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What’s new in April 2019 (v1.16)

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OpenCities Product Team

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Watch the webinar for a complete look at what's new:

Trying one of our new layouts? Make sure you preview your changes before republishing your theme—especially if you have custom CSS.

Brand new elements for your homepage

Make your site stand out from the crowd by adding these new elements to your homepage.

Help users search maps and other content with handy widgets

Add an address picker so users can search maps directly from your homepage. Once they enter an address (or choose their current location), they’ll be taken directly to the map you’ve specified with their address highlighted. You might want to use this to let users search your My Area map, a development applications map, or perhaps a map on a subsite. See a demo


Include a search widget so users can search internal or external sites right from your homepage. For example, if you have a library site with an external catalogue, you might want users to be able to start their book search from the homepage of the library site.


Showcase elected officials and development applications

List your elected officials and development applications on the homepage of your site, not just in their dedicated areas. You can show them on their own in a row, or within a tab, and there are a number of layouts to choose from.


Refresh your site with new layouts

Based on your feedback, we’ve also added a host of new layouts for some of the elements you could already include on your site.

Stand out from the crowd with a new site header

Two new layouts mean you can give your site header the look and feel you’re after. If you want, you can even hide the search box (although we suggest you only do so for microsites).


Jazz up your homepage’s Top Tasks, News and Events

Try something new with 5 more layouts for Top Tasks, and 7 more layouts each for News and Events listings on your homepage.


Do more with announcements

We noticed that many of you were using Emergency Announcements in ways we hadn’t anticipated, so we revisited the feature to make sure it was meeting your needs. As a result, we’ve added some bits and pieces, and made it more intuitive along the way.

Here’s what’s changed:

  • It’s now called ‘Announcements‘ (and ‘Level of severity’ is now ‘Level of importance’).
  • Choose whether to make announcements appear in a banner at the bottom of the page—they’ll stay visible as users scroll (you might want to use this for info about site cookies).
  • Let users dismiss announcements so they’re removed from the page completely, rather than only being minimized.
  • For those times where you need users to acknowledge your announcement (e.g. accepting terms and conditions) you can now add a button.
  • Share announcements across multiple sites, and we’ll retain the settings you chose in the parent site across all of them.
  • Preview changes without having to publish the announcement first.
  • The default colours we use are now more accessible.


Improve your external search rankings with a sitemap

You can now create and submit a sitemap directly from OpenCities so search engines can better understand the structure of your site, and show more accurate search results for it. It’s particularly useful to submit a sitemap when your site first goes live, and when you make significant changes to your site structure.

Sitemaps you create will be automatically submitted to Google and Bing for you, and you can also manually submit them to other search engines if you want.

Tip: Make sure you submit sitemaps for any sites that are already live, as this won’t be done automatically.

Visit Create a sitemap and submit it to search engines for more info.

Other improvements and bug fixes

  • Listing pages with a keyword search now factor in the date as well as relevance, so when site visitors search they should get more relevant results.
  • Link to content that’s hidden by default by adding anchor links to:
    • Sections that have been hidden using the ‘Divide this page into sections’ option
    • Content that’s in a different tab from where you are (like in Services or on your homepage)
    • Content within accordions
  • Enjoy more fine-grained control over your maps with extra zoom levels—there are now 20 to choose from instead of 5.
  • Preview your calendars without having to publish first.
  • Site visitors can now open and read accordions, tabs and page sections while using ReadSpeaker.

Tip: Show different top tasks on desktop and mobile

Site visitors often have different needs when they’re at home (applying for jobs or registering pets) compared to when they're out and about (reporting graffiti or potholes). You can now rank your top tasks from 0-99 for each device type (compared to 0-9 previously) so it’s even easier to show one set of tasks on desktop, and another set on mobile and tablet. Head over to Showcase top tasks on your homepage to learn how.

And keep an eye out for our next refresher training session for site admins, where we’ll show you how to do this and more.


We hope you enjoy OpenCities 1.16!

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