SammyS reacted to bfarber for an entry, Health Dashboard
The support tool has served us well for many years. You can identify, at a glance, potential issues with your community both presently and down the road, right from the comfort of your AdminCP, and you can often resolve those issues with just a few clicks.
But what if we could do better? What if we could make this useful administrative area of the software even more useful?
The next version of Invision Community introduces a new "Health Dashboard" which replaces the previous support tool and helps you get a better overview of potential issues within your community while retaining all of the functionality you've come to know and rely on to resolve issues with your community.
When you launch the new health dashboard, the first thing you will notice is that the previous "Wizard" process is now gone, in favor of a single page giving you access to everything you might want or need.
Central to the page are blocks that identify specific areas of your community, server, and configuration which could be problematic now or in the future. Invision Community will check for available updates, modified source files, server software configuration issues, whether your server is running required and/or recommended versions of important software and more.
Additional checks and recommendations have been added to this page, to help identify other adjustments that could benefit or prevent harm to your community. Issues are color coded and classified as informational, recommended, or critical and a summary is provided at the top of the page with an easy "check again" button which will do so without taking you away from the screen.
If we become aware of an issue, we can quickly notify communities through a bulletin which will be displayed in the "Known Issues" block on this page. These bulletins can also trigger AdminCP notifications, however they will continue to show on the Health Dashboard so long as they are relevant, even when the AdminCP notification is dismissed.
A graph showing system, error and email error log activity has been added to the page to help you identify spikes in logged issues. Commonly, if an issue begins to surface on your community there will be an increase in these types of error logs, so the graph here is intended to allow you to identify an increase in these logs, allowing you to investigate and react quicker.
The right-hand sidebar surfaces common tools you may need to access.
The first block allows you to see our most recently featured guides, as well as search our documentation. While this functionality was available in the existing support tool, we found that it was rarely used because people more often visited the tool to allow the software to check for common issues, and the ability to search the documentation required a separate work flow through the support wizard. With the block always available (and searches performed "live" via AJAX), we expect users will find the ability to search our documentation from the AdminCP much more useful now.
Next up, the Tools and Diagnostics block gives you access to common tools you may need to use. You can quickly clear your system caches, as well as access phpinfo, the SQL toolbox (for self-hosted clients only), and disable all third party customizations. The process and behavior for disabling customizations is very similar to the existing process within the support tool, with the list of customizations disabled opening in a modal window and the ability to re-enable all customizations, or selectively re-enable individual customizations, still available.
Disabling customizations is still simple
Finally, the ability to submit a support ticket is still available right from this screen. Upon clicking the button to submit a support ticket, you will be presented with a form inside a modal dialog that behaves very similarly to the existing form with one minor but useful addition: if there are any patches not yet installed on the community, you will be alerted to this right on the form before submitting your ticket. Think of this as one last reminder that your issue may already be solved by installing any available patches before reaching out to us for official technical support.
Submitting a support ticket is still just a few clicks away
We believe the improved workflow and user experience will help administrators and support technicians alike more quickly identify any issues that need addressing on the community.
SammyS reacted to Matt for an entry, We're hiring and have three new positions to fill!
Invision Community is growing! We're currently recruiting three new roles, one full-time and two part-time.
Applications are now closed, thank you to all those that applied. We'll be going through them over the next few weeks.
It's been a very busy year for all of us at Invision Community and our continued success means that we're looking to expand our team even further with three new roles to fill.
Invision Power Services, Inc. is behind the leading community software platform, Invision Community. Our tailored solutions serve clients of all sizes, from smaller communities to the world’s biggest brands.
We are looking to kick start 2021 with a tight-knit customer-obsessed support team to build a positive support culture for our clients.
All roles are fully remote-working.
Customer Service Superstar
We are in need of a full-time Customer Service Superstar, a new position within the company. You are solution-driven, customer-obsessed and passionate for cultivating a positive support culture for our clients.
The person in this role:
Answers client questions in a public-facing forum. Triages client requests to developers according to our processes. Deescalates problem or potential problem communications. Advocate for customers to our development team. Is comfortable with technology and willing to learn our platform. Why should you apply?
You are a Customer Service Star - solution driven when helping clients. You are confident in conversing via forum style, public-facing support. You can clearly communicate both in writing and verbally. We primarily provide customer service in English. You see opportunity to streamline improvements to help our team better serve our clients. Excited about interacting with our clients within our community to build a vibrant support culture. You work well with a team remotely. You are personally organized, suited to excel in a remote work environment. Part-Time Community Support Assistant
We are looking to add two part-time community support assistants to our growing team. You are self-motivated and focused on helping customers with support enquiries.
Your role will be in assisting customers via a public-facing support forum.
Ideally, you will have customer support experience, be familiar with our community platform and comfortable with technologies such as FTP, Amazon S3, PHP and MySQL.
Our company is headquartered in Lynchburg, Virginia with staff located around the world. These positions are remote working.
Share your resume and characteristics that make you the best fit for this role. Please include your available work hours (timezone). As we are open to both entry-level and experienced applicants, you may choose to include a desired starting salary based on your own evaluation of your relevant skillset and experience.
Applications are now closed, thank you to all those that applied. We'll be going through them over the next few weeks.
SammyS 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.
SammyS reacted to bfarber for an entry, Solved Content Improvements
For a long time, Invision Community has supported a Question and Answer mode within the Forums application which allows a reply to be flagged as the "best answer" to the question posed. With the release of 4.5, we also introduced a way to allow topics to be marked as "solved" which introduces similar functionality without transforming the look and feel or other behavior of the forum itself.
Based on the popularity of this new addition in 4.5, we have made some further improvements to solved topics and answered questions in our next release.
Notification to topic/question starter
While notifications were available to the poster who answered a question or solved a topic with the release of 4.5, this release also adds notifications for the topic or question starter so that they can be made aware that an answer is available to their question.
Topic and question starters now get notifications for solutions
Solved topics and answered questions provide for measurable statistics that can help you determine the health and direction of your community, particularly for support communities. To that end, we have introduced two new content statistic blocks that can help you measure how well areas of the community that support answers and solutions are faring.
New AdminCP statistics
You can now quickly see the percentage of topics/questions that have been solved (relative to the total number posted in areas that support solutions), as well as the average time it has taken for a solution to be marked on a topic or question (relative to the time the topic or question was initially posted). These statistic blocks support time period filter, time period comparisons, and node filtering to narrow down the statistical data for your specific needs.
