Native app for communities

Mike Creuzer

Well-known member
Hey all,

Been working on a native app for some specific communities I've been partnering with. But thought I'd share some progress here and get some thoughts. The API isn't hooked up yet but just shows some of the basic UI so far.


This builds for iOS and Android, authenticates against XenForo login creds, push, and offers about 40-50 features (so far) and likely to stay around that ballpark. The goal is just a simple navigational experience, and not at all meant to replace the forum web experience. Webview is incorporated for thread view and creating content, among other experiences. But can be used as a way to have more control over experience, ads, custom native functionality (camera, GPS, Pay, etc.) and will be used for keeping users engaged a bit more directly with a native, less cluttered by design, experience. The UI will be quick swipe/gesture controlled and offer just a few routes. Though it is built to be customized.

Ill try to post updates here as we work on em.
 

RobinHood

Well-known member
Saw this pop up on my YouTube notifications this morning. Bit of a weird stand alone video that doesn't explain much so far, actually thought it might have been an accidental upload. Incredibly keen to see what you've been working on in a bit more depth whenever you guys have more to share though!
 

Mike Creuzer

Well-known member
Saw this pop up on my YouTube notifications this morning. Bit of a weird stand alone video that doesn't explain much so far, actually thought it might have been an accidental upload. Incredibly keen to see what you've been working on in a bit more depth whenever you guys have more to share though!
Ha yeah just something quick to give an overall. We've spent a lot more time than it looks in just planning it, making sure we're not going to interfere with XF or add-ons, and just solve direct issues.

After all, Apple at WDWC might even announce web push notifications for iOS (should know here in a few weeks). So the goal of the app isn't just that, though if they don't offer it this will certainly do that. But rather to offer specific native tools and a more native browsing environment. Its not something everyone needs or anything, PWA or web is perfectly fine for 100% of communities (imo). For those who have reasons, which a few people I've talked to do, this will serve as a great foundation for that.

Very nice indeed! What cross platform framework are you using? Or is it native development?
We are using Expo.
The mix of web-views and native seems a good way to go. Avoid the pain of re-implementing and maintaining everything. :)
Definitely. The idea is that the entire app is webview (seems odd perhaps as a foundation I know). But then the community owner can opt in to which routes they want native and which routes they want as tabs. So technically, the app might support no native views at all (but then Apple might not approve it :p). This can be great for showing upcoming events, threads, featured resources, profile comments, (maybe) create thread, etc. but then when the user figures out the action they want to accomplish itll just take you to webview. Add-ons will work, ads will run, etc. shouldn't get in anyone's way.

We might even attempt to preload in the webview, its on the list to look into.
 

Mike Creuzer

Well-known member
Also one more thing. I love the new node types that come with XF2.2. Tabs here are a great utility for that, in addition to nodes. Will post what we have in mind for filtering/nodes later but XF 2.2 is going to come in clutch with some of these new organization methods.

ex: suggestion tab or feature request tab
 

Mike Creuzer

Well-known member
We read through the notes and watched the keynote today from Apple, looking like perhaps no web push notifications. Naturally, we'll invest some extra effort on that on this project for those who need it.
 

veevee15

New member
Hey @Mike Creuzer, the app looks great so far! When do you think it'll be out? Also, our website currently uses XPress with WordPress for our CMS and XF as our forums. Any chance that the app will be compatible with this?
 

Mike Creuzer

Well-known member
Hey @Mike Creuzer, the app looks great so far! When do you think it'll be out? Also, our website currently uses XPress with WordPress for our CMS and XF as our forums. Any chance that the app will be compatible with this?

We're in the last stretch right now. Its probably 2-4 weeks from getting it into everyone's hands and maybe a bit longer just for resolving feedback from there.

There is likely going to be a built in bridge of its own to grab wordpress posts, its also been requested, but not sure if that'll be supported out of the box. The forum alone is a bit of a challenge. But we're nearly there now.

I'll try to post up the latest and greatest tool, with uploading media natively and creating content, as well as push notification demo I think, next week!
 

Mike Creuzer

Well-known member
Hey all happy weekend!

Just a brief update on what we have so far (going to use XF 2.2's new editor to show :D). Just going through the views for now. A full feature rundown is coming. We're in the last few weeks, waiting on iOS approval for our first few communities at the moment.

