USCJ Digital reacted to Matt for an entry, The benefits of owning your data
I noticed something new in the chiller cabinet at the petrol station after filling yesterday.
Bottles of Grape Fanta sitting alongside the more mundane and pedestrian drinks such as Coke Zero and Pepsi Max.
I grabbed two bottles.
After draining one in record time, I googled around to see where I could get more of this delicious nectar, and it discovered that it's a new flavour being launched in the UK.
The really interesting thing was that Coca Cola used data stored in the self service machines that offer different flavours (such as those at cinemas) to determine which new flavours to bring to the market.
Grape was the second most popular flavour after regular orange, so the company knew they had a market ready for premixed bottles.
In a world where we fear what Big Tech does with our data, it's easy to forget that data has a valid use in your business.
It's why we make it clear that with Invision Community, you own your data. We just look after it for you.
This gives you the freedom to discover new trends within your business and use them to drive sales.
USCJ Digital reacted to Joel R for an entry, Master your community's lifecycle to increase your growth
“Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” – Richard Branson, billionaire and founder of Virgin Group.
We all seek success with our Invision Communities. For too many of our communities, however, we yearn for success but we don’t plot the correct navigation to get there. We haphazardly pursue our strategies, trying new ideas and hoping one will stick. It’s time to take a step back and assess your goals in context to your growth. It’s important to understand the stages of the community lifecycle, and to strategically match your goals with your growth sequence.
Alicia Iriberri and Gondy Leroy of Claremont Graduate University surveyed over 1000 publications across multiple disciplines including computer science, information systems, sociology, and management in their seminal 2009 research paper “A Life-Cycle Perspective on Online Community Success.” Their research forms the foundation for most modern community management, and in their paper they write, “The impact each design component has on the success of the online community shifts depending on which life-cycle stage the online community is experiencing.” The right strategy at the right time will maximize the impact.
Every community goes through a community lifecycle of four stages: Inception, Growth, Maturity, and Mitosis.
Setting the wrong objective can not only fail, it can even backfire and destroy goodwill. Here are classic examples of good strategies that go wrong because of poor sequencing:
A new community with no activity that builds dozens of new boards A growth community not fostering a unique sense of community A mature community not establishing strong codes of conduct
Architecting a community is very different for the first ten users versus the next thousand users. New priorities come into play, community concerns will shift and strategies need tochange. As a community manager, ensure the strategy is appropriate and reflects your community lifecycle to ensure maximum impact.
Let’s take a look at proper goal settings for each stage of the community lifecycle.
Inception is the start of your community. You’re bursting with energy, enthusiasm, and big ideas. While your Invision Community is full of potential, your goal is to turn your vision into reality:
Growth is where the magic of community happens, balanced against the development of more explicit and formal conduct.
Members: Shift your focus from nurturing individual users to creating a workflow that can systematically welcome new members. Promotion: You should be proactive with your self-promotional activities to build community awareness such as email marketing, social media, or mailing lists. Content: Content will now be a mix between self-generated and co-created. You want to highlight community content by others to encourage community expertise. When you create content yourself, you want to start including emotionally-driven questions that connect users. Organization: Measure specific metrics for organization goals, highlight community health and successes, secure funding for ongoing budget and team. Community: A unique sense of community is cultivated at this time with shared experiences and language between members. Members feel excited to be a part of your community’s growth.
Maturity is when your Invision Community becomes critically acclaimed and well-known in the field. Even though your community looks to be run smoothly, there are still areas to address so your community doesn’t stagnate:
Members: There should be a clearly defined process and welcome guide for onboarding new members, an established pipeline that constantly brings on new superusers, and a rewards program that recognizes members for different types of member journeys. Promotion: Your site is well-known, so the search engine traffic and content within your community is enough to bring in new users. You can optimize your SEO at this point. Content: Almost all content is user-created at this point, which means your focus needs to shift to content recognition, organization, and moderation. Highlight the best community content; categorize and properly tag new content so the community stays organized; and scale your moderation to handle the size of your community. Organization: The community is a key part of your organization’s larger success and supports multiple areas of the business. Be a strong internal advocate for the community and align your community with your organization’s new profit areas. Community: Superusers not only have the privilege of creating their own content for the community, but they’ve stepped up as mentors and moderators. Your community has a strong culture that’s reinforced by members.
