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Sonya*

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  1. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Rikki for an entry, Web push notifications, native sharing & offline support   
    As we approach the release of Invision Community 4.6, I wanted to take you through some improvements for using Invision Community on a mobile device.
    Web push notifications
    For some time, we've used the local browser notification API to show users notifications. There's a big drawback though: users had to have the site open in a tab for these to work. This is particularly problematic for mobile devices.
    In 4.6, we've added support for the WebPush API, which allows sites to push notifications to users' browsers & devices even if the site isn't open - or even if the device is asleep.
    We already have support baked in for push notifications via our beta mobile app, so we've piggy-backed on that system and expanded it to support browser-based push notifications.

    Choosing push notifications
    For users, it's a simple process. A little while after joining a community they will prompted to accept notifications from the site when they open the notification list dropdown (or they can opt-in any time from the notification settings screen). After accepting, they will be able to choose a "Notification List + Push" option for any of the available notification types.

    Push notifications enabled
    Existing users, who may have already granted permission to the site in the past, will be re-prompted to accept push notifications upon logging in after the 4.6 upgrade.
    Push notifications typically show on the homescreen of a phone or in the notification tray of a desktop computer, so receiving dozens of notifications could be overwhelming. For that reason, Invision Community will automatically merge related notifications - for example, multiple mentions from the same topic, or multiple new topics from the same forum.

    Grouped push notifications
    And, of course, users can stop push notifications across all of their devices with a single click if they want to opt out.
    We're excited about the engagement potential of push notifications, since they allow you to immediately reach users who aren't currently on your site - a job previously left to email alone.
    On the subject of notifications, one more thing: we've heard your feedback about notifications for new replies/mentions being merged with notifications for likes/quotes, and will be separating these two types into their own permissions in 4.6. We're acutely aware that making notifications annoying results in users turning them off, so we're always looking to ensure there is a reasonable balance.
    Splash Screen Images
    When you add a website to your phone's desktop, it appears like a native app. Tapping to launch the site can show a blank screen for a few seconds while the website is loaded. Fortunately, you can now set a 'splash' image in the Admin CP which is shown when launching the app.
     

    Sharing using native share options
    Another enhancement coming in 4.6 is the addition of the device share sheet when sharing content from within Invision Community. Users will now see a "More Sharing Options" button (providing their device/browser supports the underlying API) which, when tapped, will open the device share sheet. The options available depend on the device, but typically include actions like sharing links in WhatsApp, posting to Facebook or creating a note.

    Offline support
    With a larger share of users now using mobile devices for most of their browsing comes the problem of patchy phone signal and internet connections dropping out. For a dynamic web-based platform like Invision Community, it's difficult to offer much in the way of full offline support, but starting in 4.6 we will present a branded offline page to users when they have no internet connection and try to access the community.

     
    We hope that you are looking forward to these PWA improvements coming in Invision Community 4.6!
  2. Thanks
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, Highlight Topics With Replies From Groups   
    Wouldn't it be great to know if a staff member had replied to a topic before you clicked to open it?
    When you're scanning a list of topics, knowing which have had a reply by a member of the community team can help decide which to read. Currently, you need to open the topic and scan the posts to see if there's a reply from the team.
    Happily, in our next release, we've made it clear which have had a reply by a member of a specific group.
    You can specify which groups to show as having replied via the Groups form in the Admin CP.

    The per-group setting in the Admin CP
    You can select to detect the group based on the member's primary group, secondary group or both.
    When viewing a list of topics, you will see a badge showing that a member of that group has replied.

    This simple feature will make it easier to highlight when important replies have been made to topics, which is a great addition for forums using the new 'solved' feature.

    Let me know below if you'll use this new feature and what you'd like to see in the future.
  3. Thanks
    Sonya* reacted to Andy Millne for an entry, Anonymous Posting   
    For a very long time Invision Community has allowed community owners to choose how open or private their communities should be. Communities could optionally allow guests to post without registering, they could allow the use of pseudonyms or they could require the use of real names.
    This covers a diverse range of communities but feedback from our clients made us realize that some use cases have not been accounted for.
    For some types of community, where discussion topics are particularly sensitive, community owners want to make sure that members register with their real details but are given the option to post anonymously where appropriate. For example, organisations dealing with abuse or sensitive topics might want the member to feel safe and disinhibited to post info without fear of being identified by the rest of the community.
    With our next release, we are pleased to introduce Anonymous Posting to make this a reality.
    When enabled, members will see the option to post anonymously when creating or replying to content.

    Starting a new anonymous topic
    Author details for anonymously posted content is hidden throughout the community and instead a default profile picture and name is shown.
    Total anonymity is not always desirable however and in some cases it may be necessary for trusted staff members to know who posted the content. Where allowed, these staff members will be shown an option to reveal the content author.

    Author details are hidden but can be revealed by trusted staff members
    Anonymous posting can be enabled on a per group basis and also limited to specific forums, albums and categories etc. The ability for staff members to reveal who really posted the content is a moderator permission.
    We hope this new feature is a useful addition and where appropriate makes your members feel safe or comfortable to share info they might not have otherwise.
    How open or private is your community and what do you find are the benefits or disadvantages of anonymity?
  4. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, 3 lessons content creators can learn from conspiracy theories   
    Conspiracy theories have roots in the 19th century and have been popular for decades. Until recently, conspiracy theorists have lived in the margins. They are often convinced the earth is flat, Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone, and the moon landings were faked in a Hollywood sound stage.
    More recently, with 9/11 and the coronavirus pandemic, these conspiracy theories have become more mainstream, with celebrities and politicians sharing them over their official social media channels. From the evil machinations of Bill Gates, the rise of QAnon, to the conflation that 5G is responsible for spreading coronavirus, it's hard to ignore the impact they have in creating misinformation which undermines attempts at effective communication from governments and public health bodies.
    Despite reams of facts, logic and critical thinking, those that follow conspiracy theories will not be budged from their positions. They trust their sources implicitly, and a mountain of research disproving the argument does not interest them.
    The number of people that succumbs to these narratives grows every day. When you consume the content shared by the primary sources of this misinformation, it's easy to see why.
    Conspiracy theories are created and shared in a way that is engaging and irresistible to many seeking stability in a confusing world. Whatever your position is on these conspiracy theorists, you can leverage these tactics to make your own content more engaging and shareable.
    Lesson 1: Make it emotive
    Human beings have two distinct and independent thinking centres in the brain. One works on emotion (the limbic system) and the other on logic (the neocortex).
    The emotional brain works much faster than the logical brain. It is what has kept us alive as a species. If you hear a loud bang, your emotional brain processes this first and triggers the urge to move before your logical brain kicks in and deduces the bang was from a book expertly pawed from its shelf by your cat.
    The emotional brain is continually processing the world, and even though it's part of you, you do not have much control over it. Your logic brain, however, works on facts, truths and analysis.
    When you watch harrowing whistleblower testimony telling of their suffering in a conspiracy theory video, your emotional brain is powerfully stirred.
    It's why challenging conspiracy theorists who are emotionally committed to the point of view with just logic often fails. The emotional commitment is incredibly powerful, and when you challenge them, the logic brain is short-circuited, and the emotional brain becomes defensive. In fact, the more logic and evidence you provide, the more the emotional brain digs in and refuses the new evidence.
    How can you use this to your advantage?
    Work on creating an emotional response with your content. Don't purely rely on facts and logic to persuade your audience. Try and evoke an emotional reaction through imagery, metaphors and similes.
    President Obama was a powerful orator and used emotion often to create a strong message. When he spoke of investing in education, he invokes emotion by saying "We believe that when she goes to school for the first time, it should be in a place where the rats don't outnumber the computer."
    Lesson 2: Tell a story
    Conspiracy theory videos don't just reel off a list of events and facts, they tell a story. Some of the more complex theories are akin to a sprawling TV series with several characters linked by circumstance.
    Humans have always been curators of stories. From religious texts to morality fables, we learn and process the world through stories. Stories are memorable. Most adults can recite fairytales read to us when we were children.
    Use a story to link together critical points within your content.
    Consider how "Gamification has been proven to make communities more sticky and encourage more engagement" reads compared to "It was 3am, the flicker of the TV set was the only light in the room. My palms, slick with sweat, fought to keep the controller sticks moving. Even though I had a 6am start, I couldn't put the controller down. I had to finish the quest and collect the reward. Your community is no different."
    Take your reader on a journey, and they're more likely to finish your content. Try and make it personal. When we read, we always try and put ourselves in the shoes of the author or the protagonist.
    Stories and emotion go hand in hand. Recently, the Huffington Post ran a story with the headline "One death a minute" which is a very emotive and powerful alternative to the raw fact that 1,461 Americans lost their lives to COVID-19 on the 29th July.

