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Managing successful online communities

Rikki
 

Invision Community Apps for iOS & Android

I'm excited to reveal that we are making Invision Community native apps for iOS and Android!

For the past few months, our staff has been using an internal test build right here on our community. Now we are ready to widen testing to a larger pool of customers. Information on how to become a tester is at the end of this post. But first, let's take a look at the app itself.

Technology Preview
We have a lot of exciting plans for the Invision Community app.

We wanted to take full advantage of a clean slate and build a brand new experience that embraces a native app's interfaces. While the app is unmistakably Invision Community, it features new ways of interacting with your content.

We want the app to help shape the future of Invision Community, and we're asking for you to help.

What we are opening up for testing today is a technology preview. This slim app covers the essentials with a view to much more expansion later.

The technology preview is locked to our community. The app we will release will be a 'multi-community' app; a directory of communities users can browse and save.

We’ve taken this approach because the app stores have clamped down on ‘template’ apps, and the cost involved in building and maintaining a separate app per-community won’t be an option for many of our customers. A multi-community app is a great approach for most: simple setup, minimal cost, still fully-featured, and a great way for new users to find your community too.

What The App Does
For the initial phase of this technology preview, discussions are the main focus which is the foundation of every Invision Community. Also available are profiles, streams, search and notifications - including (at last!) push notifications.

Any areas that the app does not currently support will open seamlessly in a web view within the app. As we build new functionality into the app over time, users will encounter fewer of these hybrid views.

Your feedback will allow us to target the highest priority areas during the technology preview phase.

Pricing
Note: The information below outlines our current intentions, but may change as we finalize the app's release to app stores.

The good news is we intend for the app to be free to both our customers with active licenses and their end-users. In time, we will offer a premium option to communities. This funding will secure the app's long-term future.

The premium option could enhance their listing in the directory, or provide special functionality when users use that community in the app.

iPhone Xs.pngiPhone Xs 2.png

Availability

We intend to release the app alongside the next significant point release of Invision Community, expected to be 4.5. Communities will need to upgrade to this version to allow their users to use the app.

Questions?

Why not a PWA (progressive web app)?
Invision Community 4.4 already supports several PWA features. However, until iOS supports Push Notifications (and other features) in PWAs, we don't feel they are a fully-rounded solution to using communities on a phone. Building native apps allow us to experiment with new interfaces and approaches. As PWA support improves in the years to come, we'll feed what we learn back into the main product for the benefit of all users.

Why now?
Those with a long memory will recall that we've had a few attempts at providing an app in the past that weren't successful.

We are great at building apps with web technologies but creating native apps ourselves wasn't sustainable.

Enter React Native.

React Native is an open-source technology for building native apps. React Native allows teams to build native apps using web technologies, but crucially, React Native doesn't build hybrid apps. They are compiled into real native apps - not browser wrappers, but native buttons, text, dialogs, animations and more.

A year or so ago, we started experimenting with React Native to see if it might be a viable approach for us. And it was. Finally, there was a technology that enabled web engineers to build delightful cross-platform native apps.

As we can build native mobile apps using the technology we are familiar with allows us to incorporate mobile app development into our existing processes.

Why just forums?
Invision Community is a large, fully-featured platform, and building the entire platform in a native app from the get-go didn't seem to be the best approach. Instead, we've focused on the most active area of most communities - forums - with other areas still supported in the app via webviews. Over time, additional features and tools will be built into the app so that it eventually reaches feature-parity with the web version. We'll take feedback from our customers to determine which areas to support next.

How will I add my community to the app?
The next significant point release of Invision Community (expected to be 4.5) will have app support built-in. Including your app in the directory will be as simple as enabling the feature in your AdminCP and configuring a few options. 

Is the app ad-supported?
There are no ads of any kind in the app right now. We may include ads or allow communities to run their own ads as a premium option in future.

Can I get a white-label version for my community?
We aim to offer a white-label option in the future.

Will my plugins work in the app?
Probably not. We're intentionally building the app to work with standard Invision Community features and apps right now. If your plugins add new UI elements or change the functions that users interact with it's likely they will not work with the app.

What about themes?
Themes won't work in the app because the app doesn't use HTML. However, some branding/customization will be available via the AdminCP, and we may expand upon this in future.

Have other questions? Let us know in the comments, and we'll answer them!

Sign Up For Testing
For the next stage of our testing process, we will be inviting several customers to try the app and provide feedback/bug reports. As part of the sign-up process, we'll ask for some information about your own community. We'll use this to select further testers once we begin testing of the 'multi-community' version of the app later. The answers you provide will not affect your chance of testing the app on our community.