Mitosis is the stage when your Invision Community grows beyond its original mission, potentially splitting off into new subgroups. Many communities stagnate at this point with falling engagement and plateauing registration, but you’re catching onto the next big trend in your industry to grow into.
Members: New member registrations flatlines because you’re tracking with the industry. Your goal is to continue to delight members with new forms of omnichannel engagement like regional meetups, video conferencing, and headline conferences. Promotion: Your community self-generates organic traffic. Your promotion should shift from trying to advertise for yourself to exerting influence with industry partners as a trusted leader in the field. Content: Members can find the most comprehensive set of resource documents and discussion on your community. Your goal is to distill the knowledge into the best tips and guides for newcomers to obtain the most accurate information as quickly as possible. You should also archive areas that no longer receive activity while finding growth topics in your field. Organization: The community is a critical part of all business operations and integrates into all relevant workflows. You should build custom metrics to measure results, help determine new investment decisions, and streamline business efficiencies at the organizational level that benefit the community. Community: Your community becomes an incubator of new sections in a controlled manner for potential spin-off. Superusers control and moderate their own areas of the site like Clubs or Blogs.
Online communities evolve through distinct stages of the community lifecycle. At each stage, the needs and activities of members require different tools, features, and community management. Certain strategies are more impactful when they coincide with the right sequence.
Invision Community makes it easy to get started with a technology platform packed with features that every community manager can start using right away. But how you get to the first ten users, to the first thousand posts, or even to one billion likes will be a journey that’s truly your own.
Share your success story of Invision Community in the comments below. Did you make any rookie mistakes that you wish you knew beforehand? What are some strategies that you’re pursuing right now, and why do you think it’s an impactful decision for this stage of your community’s lifecycle?
We’d love to hear your journey along the community lifecycle.
USCJ Digital reacted to Guest Writer for an entry, Case Study: Building Safe Spaces for The Trevor Project
Every day, LGBTQ young people from all walks of life log into TrevorSpace, the world’s largest moderated safe space for LGBTQ youth online.
Here, young people can support each other, share their stories, and find refuge from what might be a less than accepting environment offline.
Launched in 2008, TrevorSpace is housed under The Trevor Project, the foremost suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth in the world. Having an affirming digital community has been an indispensable resource for the youth The Trevor Project aims to protect, but guiding it to the success it enjoys today has had its challenges.
Shortly after its launch, TrevorSpace rapidly grew to serve tens of thousands of users in just a few years. While the platform initially started on commercial community software, some unique requirements led the organization to go custom, building a community platform from the ground up.
Faced with increasing hosting and development costs and declining user activity, senior leadership faced a tough decision: either dramatically transform the program, or discontinue it altogether. That’s when Invision Community stepped in.
“We were already planning a digital transformation, replacing everything from our physical computers to our crisis services software infrastructure, the platforms that young people use to reach out to us, like TrevorLifeline, TrevorChat, and TrevorText,” John Callery, director of technology at The Trevor Project said of the challenges facing the organization at the time. “We had to be very careful with our resources and where we allocated our time.”
Continuing the TrevorSpace program would mean The Trevor Project needed to move to a solution that could be implemented and managed with very limited resources while still providing the quality of care that the community had come to expect. It also meant meeting the specific needs of the organization’s mission, particularly around safety.
After looking into the Invision Community platform per the suggestion of a team member, it became clear that they had all of the fundamentals TrevorSpace was looking for, like messages boards, social networking, and private messaging.
Here was a chance to save the platform.
Customers rarely have the opportunity to meet the people behind the technology they use. This wasn’t the case for The Trevor Project and the Invision Community team, who made it clear they believed in our mission to support LGBTQ youth in crisis and were willing to partner with us to realize our specific needs and figure out new solutions.
Through utilizing the Invision Community team’s applications and plugins, we were able to meet all of our community’s custom needs, adding functionality unique to TrevorSpace to protect our users, many of whom are especially vulnerable when it comes to their privacy. None of this would have been possible without the incredible support of the Invision Community team.