    Lesson 3: Make it easy to consume
    A key strength for any content creator is to know when to create long-form content and snackable content.
    A single meme is more potent than 300 links to PubMed. A single YouTube video can be more persuasive than an expert in her field.
    Conspiracy theory creators use over-simplification to reduce a complex issue into an easily digestible entertaining snack. A meme generally contains a single idea that is easy to grasp and engaging. You don't have to work very hard to understand it, your visual brain processes it in 1/10th of a second, and it triggers a moment of delight.
    Infographics and memes are often smart ways to create an entrance to your content. If an image containing a straightforward idea from a more complex piece of content is digested quickly, it can leave your audience wanting more, and therefore more likely to involve themselves in your more complex work.

    When creating long-form content, consider the use of iconography, infographics and photography. Visuals help us remember and understand content quickly. I could say that 63% of this blog was written on an iPad, but a piechart would make this easier to process and more memorable.
    No tin foil hats required
    Creating compelling content is key to building your community. Your content sets the tone, helps drive re-engagement and positions you as a key expert in your field. Using the techniques many conspiracy theory creators use to spread their narratives will help your content be more memorable and shareable
    A well-created story with emotional cornerstones made more accessible by key points simplified into snackable quotes or images will help your content find a wider audience, whether you believe Neil Armstrong landed on the moon or not.
  5. Sad
    Sonya* reacted to Joel R for an entry, Lessons from the Virus: Community Engagement from WHO   
    The World Health Organization (WHO) is the world's most trusted source of information on international health, and a foremost partner to public health agencies combating the coronavirus.  They also understand the critical need for risk communication and community engagement to respond to the coronavirus pandemic -- a valuable strategy that any online community can adopt in these volatile times.  
    In March of this year as the coronavirus was already rampaging across nations, WHO published a series of guidance for risk communication and community engagement.  One of the major lessons they learned during some of the most perilous outbreaks including SARS, Ebola, and MERS was that community engagement was a critical factor in the success of containing any pandemic.  

    Here are 3 best practices from the World Health Organization that can help online communities navigate any crisis.  
    INFODEMICS
    One of the biggest problems hampering the effective treatment of coronavirus, or any major disruptive event in a community, is the excessive abundance of information - an "infodemic" from multiple and untrustworthy sources that reduces trust in any advice.  The flood of information can quickly overwhelm any at-risk population.  
    Community leaders need to proactively communicate.  As WHO recommends, "One of the most important and effective interventions to any event is to proactively communicate what is known, what is unknown, and what is being done to get more information."  Communication from community leaders establishes the chain of communication and establishes themselves as a source of credible information.  By getting out in front of disruptive events and staying in regular communication with your members, you build trust and ensure that proper advice will be followed.  
    PERCEPTIONS OF RISK 
    Different groups of people perceive the same problem differently.  In the case of coronavirus, WHO discovered that certain segments of the population didn't understand the risk of the virus as much as they should have - a gap of knowledge that effective communication would have addressed for different populations.  Part of the goal of WHO's risk communication and community engagement is to "help transform and deliver complex scientific knowledge so that it is understood by and trusted by populations and communities."  
    Community leaders need to tailor their communication to sub-groups.  While regular announcements and general updates are important for the community at-large, it leaves knowledge gaps for different sub-groups of your community membership: clients need to be informed of service interruptions; vendors need to be informed of supply chain disruptions; superusers need to know how to direct users for help.  Different stakeholders have differing needs, and each group requires customized and tailored communication to best navigate through the crisis.  
    ADDRESSING THE UNKNOWN & MISINFORMATION
    One of WHO's recommended actions for leaders was to be prepared to communicate about the first coronavirus case, even before the full picture was known.  Even today, much is unknown and data is still being compiled about coronavirus.  But in a digital world where misinformation gets mixed in with the ease of a tweet or share, it's more important than ever to communicate factually while acknowledging uncertainty.
    Address uncertainty by systematically collecting questions and providing answers to all questions.  In the beginning of any crisis, you won't have all the answers and events will still be unfolding.  It's critical to establish an early dialogue with your community to gather concerns from members, to monitor for misinformation, and to systematically compile questions into a FAQ. 

    Source:   Risk communication and community engagement readiness and response to coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Interim guidance 19 March 2020. World Health Organization.  
     
    On behalf of the entire IPS team, we wish our clients well wishes during these difficult times!  
     
    Executive Summary
    Problems of crisis: infodemics with excess information, different perceptions of risk among sub-groups, and uncertainty with misinformation. Solutions for community leaders: proactive communication, customized communication, and addressing uncertainty.  
  6. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: Everything else   
    We have announced a lot of new things coming soon with Invision Community 4.5. Most of these are pretty big new features worth a blog on their own.
    However, we've made a lot of smaller changes that may not deserve their own blog but still have a significant impact.
    Let's run through some of those.
    Performance Improvements
    For every major release, we take some time to run through the code and look at ways to make Invision Community run more efficiently.
    For Invision Community 4.5, we've made node forms, sitemaps and commonly run SQL queries more efficient, which is excellent news for you and your users who get reduced server load and a snappier community.
    TikTok Embed
    Although it confuses me greatly, TikTok has taken the internet by storm. We have added it to the embed list so pasting a TikTok share link automatically shows the video ready to play in the comment.

    A TikTok
    Upload Chunking
    Uploading large files can be tricky. Typically trying to push a large file to a server results in timeouts, memory issues and eventually frustration. We have added chunked uploading when using S3. Put simply; this uploads part of the file at a time to prevent memory issues and the server timing out waiting for the upload to finish.
    View Members by Rank
    Very recently, we were asked how you can view all members in the ACP of a specific rank. It turned out you couldn't. This quick change was added into Invision Community 4.5.

    Showing members with a specific rank in the AdminCP
    Download Statistics
    While Invision Community 4.5 has new and improved statistic displays, a common request was to be able to download the raw data. This is now possible.

    Export stats as a CSV
    Downloads
    In Invision Community 4.5, when you require approval of new versions of files submitted to Downloads, the original version will no longer be hidden from view. We've added a new flow for moderators to approve these new versions.
    Live Meta Tag Editor
    Invision Community 4.5 seemed like a great time to run through this feature and tweak the functionality to make it more useful. Now it's possible to remove default meta tags, and it's easier to remove custom tags.
    Closed Tag Autocomplete
    When using the closed tag system where a user can select from one of your preset tags, we have added a search box to make it easier to find a single tag from a list of potentially hundreds.
    EU Tax Support in Commerce
    Tax doesn't have to be taxing! But it generally is. Countries within the EU often have complex tax rates. Commerce now supports multiple tax rates for consumers, businesses and EU VAT-registered businesses.
    That concludes our mini round-up of all the things we've not talked about yet. Let me know which one you're looking forward to most!
  7. Thanks
    Sonya* reacted to Ryan Ashbrook for an entry, 4.5: Language System Updates   
    Ever since Invision Community 4.0, there has been a huge focus on making communities multi-lingual by providing translation features inside the AdminCP.
    We have received a lot of feedback on our multi-lingual and translation tools over the past year, and we're happy to announce these new features coming to Invision Community 4.5.

    Pages Phrase Tools
    If you have the Pages application, you can also use these phrases in HTML pages and HTML Blocks without needing to visit the translation tools area. Simply use the tag editor in the sidebar when editing a page or block's contents.



    The new phrases sidebar options
    You can quickly create new multi-lingual phrases by clicking the + icon.

    The new add phrase dialog
    Additionally, WYSIWYG Blocks have now been made translatable, so you can now create WYSIWYG blocks that will display their content in specific languages.
    Translation Tools
    Language pack creators can now set a version update URL which is checked to notify admins within the AdminCP that an update available, just like the theme system. This is a great way to notify customers when fixes are available.

    Finally, you can now quickly add a new phrase from the Translation Tools page without the need to use the developer tools.

