They say you never know what a new year is going to bring; this has never rung truer for the team here at Vanilla Forums. Not too far into the year for us, we were acquired by Higher Logic. I’ve been through my fair share of software acquisitions, and if you have also then you’ll know it can often bring a certain degree of uncertainty to the future and direction of the product.
Right out of the gate though it was clear that the Vanilla product was here to stay, as a perfect fit for customer experience use cases across B2B SaaS companies and consumer brands. Together, under the Higher Logic brand, we have more people and resources dedicated to powering Vanilla than ever before. This is particularly exciting, as we look forward to the 2022 roadmap and everything we have planned.
Be sure to tune into our Winter Product Update on January 20th to get a sneak peak at our 2022 roadmap! But before we dive into 2022, let's round up all the great community enhancements that rolled out over the past year.
Theming and Widgets
Over the course of 2020 and 2021 we’ve had a major focus on ensuring that theming your community is as flexible as possible without requiring custom code. Vanilla’s Foundation theme has come a long way and there are countless improvements that we’ve released over the course of the year.
- Widgets, widgets and more widgets! We’ve been on a journey to “widgetize” all your community components. 2021 introduced User Spotlight, RSS Feed, Quick Links, Discussion Lists, Ideas, Announcements and Q&A
- Categories can be carousels!
- Discussion lists can be tabbed!
- And tons more UI enhancements
And to top this all off, the Foundation theme is entirely mobile responsive and accessibility friendly, ensuring your community is a smooth and inclusive experience for everyone.
As a result of all these additions, we saw many of our long-time customers moving their community from an old legacy theme to the new Foundation theme. Qualtrics and MyFitnessPal are great examples of slick looking communities that moved to Foundation this year, if you need some inspiration.
Let’s check out MyFitnessPal on a legacy theme...
And then after they moved to Foundation!
It also looks great on mobile!
Modernizing our search service was a big initiative for us. Search is the backbone of any solid self-service support tool. If your members can’t find what they’re looking for, even if it’s there, then what’s the point!? While we upgraded the backend technology and updated the UI, we also jam-packed it with a ton of new features:
More content surfaces in search results such as Events, Groups, Categories and Knowledge Bases and a dedicated Member search
They key words within those search results are highlighted within the text
Support for wildcards such as “quotes” for exact text matching
Real-time search indexing, to ensure that when new content is posted, it’s instantly searchable
And more advanced sorting and filtering options
Read more about the Search enhancements in our Spring 2021 Feature Roundup.
Machine Translation for Knowledge Base
Machine Translation is a pretty magical addition to our Knowledge Base (KB) product, especially for those communities that have members all around the globe. Manually translating each of your KB articles is a lot of work, and most companies don’t have the resources for this.
We’ve added the ability to automatically translate the content of your KB articles into virtually any language with just a click. All you need is a subscription to either Google Translate or DeepL translator, and of course, a Vanilla KB!
Learn more in our Machine Translation blog post.
Over the course of the year, we’ve added support for or enhanced our integration with all these platforms:
You can read more about each of these in the release notes, but I do want to comment on our continued investment into making Zapier and Vanilla work better together.
Zapier is a big part of our integration strategy – we want to ensure Vanilla fits nicely into your tech stack, and not just via a custom, resource heavy API integration. Zapier has proven to be a great in-between, as we can connect Vanilla to thousands of applications and with 21 new actions and triggers added over the course of this year, many of our customers have been building some cool workflows. Here are a couple of my favorites:
If your community encourages members to post product feedback, you can now send that product feedback to a PM tool, and count the number of votes that idea has, so your PM team knows how popular it is with your community members.
If your community rewards members for participation, not only can you reward badges for something that happened in another system, such as completing a course with Skilljar. But you can also add automation to your advocacy programs by notifying a service such as Sendoso or SwagUp, when a community member earns a badge, or achieves a new rank.
The integration possibilities are truly endless, which is why we love Zapier so much!
The New Analytics Experience
Last but never least – our biggest launch of the year by far was our new analytics experience. We had one major goal in mind – to ensure our customers can report on the data that matters the most to their strategic goals and their community. So, we set out to build new out of the box dashboards & charts, and a DIY custom dashboard builder, all packaged with a brand-new look and feel and the ability to export charts as CSV.
We’ve gotten some great feedback from our customers, and we spent the latter half of the year addressing the feedback and adding new functionality. But we’re not slowing down anytime soon! We’re still working hard to bring you the best community analytics experience out there, so you can understand engagement trends and measure the impact that community is having on your organization.