For just one example of how crucial TrevorSpace is to young LGBTQ people around the world, listen to Mani Cavalieri, the community’s product manager: “When the most prevalent forms of social media are so enmeshed with our in-person relationships, LGBTQ youth often lose a safe place to explore their identities. TrevorSpace is one of those special communities that balances anonymity (often a necessity for safety) with real, personal connections.” Since joining the team, Mani has already seen multiple instances of users finding lifelong friends - and even partners - over the years on TrevorSpace - and on the Invision Community platform, it is able to reach more users than ever before.
In January 2018, TrevorSpace received double the number of registrations than any other month in the program’s 10-year history. We continue to see more than a thousand new registered members each week.
As we begin international promotion of the program, we expect to break many more records in the coming year. As we continue to grow TrevorSpace, we also continue to rely on Invision Community’s extensibility.
Our mission is to improve support networks and mental resilience for our users. This requires us to understand our users’ behavior and needs from a different perspective than other online communities, and it will continue to require more custom solutions.
The marketplace of plugins, as well as the enthusiastic support of the Invision Community team, enable us to be bold in our ambitions, to build out a community that is truly unique in its class, and to improve the lives of those that need a supportive community the most.
As one user puts in, in their welcome message to each newcomer: “That's our little secret - there's some one here, going through what you're going through. Whether that be mental health, body issues, parents, friends, and whatever else life as someone who's LGBTQ+ can throw at you. Reach out, and someone will be there for you.”
- This entry was written by The Trevor Project team
USCJ Digital reacted to Matt for an entry, 6 Degrees of Separation
We do love a parlour game at Invision Community HQ and we were playing "6 degrees of separation" recently.
You've probably heard of the "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon". This is where you try and connect any actor with Kevin Bacon in 6 steps or less.
So let's try "6 degrees of Invision Community". This is where we try and connect a person with an Invision Community.
David Goggins and Invision Community
Last week, I finished the excellent David Goggins book "Can't Hurt Me".
David Goggins, a retired Navy SEAL, spent a month with Jesse Itzler. This which was documented in Itzler's book "Living with a SEAL", which I've also read.
Jesse Itzler owns the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Team.
The Atlanta Hawks has a dedicated area inside the Atlanta Falcons Football team's official community.
The Atlanta Falcons official community is powered by Invision Community.
Here's another one.
Groot and Invision Community
Groot featured in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie series.
Chris Pratt starred alongside Groot in the same movie series.
Chris Pratt voices Emmet in the LEGO® movies.
LEGO® uses Invision Community.
Over to you.
Do you have any "6 degrees of Invision Community?". We'd love to read them!
USCJ Digital reacted to Joel R for an entry, 10 Tips For Converting from vBulletin to Invision Community
Are you a vBulletin admin looking to stay on the leading edge of online communities?
As an IPS client who frequents the Invision Community support forums on a daily basis, I often run across existing or former vBulletin admins looking to migrate to IPS. In fact, based on my not-so-scientific survey, vBulletin is one of the most popular platforms from where admins migrate. Many of the vBulletin users are professional administrators looking for a stable company, rapid development, and a trusted platform to power their communities into the future.
I interviewed 6 former vBulletin admins who are now Invision Community clients. Most of these vBulletin admins have 10+ years of experience running successful forums, so their input was especially insightful.
“I love the design of the admin and moderation back-end, a real treat after living with the antiquated and confusing vBulletin back-end.” -- @cfish
“I like the well-thought concept, the details, and abundance of features and functions.” --@Ramsesx
I’ve compiled the top 10 questions and answers from their interviews and the forums specifically for vBulletin admins for an insider’s perspective on how to convert from vBulletin to Invision Community. You can also read their full interviews in my Community Guide attached at the bottom.
10. What is the typical lifecycle of Invision Community and what new features come out?
Invision Community is currently on 4.4. It’s a great time to be migrating as both the software and converter are very mature. You’ll be able to take advantage of all the new features from Invision Community 4.x such as Social Clubs, Subscriptions, SEO updates, and GDPR updates.
In general, IPS publishes one major update like 4.4 once a year, with several bug fixes, security updates, and enhancements throughout the year. The best place to read about Product Updates is the official IPS Blog in Product Updates.
9. What are the pricing options and how do they compare to vBulletin?
IPS is comparable in pricing when compared to vBulletin depending on your choice of apps. The self-hosted option is cheaper when considering support and upgrades.