    The new "Add Phrase" option

    These little changes should make a huge difference in your workflow, and make it easier than ever to create fully multi-lingual pages throughout your site.
  8. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Rikki for an entry, 4.5: Introducing our updated default theme   
    If you've been around Invision Community for a while, you'll know our frontend default theme hasn't significantly evolved since the early days of 4.0. Indeed, the last significant refresh came with 4.2.
    With the upcoming release of 4.5, we wanted to revisit the default theme and give it a facelift for 2020, as well as make incremental improvements to the underlying codebase as a stepping stone to a bigger re-engineering in a future version.
    In this entry, I want to talk a little about some of the design decisions that went into building the new theme.
    Goals
    Redesigning for the sake of it is never a good idea, so we first laid out what we wanted to achieve:
    A brighter UI with more saturation & contrast and simpler overall color scheme Improved typography Better, more consistent, spacing around and between elements, especially on mobile Better logical grouping of sections of each page Reducing underutilized links/buttons on the page and finding alternative ways of making them available Improving how post states are displayed Modernizing and enhancing the underlying code that powers the default theme Let's talk a little about each of these.
     
    Brighter UI
    The most obvious change will be that our default colors are brighter and more saturated than before. Before making any changes, we first created a color scale for both neutrals and the brand color (blue, of course). This gave us a flexible but consistent palette of colors to choose from, with appropriate contrast built in. Neutrals have a touch of blue too to avoid seeming washed out.
    We've simplified the style, in particular reducing reliance on background colors to differentiate sections within cards (a card essentially being an ipsBox, for those who are familiar with our framework). Instead, we use spacing, borders and appropriate typography to achieve visual separation.

    Brighter default colors
     

    Simplifying the UI by removing block backgrounds
     
    Improving typography
    We've felt our typography has been somewhat muddled for some time - with a mixture of sizes, weights and colors used depending on the particular context.
    The first step to improving it was to create a typography scale that we could refer to and implement, to ensure we remained consistent throughout the product.

    Our typography scale
    (The keen-eyed amongst you may also notice we've switched our default font to Inter. Inter is a fantastic open source font that is ideal for text on the web, and was recently added to the Google Web Fonts project making it super simple for us to incorporate it into our default theme.)
    We've been much more deliberate about applying type styles, especially for titles, ensuring that they are always visually distinct from surrounding text. We've done this through both color and weight. As a result, pages should instinctively feel more organized and logical than before.

    An example of improved typography, from the Downloads app
     
    Improved spacing (especially on mobile)
    We identified that spacing (padding and margins) needed some improvement. A lot of spacing values were arbitrary and inconsistent, leading to poor visual harmony across any given page.
    Most troubling of all, on mobile sizes we simply halved desktop padding values. While this was a reasonable approach in the days of phones with small screens, it has felt decidedly dated for some time. Phone screens are now typically larger and able to accommodate roomier UIs without appearing comical.
    In 4.5, we have done away with that approach, and the impact was immediate. Mobile sizes now get a much more pleasant interface, with elements having room to breathe. In addition, we've also made most cards full-width to provide additional breathing space for content.

    Posts can finally breathe on mobile
     
    There are numerous other tweaks across the product too: default spacing has been increased a little, data tables (e.g. topic listing) get extra vertical spacing, and spacing between elements has become more consistent.
     
    Improved grouping of related elements
    Prior to 4.5, most content areas existed inside cards. However, one notable exception to this was page headers and as a result, they could feel particularly disorganized, especially for users who had many controls in this part of the page (such as staff).
    To solve this problem, we've developed a new, standardized design for content item page headers, giving them their own cards and consistent button placement.

    Topic view header
     
    Some areas don't necessarily fit into the same design pattern above. In those areas, we've tweaked styling to suit the context, while still adhering to our overall aesthetic.

    Calendar header

    Messenger conversation header
     
    Reducing underutilized links/buttons
    Finally, another area we identified as needing improvement is the abundance of tools, made up of links and buttons, across pages. Many of these are only used occasionally and so would be better moved out of the main view to simplify the page.
    Two particular areas we focused on were share links and postbits (both forum posts and comments in other apps).
    Research shows social share links are used by a vanishingly small percentage of users, so even though they were at the bottom of the page, it was unnecessary to make them so prominent (given their eye-catching colors). To solve this, we've added a share link to the page header, with the social network links themselves in a popup menu. The result is ideal: sharing functionality is unobtrusive but obvious.

    Share links in content items
    Comment areas have also suffered from 'button creep' over the years. A typical comment will contain a report link, a share link, a quote link and multiquote button, reactions, plus IP address, checkbox, edit and options links for certain users. That is a lot of visual noise around the important part: the content.
    We've therefore simplified comment boxes as much as is reasonable. Reporting and sharing comments/posts is now available in the post options menu, as are any tools for the author/staff. Quoting and reacting are two primary interactions for users, so they of course retain their position in the control bar.

    Simpler postbits, even for staff
     
    Improving post states
    Posts/comments in Invision Community can have many states - sometimes more than one. Posts can be hidden/unapproved, popular, recommended, solved (new in 4.5!) or highlighted because of the author's group. It's always been a challenge to indicate these statuses well.
    In previous versions, we added a border but the most prominent indicator was a flag in the top-right corner of the post. This had three problems:
    Due to the lack of space (thanks to report/share links), showing more than one flag was difficult. Showing any flags on mobile was messy because of the space constraints. The meaning of the flags was not obvious, especially to new users. Group-highlighted posts had no flag, just a border, which made them even more difficult to understand. With the top-right corner of posts now tidied up and free from fluff, we were able to much more effectively use this space to indicate post statuses.
    In 4.5, posts and comments will show badges when they have a particular status, as well as a more attractive semi-transparent border. For group-highlighted posts, we show the group name instead (the colors of this highlight are still controllable via theme settings).

    A post with two states: group highlighted and popular
    This works much better on mobile too, where the status badges get the prominence they deserve:

    Mobile post statuses
     
    Modernizing the underlying code
    I wrote about the technical improvements behind the theme in a previous entry. If you're a theme designer or edit the theme for your own community, go and check it out now!
     
    Wrapping up
    As well as these large-scale concepts, you'll notice many other smaller enhancements as you start using the new theme.
    I've shown some snippets of pages in the screenshots above, but I've included some full-page views below so you can see the overall aesthetic and how these pieces fit together.
    Modernizing and refreshing our default theme has been needed for some time, but we view this as just a stepping stone to future work that will be reserved for a major version bump, and we're excited to figure out where we go next.
     
    Screenshots
      
    Desktop forum views (click to expand)
     
        
    Mobile forum views (click to expand)
     
     
    Activity streams & messenger (click to expand)
     
  9. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Rikki for an entry, 4.5: Improvements for theme designers   
    If you've been around Invision Community for a while, you'll know our frontend default theme hasn't significantly evolved since the early days of 4.0. Indeed, the last significant refresh came with 4.2.
    With the upcoming release of 4.5, we wanted to revisit the default theme and give it a facelift for 2020, as well as make incremental improvements to the underlying codebase as a stepping stone to a bigger re-engineering in a future version. Keep an eye out for our next blog for more on the facelift.
    In this entry, I want to go over some of the design and code-level changes we've implemented that will be of particular interest to third-party theme designers, or those building a custom theme for their community.
    IE11 Support
    Until now, we've supported IE11 as a 'B' browser - meaning we didn't aim for perfect support (especially visually), but did aim to make all functionality work, and we fixed IE11-specific issues if possible.
    As of 4.5, we no longer support IE11 in any way and Invision Community will not work well in that browser. By removing support for IE11, we are able to make use of newer CSS technologies which significantly eases development for us and third-party designers. I'll discuss some of those below.
    Combined theme settings
    We've combined a number of existing theme settings into one new setting. We've found that settings like poll_bar, step_background, rating_hover and so on are nearly always set to the same color - typically the site's main brand color. These settings have therefore been replaced with one new brand_color setting, which is used throughout the CSS in places where this primary color would be needed. This will simplify the early stages of theme development and make it easier to match branding in Invision Community.

    Front end colors
    Removing hardcoded colors
    While our theme settings have allowed community owners to change most colors, there were still many hardcoded in our CSS framework. These were typically neutral colors used for things like 'close' links, semi-transparent backgrounds and so on, but it was enough to make creating a dark theme an unrealistic prospect without an awful lot of effort (and kudos to those designers who have offered dark themes up until now!).
    In 4.5, we've removed hardcoded colors from our framework, and instead rely on colors already defined by theme settings. You can now, finally, create a dark theme just by editing the built-in theme settings.
    Type scale & {fontsize} tag
    While we've had fixed type-size classes (e.g. ipsType_normal) for a long time, in practice many elements had their own font sizes set. This leads to inconsistency and poor visual rhythm too. Another side effect is it was also tough to globally change the font size (such as for branding purposes, or to create a theme for visually-impaired users).
    To solve these problems, we first created a type scale; that is, a fixed number of sizes to choose from. A product the size of Invision Community does have need for a flexibility, so we settled on the following scale:
    x_small: 12; small: 13; medium: 14; base: 16; large: 18; x_large: 20; 2x_large: 24; 3x_large: 30; 4x_large: 36.
    All of these values are editable as theme settings, so each theme can adjust the type scale used. Our default CSS in 4.5 has been fully updated to put all type on this scale.
    To actually make use of these settings, we have added a new {fontsize} tag which accepts either a scale key, or a specific pixel size (for those occasional situations where a specific size is absolutely needed, e.g. icons).
    Why couldn't we just use {theme="x_small"}, or even CSS variables? To solve the problem of globally scaling text, we have also added a percentage-based scale setting that will save you from having to create your own type scale. The {fontsize} tag automatically applies the global scale to any values passed into it. Want text in your theme to be twice as big as default? Simply set the global type scale to 200% and the entire theme will reflect the change immediately. 

