Archive for December 18, 2013

LibChat Updates Now Live

First, we’d like to extend a big Thank You to everyone who’s shared comments and feedback on the upcoming LibGuides v2 release. We’re thrilled with the early feedback from the Sneak Peek webinars, because if you can believe it, LibGuides v2 is *just the beginning*. We’re committed to updating all of Springshare’s apps with the same user-friendly themes in mind. Usability is important to us, so we’re thrilled to bring you new features like point-and-click content creation, simple yet powerful customization, and solid infrastructure improvements in all of Springshare’s products. Trust us when we say these are some of our very favorite things, no Sound of Music intended. 🙂

In that spirit, we’ve been hard at work on several big improvements for LibChat, and we’re thrilled to release them just in time for the holidays. This release is all about ease and simplicity – it offers a great mix of time saving features, new functionality, and performance improvements. Please make sure to clear your browser cache to ensure you’re seeing fresh content.

Redesigned Widget Builder

We’ve redesigned the widget builders from the ground up! To see it in action, head to Admin Stuff > LibChat > System Chat Widgets (if you’re an admin) or LibChat > Personal Chat Widgets; you’ll find all of the same options you love, plus a bevy of new customization and time-saving features:

  • Save your widgets – Reusing custom widgets is about to get a whole lot easier! Just name your widget and click Save, and LibChat will store your widget for easy reuse, later editing, etc.
  • Point-and-click customization – Click on the visual preview image to select the text (or color, or setting) you want to change, and you’ll see a dialog window that captures your custom info. Point, click, done!
  • Guided Settings – LibChat offers tons of widgets, settings, and options, and we wanted to streamline those options for maximum discoverability. That inspired us to reorganize all of LibChat’s options, making it easier to find and use the settings you need.

New Widget Options

Cause really, what’s a new widget builder without some cool new functionality? We’ve added several of the most popular feature requests from the past year, including:

  • New Widget: Bottom Slide – You’ve seen the “Ask Us” sliders on the left and right of the browser pane, but what about the bottom? Our new widget positions your Ask Us widget at the bottom of the pane. This positions one-click librarian assistance in context with the main content area of the page, without obscuring page content.
  • Multiple Widget Support – Want to add multiple chat widgets on a page? Maybe you have a site-wide slider and an in-page embedded chat, or multiple personal chat widgets in one spot. With this update, you’ll be able to add as many widgets on a page as you’d like.
  • Question Fields – We’ve made it easier to collect introductory information on the patrons you chat with! Ask up to 3 text-response and multiple choice questions; ask anything from “Is this for a course?” to “What’s your favorite type of cookie?”.
  • Streamlined Anonymous Chat – If your chat widget permits users to chat anonymously, we’ve made it easier for your incognito patrons to start a chat by removing the need to click a special checkbox. We’ve removed the warning message, lowering the barriers to entry for the stealthy (or shy) questioners out there.
  • ARIA tags – Our widgets are taking a new leap forward in accessibility, thanks to the inclusion of ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite) tags. These tools are designed to help make dynamic web applications (like the LibChat widgets) more accessible to users who rely on screen readers.

Librarian Operator Panel

We hope you don’t think this update is all about the flashy new Widget Builder, cause we’ve got more surprises in store. This update also includes some pretty sweet improvements to help you monitor your system’s connectivity and keep in touch with your colleagues:

  • Start a Group Chat – Grab a quick consult with your resident subject experts – just click Group Chat to start a conversation. Tag as many folks as you’d like to join in – it’s great for everything from discussing tricky reference questions to pinging your circulation buddy to see if the novel you’re waiting on showed up in the book drop.
  • Updated (and improved) Status area – View all of the conversations happening in your system, in real time! The new Status area made the information in the “Visitors Online” area redundant, so we’ve streamlined the screen to show more relevant information in the main pane.
  • Status area now shows Past & Present – And coming soon, the Future! (…eh, maybe not ;). When you log in to LibChat, you’ll see all of the chats currently in progress, including those that may have started before you logged in to LibChat.
  • Join Chats in Progress – Now that you can see all of the patron chats happening in your system, we thought we’d make it easy to join those conversations! You’ll see a new “Join” link on each live chat listing – click it to jump into that chat.
  • Connection Status Updates – Both librarians and patrons can monitor their chat session connection in real time, via new alerts in the operator and chat windows.
  • Lost Connection? Reconnect! – Our developers have added some serious horsepower under Libchat’s hood. If a chat in progress drops unexpectedly, our new transport layer is there to save the day and reestablish the connection!

Remember, we’re just getting started  – we’re gearing up for a bigger LibAnswers announcement this January, where we’ll share more exciting redesign goodness. As always, a big thank you goes out to everyone who shared ideas for this update – it’s always a pleasure to hear from you!