User profile enhancements
User profiles now show the number of solutions the user has posted, and also allows you to view all of those solutions, in a manner very similar to reputation.
Prolific problem solvers will now be called out boldly
Answers can be quickly found on user profiles
These improvements should help reward the most helpful users on your community by giving them more prestige and helping other users find their answers quicker.
Collectively, we hope that these changes make the question and answer and topic solution features in the Forums application more useful for your community members, and the administrators behind the community.
SammyS 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?
SammyS reacted to Matt for an entry, Community is your competitive advantage
Moats have been used for centuries as a way to defend a building from potential attack.
A flooded ditch around a castle is a great way to make it harder to be taken. You can't push battering rams against walls, and neither can you dig under the castle. Quite frankly, a moat is a pretty decent deterrent when there are plenty of other castles to pillage.
What does this mean for your business?
A community can be an economic moat, or in more simple terms, your competitive advantage.
When your product or service is surrounded by an engaged community that feels invested in your brand, you'll be able to resist challenges from competitors looking to tempt your customers away.
Humans are social creatures, and we love seeking out and joining a tribe that aligns with our values. The intangible value of belonging creates a sense of momentum for your brand and helps champion it to others.
The statistics back this strategy; 88% of community professionals said in a recent survey that community is critical to their company's mission and 85% said that their community has had a positive impact to their business.
Your competitive advantage
One of the cheapest ways to create momentum for your product is to build a community around your startup. A community is much more than a one-time marketing campaign and can help you throughout your company's life cycle if you take the time to grow it right. 
Creating a buzz around a product can take a lot of time, effort and money.
Traditionally, this buzz would be created with a mixture of videos, websites, influencer reviews, and heavy advertisement spends across multiple channels, including social media.
Your community can create a shortcut and reach an audience without those costs and increase the chance of your product being shared virally.
Your community creates a bond over a shared interest that continually re-enforces loyalty to your brand. This creates a personal investment which makes it less likely your customers will try a competitor.
Put simply, if a company can move from just shipping a product to building a community, it can benefit from several competitive advantages such as:
Engaged members help acquire new members, lowering the cost for customer acquisition. Increased customer retention through community loyalty. Members won't want to abandon the community they enjoy. Reduced support costs as members support each other. This benefit forms a loop that generates more value as the community grows.
Another area of opportunity for social marketing is "brand building" - connecting enthusiastic online brand advocates with the company's product development cycle. Here, research becomes marketing; product developers are now using social forums to spot reactions after they modify an offer, a price, or a feature in a product or service. Such brand-managed communities can have real success. One well-documented example is IdeaStorm, Dell's community discussion and "brainstorming" website, which saw a measurable increase in sales following its launch, by providing a forum for meaningful dialogue and "to gauge which ideas are most important and most relevant to" the public. 
By creating a community around your product or service, not only do you create brand advocates, but you also gain powerful insights into what your customers want through research which drives marketing.
Consumers today crave a stronger bond with brands. It's no longer enough to give them a customer support email address and a monthly newsletter. They want a much more in-depth interaction with the company and other users of the product or service.
One tactic for success is for brands to move away from the hard-sell to instead embrace the notion of "co-creation". This means moving beyond "old-school" approaches to website advertising to embrace the principles of relationship marketing - building virtual environments in which customers can connect with each other to share insights and relevant information.
To capitalise on currently available opportunities, marketers need to find or establish real brand communities, listen to them, and then create special programs and tools that will empower potential and existing community members, rewarding existing consumers and eliciting behavioural change from potential consumers. 
Evernote, the note-taking app, is a great example. Their lively community encourages customers to interact directly with staff, post their wish-lists for future versions and learn more about what happens behind the scenes.
The community creates evangelists for Evernote and makes it harder for competitors to gain a foothold with a potent mix of dialogue, access to other customers, transparency from the brand and many opportunities for co-creation of content.
Co-creation fundamentally challenges the traditional roles of the firm and the consumer. The tension manifests itself at points of interaction between the consumer and the company where the co-creation experience occurs, where individuals exercise choice, and where value is co-created. Points of interaction provide opportunities for collaboration and negotiation, explicit or implicit, between the consumer and the company.
In the emergent economy, competition will center on personalized co-creation experiences, resulting in value that is truly unique to each individual. 
In simple terms, a community allows your customers to feel closer to your brand and the products you sell.
What are you waiting for?
Nearly 80% of founders reported building a community of users as important to their business, with 28% describing their moat as critical to their success.
Our team at Invision Community has over two decades of community building experience and are trusted by brands of all sizes.
Whether you have an existing community, or you're taking your first steps to create your own, our experience and expertise will guide your success.
 https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~jhm/Readings/Co-creating unique value with customers.pdf
SammyS reacted to Matt for an entry, Trial Invision Community 4.5 Now
If you're preparing to upgrade to Invision Community 4.5, there's now an easy way to test it out.
We have updated our Invision Community demo system to use Invision Community 4.5! This is a quick and easy way to take 4.5 for a test drive and test all the new functionality before making your upgrade plans.
Taking out a demo is very simple, just head over to our demo sign up page, follow the instructions and within a few minutes you'll receive your own private demo log in.
We'd love to know what you think! Please let us know in the feedback forum.
SammyS reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: Two feature additions
As the deadline slowly comes down, two last feature additions race towards the descending door and slide in underneath with seconds to spare.
If you've never seen "Raiders of the Lost Ark", then you probably think this is a weird way to start a blog.
As we wrap up development for Invision Community 4.5, we squeezed in two extra features that I want to talk about today.
Per Topic Post Approval
The first is a way to cool down a heated topic without locking it. Right now you can put an entire forum on post-approval. This means that moderators must review and approve all new posts before they are allowed to be publicly displayed.
As of Invision Community 4.5, you can now choose to set a single topic to post-approval regardless of the forum setting.
This is a great way to let a topic cool off but still receive new replies to review before adding to the topic.
Club Terms and Conditions
The ways that clubs are used throughout the many communities that run Invision Community are becoming increasingly varied.
A popular request is to allow members to agree to a set of club-specific terms and conditions before they can contribute to the club.
Invision Community 4.5 now allows the club owner to set up its own terms and conditions. You can optionally enforce that members agree to them before continuing.
That's it for feature announcements. We're excited to be closing development on Invision Community 4.5 and move towards a beta in the coming weeks.