Splash/Onboarding

Everything you see is customizeable such as any imagery and branding, even the phrases, from the phrase manager in XF and the options panel.

Splash@2x.png
Onboarding 3@2x.pngOnboarding 2@2x.pngOnboarding 1@2x.png

Updates​

This feature came about from talking with some friends in the space (thanks @leebo and others). What a lot of people want is just a quick way to share a photo or video natively. Be that through the native share interface or with a UI. So that is what we have here.

As previously discussed, we are treading lightly on the feature depth, sending users to webview when viewing a thread or profile or other deeper pages. So nothing gets missed this way and users are not left confused or lacking features. All features are opt-in, this one is no different.

The data structure is the Profile Messages, perhaps an underappreciated feature in XF, especially now that in 2.2 we have the ability to add attachments. We had an add-on that did exactly this behind the scenes so another feature we can rely on XF for! Needless to say Ive been very happy overall with XF 2.2's feature set when it comes to user engagement. A lot more to do gives us a lot more options and freedom.


Updates@2x.png

Note: Users can quickly and easily upload and message sure but share, up/downvote, comment, and react all from the first page of the app. Really gives a small social vibe while keeping the content side of threads still right there at the top. You as an admin can choose if users can even make this their default home tab or if you'd rather it be New Threads/Posts, Watched, Trending, or Forum list (among others).

Node List/Forum View​

Not much to discuss here other than we're going for a very familiar yet native experience. If your forum list or even node list is doing very custom things, simply show web view when people come here. But if you have a simpler structure, having it native so people can swipe to watch or swipe to create a thread is nice and convenient for the user.

Forum List@2x.pngForum List - Dark Mode@2x.png

Here is dark mode.

And also here is New Posts view, but it will look very similar for Forum view as well.

New Threads@2x.png

Thread Preview​


Another optional feature is thread preview. Since we expect, and recommend, keeping thread view web (though we are dabbling in ideas of doing native, it will not be for some time), we wanted to offer an interim options for those that found the experience of going to and fro inconvenient. This is likely only best for sites that do not run ads, something to test for sure, since this stays on the app by design. So again it is something you may not want.

BUT if you do want it, the nice part is that users can get context of the first post and the top/most popular/most upvoted responses (limited to say 3-5 as an example). So if they preview the thread, determine its not for them, no time lost opening web view. And if they do want to engage and reply as that little extra gave context, they can. OR perhaps they just want to leave a quick reaction, share, or upvote instead of replying. You won't need to go to webview for that either.

Definitely something a bit experimental and something to A/B test.

Thread Preview@2x.png

Prizes​


This idea is something we've built custom for dozens of communities over the years. This one is rather simple in scope right now but the idea is that you can automatically send a push notification every few (perhaps 2-4) weeks to incentivize users to re-engage with the platform and in exchange they have a random chance of earning a prize.

Prizes, currently, are going to be redeemable as codes. Something you can buy in bulk, add into the inventory (and refill when it gets low) so that people can earn cash gift cards like $5 Amazon or Starbucks. Don't want to offer money? No problem, we can give out XP, gifted subs perhaps, and other incentives.

Not a feature for every community either, but something that could be nice.

Another utility here is consecutive logins (which we are supporting). If you login say 3 days in a row you can earn an extra prize. A bit gimmicky sure but I think some communities might like the little fun gesture. Can be disabled of course.

Claim Prize@2x.pngOpen Prize@2x.png

What's next?​

So like I mentioned, main task right now is getting Apple to approve the app as is. We're working through some of their items, such as native options for reporting abuse, etc (they are rather thorough aren't they :p). So once that is done, some features on the horizon:
  1. Native ads
  2. Ultra fast UI.X theme for web (for webview)
  3. Native analytics and KPI goal tracking
  4. A/B Testing
  5. Native subscriptions! (Apple/Google require their 30% cuts ofc so we're working on getting this integrated with XF's available tools)
  6. A survey option so we can start getting feedback from users
  7. App store links to share here so you can test it on a demo!
  8. And probably more that I'm missing, but I'm hot and its the weekend. Have a good one all!
Thanks for reading and will post more soon!
 
Last edited:

leebo

Active member
Our last App took 8 tries before Apple approved it, let’s see if you can top that. 😂 If there’s anything Jon or I can do to help out just let us know! We’re eagerly awaiting!
 
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