The pricing for an active license is simple, easy, and comprehensive. A new license includes professional ticket support, forum support, access to new upgrades, and managed spam service for 6 months. Renew again in six months to continue those benefits. If you choose not to renew, your software will continue to work.
8. Is the software mobile ready like vBulletin?
Yes, the software is responsive by design. This means the community naturally fits and beautifully displays in any device size, giving you a consistent look-and-feel across all devices. Try it now by resizing your window!
It also means you don’t need to pay for any extra “mobile bundles.” This approach to mobile design was one of the reasons why @cfish chose IPS: “I didn’t like vBulletin’s approach to mobile. The IPS approach to responsive web design was inline with my own thinking.”
7. What are the official Invision Community apps and how do they compare to vBulletin?
@Steve Bullman converted to IPS because “IPS seemed to offer a better all-round package for what I needed.” One of the biggest reasons for considering IPS is a broader approach to community. Whereas vBulletin focuses only on Forums and Blogs, IPS empowers you to build a suite of applications customized to your needs. Mix and match apps like Gallery, Blogs, Downloads, Pages, and Commerce to build a modern community with resource directories, databases, paid subscriptions, albums and more that go beyond forums.
You can read more about the apps in Features. Calendar and Clubs are included for free!
6. What will be migrated from vBulletin?
The free converter app will migrate all of your member and content items from vBulletin 3.8.x, 4.x, and 5.x. This includes members, private messages, member groups, ranks, forums, topics, posts, and attachments. You can view the full list on Migrate and choose your vBulletin version from the list of choices.
Obviously, you will not be able to migrate any custom themes or custom modifications. @ChristForums adds, “I wish I had known that the converter was so easy to use and migrate from Vbulletin 5.”
5. What are the channels for support?
Every active license comes with professional ticket support, which should always be your first source of contact. @Markus Jung highlights “fast support” as the item he appreciates the most about his license. You can also obtain help from the community forums, help guides, release notes, and other public resources.
If you’re not an IPS client yet, you can post in Pre-Sales forum or email email@example.com.
4. How do I prepare my community?
The six admins that I interviewed offered several tips for new Invision Community owners. Prior to the conversion, you should read through the converter package to see what will convert and redirect. You should purchase other Invision Community apps in advance to fully convert vBulletin items as needed; not delete any old content since Invision Community includes an archive function; and not make drastic changes to allow members a chance to become accustomed to the new forum.
3. What will happen to my traffic and URL redirects?
The free converter app will redirect your existing URLs. This includes forums, topics, posts, member profiles, print view pages, archived content, attachments, and tags. You need to leave your converter installed after migration to ensure the redirects will work.
AlexWebsites wrote, “the converter came with built-in redirects and I was able to redirect most of my traffic. Traffic recovered within a few months.”
2. What are the server configuration and database requirements?
If you choose cloud, then Invision Community will manage the hosting.
If you choose on-premise, you can use the free ‘Get Ready’ compatibility file to check your server. The latest version of Invision Community 4.4 requires:
PHP 7.1.0 or higher (7.3.x is supported) MySQL 5.5.3 or higher (5.6.2 recommended). 1. How stable is the company?
Other companies lost their development talent. Other companies were bought and sold by multi-media conglomerates. Other companies have a history of lawsuits.
Through it all, Charles, Lindy and Matt have been here since the beginning providing steady leadership to Invision Communities everywhere. If you’re looking for stability, it’s nice to know you can rely on the same people who started the company. For serious and professional vBulletin admins looking to transition, you know you’re not just buying into the software, but investing in the development team, staff, and platform for years to come. Ramsesx shared his personal story: “I always prefer the best for my community from where I earn my income. An important aspect was the longtime outlook. Invision Community gave me the feeling of being trustworthy, they are more than 17 years in the forum software market.”
It’s no wonder that so many successful vBulletin admins feel the same after moving to Invision Community. You get stability, years of experience, a deep understanding of online communities, and a dedication to development that continues to innovate. It’s time to bring your vBulletin community over to Invision Community!
Bookmark this page for future reference and download the Community Guide for experiences from real clients who converted from vBulletin. Much appreciation to @AlexWebsites @cfish @Christforums @Markus Jung @Ramsesx @Steve Bullman for participating in the interviews.