SammyS reacted to Mark for an entry, 4.5: Commerce Trials
One of the most popular requests we get for Commerce is for a free trial period for subscriptions. We've heard from many clients that wish to allow their members a free, or reduced cost trial period before auto-renewing the full price.
I'm pleased to say that we've now added this functionality into Invision Community 4.5. Let us take a look at how it works.
In 4.5 you can now specify an initial term that is different to the normal renewal term for any subscription plan or product. For example, you could make the initial term $0 for 1 week and the normal renewal term $10 per month which will allow you to create 1 week free trial. The initial term doesn't have to be $0, you can use any special price for the initial term you like.
Subscription Plans showing Free Trials
For developers creating their own applications with Commerce integration, this functionality is also available to you simply by passing a DateInterval object representing the initial term when creating the invoice.
Collecting Payment Details for Free Trials
Previously, if you were buying something that is free, the entire of the last step of the checkout would just be skipped and the invoice marked as paid.
In 4.5, if:
The user is purchasing something which has a free initial period, but also has a renewal term (i.e. is a free trial), and You have a payment method which can collect card details (Stripe, Braintree, etc) The user will be prompted to provide payment details that will not be charged until after the free trial. If the user already has a card on file they will not be prompted to provide the details again but will see a confirmation screen rather than the order just being marked paid immediately.
Checkout Process for a Free Trial
As you can see, allowing a free or reduced cost trial period has never been easier. We hope that you enjoy using this new feature of Invision Community 4.5.
SammyS reacted to Matt for an entry, Test drive Invision Community 4.5
We started talking about Invision Community 4.5 way back in November of last year. Now, less than six months later, it's ready for you to test.
While we put the finishing touches to a few features, we have set up a preview site so you can test out the new features, leave your feedback and make a note of any bugs you spot.
Head over now to the Invision Community Alpha test site.
Please be aware that this test site is running in 'development mode' so it is automatically updated with the latest fixes throughout the day. This means it has to work extra hard on each click as there are no caches, pre-built languages or templates to use, so it will be a lot slower than a production version. So please don't worry about it being a touch slow, and definitely don't try and run Page Speed analysis tools on the alpha site!
You can read about the headline features over in our product updates blog.
Let us know what you think!
SammyS 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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
Desktop forum views (click to expand)
Mobile forum views (click to expand)
Activity streams & messenger (click to expand)
SammyS reacted to bfarber for an entry, 4.5: New Post-Installation Onboarding
Installing Invision Community for the first time is a fun and exciting process. After all, you're about to launch a new community that is going to thrive and attract members from all over, and you want to make sure you set it up just right to facilitate a painless experience for your visitors.
If you're new to Invision Community, however, it can be a little daunting when you think about "ok what now?" immediately after installing the software.
Though experience, and researching the analytical data Invision Community installations voluntarily share with us, we identified many common settings that most communities change, and it is easy to see why. In an effort to make Invision Community more approachable to new administrators, we have devised an intuitive "new installation" onboarding process that will help you configure the community just right, and quickly.
Upon first logging in to Invision Community after installing the software, administrators are presented with a welcome screen.
Welcome to your new Invision Community!
You can obviously skip this step by clicking away to another page if you wish, and you won't be bothered again. If you click the "Skip this step" link on the page, you will be sent an email with a link to return to the page in the future should you wish to do so.
Continuing into the helpful wizard, you will be presented with a screen like so
A helpful guided wizard
You'll note that there's an explanation as to why you may wish to configure these settings, as well as guidance for where to find the same options later should you wish.
Upon clicking next, you'll see the previous step marked as completed. You can even skip around steps by clicking and expanding on them should you wish to do so.
Each step is explained in detail
If you reached this page but decide that you have to do something else first, there is a "Remind me later" option at the bottom of the page. Clicking it will allow you to resume whatever else you need to do first, but will helpfully bring you back to this onboarding step at a later time to finish your quick setup.
Finally, once you submit the form you will be presented with a confirmation page containing links to several other areas that you may wish to visit to get started. Things like setting up forums and setting up groups are common tasks, so we've consolidated links to those areas on one helpful screen as part of the new quick setup.
Confirmation that you're doing great so far!
This change is but one small way that we strive to ensure our software is easy to understand and easy to use. The next time you set up a new community, we hope these adjustments make the process smoother for you, allowing you to get the backend work done quickly so you can focus on the real goal - growing your new community.
SammyS 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.
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
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
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.
SammyS reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.5: Marking as solved
Invision Community has had a question and answer mode for a good few years now.
This mode transforms a forum into a formalized way to handle your member's questions. Members can upvote answers, and the topic starter and your community management team can mark a reply as the "best answer".
This is great when you want to add rigour to specific forums which encourage your members to find solutions.
The existing "QA" mode
But how about a way to mark a topic as solved without transforming the look and feel of the forum?
We get asked this a lot.
Happily, it's now a feature just added to Invision Community 4.5! Those with a long memory will recall we had something very similar way back in Invision Community 3.
The new "mark as solved" feature
This new feature allows the topic starter or your community management team to mark a post as the solution. This highlights the post within the topic as well as adding an icon to the listing views.
The green tick notes that the topic has a solution
In addition, it also increases the member's solved count, which is displayed under their name in the post and even in a draggable widget that shows members with the most solutions. We have also added a new filter to the existing post and topic feed widgets to allow only items with a solution to be shown, so you can create a "Recently solved" feed.
The new widget
Finally, a notification is sent to the author of the post that is selected as the best answer, so they're made aware that their helpful content has been spotted.
Let your members know their content was useful
We hope you enjoy these changes and look forward to allowing your community to find answers quickly, and to reward the members that provide them.
SammyS 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!
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.
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!
SammyS reacted to Rikki for an entry, Invision Community Apps for iOS & Android
I'm excited to reveal that we are making Invision Community native apps for iOS and Android!
For the past few months, our staff has been using an internal test build right here on our community. Now we are ready to widen testing to a larger pool of customers. Information on how to become a tester is at the end of this post. But first, let's take a look at the app itself.
We have a lot of exciting plans for the Invision Community app.
We wanted to take full advantage of a clean slate and build a brand new experience that embraces a native app's interfaces. While the app is unmistakably Invision Community, it features new ways of interacting with your content.
We want the app to help shape the future of Invision Community, and we're asking for you to help.
What we are opening up for testing today is a technology preview. This slim app covers the essentials with a view to much more expansion later.