    The new font size options
    Spacing scale
    The lack of a consistent spacing scale has led to some arbitrary values being used in any given situation, which again has had a negative impact on the visual harmony of our design. We've therefore implemented a 4px spacing scale (using CSS variables rather than theme settings this time) and applied across almost all padding/margin values. In time, we anticipate fully switching all measurement values to the scale.
    New CSS class families
    We have added a range of new spacing classes for padding and margins, allowing far more control over how these are applied, especially on different device sizes. Previously, ipsPad (15px) was simply halved on small screens - with no 'opt-out' short of adding specific CSS. We've felt this has been imprecise for some time, especially since mobile devices typically have larger screens in 2020 and don't need to be so tightly-spaced.
    ipsPad_all now replaces the existing ipsPad, and does not halve itself on small screens. Instead, there's a new responsive naming convention that allows you to apply specific padding on specific device sizes:
    ipsPad_all:double md:ipsPad_all sm:ipsPad_all:half
    In this arbitrary example, desktop size (the default) get double padding, medium (tablets) get regular padding and small (phones) get half padding.
    We've added similar classes for top, bottom, left and right padding, as well as horizontal, vertical and none (to removing all padding) shortcuts.
    For margins, the old ipsSpacer_* classes have been replaced with a new ipsMargin family that work exactly the same as the padding classes above, with the same range of flexibility.
    The old ipsPad/ipsSpacer classes will continue working as they did before for backwards compatibility, but should be considered deprecated from 4.5 onwards.
    We've also added a whole range of new ipsFlex classes, also with responsive controls (making it easy to have horizontal layouts on desktop and vertical layouts on mobile, for example), as well as a new ipsGap utility that automatically adds spacing between elements, without requiring manual :first-child/:last-child exclusions.
    CSS variables & calc()
    In 4.5, thanks to IE11 support ending, we're finally making use of CSS variables and calc() to make CSS more maintainable and easier to customize. A lot of repeating or often-customized styles - such as form field styles, message colors, card styles, border radii etc. - are now created as CSS variables, allowing theme designers to easily change styling in one place. Instead of magic numbers, we either stick to our spacing scale, or use calc() to avoid hardcoded numbers.
    The future
    The work we've done so far is just a 'first-pass'. We'll be pressing forward with modernization throughout the 4.5.* series and beyond with a view to reducing our footprint, improving our ability to maintain our CSS and, of course, making theming easier for our customers.
  10. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: Page Builder Widgets   
    Invision Community introduced drag and drop widgets many years ago. These widgets allowed anyone to add blocks to existing views, and to build up entirely new pages.
    These widgets were great for quickly adding content to a page, but they weren't incredibly customizable. 
    For Invision Community 4.5, we've added three new Page Builder widgets which allow you a little more control.
    For an overview of this new feature, please take a look at the video below.
    As you can see, these new widgets offer a lot of customization without the need to code any CSS or HTML. You can add background colours and images, adjust padding and borders and even add colour overlays right from the widget menu.

    The new Page Builder widget options
    Blandness be gone! Now you can let your creativity loose on your pages and all other views that have the drag and drop zones.
    I'd love to know what you think of this new feature; please let me know below!
  11. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Rikki for an entry, Theme Tip: Dynamic(ish) forum feeds inside Pages databases   
    Recently, we had a post in our pre-sales forum that asked how to achieve a few different things with Pages. One of the questions asked was if it was possible to show topics from a particular forum in each database record. While Pages can create a topic for each record for you, there's no way to associate an entire forum with a record.
    In my reply, I indicate that you'd need to have a forum ID stored with each record in a custom field, and then use PHP to interact with our API to pull the topic list.
    As it turns out, however, there's an easier way that I discovered after some experimentation. In hindsight it's obvious, but I want to share it here because it could open up some other interesting possibilities with some creative uses.
    Setting up blocks
    The first thing we need to do is create our blocks. We're going to create a block for each of our forums. You can set whatever parameters you want here, but the important thing is that they're named consistently using the forum ID. So, for my forum ID 2, I've named the block forum_2. This will allow us to include our blocks later.

    Creating one of the blocks we'll need
     
    Adding the field
    Next we'll need to create a field in our Pages database that will be used to set the forum ID that is going to show in each record. For simplicity, I'm creating a Number field and I'll enter the forum ID manually, but if you wanted to go further, you could create a Select Box field, with the key being each forum and the value being the name. This would give you a friendlier input from which to select the forum for each record.
    Here, though, I've just created the Number field, and named it Forum ID.

    Setting up the database field
     
    Using the field formatter to show the correct block
    Finally, we'll use the Field Formatting options to show the correct block based on the forum ID entered for each record. On the Display Options tab, I'm going to hide the field from the listing template, but show it on the display template. I've selected Custom as the format, then entered this format:
    {{if $formValue}} {block="forum_{$formValue}"} {{endif}} That's it - that's all you need for this to work. It's very simple. All we're doing is passing the $formValue of the field (which is the raw value) into the {block} tag as a variable, so that the block that is rendered depends on this value. As long as a block exists with the correct key, it'll be shown in the display view:

    End result, with the correct block pulled in based on the ID we provided to the record
     
    Going further
    So, given that we know we can use variables in block names to pull in different content (providing the block has been created ahead of time), what other possibilities are there? For starters, we aren't just restricted to using field formatters. Instead, we could use blocks directly in the database templates, using some of the data available there.
    Here's one idea - if you have just a few staff members posting records, you could create a block for each staff member that lists their recent posts, status updates, etc. In your database template, you could include the correct block by doing this:
    {block="content_for_{$record->author()->member_id}"}  
    I hope this relatively simple approach gives you some ideas for more creative ways to use blocks. If you have any suggestions for other ways to use this approach, please let us know in the comments!
  12. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: Forum View Updates   
    Invision Community has had different view modes for a good number of years.
    Forum grid view was added to create some visual interest when listing forums, and we've had expanded and condensed view modes in streams since they were introduced.
    We've taken both of these views a step further in Invision Community 4.5
    Forum Grid View
    To create even more visual interest, the grid view now allows you to upload, or choose a stock image for the header. This instantly makes for a more dynamic and inviting forum list.

    The new grid view image headers
    You can choose an image from the Admin CP when creating or editing a forum.

    Choose a stock photo, or upload your own
    Topic List View
    For the topic list view, we have taken inspiration from our stream view options to introduce a new 'expanded' view mode, which displays a snippet of the first post.

