the main section of the profile where they get the space they need to be effective. About Me is a default field, but you can of course add your own too for your users to fill in.

10 - User's 'Nodes'

A node is a fancy developer term for content containers that a user creates themselves, like gallery albums and blogs (as opposed to forum categories, which are created by the admin). In IPS4, a user's 'nodes' are shown right on their profile page, making it easy to find more interesting content from the user. In this screenshot, you can see my profile is showing my albums, my blogs, and other blogs to which I contribute.

For developers, supporting your application in this section is easy too.

11 - Status feed

The status feed from 3.x is of course still present, and the interaction is all inline without leaving the page.


Conclusion

That's profiles in 4.0. We hope the new focus on content and streamlined design provides a better experience for your users!


As always, screenshots are from pre-release software and are subject to change before release.

Comments

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Followers replace friends in IPS4, and the user's followers are shown in this block. Instead of requiring mutual acknowledgement as with the traditional friends system (an approach that isn't entirely useful in a community of anonymous users), in IPS4 you follow users whom you find interesting in order to be updated when they contribute to the community. Users can of course prevent others from following them, if that is a concern to them. We'll have more details on how followers works in a later entry.


Can you please tell us when this will be clarified?

Particularly preventing others from following them. What happens? What is the purpose of a no follow? Do they still see that member's content...have you reconsidered privacy? Or is it only linked to notifications? Will there at least be an approve system in place?

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Instead of requiring mutual acknowledgement as with the traditional friends system (an approach that isn't entirely useful in a community of anonymous users), in IPS4 you follow users whom you find interesting in order to be updated when they contribute to the community.


What about sites that are not just anonymous users?

If using FB etc login & synced updates, a paid membership, a business community, a professional community, a local community, etc....it's not that hard to figure out who people are. And people don't hide their identities as much as they did 10 years ago when identity privacy was most important. Today, privacy of user's "personal" content (profile updates, personal blogs, photos, videos, etc) is most important. Not so much their real names.

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I'm really interested in how following and preventing followers will work for guest viewing. If someone prevents a user from following them, couldnt that blocked user simply log off and still view that member's complete profile and all content? Or would unfollowing only be effective if we have all profiles blocked by default to guests?

 

Will will have administrator options to allow certain fields of the profile be viewable based on user group? I would prefer to set status updates as not viewable to guests.

 

Friend only albums could be viewed by friends, but if friends are now replaced with followers will we now have a new gallery option that changes those galleries to be viewable only by users that are mutually following each other?

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This is very troubling to me and I had wished that a change of this magnitude would have been shared first before designing the entire core around a feature - which a "follow" is of a friend relationship. The whole point of friends isn't "friends" but a usergroup that allowed you to restrict your content to a limited group of people.

I don't run an adult site but I've seen almost every iteration of community from having run sites from small to very large. In more adult and mature environments, having content that is restricted to a user-based usergroup called "friends" or "trusted persons" is critical. So let's say you want to have a site called "L.A. Dating" - how can users post photos of themselves that only their trusted people can see? You can't. How about a family based site for parenting where you only want people you know or people you can trust to see photos of you and your children? You can't.

I'm hoping that someone can explain to me why anyone would think that "follow" is a substitute for the "friends" permissions group.

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