The technology preview is locked to our community. The app we will release will be a 'multi-community' app; a directory of communities users can browse and save.
We’ve taken this approach because the app stores have clamped down on ‘template’ apps, and the cost involved in building and maintaining a separate app per-community won’t be an option for many of our customers. A multi-community app is a great approach for most: simple setup, minimal cost, still fully-featured, and a great way for new users to find your community too.
What The App Does
For the initial phase of this technology preview, discussions are the main focus which is the foundation of every Invision Community. Also available are profiles, streams, search and notifications - including (at last!) push notifications.
Any areas that the app does not currently support will open seamlessly in a web view within the app. As we build new functionality into the app over time, users will encounter fewer of these hybrid views.
Your feedback will allow us to target the highest priority areas during the technology preview phase.
Note: The information below outlines our current intentions, but may change as we finalize the app's release to app stores.
The good news is we intend for the app to be free to both our customers with active licenses and their end-users. In time, we will offer a premium option to communities. This funding will secure the app's long-term future.
The premium option could enhance their listing in the directory, or provide special functionality when users use that community in the app.
We intend to release the app alongside the next significant point release of Invision Community, expected to be 4.5. Communities will need to upgrade to this version to allow their users to use the app.
Why not a PWA (progressive web app)?
Invision Community 4.4 already supports several PWA features. However, until iOS supports Push Notifications (and other features) in PWAs, we don't feel they are a fully-rounded solution to using communities on a phone. Building native apps allow us to experiment with new interfaces and approaches. As PWA support improves in the years to come, we'll feed what we learn back into the main product for the benefit of all users.
Those with a long memory will recall that we've had a few attempts at providing an app in the past that weren't successful.
We are great at building apps with web technologies but creating native apps ourselves wasn't sustainable.
Enter React Native.
React Native is an open-source technology for building native apps. React Native allows teams to build native apps using web technologies, but crucially, React Native doesn't build hybrid apps. They are compiled into real native apps - not browser wrappers, but native buttons, text, dialogs, animations and more.
A year or so ago, we started experimenting with React Native to see if it might be a viable approach for us. And it was. Finally, there was a technology that enabled web engineers to build delightful cross-platform native apps.
As we can build native mobile apps using the technology we are familiar with allows us to incorporate mobile app development into our existing processes.
Why just forums?
Invision Community is a large, fully-featured platform, and building the entire platform in a native app from the get-go didn't seem to be the best approach. Instead, we've focused on the most active area of most communities - forums - with other areas still supported in the app via webviews. Over time, additional features and tools will be built into the app so that it eventually reaches feature-parity with the web version. We'll take feedback from our customers to determine which areas to support next.
How will I add my community to the app?
The next significant point release of Invision Community (expected to be 4.5) will have app support built-in. Including your app in the directory will be as simple as enabling the feature in your AdminCP and configuring a few options.
Is the app ad-supported?
There are no ads of any kind in the app right now. We may include ads or allow communities to run their own ads as a premium option in future.
Can I get a white-label version for my community?
We aim to offer a white-label option in the future.
Will my plugins work in the app?
Probably not. We're intentionally building the app to work with standard Invision Community features and apps right now. If your plugins add new UI elements or change the functions that users interact with it's likely they will not work with the app.
What about themes?
Themes won't work in the app because the app doesn't use HTML. However, some branding/customization will be available via the AdminCP, and we may expand upon this in future.
Have other questions? Let us know in the comments, and we'll answer them!
Sign Up For Testing
For the next stage of our testing process, we will be inviting several customers to try the app and provide feedback/bug reports. As part of the sign-up process, we'll ask for some information about your own community. We'll use this to select further testers once we begin testing of the 'multi-community' version of the app later. The answers you provide will not affect your chance of testing the app on our community.
Interested in joining the testing group? Click here to sign up.
SammyS reacted to Joel R for an entry, 10 Easy Steps to Successfully Grow Your Online Community
The goal of every client here in the Invision peer community, myself included, is to launch and run successful communities.
Whether I’m going to be able to achieve that success in the new year depends entirely on trying these 10 steps. I know if that if I stick to these steps, then my community will grow – and I know if you follow along, your community will too.
10. Ignore Google
Google makes me laugh; Google makes me cry; Google makes me want to pitch myself into the freezing icy waters of the San Francisco bay. But focusing on Google’s up-and-down volatility isn’t what is going to make my community successful. It’s a distraction, and at worst, a wrong commitment of attention.
9. Remember My Past Sins
I’ve made every mistake imaginable – including over-the-top themes, too many customizations, and chasing after dream goals. The very worst is not making a database backup, then losing everything. Most of us came up through the School of Hard Knocks, and we should learn from those experiences.
8. Treat Every Person as Gold
Members are the beating heart of your community, and are truly what makes your community special. I’m committed to taking time out every day to message, comment, or reply to 3 new people to cultivate new relationships.
7. Practice x3
Nobody is perfect the first time they try something. Thomas Edison famously stated that he found 10,000 ways for a lightbulb to not work, and 1 way that it did. Whether you’re publishing new content or designing a template, refine it multiple times.
6. Start as a Guest
I don’t do this enough and I always find something surprising when I do. Either something is missing, something can be improved, or something is wrong. The guest experience is the very first impression a visitor will have, and it can shape all of his future expectations.
5. Less is More
It’s easy to get sidetracked and to let your community get bloated with content and features. It’s better to be amazing in one domain expertise: you offer the most authority, the most trusted content, the latest news, or the most comprehensive overview. Excite members by being the best at what you do. De-emphasize, consolidate, or archive everything else as needed.
4. It’s Not the Feature; Its What the Feature Does
It’s easy to think that because Invision Community ships with a new feature, then you should use it. You don’t. You should always pre-qualify the feature by asking how the feature can help you better engage with your community, how does it engage, and how can you customize the feature even better for your members?
3. Bring Your Superusers Along
Even though I invite my superusers into a special private feedback group, I don’t leverage their knowledge, experience, or perspective enough. I recently asked for feedback about a particular feature, and it turns out none of them use it!
2. Experiment & Learn
There’s always something new to learn, explore, and implement. It's my personal goal to enrich my personal skillsets in areas like leadership, team building, mentoring, emotional intelligence, organizational behavior, and psychology for more effective community management. On the promotion side, you can learn about email marketing, digital marketing, social media, creating rich media, and more. On the content side, you can always improve your content writing skills, emotive writing, keyword research, and the conversion of one content piece into multiple media and formats.
