About forum notifications
You can enable Champ to notify your users by email when topics that they’re subscribed to are updated with additional posts.
By default, Champ will check for updates to topics every 2 hours. This interval is set in mind to ensure that users are not emailed excessively.
Notifications are sent by email. Champ uses an existing mail account that you provide. We will discuss how you can set up such an account below.
Why does Champ not send emails on my behalf instead?
In designing the feature for notifications, it became obvious that there were a few technical problems:
- Due to the nature of emails, it would be difficult for Champ to handle the potentially large volume of emails without incurring an unsustainable cost. Creating an email service (such as the ones provided by Mailchimp) is an extremely costly undertaking.
- Maintaining deliverability of the emails themselves requires a fervent monitoring of email blacklists. Because notification emails, by their very nature, are sent out frequently to users, a minority of users who mark the email as spam will from a single forum could affect Champ’s entire outbound email capabilities. In other words, a single merchant could affect the deliverability of all merchants.
We will discuss how you can set up your mail settings using any out of the box mail account with SMTP settings. There are several free services you can use, which we will discuss below.
Due to the legal and regulatory nature of sending outbound emails, it’s important that you’re aware of worlwide anti-spam regulations. Champ is not an email service provider and does not provide outbound email services. Please refer to your email service provider for more information regarding this.
Your use of this feature is at your own risk. Champ is not responsible for any misuse/abuse/loss of income/fines/penalties from your use of this feature.
To get started, you’ll need a mail account. This can a simple Gmail account that you have.
If you’re using Gmail, it is recommended that you create a new account for this.
A recommended alternative is to use a service like Mailgun. They offer a generous free tier of delivering 10,000 emails per month.
Specifically, you’ll need the following setting values from your SMTP account:
- From email (eg. firstname.lastname@example.org)
- SMTP username
- SMTP password
- SMTP server address
- SMTP port
We only use SSL-TLS enabled settings for sending out emails.
If you’re using Gmail, please refer to Google’s help page for more information. In general, the server and port settings are:
- Server address: smtp.gmail.com
- Port: 587
For Mailgun, please refer to their guide on finding your SMTP settings. Remember: If you’re using a service like Mailgun, there are some additional steps to verify your domain ownership of the email. Email sending is a relatively technical area. If you’re experiencing any difficulties, contact us for assistance and we’ll point you in the right direction.
Once you have your SMTP settings, go to Champ’s dashboard, click on Settings, and scroll to Notifications.
There, you’ll be able to activate the notifications.
Once you have entered the details, click Save first, and then click on Send Test Email.
Note: When you save the settings, a popup will appear that will advise you of our disclaimer of this feature.
If everything was set up properly, you’ll receive an email at your Shopify account’s main email address.
You can customize the email that your users receive in the Email notification template.
The default template looks like this:
As you can see, the template itself contains some Liquid code. The Liquid code, if you’re familiar with them, works the same way as the ones in Shopify.
There are two Liquid objects you have access to:
- topic in a topics array
The unsubscribe_all_url references the user specific URL to unsubscribe from all notifications. Emails sent are required to have such a link.
IMPORTANT: You should also add in there your business address in order to be CAN-SPAM compliant.
Note: Champ is not responsible for any outbound email compliance. Please refer to CAN-SPAM and other regulations for more details.
The Topic object has three accessible attributes:
- title, which refers to the title of the topic
- url, which refers to the URL of the topic on your forum
- last_post_excerpt, which is a short excerpt of the last post in the topic
Please refer to the default code and customize it for your purposes.
This template is in HTML as mail clients will render it as such. Champ will also attach a plaintext version of it based on your HTML template.
The subject line of the email can be set in the translations section under “Topic you are following is updated”.
Notification settings for the user
Here are a few important things to know:
Notifications are only sent if your settings are correct.
Users who create topics are automatically subscribed if your forum has notifications enabled.
Users can subscribe to topics by clicking on Subscribe:
Due to the fact that we need access to the customer’s email, the Subscribe button is only shown if the user is logged in.
Once subscribed, the user will see the appropriate Unsubscribe button.
The user can disable all notifications altogether on their preferences page:
Once disabled, the user will not be automatically subscribed to topics they create or receive notifications for previous topics created by them or subscribed by them.
You can activate Champ to let users know (when they’re logged in and on your forum pages) that there are unread posts.
Here are a couple of things to know about this feature:
- Champ only begins tracking unread posts when you activate it.
- Unread posts are limited to the past 30 days. If the user has unread posts from, say, 31 days ago, those posts are not shown as unread.
- Once the user has entered the topic where the unread posts are located, the topic is “marked as read” and the topics no longer display as being unread.
To activate this feature, go into Settings in the app’s dashboard:
Remember to click Save once you’ve set it.
IMPORTANT: The unread notification only shows when the user is logged in. If a user is browsing the site as an anonymous user, no unread notifications are shown.
Unread notifications are shown as such with a flashing pulse and a link to a page where he or she can view all unread topics:
Within the individual forum, the same flashing pulse will be beside the topic where there are unread messages:
If the user goes to the unread page, he or she will be able to see all the topics with unread posts organized by forum:
There is also a link on the unread post page for the user to Mark all as read.
Gmail and Google Apps Setup
If you’re using Gmail or Google Apps, there are a few extra steps to make this work. You cannot use your regular email username and password as Google restricts this access. What you must do is create an “app specific” password.
Here are the steps:
- Go to https://myaccount.google.com/security
- Activate 2 Factor Authentication — this helps protect your account
- Click on App passwords
- Create one specifically for Champ (you can label it as “Champ” so you remember which one it is)
- Remember to click Save
- Enable “Less secure apps access”. The instructions are here: https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/6010255?hl=en. On the left navigation panel, click Security. On the bottom of the page, in the Less secure app access panel, click Turn on access. If you don’t see this setting, your administrator might have turned off less secure app account access.
For your SMTP settings, enter:
- SMTP address: smtp.gmail.com
- SMTP port: 587
- SMTP username: your login username, which should be in the format of email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- SMTP password: the one generated above
- SMTP from email: the email address or alias you created in Gmail to be able to send using the user
Note that your SMTP from email may not be the same as the SMTP username. For example, we may login as email@example.com, but the email you want to use is firstname.lastname@example.org. In this example, your username would be email@example.com, but your SMTP from email would be firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that you will still need to have set up email@example.com beforehand as an alias within Google Apps in order to be able to send from it. If you’re using the free Gmail account, you won’t be able to set up aliases with your custom domain.