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Web push notifications, native sharing & offline support

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As we approach the release of Invision Community 4.6, I wanted to take you through some improvements for using Invision Community on a mobile device.

Web push notifications

For some time, we've used the local browser notification API to show users notifications. There's a big drawback though: users had to have the site open in a tab for these to work. This is particularly problematic for mobile devices.

In 4.6, we've added support for the WebPush API, which allows sites to push notifications to users' browsers & devices even if the site isn't open - or even if the device is asleep.

We already have support baked in for push notifications via our beta mobile app, so we've piggy-backed on that system and expanded it to support browser-based push notifications.

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Choosing push notifications

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

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Push notifications enabled

Existing users, who may have already granted permission to the site in the past, will be re-prompted to accept push notifications upon logging in after the 4.6 upgrade.

Push notifications typically show on the homescreen of a phone or in the notification tray of a desktop computer, so receiving dozens of notifications could be overwhelming. For that reason, Invision Community will automatically merge related notifications - for example, multiple mentions from the same topic, or multiple new topics from the same forum.

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Grouped push notifications

And, of course, users can stop push notifications across all of their devices with a single click if they want to opt out.

We're excited about the engagement potential of push notifications, since they allow you to immediately reach users who aren't currently on your site - a job previously left to email alone.

On the subject of notifications, one more thing: we've heard your feedback about notifications for new replies/mentions being merged with notifications for likes/quotes, and will be separating these two types into their own permissions in 4.6. We're acutely aware that making notifications annoying results in users turning them off, so we're always looking to ensure there is a reasonable balance.

Splash Screen Images

When you add a website to your phone's desktop, it appears like a native app. Tapping to launch the site can show a blank screen for a few seconds while the website is loaded. Fortunately, you can now set a 'splash' image in the Admin CP which is shown when launching the app.
 

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Sharing using native share options

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

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Offline support

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

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We hope that you are looking forward to these PWA improvements coming in Invision Community 4.6!

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