1. Enjoy the Journey
For any community admin who sticks with his community for several years, you can get burned out. I know the feeling, and I like to periodically remind myself about what I enjoy running the community. There’s so much to learn and do that it can feel overwhelming, so it’s important to take every day in 2020 one day at a time.
SammyS reacted to bfarber for an entry, 4.5: Search Insights
Every single day, your members are searching your community for answers or interesting conversations to join.
Wouldn't it be great if you could learn what is being searched for to identify hot issues, commonly asked questions and discover trends?
We thought so too, which is why Invision Community 4.5 comes with search statistics.
For the first time, Invision Community gathers anonymized information on what your members are searching for so you can use this to highlight more relevant content and shape strategic decisions with your community's structure.
Search statistics help you track searches performed on your community
When a member searches, their identity is converted into a unique key that cannot be reversed to identify the member. This allows us to track a single member's search usage over many search sessions without being able to link it to a specific member account.
The AdminCP now features a dashboard to review the most popular search terms as well as a raw log of recent searches along with the results they returned.
We have a lot of ideas in mind for additional changes down the road with the tracking of popular search terms, but for now, we hope you like the new statistics page and find the information presented useful for your future site plans.
SammyS reacted to Matt for an entry, Invision Community: A decade in review
When the clocks strike midnight on New Year's Eve, we will enter the third decade of producing Invision Community.
A lot has changed since we set up in 2002. Our team has grown and our product matured. In a world where online startups explode and die within a few years, we're something of an anomaly.
We still have the same love and passion for creating the very best tools to build a community, and we have always ensured that Invision Community is in touch with modern demands.
This decade has seen Invision Community go from strength to strength. In 2010 we were one of many forum systems catering to smaller niche audiences. In 2019 we're powering discussion for many international and well-known brands.
Online habits may have changed in this time, and social media may have swallowed up smaller informal communities, but the need for independent community platforms remains strong.
2020 will see us release 4.5 which will bring another round of essential updates to existing features and a fresh batch of new features.
But first, let us climb inside our Delorean, rewind the clock to 2010 and start from the beginning.
As the sun rose on 2010, Bruno Mars was singing about parts of the human face in "Just the way you are", Katy Perry irritated Microsoft Word's spellchecker with "California Gurls", and CeeLo Green was trying to "Forget you" (at least in the radio edit).
Christopher Nolan's boggled all our minds with Inception, James Franco lost the ability to clap in 127 Hours, and Colin Firth stammered his way through The Kings Speech.
Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad to a collective snort, moderate derision and questions over just how useful a giant iPhone will be.
President Obama, just a year into office warns of "Snowmageddon" that eventually dumps up to 40 inches of snow on the east coast of the United States.
We lost comedy legend Leslie Nielsen (we'd never dream of calling him Shirley), and we gained a small child named Ryan who in just nine years would be earning $29,000,000 by opening boxes of toys on YouTube.
62% of us were using Internet Explorer to the chagrin of most web developers who wished that Chrome's 5% market share was more significant.
Facebook celebrated its sixth year by reaching 400 million users (a far cry from the 2.5 billion it currently has). Twitter, just four years old hits 30 million monthly active users (and none of them talked about fake news).
And how about Invision Community?
We hit 2010 running by releasing numerous updates on IP.Board v3.1, including finally using long-established web standards, and share features now that "social networking is all the craze these days" noting that "friends and colleagues often share similar interests, after all."
How innocent we all were in 2010.
Back then, each product had its own name and release cycle. IP.Gallery's new features included being able to rotate images by 90 degrees. Honestly, people used to go crazy for this stuff.
In May, we released a brand new application called "IP.Commerce". A few months later we renamed it "IP.Nexus" and years later, it was changed back to "Commerce". Naming things is hard.
The announcement contained exquisite details such as "It's hard to say when it'll be available" and "we don't know how much it will cost". We were so sure that it would be accepted positively, we removed the ability to post comments to the blog entry.
As summer turned to autumn and the end of the year loomed large, we released news about a significant update to Gallery called "IP.Gallery 4.0" which pre-dates Invision Community 4 and confused customers for years (so IP.Board 3 works with IP.Gallery 4, but IP.Board 4 works with Gallery 4?). Numbering things is hard too.
The last blog entry was about an app called 'IP.SEO' that I had utterly forgotten existed. It was written by Dan who once locked Lindy out of his own datacenter, but we don't talk about that.
I don't even remember this website
Charles opens the year by managing expectations for IP.Board 3.2 by outlining our three key goals (promotion, usability and modernization). The last one was us removing the "back to top" button and then spending the next eight years explaining why we removed it.
Our spam monitoring service processed 300,000 requests in the first two weeks of 2011. 30% of these requests were deemed to be spam and blocked (0.1% was probably an administrator registering 50 fake accounts before being banned from their own site).
I posted about "exciting new technology" in our new "WYSIWYG" editor (although what you see is sometimes close to what you get) would be more appropriate but slightly less catchy. We spent the next eight years explaining why no one uses BBCode anymore to almost everybody.
Brandon closed out the year with a blog promising "new toys" for IP.Content 2.3 (now called Pages, keep up!) which promises a "who's online" widget and a "shared media field" that was not only complicated to explain, but also use.
IP.Board 3.2 in all its glory
We start the year with news on IP.Board 3.3. This release was to feature essential updates such as the "Remember me?" checkbox on the login form and emoticons in signatures.
Despite being constantly told that we don't take SEO seriously, we round up the latest serious SEO changes including tags, soft 404s and micro schema.
We also celebrated our tenth year in business.
Something terrible must have happened to one of our competitors because we asked if you'd like to switch to IPS.
The year ends with IP.Board 3.4 being released for beta testing. This being a rare year where we release two major versions in less than 12 months.
Brandon has eight coffees and tries to explain what it's like to be a developer: "us developers are a strange bunch. We have a lot of crazy thoughts that just don't make sense to anyone else. Our brains are wired differently. We get from point A to point B by going around point Z and bouncing off point M first.", he closes the blog entry by urging you to ignore us.
The big news is that work on 4.0 is officially underway! Don't get too excited, releasing two major versions in 2012 clearly fatigued us as "IPS Community Suite 4.0" is not released until June 2015, over two years later.
4.0 was our first complete rewrite in years. We threw out all our stable and tested code and started over with an empty editor. It was a vast undertaking that consumed us completely. The result was worth it as we had a new modern framework that still serves us today. But we're getting ahead of ourselves a little.