Interested in joining the testing group? Click here to sign up.

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1 hour ago, Morgin said:

https://medium.com/dev-channel/progressive-web-app-progress-in-ios-12-2-beta-1-build-16e5181f-a18cd05ca361

theres a lot more missing in webkit’s PWA implementation than push notifications. There has basically been no progress on this list in a year. So I reject your claim that Apple is coming around on this. They have shown zero interest aside from some responses on Twitter that they are starting to look closer at it now. 

Take a look at ios13

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2 hours ago, Dll said:

Take a look at ios13

Yes? There are no notable PWA improvements in 13 or 13.1. You can literally test this yourself on an iOS13.1 device using the testing tool on the site I linked. 

9590EEBF-B9F9-456C-A290-E8BCAB9EB51B.thumb.png.f04c45fa07557f320f15280c5492dba6.png
  
Look, I know the point you are trying to make. @Matt can confirm how many times I’ve slid into his DMs trying to nudge him to be loud and obnoxious with Apple on behalf of Invision Community clients regarding the slow uptake of PWAs. I’ve been beating that drum here for a long time and I’ll be the first to be back on their case if and when Apple ever decides to join the rest of us in the modern age. 
 
Until that time, there’s no path to a viable one size fits all native app for individual communities. We’re having our lunch eaten by other social platforms that can gamify user behavior with frequent pushy native notifications. People complain they don’t like that, but it’s wildly popular, so seems like it works. I want my users to be able to get push notifications so they keep coming back and don’t forget about my site. This seems like literally the only solution that is viable and hits the minimum requirements for a native app. I think everyone would love a world where each of our communities got their own app and it was cost effective and easy to support. We don’t live in that world until PWAs are universally supported. So here we are. This solution will at least work for some people, overlaps with technology goals of future development in any event, and long term could be a springboard for other improvements. There’s no downside in my opinion because for me at least, a native mobile app even with all these compromises is still much more important than updates to blogs which as far as I’m aware is a pretty niche and minimally utilized part of the platform. 

Edited by Morgin

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Indeed @Morgin.

There seems to be a circular argument that:

- We don't have the resources to make a native app.

But

- We do have the resources to code around missing functionality in PWA 'support' from Apple.

As Apple is still missing basic PWA elements, we'd need to be creative with javascript to plug the gaps which is a serious time investment.

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8 hours ago, Matt said:

Indeed @Morgin.

There seems to be a circular argument that:

- We don't have the resources to make a native app.

But

- We do have the resources to code around missing functionality in PWA 'support' from Apple.

As Apple is still missing basic PWA elements, we'd need to be creative with javascript to plug the gaps which is a serious time investment.

Why are you so focused on what is missing in iOS for PWAs, like Web Push Api?

Have you looked at the Twitter PWA on iOS? It is pretty indistinguishable from their native app and a great mobile experience for Twitter users.

As for push notifications, I don't view this as a "must have" feature for a PWA or native app. Email notifications are just fine for many communities. In fact, as an iOS user, I don't want more push notifications from apps that aren't important that I be notified immediately of new content on the site. I can't even think of one forum that I want push notifications on, including this one.

So, @Matt, please consider adding more PWA support into Invision Community so our mobile users have a better experience on our sites. After all, the "P" in PWA stands for "Progressive" and means that those users with browsers that support the various Progressive Web APIs get near native app experience (including offline use) while those using browsers that don't support some of the Progressive APIs fallback to the older web app experience.

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Yes, we stated elsewhere in this blog and its comments that we intend to keep developing the PWA functionality.

You may not view notifications as "must have" but a good number of people do. 🙂

phone GIF by SMARTY

 

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80% of global internet users and 76% (approx) of global mobile based internet are using a browser which is compatible with the push api. And that's about to increase again as Apple support for the push api in safari on mac has arrived.

https://caniuse.com/#feat=push-api

Since, as yet no-one has been able to come up with a single other specific reason for a native app, other than notifications, that's a disproportionately big investment for a relatively small part of the user base. Particularly, when on top of that, Invision has had years to implement PWA based notifications for that 80% but haven't. 

Tell me @Matt - do most people at Invision use Apple devices?

Edited by Dll

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Just let it go, Dll. It’s been decided and in active development for some time now. Nothing you could ever argue here would stop the development of this app at this point. You don’t like this directions, others do like it. That’s just the way it is when there are thousands of customers. 

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1 minute ago, opentype said:

Just let it go, Dll. It’s been decided and in active development for some time now. Nothing you could ever argue here would stop the development of this app at this point. You don’t like this directions, others do like it. That’s just the way it is when there are thousands of customers. 

