Better services integration and more
The latest update to the IPS Community Suite brings a host of new service integrations to enable medium and large communities to get the most out of our platform. Plus, as ever, there's incremental improvements to areas such as SEO and user experience.
Superior member communication with Mandrill
Ever since our first release, we've enabled administrators to communicate with their members en masse with the Bulk Mail tool. In our latest update, we've taken this functionality even further. We're pleased to now offer integration with Mandrill, a service of the well-respected MailChimp email marketing company, ensuring your emails are sent more efficiently and with better reliability than before.
The integration is simple - simply enter your Mandrill details in the IPS AdminCP, and you're ready to send. Mandrill keeps full statistics for you to review, and bulk mail sent from the IPS Community Suite automatically enables you to track clicks and opens. Best of all, Mandrill offers 12,000 emails per month absolutely free.
There's improvements for non-Mandrill users too. Unsubscribing is now a one-click process for users. And you'll be able to see exactly who will receive email, before you send it.
User experience improvements
As with every major release, we aim to make incremental improvements to user experience. In the latest release, we've made extensive updates to our Rich Text Editor (RTE), providing better reliability and improved quote and code handling. We've made it possible to share individual posts in IP.Board via a URL or directly to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, with just a couple of clicks.
There's improvements for community staff too. For administrators, we've added a new feature called ACP Bookmarks, allowing you to set up one-click access to any frequently-used page in the AdminCP. And for moderators, we've added topic and post moderation tools for IP.Board to the mobile skin, helping you to deal with content while on the move.
As new research and customer experience comes to light, we aim to be constantly improving the SEO of the IPS Community Suite. In the latest update, we've made further changes that should provide a boost to many communities, including IP.Board topic URL structure, and consolidating links to pages search engines might deem 'thin content'.
Our IP.SEO addon product, which provides tools like automatic sitemap generation, a meta-tag editor and an SEO advisor, has now been incorporated into the core of the IPS Community Suite, giving all communities these extra benefits with no additional software to install.
Our latest update introduces the Best Answer feature for IP.Board, enabling users to highlight which replies to topics proved to be most helpful. This feature will be particularly appreciated by communities where topics typically have definitive answers, like support sites or Q&A formats.
Replies marked as 'Best Answer' are highlighted within the topic, and a snippet is additionally shown at the top of the page so that visitors can easily see the correct answer to the question.
IPS Connect is a brand new approach to Single Sign-On integration in the IPS Community Suite, enabling two or more web applications (with at least one being our suite) to share user accounts and syncronize user data. The process is entirely transparent for users: when they sign in from one applications, they're seamlessly signed in to all applications set up in IPS Connect. Similarly, when they register in any application, all other applications are automatically informed and updated.
Our latest release supports IPS Connect out of the box, and adding support for 3rd party applications is simple for developers. IPS Connect replaces our previous single sign-on product IP.Converge.
Communities for the modern web
Making the suite the most modern community platform available today, the latest update brings a new default design, new tools for designers, improvements to user engagement and a whole lot more, making it one of the most comprehensive point updates we've ever released.
Brand New Style
We've completely revamped the default interface style, modernizing it and improving usability across the suite. With a sharp focus on simplifying tasks for users, you'll find a lighter, slimmer yet equally as capable interface. Designers will find a new modular CSS structure behind the scenes, making many interface changes as simple as changing a classname.
The AdminCP has also been refreshed with a new style. A new menu system makes it easy to quickly to any section. The live search has been improved, helping you find settings, members, groups and more, quicker than ever.
Our mobile interface has received numerous improvements too - most notably to integrate the new Like and Tagging features. We've also added a new launchpad menu to easily navigate around the community from any page. There's also a new, clearer way to filter search and View New Content results.
One of the most requested features by our customers, content tagging is now available in the IPS Community Suite. Tags are a powerful way of categorizing all kinds of content with keywords, making it easy for others to find all similar content. We offer two types of tagging system: open tagging, where users choose any words as tags, and closed tagging, where they can choose from an admin-defined list of acceptable tags. Whether it's 'Apple', 'karate' or 'panda', a single click will find all relevant content from throughout the community.
Visual Skin Editor
Our new Visual Skin Editor makes it incredibly easy to create new skins for your community. A simple point and click interface with easy color pickers appears on your community pages, ready for you to decorate! Make changes in realtime, then continue browsing to see how it looks on different pages. Or to make it even quicker, try the Colorize button - you pick a base color, and the Visual Skin Editor does the rest. Then when you're happy, save it and it's ready for your members to enjoy!