- Joel R
Community Guide vBulletin Migration to Invision Community.pdf
USCJ Digital reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.4: 6 New Micro Features
I really enjoy writing about the new features the development team have been slaving over for weeks (and sometimes months.)
It's a real joy to be able to share the finished product after we've seen it through inception, discussion, planning, assigning to a developer, coding, peer reviewing and final group testing.
Although sometimes, the features can be explained in a few screenshots, which makes for a pretty thin blog entry.
With that in mind, I've grouped together 6 of the best new micro-features for Invision Community 4.4.
We introduced browser notifications in a previous version of Invision Community.
Once you've opted in to receive them, you'll get a fancy browser notification when new content is posted while you're off browsing other sites.
However, the browser prompt to ask for permission to push notifications isn't subtle, and it attacks you the second you log in for the first time.
In Invision Community 4.4, we've made it, so you're only asked to opt-in once you open the notification drop down.
No more being attacked by a permission dialog
Widget display settings
One of the most popular features we've added to the front end in recent times is the drag and drop widgets.
We see these used on almost every site we visit.
A popular request, though, was to be able to hide them from specific devices. By default, the sidebars appear under the main content when viewed on a smaller device such as a phone.
There may be times where you wish to show a block for those on tablets and desktops, but remove it for phones, so it doesn't take up precious retail space.
Happily, you can now do this on each block with 4.4.
Clubs are relatively new to Invision Community but they incredibly popular as they allow you to run micro-communities within your main community.
You're not limited to just forums either; you can add gallery albums and more to each club.
We've added the ability to re-arrange the club tabs allowing you to prioritise what you members see first.
Rearranging club tabs
Announcements have been a core feature for a long time now. We use them whenever we have a holiday so we can notify our customers about reduced support on those days.
We've made it so you can now link to an item, rather than have to provide new copy for each announcement.
We may have overdone it a bit
Time Frame selector
We noticed that in numerous areas around the Admin CP we had time input boxes. These would sometimes be used for seconds, minutes, hours and even days.
We've seen customers forced to enter things like 86400 seconds when they want the time frame to last a day. The lack of consistency wasn't great either.
In Invision Community 4.4, we've added a new Time Frame selector which is used as standard on all areas we ask for a time frame to be entered.
No more taking your socks off to work out how many seconds in a month.
Time is no longer relative
Group Name Styling
For about as long as I can remember (and as I get older, this is not an impressive amount of time), we've allowed group names to be stylized when shown in the online user list.
A very popular request is to extend that same group highlighting throughout the suite.
Finally, Invision Community 4.4 brings this to the suite.
If the group name is visible, that gets the styling, otherwise the name does
These features may be micro in nature, but we hope they make a significant improvement to your community.
Which are you most looking forward to? Drop a comment below and let us know.
USCJ Digital reacted to Matt for an entry, 4.4: New Email Features
It's easy to think that email is a relic from the past; from simpler times long before social media and the rise of phone apps.
And it's reasonable to think that way. Your phone constantly pings at you, and your laptop OS constantly pings at you, so why bother with email?
Because it's still a hugely powerful medium to get and retain attention.
In 2017, over 269 billion emails were sent and received per day. Of those, 3,360,250,000 are opened, read, and a link clicked.
Email is still very much a critical tool in your quest for retention.
Invision Community knows this. We have options to notify members of replies by email, weekly or monthly digests by email and members can opt-in for bulk emails sent from your community team.
Given how important email is, it was only fair that we invested in some love for our email system for 4.4.
Just above, I mention that 269 billion emails are sent, and 3.4 billion are opened, read and clicked.
How many emails are sent from your Invision Community daily?
(No cheating and checking with SendGrid)
You probably have no idea as we didn't record email statistics.
As of Invision Community 4.4 we do!
Chart showing the number of emails sent daily
We now track emails sent, and the number of link clicks inside those emails.
Email notifications are a powerful way to get your members to revisit your community. The member welcomes these emails as it means they have new replies to topics they are interested in reading.
While you have your member's attention, you have an opportunity to show them a banner-style advertisement.
The new email advertisement form
When creating a new email advert, you can choose to limit the advert to specific areas such as topics, blogs, etc. - and even which forums to limit by.
This is a new way to reach your audience with your promotions.