LibGuides v2 Beta Site Requests

We’re happy to announce that LibGuides site admins can now request a LibGuides v2 beta site via your LibGuides v1 Admin dashboard!

request-beta-site

We know the anticipation has been building and we appreciate your patience for the past few weeks. There was an important last-minute code change we had to make – switching from the no-longer-supported Bootstrap 2.3 to the new Bootstrap 3. It meant changing literally every screen and changing every template (a great new v2 feature!), because the Bootstrap 3 code structure is very different. It’s an exciting change, though, because Bootstrap 3 fixes several accessibility issues and makes LibGuides even more mobile friendly, given BS3’s mobile-first approach. We still need to polish some things and plug in several remaining pieces of functionality, but we’re ready for you to start requesting your beta sites.

Requesting a Beta Site

When you’re ready – before or after the holidays – go ahead and request your beta site via your LibGuides Dashboard. We’ll do our best to install your beta site as early as we can, and within 30 days of your request.

Given that we have 4,200+ live sites, it’s impossible to get everyone started at the same time. Folks who started earlier with LibGuides v1 will have preference in the beta install queue. (i.e., the lower your institution ID [IID], the sooner your site will be installed.)

Your beta site will not have any content in it initially. Content migration comes later. (Explained below.)

Beta Site Domain / 2 Concurrent Systems

Your beta system will be installed on a temporary domain, with your current site and beta site running simultaneously. Your existing system is still your official, public-facing LibGuides system, until you are ready to make your v2 system live.

In your beta system, you can start working on customizations, templates, workflows, and training your staff on the new platform. (Never fear, we’ll have documentation & training webinars available!) You can even start creating content, if you’d like, but do not share URLs for this content with your patrons since the domain will change once you go live.

Planning for Content Migration

As you train your colleagues on the new system, you should also start planning for your content migration. We’re going to do a blog post next week on guide clean up (and will have similar info in a migration guide we’re creating), but in the meantime you can start by removing any unnecessary content, whether this means whole guides, old images you know you’re not using anywhere, unnecessary CSS / javascript, etc.

Starting at the end of January / beginning of February 2014, you’ll be able to request a content migration from your current site into your beta site. We’ll work with you to determine the best time to migrate, and run the scripts at that time. This is a one-time migration, so make sure you are ready for it to happen.

After Content Migration

Even after your content has been migrated, your existing LibGuides v1 system will remain your public facing system – for a little while longer. You should not create any new content in your LibGuides v1 system from this point on. Any new content you create will not transfer to your LibGuides v2 system.

You will need to go through the migrated guides in your v2 system and fix whatever needs fixing. The new page / content structure is completely different, so it’s not unreasonable to expect that each user will need to spend anywhere from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours fixing / restructuring the content on each of their guides to take advantage of new functionality. This could include things like:

  • Removing “hacks” for things like tabbed boxes, rotating images, or boxes spanning columns and using the new Tabbed box type, Gallery box type, or Top/Bottom boxes (to span across columns).
  • Combining some content into one box vs. several.
  • Removing unnecessary CSS / JavaScript that was migrated across.

Taking Your v2 Site Live

When you’re happy with your new site, we’ll work with you to go live with your shiny new site!

Have a custom domain? We’ll give you instructions to change the DNS records on your end. You’ll need to work with your IT department on this change.

No custom domain? We will update our DNS records to point your current LibGuides URL to your new site.

Once your new v2 site is live, this will be your official LibGuides system – for both you and your patrons. Your existing v1 system will be hidden on a temporary domain. You will still have access to it for a few months, if need be. (i.e., only you and your colleagues will have access to the “old” system at this point.)

A New Platform

We built the LibGuides v2 platform from scratch (literally), based on several years of usage data and awesome suggestions & ideas from our clients. Because of this, we are now capable of offering features and functionality that were impossible in the old structure. We know you’re going to love it – everybody who has seen the system has been impressed.

The other side of the coin is this: it’s a new codebase, a new system, so there will be bugs / issues at first – just like with any new platform. So we ask for your patience in working with us on resolving any issues that might arise. With that in mind, don’t feel you have to rush with the transition. We are as excited as you are because the new system is awesome, but let’s also keep in mind that the existing LibGuides system is battle-tested and works well – it easily handles 180M page views and millions of users every month.

So, don’t rush with the content migration – there is no time limit on upgrading, no rule that your system must be live within 30 days of content transfer. Take your time, get your current content ready to migrate, learn the new system / set it up the way you want, train your staff on it, and take advantage of the new functionality. We’ll use this time to do more testing, polishing, and adding of new features – we are still updating the code on a daily basis.

As I often say when talking with clients: We (Springshare) are in this for the long haul. We are building a great company and great products, with the long-term view. The official rollout of LibGuides v2 and our upcoming LibApps platform (unifying all of our apps into one cohesive platform) is just one part of the great things we have in store for you in the near future. In other words, we’re just getting started, folks!

Without being too corny, I will say that every single one of us Spingys loves what we do and we love working with all of you, our clients. And when you love what you do, it shows! Thank you for your ideas and your help in making LibGuides v2 the best content curation and management platform for libraries.

Let the LibGuides v2 fun begin! As always, we’re here for you if any questions/issues pop up.

Slaven & the Springy team