Back in 2013, Mark talks about trees. Not the kind you find laying around in forests, but rather the programmatic type. It's just a way for Mark to show off how beautiful his code is.
IP.Board 3.4 still gets many updates (along with IP.Gallery, IP.Blog, IP.Content, IP.Downloads and IP.Address (ok that last one was made up)).
We spend the year talking about various new things in 4.0, including a new-new editor and various special features (and no one noticed we started calling it "IPS Social Suite 4.0" - it just rolls off the tongue!)
I introduce the new theme engine for 4.0, and this time, my code is not deleted by Mark (true story).
We didn't know it at the time, but 2014 was not the year that IPS Social Community Suite 4.0 (naming things is hard) will be released. Still, Rikki talks enthusiastically about "extending JS controllers and mixins" a way of coding so complex, to this day you can count the number of people who truly understand it on one of Rikki's fingers because it's only Rikki that understands it.
Determined not to be outdone in the confusing customers' stakes, I go on about how important it is to convert your database to UTF-8 when upgrading from 3.0.
As 2014 neared its inevitable end, we did manage to put up a pre-release testing site and release Beta 1 a release so unstable; it makes the current political climate look absolutely peachy.
IPS Community Suite 4.0 (Preview)
Finally, the year that 4.0 is to be released! We released six betas and a few release candidates before nervously hovering over the 'release' button (actually it's a collection of git commands and 'to the letter' instructions I ignore).
After a year of training customers to call our forthcoming release "IPS Social Suite 4.0," we release it as "IPS Community Suite 4.0". Lindy writes a lengthy blog article that sounds like a cross between a technical discussion of the Brother 8987-A printer and an award acceptance speech.
Quite frankly, after nearly two years of development, we're just relieved to have finally released it.
The year is spent refining and fixing 4.0 and culminates in the news of 4.1, where we add activity streams and a menu manager. We also talk about the new-new-new editor.
December 16th marks the time that IP.Board 3.4 officially dies as we declare it "end of life" and no longer support it. That shiny new release we were excited to talk about in 2012 is finally put out to pasture. The last we heard, IP.Board 3.4 moved to a farm and is doing well.
Now that IP.Board 3.4 is end of life; we do the sensible thing and make a few minor IP.Board 3.4 releases to improve security.
IPS Social.. sorry, Community Suite hits version 4.1.17 (confusing Lindy) before the year is done with many new improvements, including embeds, warning notes and the new leaderboard.
We're still mostly undecided what to call the product, so we avoid trying in all our blog entries.
In fact, looking back, it's quite remarkable how often we changed the name of our product. You'd be forgiven for thinking that it was a robust and well-considered attempt to prevent Google from serving up relevant search results and to confuse potential customers.
We find time to update our own website and introduce a new developer's area.
Barely 16 days into the new year, and we release news of the two-factor authentication feature added to IPS Community Social Invision IP.Board Suite 4.1.18.
When spring has sprung, Charles drops the news that we're working on 4.2, the main feature being a screenshot of the Admin CP log in. We promise that you will love it and that it will be released mid-2017.
Updates come thick and fast. Calendar event reminders, content messages, recommended replies, letter profile photos device management and delayed deletes all make the blog.
Still not convinced that people take us seriously when we say we're committed to SEO, we post about more SEO improvements.
This time, we talk about implementing JSON-LD, rich snippets, pagination tags and more.
We also squeeze another one in about the new-new-new-new editor.
We overhaul our own blog (using Pages because that's how we roll) and I start a hilarious series of blog entries where I troll our own team. Everyone including me loses interest early on in 2019.
During April, we do the sensible thing and change the name of our product once more. IPS Community/Social Suite 4.1 is out, and Invision Community 4.2 is in.
Just to recap: IBForums > IPB > IP.Board > IPS Social Suite > IPS Community Suite > Invision Community.
You're welcome search engines!
As promised, we release Invision Community 4.2 around the middle of the year. Well done, everyone! We finally hit a release date!
As is now tradition, we end the year with news of our next big release Invision Community 4.3 (and tease the new emoji feature). We also calm nerves about Europe's endless fascination with regulation (it's this kind of joke that caused Brexit you know) and wrote up a guide on GDPR.
Phew. We're almost there, dear reader. If you skimmed through most of the blog to this point and expected me to finish with a bang, you'll be disappointed.
We start 2018 at full speed releasing feature news on Invision Community 4.3 including emoji, OAuth, community moderation, REST API, subscription manager, announcements and more.
Oh and we hit our sweet sixteenth birthday in February!
We release Invision Community 4.3 in April to rapturous applause after a short beta testing period. We all agree that 4.3 was a great stable release which instantly makes the developers nervous.
Towards the end of the year, we announce that work has begun on Invision Community 4.4. We talk about new features such as GIPHY integration, AdminCP notifications, Post Before Registering, Commerce Updates and more.
Still not sure if we care about SEO? Well, how about another blog entry on SEO?
The only thing missing this year is a new update on our editor.
And we arrive back home in 2019. A week into January and I pull the massive twist that we're using Invision Community 4.4 on our own community. It's not quite up there with "Bruce Willis is a ghost" though.
In March we write up a case study on The Trevor Space, an LGBTQ charity set up to prevent suicide and to provide crisis intervention. TrevorSpace commends Invision Community for allowing anonymity online which isn't possible with social media.
Rikki drops a bombshell in September when he announces that we're actively working on native iOS and Android apps for Invision Community. Apparently mobile is a thing now.
November starts a series of blog entries talking about our new upcoming release, Invision Community 4.5. We talk about the Admin CP overhaul, Club Pages, RSS Feed Improvements and Club improvements.
And here we are. Right up to date. This decade may have only taken us from IP.Board 3.1 to Invision Community 4.5, but it really has seen a massive change in the company we are, and the industry we are in.
We have seen the inception, rise and stumble of social media. While it's true that forums are no longer the preserve of Star Trek fans obsessing over continuity errors and informal communities have been absorbed by Facebook and friends, spaces that you completely own to host discussions are still very much in demand.
Invision "Chameleon" Community in 2019
Over the past year or so we've seen a sustained rise in the demand for independent communities. Brands especially like that you own your data and can use it to gain insights into customer habits. Just this year, we've launched communities for LEGO, HTC, Sage, Mattel, Gibson Guitars, Squarespace, and many more.
