Customizing IBM Connections is one of the main steps in deploying the product beyond the initial installation. Many social business projects want to stamp the organizations branding, naming, look and feel, and so forth on the system. In some situations, it is necessary to blend the IBM Connections user interface into the UI of a corporate portal or other systems so that the whole experience is uniform.
In this section, we explore how to customize the user interface of IBM Connections. IBM provides extensive documentation on this in the IBM Connections 4 product documentation.
One of the first targets for any customization is the basic branding of the IBM Connections user interface. For the most part the white sections should be left alone and the basic layout of the system should not be customized to ensure future functionality and upgrades work. However, the top banner and the links it displays is a common candidate for customization.
To change the color scheme and the navigation options in the top banner bar, you change the header.jsp file, according to the instructions below:
Enable customization debugging - see here.
Follow these instructions to modify the header.jsp file which contains the navigation bar.
Re-disable customization debugging - see here.
You might also want to add your organization's logo to replace the IBM logo at the top left. Again, follow these instructions:
Enable customization debugging - see here.
Follow these instructions to customize the logo.
Re-disable customization debugging.
A variety of the standard user interface objects, such as the header, the login page, and the footer can be customized to reflect your organization's requirements. This might include links to your helpdesk or other systems, certain terminology or other disclaimers you need to present. Follow these instructions:
1. Enable customization debugging.
2. Follow these instructions to customize the user interface. Specific instructions for the login screen can be found here.
3. Re-disable customization debugging.
Because the first impressions are very important, especially in a system such as this, some organizations choose to brand the Getting Started page to have organization-specific information. Some systems include an IFRAME to a new section held on another system which might show corporate news, or a feed from somewhere else. Importantly, the structure of the Getting Started page is intended to allow customization to suit your requirements. Detailed instructions can be found here.
More advanced branding can be achieved by modifying the style sheets associated with IBM Connections (see this link too) This should be attempted by a skilled web designer. In addition to this, you may also wish to include your own custom Java script which might offer further context sensitive help. IBM has documented ways that you can achieve this here.
Lastly, your organization may wish to change the terminology used in Connections. Some organizations prefer to call Activities Projects, others want to call wikis Knowledge Bases, and so on. IBM has documented how to do this here.
Multiple language support
IBM Connections 4 supports many languages. In some situations, this might not be ideal such as a native Spanish speaker using an American English browser, or a Swiss Italian user on a Swiss German browser. The user's browser identification string is used by IBM Connections to determine which language to display the user interface in.
Some configuration changes are necessary to allow the user to override the default language choice imposed by IBM Connections. Full instructions on doing this can be found in the IBM Connections 4 documentation wiki, here.
One of the intentions of the Profiles component of IBM Connections is to provide a comprehensive corporate directory for the people in the organization. Presenting much of the difficult-to-find person information, such as skills, background, employee numbers, and the likes is one of the first steps to socializing an organization.
The data model and user interface for Profiles can be customized heavily and common extensions made by organizations include people's LinkedIn profiles, Twitter handles, personal blogs, and so on. Another common extension in Profiles is to provide a Google Maps lookup of the user's location.
The IBM Connections documentation describes the customization of the Profiles data model and user interface extensively here.
You should also consider how you might automate the integration of other systems in to the Profile information. For example a person's working hours might be a useful thing to publish in the Profile so that others wanting to contact that person can know when they will be at their desk. It is impractical to manually provide this information but it could well be information that you hold in your human resource (HR) system.
Using customized Assembly Lines in the Tivoli Directory Integrator product, which is provided as part of the Connections installation, you can pull this kind of information in from your HR system and, by customizing the data model and user interface of the Profile can display the additional information you need from the other system.
For further information on this topic, please see this document.
When installing Connections, an important post-installation configuration step is to ensure that the email address that is used as the sender address of email notifications complies with your corporate guidelines. If you do not customize the sender address you will typically receive emails from email@example.com
and other such standardized addresses.
To customize the "administrator" email addresses used (like firstname.lastname@example.org), use this document.
To customize which notifications end users receive, review this document.
The content of the email notifications themselves can also be customized. Doing so is quite a lengthy process and involves the use of a specialist markup language called Freemarker.
To customize the email digests (sent out at scheduled intervals), review this document.
To customize the individual email notifications (sent when users choose to notify others when they create something), review this document.
Before attempting to rename the applications in IBM Connections you should read the guidance on Best Practices for Customizing Connections
Renaming individual applications can be achieved by changing the product strings. For more information, see this document.
When installing IBM Connections, you can choose which applications you wish to install. In many cases, this is all of the components of the solution. In others, because of your standard entitlements, it might only be Profiles and Files. If you want to restrict access to certain applications within the IBM Connections product suite, such as Wikis, Activities, or Blogging, it is possible to temporarily (or permanently) disable that application and then hide it from the user interface.
Full instructions on doing this can be found here