Unfollow without logging in
Despite spending most of this blog entry shouting the virtues of email, it's inevitable that one or two members may wish to stop receiving notification emails.
In previous versions, the unfollow link would have taken you to a login page if you were signed out. For members that haven't been back in a while, this may cause some annoyance if they do not recall their login details.
Invision Community 4.4 allows non-logged in members to unfollow the item they received an email about or all followed items without the need to log in.
You no longer need to log in to unfollow items
Respecting your member's inbox is vital to keep on good terms with them and to keep them engaged in your community.
We'd love to know which of these features you're most keen to try in 4.4. Please drop a comment below and let us know!
USCJ Digital reacted to Matt for an entry, Guest Blog: Joel's 5 Secret Interface Tips
Yet again, Joel hijacks our company blog for another generous slice of knowledge from the front-lines of administrating a successful community.
Inspired by Invision Community client @Joey_M who discovered the emoji of serendipity and chief architect @Matt who literally knows everything about Invision Community in ACP Tips and Tricks, they both made me realize there’s always something to learn no matter your level of experience.
You know how to post. You know how to react. You sometimes spice it up and make a poll. And for the most part, you and your users go about your forum lives with a secure sense of certainty and satisfaction that you know how to interact with your community.
But what if I told you there’s a whole world of wonder at your fingertips, young grasshopper? Your Invision Community includes stars to navigate by; magical pictures that appear and disappear; and little yellow men who giggle, laugh, and sometimes roll over in delight.
Here are 5 hidden tips to help you discover a little more of the IPS magic for you and your users.
How do you know what you don’t know?
Be sure to dazzle your users with this secret way of changing your content title. Change titles of your content items such as topic titles, album titles, and download files by using the click-and-hold strategy. Go to your forums and click-and-hold down the mouse over any topic title until you see that you’re able to edit the title. Surprise! Use this secret strategy as the perfect way to quickly mass edit titles.
Click-and-impress your users with the click-and-hold strategy
2. Stars and Dots
Active forum users jump around dozens of boards every day to stay involved. And within a loooong topic with many pages, you need a fast way to jump to the most recent unread topic. Before each topic is an icon: either a dot or a star. Clicking these icons will always jump you to the latest unread post, so you can quickly dive back into the conversation. Dot means unread; Star means you participated in the topic.
My forum icon constellation tells me that I’m most compatible with a Capricorn.
3. Emoji Short-codes
One of the newest features to be included in Invision Community is emojis. While there are ways to insert emojis from both mobile keyboards and the editor, you can also start typing “:thumbs up:” to reveal the secret emoji menu. Try it now in the comments of this article. Last person to give me an emoji thumbs up wins!
Be a 💯 with 🙂
4. Image Attachments
Forum posts come alive with image attachments that add color and vibrancy. But adding thumbnails to the bottom of your posts is a missed opportunity to enrich your post at the appropriate spots within the post. After you upload an image attachment to a forum post, double-click on the image attachment. You’ll be presented with a secret menu with options to align and resize, so you can create stunning forum posts with images.
Much color. Much alignment. So much wow.
5. Profile Banners
Banners play a prominent part in multiple parts of the community, such as the Calendar, Profile, Clubs, and Blogs. But usually the page only displays a portion of the banner, and most of the banner is hidden. If you ever want to see the full banner in all of its glory, click near the top of the banner to auto-magically reveal everything! Now you see, now you don’t.
The iceberg is a metaphor
How many of these five secret tips did you know?
If you knew all five, give yourself a round of applause! It’s rare for even the most seasoned Invision Community administrator to know all five, and you’ve mastered them all.
Did you know four? Congrats, you’ve done a great job of exploring your community suite and you should keep it up.
Did you know three or less? You should do some serious soul searching. Kidding.
But it’s a definite sign that your soul would benefit from reading Invision Community News for more useful tips.
Becoming a great community manager is a combination of community strategy and product knowledge. By empowering yourself with more functional knowledge and tools, you’re giving yourself the ability to leverage a bigger toolkit. Whether you’re typing emoji short-codes to laugh with your members or inserting attachments into a tutorial on hidden tips for your community, I hope you learned something new, something surprising, and something perhaps even a little wonderful.
Let us know in the comments below what hidden tip surprised you the most.
USCJ Digital 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.