We are constantly evolving Invision Community (assuming we stick with that name) to be at the very centre of your online presence. We have tools to add discussion comments to any page of your site, to embed widgets with a few lines of code. We want to showcase your community throughout your site by adding multiple touchpoints to take your customers on a journey with you. Our native apps will offer new and exciting ways to interact with a community via new interfaces.
As we move into our third decade, I can only see a resurgence for independent communities as we tire of the crushing intrusion of social media. We give away so much of our attention, time and information for very little reward.
We have never been more divisive and fiercely tribal.
It's time to come back together to discuss a topic with care and thoughtfulness. It's time to allow our personalities to take a back seat and let considered discussion live again.
And we'll be here doing what we have always done; creating the very best community platform possible.
I'd love to know when you joined us on this crazy ride. Was it before or after 2010?
SammyS 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.
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
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.
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!
SammyS 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?
SammyS reacted to Matt for an entry, Podcast with Matt: Facebook or Forums?
I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak on the Expert Focus podcast, hosted by experienced community manager and public speaker, Claire Dowdall.
Claire has significant experience in managing and developing strategies for increasing Facebook Group engagement for high profile speakers and entrepreneurs, while my background is with independent communities.
This set us up nicely for a lively conversation to really pull apart what makes for a successful community, and what platforms to consider when starting out.
From Expert Focus:
I really enjoyed speaking with Claire, and I hope you find a little time to tune in.
iTunes link for Apple devices On Spotify On all other devices
SammyS reacted to Mark for an entry, 4.4: Increase visitor registrations with Post Before Registering
It's very easy to focus on a single metric to gauge the success of your community.
It's very common for community owners to look at page hits and determine if their SEO and marketing efforts have paid off.
Getting traffic to your site is only half the equation though. The most valuable metric is how many casual visitors you're converting to engaged members.
Invision Community already makes it easy for guests to sign up using external services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.
However, there has to be a conscious decision to click that sign-up button. For some, this may be a barrier too many.
Invision Community 4.4 reduces this barrier by allowing guests to create a post to a topic they want to engage with.
Once they have posted, they are asked to simply complete their registration. They are more likely to do this now they have invested in your community.
This will be incredibly valuable when you consider how much traffic a forum receives from inbound Google searches. With Post Before Registering, you'll increase your chances of turning that inbound lead into a registered member contributing to your site.
Let me take you through the feature and show you how it works.
When browsing the community guests will see the ability to submit a post, with an explanation that they can post now and complete registration later. The only thing they have to provide in addition to their post is an email address.
Posting as a guest
This works in any application for new content (topics, Gallery images, etc.) as well as comments and reviews. It will only show when a newly registered member would be able to post in that area - for example, it will not show in a forum that only administrators can post in.
After submitting the post, the post will not be visible to any user, but the user will immediately be redirected to the registration form with an explanation to complete the registration. The email address they provided will already be filled in.
Registration form after posting as a guest
At this point, the user can either fill in the registration form, or use a social sign in method like Facebook or Twitter to create an account. After the account has been created, and validation has been completed if necessary, their post will automatically be made visible just as if they had registered and then posted.
If the user abandons the registration after they've submitted their post, an email will be sent to them to remind them to complete the registration.
Email reminding user to finish registering
Invision Community already has a feature that allows guests to post as guests without registration if granted permission. That feature has not been removed and so if you already allow guests to post, the behaviour will not change. This new feature is only available when a guest can't post in a given area, but a member would be able to. The entire feature can also be turned off if undesired. If the area the guest is posting in requires moderator approval, or newly registered members require approval of new posts, the post will enter the moderation queue as normal once their account has been created. Third party applications will require minor updates to support this feature. Once your casual visitor has invested time in your community by crafting a post, they are much more likely to finish the registration to get it posted. If you have set up external log in methods, then registration only takes a few more clicks.
This blog is part of our series introducing new features for Invision Community 4.4.
SammyS reacted to bfarber for an entry, 4.4: Application manifest and icon management
Who remembers the earlier days of the internet? Back when you popped your logo at the top left of your site and you were largely done?
Invision Community has continually developed to account for all the new services that have been built during our 16 years.
We now have social media sharing images, favicons and more to consider.
Invision Community 4.4 also adds mobile application icons, Safari mask icons and data for an application manifest. Handling of these logos and icons was a prime candidate for improvement in 4.4.
Moving our current options
Step one for improving our handling of these images was to move our current options out of themes and to allow them to be managed suite-wide from a single area. You can still upload a logo image per-theme (which shows in the header area), but the rest of the options have now been relocated to a new area: Customization > Appearance > Icons & Logos.
Adding new options
After giving favicon and share logo management its own dedicated area, we took a look at enhancing the configuration options made available through the interface without requiring theme template edits.
Multiple share logos
You can now upload multiple share logos. If you elect to upload more than one share logo, Facebook and similar sites will generally either show a carousel to allow you to choose which logo to use when sharing, or simply use the first image referenced.
You can now upload an image to represent your website which will be used to generate the "home screen" icons for iPhones and Androids automatically. Uploading a single image will result in several different copies of the image (in different dimensions) being generated, and mobile devices will automatically choose the best option from the list as needed.
Safari mask icon
You can also now upload a Safari Mask icon, which is used to represent your website in certain areas on Apple computers (such as on the "touchbar" of certain keyboards). This image must be an SVG image with a transparent background, and all vectors must be 100% black.
Additionally, you can specify the mask color which is used to offset your image when necessary (e.g. to represent it as "selected" or "active").
In order for devices to support the application icons that you upload, a file known as a web manifest must be generated and delivered to the browser. This now happens automatically, using details and icons specified in the AdminCP. Certain details, however, can be configured explicitly from the Icons & Logos page:
This is a short name to represent your site in areas with limited screen space, such as below your application icon on a mobile phone home screen. Site name
This is the name of the site. The "Website name" setting is automatically used if you do not explicitly override it when configuring the manifest. Description
A short description of your site Theme color
You can choose a (single) color to represent the general theme of the site. This color may be used by devices in areas such as the address bar background. Background color
You can also choose a (single) color to use as the background color for your site when the application is launched from a shortcut saved to the user's device home screen. Display mode
Finally, you can specify the display mode your site should launch in. For our more astute designers and developers, you may have already realized that generating the manifest file lays the groundwork for future PWA (Progressive Web App) development and support. Additionally, some Android devices will automatically prompt users to add your website to their home screen now that a manifest file is generated by the site.