I'm sorry, am I not allowed to voice an opinion in a discussion others are clearly voicing theirs in? 

If I've created an issue, then I'm sure whoever moderates on here will be in touch, which as far as I'm aware isn't yourself?

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Just now, Dll said:

I'm sorry, am I not allowed to voice an opinion in a discussion others are clearly voicing theirs in? 

Of course you are and I haven’t suggested anything else.
And I am allowed to recommend to let it go for the reasons I have given and because of the observation of how this discussion is going. (e.g. “grilling” IPS about their reasons or the phones they might use. None of that will change anything, IMHO.)

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6 hours ago, Dll said:

Particularly, when on top of that, Invision has had years to implement PWA based notifications for that 80% but haven't. 

Luckily, thanks to our work on the native app, we now have a services infrastructure that can register user devices and send notifications - when we feel the time is right. That's an example of the work we're doing on the app feeding back into the main product.

You are obviously welcome to voice an opinion, but I feel like we're going in circles a bit. We've explained why we're going this route and why we don't feel PWA should be a sole focus right now, so repeating "but why?" in every reply won't get a different answer at this point.

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I have a one concern and point to raise

1  It is about for those who use Google adsense  - which is allowed in app but policy voilation  in web view 

So if app has native section for forum..... but for other apps if a web view works.... This may require  to remove adsense .....

 

Please do look into this before releasing the app 

 

 

 

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24 minutes ago, Rikki said:

Luckily, thanks to our work on the native app, we now have a services infrastructure that can register user devices and send notifications - when we feel the time is right. That's an example of the work we're doing on the app feeding back into the main product.

You are obviously welcome to voice an opinion, but I feel like we're going in circles a bit. We've explained why we're going this route and why we don't feel PWA should be a sole focus right now, so repeating "but why?" in every reply won't get a different answer at this point.

Sorry you've managed to interpret me bringing up an entirely separate point regarding the usage of PWA and in particular the push api in browsers as simply saying 'but why', but that's up to you I suppose. 

Don't worry though, if me having a different point of view is difficult for you to handle, I'll sit out from here on in.

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1 hour ago, Dll said:

Sorry you've managed to interpret me bringing up an entirely separate point regarding the usage of PWA and in particular the push api in browsers as simply saying 'but why', but that's up to you I suppose. 

Don't worry though, if me having a different point of view is difficult for you to handle, I'll sit out from here on in.

Questions about PWA (and any concerns from any clients) are still certainly welcome and valuable, especially as IPS surveys a broader development path to help admins best empower their communities.  

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4 hours ago, Dll said:

Sorry you've managed to interpret me bringing up an entirely separate point regarding the usage of PWA and in particular the push api in browsers as simply saying 'but why', but that's up to you I suppose. 

Don't worry though, if me having a different point of view is difficult for you to handle, I'll sit out from here on in.

For what it’s worth, they have answered that question before too. They are simply taking a different path than xenforo, which has splintered support for PWAs/push. Invision wants to roll it out when it works and is stable for everyone, regardless of device/browser. Its probably not what you and others prefer (and since I’m not an android user I’m fairly ambivalent), but it’s their strategy and their call to do it that way. I trust they have the data and metrics we all have access to (and more) to have made that judgement call. 

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On 9/27/2019 at 7:34 PM, Saurabh Jain said:

I have a one concern and point to raise

1  It is about for those who use Google adsense  - which is allowed in app but policy voilation  in web view 

So if app has native section for forum..... but for other apps if a web view works.... This may require  to remove adsense .....

 

Please do look into this before releasing the app 

 

 

 

@Matt Please do look into this as well

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Whilst this is exciting news, would the new app be able to support club forums as that is the main issue I have with Tapatalk as only the main forums are displayed. 

The members of my community are crying out for some sort of app that would give them the ability to get notifications on their phones as they would be afraid of missing something.

 In the meantime, is there a workaround for Tapatalk to be able to access the club forums? When a user logs in to my community, they can see the club forums listed in the global forum page. I don't understand why Tapatalk can't do the same.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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3 minutes ago, Tripp★ said:

Will we be able to disallow our communities from being used on this app? Like disabling it via the ACP?

You must opt-in via the AdminCP to add your community into the app directory. It won't be included unless you do this.

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8 minutes ago, Stuart Silvester said:

You must opt-in via the AdminCP to add your community into the app directory. It won't be included unless you do this.

Fantastic. Thank you Stuart. 🙂 

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13 minutes ago, ABGenc said:

And I wonder by which version ( Attention I am not asking the time :biggrin:) will this option be available ? 🧐

We anticipate it'll be available with v4.5, or shortly afterwards 🙂 

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