    The new expanded topic list mode
    This immediately entices you to engage with the topic because you can read part of the post without having to click inside to see if it interests you.
    This is controlled via the Admin CP, where you can choose the default view, or turn off the new view completely.
    Other Changes
    You may notice a few other subtle changes in these screenshots. The first is that we now included the follower count as a metric on both the forum grid view and the topic expanded view modes. The number of followers is usually a good indicator of how others perceive the value of the content. A higher follower count generally means a more engaging topic or forum.
    You can also see that we've switched to a short number format to keep the displays clean. Instead of say, "2,483 posts", it will merely say "2.5k posts". Reducing visual clutter is always crucial to maintaining a clean user interface.
    We hope that you find these new view modes useful and that they make your community even more vibrant!
  13. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Mark for an entry, 4.5: Zapier Brings Integration with Over 2,000 Web Apps   
    Zapier is a service that allows you to connect over 2,000 web apps. In Invision Community 4.5 we are launching a beta service of Zapier integration for Invision Community in the Cloud.
    What does Zapier do?
    Zapier acts as a bridge between Invision Community and other apps, such as Google Docs, Twitter, Facebook, Slack, Trello, Facebook Ads, ActiveCampaign, Zendesk, Asana, Salesforce, Hubspot, Discord, Stripe and more. Zapier has over 2000 apps registered currently, and that number grows every single day.
    Let us look at a real life example.
    Right now, if you wanted to add a member to a Google Sheets document each time a new registration was completed, you'd need some fairly complex code to be written that was "triggered" by this registration event. This would take days to write at some cost.
    Zapier simplifies this by allowing you to connect Invision Community with Google Sheets without needing a single line of code. Zapier allows you to streamline your workflows in minutes.
    Zapier has two types of events, triggers and actions.
    Triggers
    When a certain thing happens on Invision Community, like a member registering or a topic being posted, a trigger can be sent to Zapier to then run actions in other apps. For example, you might create a zaps to...
    When a member registers, add their email to a Mailchimp list. When a moderator posts a topic in a news forum, share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. When a member posts something that requires moderator approval, send a message to a Slack channel for your moderators.
    Invision Community Integration with Mailchimp through Zapier
    Actions
    You can also set up Zaps so that when something happens in an external application, it triggers an action in your Invision Community. For example, you might create a zaps to...
    When you add an event in a Google Calendar, create a Calendar Event on your community. When you receive an email to a feedback email address, create a topic on your community in a forum for moderators. When you create a task in Trello, add a record to a Pages Database on your community.
    Invision Community Integration with Google Calendar through Zapier
    Self-Integration
    In addition to using Zapier to integrate with third party services, you can also connect an Invision Community trigger to an Invision Community action. For example: when a member registers, create a topic in a welcome forum.

    Self-Integration through Zapier
    Frequently Asked Questions
    What integrations are available?
    In the beta launching with Invision Community 4.5, Zapier will be able receive a trigger when a member account or content (forum post, gallery image, etc.) is created and send actions to create the same. More triggers and actions will be added over time. When will this integration be out of beta?
    Later this year. Will third party applications and plugins be able to create Zapier triggers and actions?
    Because the integration requires an app hosted with Zapier (which is written in Node.js) and this has to be submitted directly by the vendor, it will be difficult for third party applications and plugins to integrate with Zapier through Invision Community's integration. In the future we may be able to provide basic abstracted integrations for third party applications and plugins through an extension API. In the meantime, third party authors can of course write their own Zapier Apps if desired.
  14. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: Topic view summary and more   
    A topic is more than a collection of posts; it's a living entity that ebbs and flows over time.
    Evergreen topics can see month-long gaps between posts and longer topics spanning numerous pages can end up hard to navigate through to find useful content.
    With this in mind, we've added numerous improvements to the topic view to bring context and summaries key areas within the topic.

    Topic view updates
    Topic Activity
    The first thing you likely spotted in the above screenshot is the new sidebar. This acts much like a summary of activity within the topic. It very quickly lets you know how old the topic is and how long it has been since the last reply. This context is essential if you are unwittingly replying to an older topic.
    Most topics are driven by a handful of key members. The topic activity section shows you who have been most active, which may influence which posters you give greater authority to.
    Likewise, popular days lets you dig into the 'meat' of the topic which may have evolved quickly over several days.
    More often than not, a single post attracts more reactions if it is particularly helpful or insightful, and this is shown too.
    Finally, a mini gallery of all upload images allows you to review media that has been attached to posts.

    The topic activity summary under the first post
    This activity bar can be shown either as a sidebar or underneath the first post in a topic. If you enable it for mobile devices, then it will show under the first post automatically.

    The topic activity summary on mobile
    As with many new features in Invision Community, you have several controls in the Admin CP to fine-tune this to your communities needs.

    AdminCP settings
    Other improvements
    The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted a few other changes to the topic view.
    The first is the badge underneath the user's photo. The shield icon notes that this poster is part of the moderation team. Of course, this badge can be hidden for communities that do not like to draw attention to all their moderators.

    You will also notice that when the topic starter makes a reply to a topic, they get an "author" badge as their reply may carry more authority.
    When you scroll down a topic, it's not often apparent that there has been a significant time gap between replies. For some topical topics (see what I did there) this may alter the context of the conversation.
    We have added a little identifier between posts when a period of time has passed between posts.

    These changes add a little context to the topic to give you more insight into how the replies direct the conversation.
    The new topic activity summary gives you an at-a-glance overview of key moments and posters to help you navigate longer topics.
    We hope that you and your members enjoy these new features coming to Invision Community 4.5!
  15. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, Make working from home work for you   
    The news is currently filled with anxiety over coronavirus and workers are being encouraged to work from home where possible to limit or delay its spread.
    For many people used to commuting daily and working in shared offices, this is a huge upheaval which will take a while to adjust.
    How do you stay motivated and productive when you're not at your desk and held accountable by your colleagues next to you?
    Remote working has become popular over the last few years. The internet has transformed how we work, and improvements to connection speeds, authentication systems and cloud architecture make working home a viable alternative for many office workers.
    Working from home certainly doesn't suffer the same stigma it did years ago when it was synonymous with sleeping in late, daytime TV binges and excessive time in pyjamas.
    A good number of years ago, I was getting my hair cut. It was about 11 am on a weekday, and we had the usual small talk as she attempted to tame my unruly mop. The question I was waiting for dropped a moment later "so, is this your day off?" My reply was that I work from home so have some flexibility in my day. Usually, this gets a nod, and we move onto the weather. I'd not met this hairdresser before. She processed my reply, stopped snipping and locked eyes with me via the mirror. "Do you really work from home, or is that you don't have a job?"
    Fears over reduced productivity from remote workers have proved to be unfounded. A large-scale experiment was conducted with 16,000 employees of a Chinese call centre. Workers were randomly assigned to either work from home or at the office for nine months. The home workers enjoyed a 13% performance increase due to fewer breaks and sick days.
    At Invision Community we not only make a product designed to bring people together online, but a good number of us also work remotely. Our HQ is in Virginia, USA but we have team members in the UK, Europe and Australia. Remote working allows us to hire the best people we can find, and not just those who are within a few miles of our HQ.
    I spoke with our team to get their tips and strategies for working from home and still getting work done.
    Rikki, lead UI designer
    Get out of the house every day
    It's easy to fall into the trap of being a hermit for days on end. Particularly in the summer, I like to take a walk to get lunch every single day. It gives me a chance to get some fresh air, a little exercise and most importantly get away from my office properly (instead of just being in the next room, which doesn't feel like it's really taking a break).
    Don't take your work home downstairs with you
    Another easy trap to fall into is working every waking hour because you're always 'at work'. Set fixed work start/end times and stick to them. Leave your office at the end of the day and consider the work finished. If you do need to hop back to work later because something cropped up, go back to your desk to put yourself in work mode - don't be tempted to start working from the sofa.
    Olivia, Customer Success Manager
    Organize your workspace
    You may not be lucky enough to be able to repurpose a dedicated room in the house, but that doesn't mean you can't find a good spot to work from. Choose a place that is free of clutter and well lit.
    Organize your work
    I'm a big fan of to-do lists. Keeping my lists organized helps me stay on track and prevents me from drifting too far from what's important. I like the "To Do versus To Get Done concept."
    Organize yourself
    Plan in breaks away from your screen. There's always one more email to write, but setting times to take a break is vital to keeping your energy and focus. Working from home means that you cannot rely on others to remind you!
    Check-in often with teammates
    At Invision Community, we use Slack to keep in touch and recreate the 'water cooler' moments where we discuss our favourite TV shows, movies and more.
    Reframe "my office is always open" to "I'm always available for a call". Remind your colleagues often that they can start a voice call if they need to talk.
    Stuart, developer and migration specialist
    Minimize human distractions
    When you're working from home, it's easy to get distracted, especially by other people! Remind your family and friends that during your work hours you're working. As much as you'd love to spend the day drinking tea (or beverage of your choice) and chatting, you do have a job.

    Stuart's work area
    How we do it
    There's no doubt that we're fortunate to have a team that is self-motivated and responsible. Remote working can allow individuals to drift, and productivity suffers.
    We use a combination of software platforms and a few simple strategies to keep us all informed, organized and feeling part of a greater team.
    We use Slack to not only onboard new clients, but also to organize product development, feedback and support. These channels are well used, but without a doubt, our 'general' channel is used the most. This is where we hang out socially and chat during our breaks. It's easy to see this as unproductive or distracting, but I feel that it helps build us as a team and helps forge relationships with each other.
    We use a private Invision Community as an intranet hub which does the heavy lifting for organizing releases. It also acts as a repository for feedback, new feature ideas and development discussions.
    We encourage breakout groups to voice call to resolve hot topics and pressing issues. It's amazing what you can get done in a few minutes by voice.
    We hold a stand up voice meeting weekly where we organize the week, discuss anything pressing and run through development tasks. This call is developer-focused, but it's held company-wide, so it is inclusive. We try and avoid human information silos where possible.

