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The Vanilla Fall 2021 Release: What's New?

13 minute read

November 1, 2021

We’re back with another seasonal release announcement! This time, we’re sipping on our apple cider and watching the leaves change color while we bring to you a summary of everything that’s been released in the past few months.  

Our roadmap themes have been mostly the same – you'll see a focus on our new analytics experience (which we officially launched on October 20th at Super Forum), ongoing improvements to theming and a handful of new integrations to help you connect community into your tech stack.   

Analytics 

We are beyond excited to announce that the new analytics experience is officially rolling out starting on November 2nd. In this first release you will see the following key enhancements: 

  • A brand-new look, feel and experience that improve overall usability, making your community analytics a more seamless part of your daily workflow 

  • A custom dashboard builder and chart editor that allows you to create your own dashboards with all the data that matters most to your community 

  • New ideation dashboard and new out of the box charts added to existing dashboards to help you analyze more of your community data, right in Vanilla 

You can read more about everything that’s new with analytics on the analytics launch blog. And of course, there are a ton more features coming. Stay tuned to the Success Community to catch the recording of our Super Forum roadmap presentation and analytics launch session, where you can see a demo of what’s new, and a sneak peek at all the new features coming in Winter 2021.  

Theming  

We’re continuing to add options to customize your Foundation theme template without requiring coding experience! Building your theme with Foundation ensures that it’s mobile friendly, accessible and that you always have access to the latest and greatest features. 

Your discussion lists can now be tabbed so you can show off more of your most important content, in a more streamlined way. A great example of this in the wild is MURAL. Their default list displays the most recent Announcements, but they’ve also added tabs for other important parts of their community – a list of trending product ideas, and unanswered questions that community members have posted.  

And as a side note, discussion posts in Foundation can now also be moved and deleted in bulk. 

Theming - MURAL - recent discussions

UI Updates 

A handful of slick UI updates were added to improve mobile responsiveness, accessibility and the overall user experience for a couple key areas of your community: 

  • User profile badges/reactions: customize reaction icons and titles that display on a user profile and control the number of badges shown by default in order to maximize screen real estate 

  • A new Post button experience for mobile: there is now a floating post button in the bottom right corner of your mobile experience so it’s always easy to start a new discussion or submit a new idea on mobile device

  • New Guest call to action: improves the visibility and accessibility of the Sign-in/Register buttons for guest users, encouraging them to sign up or login.  

  • Improved mobile UX for Carousels: On mobile, your category carousels can now be scrolled through with touch gestures 

Carousels

Structured Q&A posts in search engines  

This feature is important to call out individually because it has a big impact on SEO and visibility of community for self-service support. Research by the TSIA says that 90% of consumers start their support journey on Google. That has major implications for community pages and ensuring that when people ask questions or type keywords into Google, that the community surfaces as the first place people go to find answers. 

This enhancement structures Q&A posts to appear in a Question/Answer format right in the results of the search engine to increase visibility of community posts and ensure your users find the answers they’re looking for more quickly.  

Structured Q&A

Integrations 

  • MURAL: You can now embed MURAL boards such as mind-maps, notes, diagrams (and more) into community posts and Knowledge Base articles to enrich your content with visualizations.  

  • Cleanspeak: Automagically check new posts and edits against the Cleanspeak service for problematic content. This automates some of your moderation, by sending any posts that do not pass your pre-configured rules to the moderation queue to be actioned by community admins. 

Zapier  

If you’ve ever wanted to connect your community to tools in your tech stack but don’t have a developer on hand to do this, then Zapier can help. We’ve added a handful of new triggers to keep you rolling with new integration options:  

  • Warnings issued: Create a ticket in ZenDesk when a warning is issued in your community 

  • Discussion is updated: Log discussion updates in a third party for tracking/reporting  

  • Idea votes: When an idea is voted on, log this on the idea in Productboard or JIRA 


Zapier

APIs & Webhooks 

For all the developers out there, we’ve added new endpoints that help you build deeper integrations between Vanilla and your existing workflows. 

  • APIs for warning/notes and webhooks notifications so you can keep track and automate warning and notes workflows that are issued within your community 

  • APIs for moving, deleting and merging discussions in bulk for customers who manage content via a third-party service  

  • APIs to manage category notifications to understand what notifications users are subscribed to

Other Nuggets 

Aside from our major themes, we’re also tackling customer requests and other features that are high on the priority list. A couple of those include:  

  • Per category notification preferences: Users can now follow and configure notification preferences from the category page, allowing you to subscribe and receive notifications for any category 

  • Webhook Events for Hub/Node: For our communities that use Vanilla Hub/Node to manage communities on multiple nodes, you can now save time by managing these settings on just the Hub, and optionally synchronizing from your Hub to your Nodes.  

Behind the Scenes 

There are always platform improvements happening as we’re rolling out new features and functionality. We decided to make accessibility a major focus this past quarter and coming up in Winter 2021. 

  • Accessibility Assessment: Higher Logic is committed to making sure our software is an inclusive experience for everyone. That’s why we’ve partnered with an accessibility consulting firm to provide us with specific recommendations that will assist in ensuring that our software is in conformity with WCAG 2.1 AA. We have and will continue to be prioritizing a list of accessibility enhancements based on feedback we have gotten from our assessment.  

 

That wraps up our Fall 2021 highlights! Want to learn more about the Fall 2021 updates? Or see a sneak peek of Winter 2021? Here are a few more ways you can engage with the latest release: 

1) Stay tuned to the Success Community for a recording of the Super Forum product update and roadmap session 

2) Learn more about every feature by reading the Release Notes  

3) Drop a comment in the Success Community, and let us know what you’re the most excited about

Product News

Victoria Burt

Written by Victoria Burt

Victoria is the Product Marketing Manager at Vanilla Forums. Having held roles in Product Marketing and Product Management at tech companies over the last 10 years, Victoria lives and breathes bringing SaaS products & features to market

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