The new Shared Media feature makes it simple to share existing content in other parts of the community - anywhere the rich editor is used. Share gallery albums in forum topics, or a forum attachment in a blog comment, and much more. The Shared Media popup shows all sharable content the user has posted before, and is searchable too.
Moderator Control Panel
The new Moderator Control Panel provides a central location for moderators to perform their duties. Easily accessible from anywhere in the community, it displays deleted/unapproved content and user-submitted content reports, and provides member management tools such as suspensions.
Remote Skin Editing
New for designers and developers is a remote skin editing capability. Forget editing skin templates via an interface in the AdminCP. Skins can now be made available as a WebDAV remote folder, allowing them to be edited and saved just like local files in a favorite text editor.
"Like" Reputation Mode
As well as the traditional positive/negative reputation mode, you can now choose to use a "Like" mode. Instead of up/down arrows, relevant content displays a "Like" button. When a user chooses to like the content, their name appears alongside it, along with any other users who liked it.
Member management in the AdminCP has been overhauled to vastly improve efficiency. A new, more responsive interface makes it quick and easy to handle member accounts awaiting action. Listed accounts can be filtered by type (normal members, spam accounts, those awaiting validation, etc.), with single-click actions available for each. When the current list is handled, more member accounts are automatically loaded. All without ever leaving the page.
And Lots More...
There's loads of other improvements too, including:
- New rich text editor
- Instant quick reply
- Auto-save draft in editor
- Inline photo cropping
- Support for IPv6
Optimization, performance & moderation
An update to the suite focused on ensuring it's an even more rock-solid foundation for communities. We've improved performance for large communities, made moderation simpler and boosted the promotion abilities with SEO and sharing updates.
The archive system offers a significant performance boost to large, established communities by allowing you to archive old content, keeping it accessible to users while moving it to a secondary storage location. With less active content in primary storage, features such as searching and content read markers receive noticable speed increases, and the general user experience within your community improves. And, of course, the archived content always remains available to users, both for browsing and searching, and can be moved back to primary storage at any time!
Archiving is available now in IP.Board 3.3, and will be rolled out to other IPS Community Suite applications soon!
In an ongoing effort to improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in the IPS Community Suite even further, we've analyzed the output of our suite and worked with a number of customers directly to make additional updates. Communities, in time, should notice improvements in search engine activity as our updates help crawlers to more effectively find and classify content and display more relevant data in their search results. Improvements include better support for microformats, friendly tag URLs and reduced duplicate content.
Auto-share Content to Social Networks
New in IP.Board 3.3, users have the ability to share content they post with social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, providing a great tool for content promotion and exposure. With Facebook integration, even if the user hasn't yet connected their IPS Community Suite account to their Facebook account, they are still offered the opporunity to share their topic - upon posting, an inline process prompts them to authenticate and connect their accounts, without ever leaving the page. Plus, we've updated the sharing tools so that a more appropriate image accompanies the content that appears on Facebook.
Auto-sharing is available now in IP.Board 3.3 for topics and posts, and in IP.Content 2.3 for database records and articles.
Keeping users in check is now easier than ever with the overhauled and upgraded Warning System in the IPS Community Suite. The latest version introduces a points-based system whereby each infraction earns a defined number of points, and when a user accumulates certain thresholds of points, automatic actions (such as suspension or banning) can be initiated. Points levels can also have associated reasons, allowing administrators to define a number of points for certain types of offence. Flexibility is a key feature - allow moderators to choose point levels, or fix them; allow points to drop off after a period of time, or make them lifetime.
Also improved is the information provided to both moderators and users when warnings are given. Users now receive a community notification when they are given warning points, setting out the reasons for it, and optionally, they can also be required to acknowledge the warning - a great way to avoid ignorance arguments! Moderators are now shown whether a user is serving any punishment action when viewing that user's profile page, and can opt to see full details of the infraction that warranted it. Plus, when a warning applies to a particular piece of content (such as an offensive post), that content is indicated to other moderators, so they know it has previously been handled.
We've simplified the content deletion tools available to moderators. Now, instead of the concept of unapproving content and soft- or hard-deleting it, there's simply the option to hide or delete it. The new options are self-explanatory: hide keeps the content in-situ, but removes it from public view, whereas delete removes it and places it in the ModeratorCP trash can. Moderators should find the tools easier to use and comprehend when performing their duties.
We've taken time to heavily analyze the inner workings of IP.Board, and we've made several significant performance enhancements that will particularly benefit larger communities. Enhancements have been made to topic marking, read-access from the main posts table, and more. This is part of our ongoing desire to make the IPS Community Suite feature-packed yet optimized and stable for thriving communities.