    Daniel's workstation
    Above all, just keep talking
    It's just as important to share your personality as it is your work. Make sure you check in on quiet colleagues to make sure they're OK. Not everyone is super-chatty, and some prefer to switch off and focus. However, it's easy to feel a real sense of loneliness and isolation if you don't have a partner or family living with you.
    It's essential to put effort into maintaining relationships online. Working remotely means less interaction with your colleagues, and it's easy for multifaceted personalities to become a flattened disembodied persona online. Without the office 'vibe' and body language cues we often take for granted, it's easy to lose that personal connection.
    Build depth by asking how your colleagues weekends were. Ask about their hobbies and pets. Work at keeping a connection with the person behind the computer.

    In our team we have little sub-groups that focus on our hobbies. There's the running/workout club where we share our training plans and give each other virtual high-fives. I've actually found it easier to stick to a running plan knowing that my colleague is running too (and beating my times!).
    If you only take one thing away from this, maintaining strong relationships with your team is key! If your team isn't keen on video calling, then make sure you voice call regularly. I can't stress how important it is to verbally talk to your colleagues. We start each call off with some light hearted chat and listening to the inflections in other's voices and have them laugh at your silly jokes recharges your soul.
    Take advantage of technology
    Apart from using Invision Community as a hub and company-wide information repository, there's a lot of apps you can use to make your work time more productive and avoid the constant distractions partners and children rattling about the house can cause.
    I work from home and have two young children. School holidays can be challenging when the house comes alive during the day, and there's a constant stream of potential distractions.
    I use "focus music" with noise-cancelling headphones when I want to knuckle down and write code or blog articles. Right now, my kids are at school, and I'm listening to Metallica at an unreasonable volume through my Homepod speaker. For some reason, loud metal music helps me concentrate.
    There are only so many power chords you can take, and I've found Brain.fm to be very useful. Brain.fm uses "neural phase-locking" via music to help you focus. I have no idea what that means, but it does help me get into the zone on days where I struggle with productivity.
    I have the attention span of an anxious squirrel. It can take me a long while to get into the zone and mere seconds to pop back out.
    When I'm writing code, it's less of a problem. I just put on Brain.fm or some music, and I get lost in time and space as I build complex constructs in my mind before bringing it together in my code editor.
    However, when I'm writing articles, helping support, hopping between tasks, or doing general administration work, I rely on a Pomodoro timer. The idea is that you work in sprints of 25 minutes, followed by a short break, usually 5 minutes. You repeat this cycle four times and take a longer break.
    Many apps can track your time in this way, including web-based tools such as the amusingly named Tomato Timer.
    Using this technique helps me get into the flow by giving me "permission" to take breaks but only once the work block has finished. I might pop out of focus and think about checking up on our community or Facebook and get back to work when I realize I've still got 12 minutes of work left.

    Where I work. Can you guess my favourite TV show?
    Work/life balance doesn't exist
    You'll often hear people talk about their work/life balance. You are better off thinking in terms of work/life integration.
    Now, I'm not suggesting that you work all day and night. I'm not one of those "sleep when you're dead" people. I like to sleep. I have a partner and two kids I want to enjoy and passions outside of my computer (although my guitars are gathering dust again).
    The reality is that when your workstation is just a door away from the rest of your life, you're going to work outside of the traditional 9-5 routine despite how rigorous you may want to define a working day.
    This might be because you took the morning off to watch your kid's school play or you may have booked a haircut during the day as it's much quieter. My advice would be to look for pockets of time that won't impact the rest of your family or free time. I tend to earmark an hour once the kids have gone to bed as potential "work overflow" time. This allows me to integrate my work schedule with my home schedule without it taking over my life.
    Avoid Coffeeshops
    Working with your laptop in a coffeeshop is a massive cliché. Every single time I've walked into Starbucks, there have been dozens of people at tables squinting at laptop screens.
    It's an attractive idea. You get to mingle with fellow humans. You get a change of scenery and a decent cup of coffee.
    You also get a constant source of distractions, poor quality and insecure Wi-Fi and sideways glances from staff who'd love to free up your table. 
    Also, what do you do with your laptop when you need a restroom break? Do you take it with you? What if someone sits at your table while you're gone?
    It's just not for me.

    Jim's work area
    Exercise and movement
    I won't lecture you about health and fitness, but I do want to highlight one downside of having no commute and office building to move through: being super-sedentary.
    If you used to clock up 10,000 steps walking to the train station, walking to your office and then clocking up steps as you moved between meeting rooms and social areas, then expect that number to drop sharply.
    There are days where my Apple Watch tells me I've done less than 1500 steps during the day. To combat this, I make time during the day to go for a walk or to exercise. I'm fortunate that I have a treadmill in the garage along with some weight lifting equipment. If you don't have any equipment, then a short walk is better than nothing. As a bonus, you'll get some fresh air and vitamin D from the sun.
    I also have a standing desk so that I can get on my feet during the day and an exercise bike I can use while working with the desk at its highest position.
    Find ways to incorporate movement into your day for your own mental and physical health.
    Conclusion
    Despite the many challenges working remotely can cause and the learning curve of taking your work home, the vast majority prefer to work from home. In a study of 100 remote workers, only six said they'd return to the office if given a chance.
    If you're new to working remotely, then there will be mistakes. There will be days when you feel that you've achieved very little and probably yearn for some human interaction and be told what to do next. It's all part of the process.
    Keep lines of communication open, check in on your colleagues and embrace the freedom working remotely gives.
  16. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: Notification Improvements   
    Notifications are a crucial feature in enticing members back to your community to read updates and post their replies.
    It makes sense that there should be as little friction as possible when setting up notifications. We want to encourage members to enable notifications relevant to them.
    The current notifications form in Invision Community is functional but overwhelming and confusing for new members.
    Thankfully, we have simplified it to make it clear what notifications are available and which you have enabled currently.
    This new settings page also includes support for our new mobile app and links to remove all email notifications.
    Notification Emails
    Notification emails are essential to re-engage a member. However, we found that when the email contained all of the post content return visits were not as frequent because the email provided all the information the member needed.
    In Invision Community 4.5, we've added an option to truncate the content of the email to encourage curious return visits and to reduce the chance that a confused member will attempt to post a reply via the email!

    What does the rest say?!
    Download's Notifications
    To receive notifications of new file updates it was previously necessary to follow files. This meant that you would also be notified of reviews and comments even if they were of no interest to you. From 4.5 we have added a separate button (send me version updates) so you have more control over the notifications you receive. 

    Send me version updates
    We've plenty of new features yet to announce for Invision Community 4.5, but improvements to common features make our lives a little easier and are just as welcome!