Oh, and for the sake of completeness, we also generate the special browserconfig.xml file that Microsoft products (including Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, X-Box, and Microsoft-based mobile devices) look for when pinning sites and generating live tiles. There are no additional configuration options for this file - everything is automatically generated from the aforementioned options.
The end result?
Your community can now better convey, automatically, certain details to the myriad of devices out there that may be accessing your site, and you now have much better control over those details. You can more easily fine-tune the "little things" that help paint a complete picture of your web presence, and the groundwork has been laid for bigger and better things in the future as standardization and adoption of PWA functionality improves.
This blog is part of our series introducing new features for Invision Community 4.4.
SammyS reacted to Matt for an entry, How to successfully convert your platform and breathe new life into your community
Do you have a community but are looking to move to a more modern and feature rich platform?
There's a lot of ways Invision Community can breathe new life into your community. With our engagement features, advanced promotion features and mobile ready responsive themes, your members are going to love the changes.
Invision Community can power your entire site, from the content management front end right through to your download areas and shopping carts.
Imagine not having to juggle a dozen plug-ins and make several different applications talk to each other.
We offer a range of migration tools for vBulletin, xenForo, phpBB, Vanilla, bbPress and more. These tools convert your data such as members, passwords, forums, topics, posts and more across to Invision Community.
But first, let's look at how to make your migration a success.
Take our demo for a spin
Hands down the best way to get a feel for Invision Community is to take out a free demo. Once you are comfortable with the suite and know what it can do, the more confident you will be in discussing it with your members.
There's a lot of functionality to discover. Keep in touch with our sales team to get the most from the demo. We recommend that you consider three uses.
Your community. Look at how they will settle in with the new interface and how they will use the new features on offer.
Your moderators. Take a moment to look in the Moderator Control Panel. Run through all the tools that are available, such as the warning system and content review system.
Your administrators. Probably the largest change between platforms will be in the Admin Control Panel. It's worth spending a little time getting familiar with it and looking at what's new, and where common tools are such as forum and member management.
Tip: Invision Community's Admin Control Panel has a global search bar to look for settings, members, invoices and more. If you ever feel a little lost, enter in what you're looking for.
Make your plan
Using the demo and speaking to our sales team will help you draw up a migration plan. You'll know which apps you'll need, and what data can be migrated over.
You may want to browse the marketplace to look for apps, plugins and themes to extend the functionality even further.
Tip: We offer a VIP migration service where we work closely with you to draw up your plan and take care of the conversion for you.
Educate your community
Keep your community up to date with your migration plan. Show them the platform they'll be using. Take videos and screenshots showing them the exciting new features coming soon. Make it a positive and fun experience.
Post something new every few days to get your community used to the idea and get them involved by asking them if they have any questions. Our sales and support teams are here to help you if you have any further questions at this point.
Getting the majority of your community excited about the change is the best way to make the transition a smooth one.
Make sure you explain the benefits of the switch too. If there's a good reason for it, your community will get behind it quickly.
Some benefits may be:
It works better on your mobile device and tablets, so you don't need to struggle with pinch and zoom to get around.
Mobile ready out of the box
The built in embed system allows you to post images, YouTube videos more easily and you can preview it instantly as you type.
The crowd sourced moderation makes reporting bad content more beneficial. It'll help to keep the community clean from undesirable comments and moving a positive direction.
More features on the way. Invision Community is always adding new functionality based on our customers' wishes. These releases happen often so there's always something to be excited about.
Pick a day
The best migrations are planned down to the date and time when the data conversion will occur. Our team can give you a rough idea of how long the data conversion will take. It will vary but we can give you a ballpark.
Your members will feel happy knowing what is going to happen and when. There will be some downtime while the data is converted, so it's always best to announce this well ahead of time.
Set up a test site
Once you are committed to switching, set up a test site. A single Invision Community license can be used for a development installation as well as a live installation.
This is the perfect time to work on your theme and look at any tweaks you'd like to make.
Invite in your team and a trusted few from your community to offer feedback and advice. It's worth taking the time here to make sure everything is perfect for when you do the final conversion.
Make it comfortable
Take some time to theme your new Invision Community so it has a similar look and feel to your existing community. Change resistant members will feel more comfortable if there are areas that are familiar to them.
Ensuring your branding is up, and the colours match what you had before is a good start.
The easy mode theme editor is a great place to start.
Mind your language!
There are always little differences in the interface language that may throw some of your older members off. For example, some systems use "threads" instead of topics and "messages" instead of posts.
The easy language editor
Invision Community has a built in translation system so you can change our interface language to match your existing site.
Help your members
Set up a temporary questions and answer forum where your members can ask how the new system works and give you feedback.
Pin a handful of topics explaining where common items are now, such as how to edit your profile, how to send personal messages, how to mark the site as read and so on. Think about the daily activities your members make and explain how to do them with Invision Community.
You can use the pre-move time to ask your community what actions they do daily and may need assistance with on the new platform.
Some of us dislike change. We are creatures of habit. You may find some members are very resistant. That's OK, they'll come around in time as long as you continue to make them feel valued and understood. Take the time to explain how the new system works and what the benefits of Invision Community are.
In our experience, members love the following Invision Community features:
Invision Community has a variety of granular notification options, from browser to email so you're sure to not miss a thing.
We're mobile friendly right out of the box. Our theme has a responsive framework, which means that it resizes perfectly to any device you're using. No need for extra themes or styles, it's all baked in.
We all love a little friendly competition don't we? Invision Community has features like the leaderboard and member titles to reward activity. Who doesn't want to win the day?
Liking content is fun, but being able to express thanks, laughter and more is even better. It's all baked into the system ready to use.
Educate your team
Invision Community has a whole host of moderation tools that your team will love as it makes their daily routines much easier.
From the comprehensive warning system, to the crowd sourced moderation feature, which can automatically hide content and notify moderators once it has been reported multiple times, Invision Community makes your moderators lives easier.
The best approach is to pin topics in a team area that explains how to use these new features and where to find them.
Investing in a new community platform and migrating your community across is a big decision. With the right planning and forethought, it will be a smooth and positive migration with lots to look forward to once complete.
We offer free conversion tools for you to use, or we offer a VIP conversion service where we take care of it for you and you get one-to-one help and support throughout the process.
We'd love to hear from those who have successfully migrated across from other platforms and how they made it a positive experience for their members.