    Are you looking forward to finally making sense of notification choices? Let us know below!
  17. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Joel R for an entry, The Paradox of Choice: Why A Major Retail CEO Spent His First 100 Days Thinking About Can Openers   
    CEO Mark Triggon, previously the chief merchandising officer at Target, laid out his plans to turn around the beleaguered American retailer Bed Bath & Beyond.  Part of that plan was reducing the number of can openers from 12 to 3. 
    Sales rose. 
    In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Tritton explained how tests conducted in his first few months at the company showed that less is more when it comes to product assortment.  “The big takeaway: Selling too many items in stores that are overcrowded leads to ‘purchase paralysis,” Mr. Tritton said. 
    Bed Bath & Beyond exploded across the American landscape in the 1990s and 2000’s with its focus on opening new “big box” stores for home merchandise where it was meant to be a category killer – consumers would shop in stores that offered them anything and everything.  It was famous for its floor-to-ceiling options, and a simple trip for a new shower curtain turned into a shopping spree for every room in the home.  In recent years though, that approach has soured on consumers.  A Business Insider reporter commented on her latest trip, “From our first steps in, the store was overwhelming. There was merchandise packed top to bottom on shelves that lined every wall.” 
    The tides have changed.  Consumers are being offered – and overwhelmed – with more choices than ever before.   
    PARADOX OF CHOICE
    One of the great benefits of the modern web is a proliferation of choice: choice in sprawling ideologies, choice in niche interests, and choice in shopping for thousands of products at a click of a button.  All of this, every day.  Unfortunately, that abundance of choice can stress and even paralyze our ability to make decisions. 
    Psychologist Barry Schwartz coined the term Paradox of Choice in a 2004 book by the same name, where he advanced the idea that eliminating consumer choices can reduce anxiety for shoppers.  In other words, instead of offering 12 options for can openers, offer 3 options.   
    What does this mean for online communities?
    LESS IS MORE
    Across the spectrum of communities and forums, some of the biggest critical mistakes are forum creep and feature bloat.  New features are mindlessly added thinking it will lead to higher engagement, new forums are added for every conceivable discussion, and design choices are automatically enabled at the default without aligning to your strategy. 
    Your initial goal is to sweep through your entire community and identify the areas that align with your community strategy.  For categories and boards that are low-value, low traffic, or not aligned with any strategic objectives, you should aggressively consolidate or eliminate. 
    There’s no hard rule when it comes to design choices, although 7 has been touted as a magic number for short-term human memory.  You can use this magic number across a range of design decisions. For example:
    At most 7 Reactions At most 7 Primary Menu options At most 7 major sections or content hubs THE JAM EXPERIMENT
    Choice overload can actually lead to less sales.  In 2000, psychologists Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University and Mark Lepper of Stanford University led a much-recited study where they presented passerbys at a food market with two tables: one with 24 fruit jams, the other with 6 jams. 
    The one with 24 different jams generated more traffic to sample and taste.  But guess which table generated more sales?  The other table with fewer jams, which had ten times more purchases!   
    The moral of the story? At junctures of your member journey where you ask users to make a critical decision such as user information when registering, subscriptions, or selling products, don’t be the table with 24 jams to sample, but never able to sell.      
    BIG BOX & SMALL BOX
    Invision Community offers an interesting approach where you can act like both a “big box” community for your general audience and still offer “small box” cohesiveness for more intimate groups. The feature is called Clubs, which empowers smaller groups to form and split off from the main audience.  This is an especially consequential feature for mature and large communities looking to organically cultivate their next generation of engagement.   
    Indeed, this is a trend happening in a large way among next-gen consumers, who are realizing the perils of broadcasting and oversharing.  In a 2019 white paper “The New Rules of Social” led by youth creative agency ZAK, nearly two-thirds of the under-30 respondents said they prefer to talk in private message rather than open forums and feeds. Facebook themselves launched head-first towards social groups back in 2016 after the US Presidential election.  In a 6,000 word essay called "Building Global Community," Zuckerberg sermonized on the importance of building connections in meaningful groups:
    Forum administrators on Invision Community have been building meaningful communities since day one. When properly deployed, Clubs will allow you to cultivate – and retain – users in a more focused environment without the distractions of your larger community. 
    CONCLUSION
    For community managers and forum administrators who have run their Invision Communities for many years, you know first-hand that the power of community doesn’t come from adding another feature, another board, or another category.  Happiness and fulfillment come from actually connecting with members, through education, enlightenment, problem solving, and teamwork.  Overloading your community with theme options, excess reactions, and overbuilt boards get in the way of your true goal. 
    Become the CEO to reduce the overwhelming options of can openers.  Sell more jam by offering less of it.  And unfetter yourself from unnecessary choices to discover a clearer connection to your members.   
     
    Executive Summary
    Bed Bath & Beyond CEO declutters stores, sales rise Concept of paradox of choice: users can become overwhelmed and stressed when presented with too many options Jam experiment: table with more jams gets more traffic, but table of less jams gets more sales For large and established communities, use Clubs to offer intimate and uncluttered experiences.
  18. Thanks
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: User Interface Improvements   
    Invision Community has certainly changed a lot over the years as we've moved through major updates and large user interface changes. 
    While large scale changes offer a dramatic difference, it is sometimes the smaller changes that bring the most satisfaction when using your community daily.
    This blog entry rounds up some of the UI improvements Invision Community 4.5 brings.
    Content View Behavior
    What do you want to happen when you click a topic link? Are you taken to the first comment, the last comment or the first comment you've not read? If you speak to 100 people, I'm pretty sure you'll get a good spread of votes for each.
    Invision Community has always offered subtle ways to get right to the first unread comment. Our infamous dot or star allows you to do this, but it is so subtle almost no one knows this.
    Invision Community 4.5 now allows each member to choose (with the AdminCP offering a default).

    Now everyone wins!
    Who Reacted?
    Invision Community has had reactions for a long while now. Although finding out who exactly reacted without clicking the counts has proved irksome.
    We've fixed that in Invision Community so simply mousing over the reaction icon reveals who reacted.

    Sign In Anonymously
    For as long as I can remember, Invision Community has offered an option to sign in anonymously via a checkbox on the login form.
    However, as we've added faster ways to log in via Facebook, Twitter, Google and more it's become less straight forward to ensure your anonymity.
    Invision Community 4.5 removes this login preference and moves it to your members' settings.

    Now your members can resume hiding as they move around your community across multiple logins.
    Resize Before Uploading
    One of the most popular requests we've had in recent times is to resize large images before uploading. It's quite likely that your giant full resolution image will be denied when attempting to upload, and it's a bit of a faff to resize it in a photo editor.
    Invision Community leverages the uploader's ability to resize before uploading, which makes it a much happier experience.
    Switch Off Automatic Language Detection
    Invision Community attempts to map your browser's user-agent to a specific language pack.
    When you visit a site, your browser lets the site know which language our browser is set to (often dictated by your operating system) and we use that to show you the correct language if the community you're visiting has multiple languages installed.
    However, it might be that you don't want this to happen because although your computer's OS is set to a specific language, it doesn't always follow that is the one you wish to use on a website.
    Invision Community 4.5 allows this automatic detection to be switched off.

    Quote Collapse
    We will finish with another popular feature request; the ability for long quotes to be collapsed, reducing the amount of scrolling one has to do.
    Quite simply, Invision Community collapses long quotes with an option to expand them to read the entire quote.

    Thank you to all our customers who have taken the time to leave feedback. As you can see, we do listen and action your feedback.
    Which change are you looking forward to the most? Let us know below!
  19. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: Simple Stock Photo Picker   
    We have come a long way since the late 90s when someone had the genius idea of using a small yellow smiling face image instead of the more common colon-bracket representation of a smiling face.
    In Invision Community, there are various places that photography can be used to create visual interest. From uploads in topics, to cover photos for blogs and members.
    The humble upload field has served these areas well, but sourcing images to use can be a pain; especially when you have to walk the minefield that is copyright and attribution.
    Fortunately, there are a few "CC0" online stock photo libraries that offer quality photography that requires no attribution and are not hampered by copyrights.
    One such library is the ever-popular Pixabay, which was established in 2012 and features a very powerful API. Pixabay has over a million images ready to use from llamas to sausages and everything in-between.
    Invision Community 4.5 now includes support for Pixabay which brings those images to your fingertips (or mouse pointer if you're on a desktop.)

    This video shows the feature in use.
    As you can see, not only can you upload into posts from the stock photo library, but you can also use it to add a cover image to your profile and blog entries.
    Finding quality photography has never been so easy!
    For those that love technical details, the stock photo picker is a programmatic option on the upload form field type making it very easy to add to your own code and apps.
    How will you use this new feature? Let me know!
  20. Thanks
    Sonya* reacted to Andy Millne for an entry, 4.5: Blog Categories   
    Ever since Invision Community 4.x was launched you have been asking for the ability to categorize blogs in your community.
    We heard you loud and clear, but sometimes when a feature sounds straightforward, it requires some re-engineering of the framework. Because users in your community can create both blog entries and their own blogs to hold these entries, this was one of those areas.
    Starting with Invision Community 4.5 I’m pleased to announce that it is now possible for blog authors to categorize their blog entries and it's now possible for administrators to categorize blogs.

    Blog Entry Categories
    When creating a new blog entry, your members will now be able to create a new category for the entry or choose an existing one that had been created previously.

    Choosing your category when creating a new blog entry
    When a reader then visits the blog they can choose to display only those categories that interest them.

    Filtering by category
    Blog Categories
    Running a community where users can create their own blogs, you don’t only need to make sure individual pieces of content are categorized correctly, you also need to make sure the blogs themselves have a logical place. Well guess what? Now you can!
    As an admin you can now set up predefined categories in the control panel and Blog authors can then choose which one to create their new blog in.

    Managing blog categories
    We realize some of you have been waiting a long time to see these changes so we hope you enjoy this and everything else to come in Invision Community 4.5!
  21. Thanks
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: Club Improvements Roundup   
    Almost every single day, we receive feedback on our popular clubs feature. Some of the requests are big in scope, and some a little smaller.
    Following on from our previous blog entry for Club Pages, we’re pleased to announce a collection of smaller, but no less useful improvements.
    Improved Map Display

    The Clubs location map better shows where local clubs are
    A small but useful change to the clubs map means the view is now centered and zoomed around available clubs. Previously the map would show a world view even if all of the clubs were located in a concentrated geographical area.
    Member Tab
    A commitment to privacy always influences our development decisions, and this is true in clubs as well as other areas. It is now possible to set who can view the club member list on a per club basis. Clubs can be set to show the member list to everyone, only to club members or only to club leaders and moderators.

    You can now decide who can see your club
    Club Widgets
    A common request for clubs is that widgets should be able to display content from within clubs. With 4.5, this is now possible and allows you to better bring attention to your club content from anywhere in your community.

    Content widgets can now show club specific content
    Some people wanted to control where widgets would show more finely. This wasn’t previously possible, but now it is. When adding widgets to a page, you can now set whether you want it to appear everywhere, everywhere except clubs, or only in clubs.
    Join Requests
    Club leaders can invite members who they believe will enjoy their content to join. Likewise, members can request to join a club that is not open for all to join instantly.
    For a site with a lot of clubs, this could mean that you are invited to many clubs or find that your pending request goes unnoticed.

    Your member can quickly manage their pending invites
    Members can now cancel pending requests themselves quickly and easily from the Club homepage.
    Clubs are becoming an increasingly popular part of Invision Community and really helps foster a sense of involvement.
    We are always interested and surprised by the variety of ways this feature is being used. Let us know how you’re using clubs in the comments and keep the great suggestions coming!
  22. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: RSS Feed improvements   
    You'd be forgiven for thinking that RSS feeds belong in some bygone era of the web where Netscape was king and getting online meant listening to your modem scream at your phone line.
    There's certainly a lot of newer web technologies to share data, but the venerable RSS feed still has a place.
    Invision Community has supported RSS feed importing and exporting for a very long time now; however, it has been restricted to just Forums and Blogs.
    Importing an RSS feed is a simple way to populate content on your community. It's even a great way to share content to and from your site without creating blocks or writing custom code.
    Invision Community 4.5 now centralizes RSS feed importing, so it is available for Forums, Blogs and Pages.

    You can now choose to import an RSS feed to any Pages database. Better yet, there is now full support for image enclosures.
    RSS feeds have a special tag to note that the feed entry has an attached image. Lots of RSS feeds use this, such as the NASA Image Of The Day feed. Until now, this image has just been silently discarded.

    Now, it is imported as an attachment (so it can be moved around in the post or Pages entry). If the Pages database you are importing to has record images enabled, you can optionally import the enclosure as a record image which some template sets can use as a header image, just as our blog here does.

    But what about exporting enclosures?
    Happily, Invision Community 4.5 can now export the main content image of an item as an enclosure. This certainly makes the Gallery RSS feed export a lot more useful!

    While these updates are not revolutionary, they certainly make RSS feed importing and exporting much more useful. We've been asked to support RSS feed importing into Pages for quite a while now.
    What do you think of these changes? What will you import into your Pages databases?
  23. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Ryan Ashbrook for an entry, 4.5: Club Pages   
    Without a doubt, clubs is one of the most popular features added to Invision Community in recent times.
    Invision Community clubs allows you to run sub-communities on your site. We've seen clubs used in many ways, including managing geographically local groups and clan groups for large gaming sites.
    This popularity drives us to keep incrementally improving the feature set for clubs, and Invision Community 4.5 is no different.
    One thing that was raised many times was a way for club owners and leaders to create simple pages with general information members need.
    Happily, in Invision Community 4.5, this feature now exists (and more!)

    In addition to the title and visual editor that allows full formatting of the page content, there is an additional visibility setting which allows owners and leaders to define which types of members can view the page.
    This is perfect for showing a page that is only visible to non-members which informs them how to join the club.
    Likewise, it is a great way to display moderation guidelines to the club moderators only.
    Of course, owners and leaders will always be able to see all pages added to a club.

    Additionally, once a page is added to a club, a tab will be added alongside others, and the page can be re-arranged just like the rest. 
    Using this, owners and leaders can create an alternative unique index page for the club.
    default-view.mp4
    This is just one of many club improvements finished for Invision Community 4.5. We'll be talking about these in a future blog!
  24. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Joel R for an entry, Responding to the Contact Form   
    Think about all the different touchpoints where you try to connect with members: forum discussions, blog comments, personal messages, email newsletters, weekly meetings, and perhaps offline events.  You write witty and clever messages. You dedicate an entire section of your community to welcome and hello topics.  You spend enormous amounts of time trying to elicit engagement from members. 
    What if I told you that there’s one touchpoint that you consistently overlook where members reach out to you, some for the very first time?   

    You receive messages every day and every week from users through the Contact Form.  It’s one of the most common touchpoints that you’ll ever experience with members.  Unfortunately, most admins gloss over messages through the contact form, because we think it’s secondary to the activity in the community.  That’s not true!  As a touchpoint to your community, the interactions through the Contact Form are as important as any other user-facing activity.  In fact, because members proactively reach out – some for the very first time – this is likely one of the biggest opportunities where you consistently under-engage.    
    It’s time to fix this gap.  Here are examples on how to effectively respond to 2 different types of messages from the Contact Form.  Let’s look at some sample responses with a fictional online community “Toronto Birding Society” (Note: I know nothing of birdwatching or Toronto). 
    Responding to Guidance Questions
    Many questions you receive through the Contact Form are “guidance” questions.  These are questions that ask about function and features such as “how to?” and “how do I?”  The tone is usually neutral, and the intent is positive (eg. to learn).
    These questions are easy-to-answer and the responses usually involve instructions, step-by-step details, and screenshots.  If you only respond to the specific inquiry, however, you miss out on all the potential of member growth: to affirm the relationship, recognize his contributions, instill community culture, and ultimately encourage the member to contribute in a more meaningful manner. 
    Example:
    Responding to Negative Sentiment Questions
    The next type of question you receive through the Contact Form are questions of “negative sentiment.”  These are questions that ask to cancel, terminate, or suppress various functions because the user would like to disconnect from the community.  Even though the tone is neutral, the intent is negative. 
    Just like before, the questions themselves are easy-to-answer.  However, if you took the inquiry at face value and answered the specific question, you end up losing the member!  Your goal instead should be member retention: to investigate why he wants to leave, to re-affirm the strength of the relationship, recognize his past contributions, invite the member to revisit, and ultimately deflect the original inquiry. 
     

    Conclusion
    Busy communities receive messages through the contact form daily and weekly.  They’re a recurring part of our community management that we consistently overlook.  It’s one of the greatest touchpoints you will ever have with a member, since the member is actively seeking growth (or regression) with the community.  Your responsibility is to nudge them in the right direction. 
    My recommendation is to write two templates: one for guidance questions, one for negative sentiment questions. This allows you to quickly provide a framework that can be filled in with personalized details. 
    Use your replies to contact form messages as a way to not only answer the specific question, but grow the member and progress them along the member lifecycle journey.    
  25. Like
    Sonya* reacted to Joel R for an entry, How to Build an Audience with CHIP   
    Are you looking to launch a new online community or revitalize an existing community, and you're worried about the numbers of users?
    Gaining members - and retaining them - is always the hardest struggle for new communities.  Even if you're an established brand or organization, it can be a challenge to build a core group of members.  The problem?  Most communities launch too early.  
    The truism "if you build it, they will come" is no longer valid.  There are countless online peer and social groups, industry associations, and trade organizations competing for your user's time and attention.  You can't launch a new community and passively wait for users to visit.  The Internet is too crowded now.
    Ask yourself the hard question: are you having difficulty attracting and retaining new members?  One of the best secrets to launching new communities is to already have a core group of members in place -- all done in advance of launching your community.  
    Follow the CHIP process to generate member demand.

    Download:  IPS CHIP Process 2019-09.pdf
    Part of the magic behind the CHIP Process is that by reaching out, you build relations with existing members in a meaningful manner.  Don't push your community idea at this point.  Your only goal is to meet people, build genuine relationships, and understand key themes such as user challenges or industry needs.  
    This dramatically heightens your chance of success when you do launch.  You have a known audience familiar with you and your community, who can spread the word.  You identified a core group of active users, who can immediately start posting.  You also surveyed key themes and business challenges, so you even have a headstart on content will be most attractive. By doing this prep work in advance, you've fine-tuned your community strategy to exactly what's needed and can be successful on Day 1.  
    Building a new community requires prep work.  Although Invision Community can empower you with a modern set of features once you launch, you need to pair the platform with the excitement and problem-solving that only your community can offer - and that means taking the time to understand what's needed before you launch. 
    Best wishes on your community launch, and share your community's success in the comments below!  
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