Whether it’s a new home, a new laptop, or a new Talent Development portal, it’s only human to want to make it yours with your own customizations.
In the latter case, it’s often also a business requirement, as branding-related customizations are crucial for promoting and protecting your corporate identity, and functionality-related customizations are necessary for ensuring that your corporate talent development and training program fits your organizational needs.
eFront, as a seasoned corporate Talent Development and eLearning veteran, has catered to those needs from the start, and with each new update, it continues to increase the span of customization options that it offers.
On top of that, the makers of eFront offer a comprehensive set of custom eLearning solutions and the option of custom development of new functionality, integrations, etc. to customers that need to go beyond what’s already available in the platform for everybody.
This makes eFront not just a great turn-key solution for talent development, but also an infinitely flexible custom LMS.
In this post we will have a look at the various customization options offered by eFront, starting with the readily available ones that customers can configure and tune for themselves, and going into the heavier, bespoke, customizations that Epignosis can perform for a demanding client.
Basic customization options in eFront
Unless you run a talent development program for your local boy scoots club (and probably, not even then), you’ll want to customize your eFront-based portal’s looks to suite your corporate identity.
And while large enterprises already pay a lot of attention to their branding (down to having official corporate color palettes and communication guidelines), it’s an important aspect of modern business that companies of any size should pay attention to.
Let’s start with the basic customization options that most businesses will want to use, even if they don’t care for further customization options and custom themes.
They include stuff like the main URL, the name of their training portal, an extra optional disclaimer and, of course, the language options (since not everybody speaks good England like we does — and if you are an international customer you’ll want eFront in your own language anyway).
To alter these, log in as an eFront administrator, go to the System Settings page and then open the Identity section.
The available customization options there are:
Main URL: the web address where your eFront portal is visible (without the http(s) part).
Site name: The title of your talent development portal.
Site motto: A subtitle/motto/disclaimer for your site.
There’s also the option to pick a URL that your users will get redirected to after logging out. This can be a pubicly available eFront page, somewhere in your intranet portal, or any web link.
Let’s move on to the Locale section, where the language and regional settings can be configured. These include setting the Default Language, the Date Format (e.g. whether you prefer to see month/day or day/month) and your Time Zone.
There’s also the option to configure the “first Week Day”, that is, which day of the week will be considered the start of the week. And if you think that there’s a single obvious answer to that, consider that different cultures consider different days (either Monday or Sunday) as the week’s starting point.
Keeping appearances: view options in eFront
Our next stop is the Appearance section. From here you can set various view and layout options, and upload custom assets for your talent development portal.
The “system logo” setting allows you to upload your own logo (which should be 72 pixels high and up to 500px wide).
The “system favicon” allows you to upload your custom favicon to be shown in the user’s browser address bar and bookmarks (it has to be of equal width and height, that is, square, and you should ensure that it looks good in very low resolutions, as that’s how most browsers will display it).
If you take advantage of the Branches functionality in eFront, you can also set different logos and other customizations per branch. (Oh, and speaking of branches, you also get the option to display the branch’s name on the navigation bar when a user is logged in to one).
The “default courses view” lets you chose between a list and a grid option for your Courses page.
The last, but not the least, item in this section is the “maximize viewable area for learner” options, which lets you chose where you want to emphasize your content in your layout, or if have the various options and tools visible and accessible all the time.
It’s got the look: theming options in eFront
With theming, we are getting into heavier customization options, which can radically alter the look of your training portal.
As with most branding and regional options, you can have a default look for your main eFront portal, and define alternative themes for each of your branches.
The Theme section in eFront’s administration page displays a list of all installed (and built-in) themes and allows you to edit existing themes, or create and install new ones.
To create your own theme, you’ll need to click the “Install Theme” button, give your theme a name, and add the CSS code that defines your theme’s look.
Theming in eFront is based on CSS, the web’s standard styling and theming language, and builds on top of Bootstrap 3 (the popular Open Source front-end framework).
Using simple CSS rules you can set background colors, fonts and text styles, style the header, footer, and navigation bar, add borders and padding, background images, customize content blocks, etc.
Bob the builder: building your own pages
Using eFront’s “Site builder” tool, you can go beyond theming, into creating a whole custom structure for your eFront based portal.
Specifically, the Site Builder lets you create additional web pages for your training portal, with your own layout and content and everything, and also to create “blocks“, that is areas of reusable content that can be shared among pages (e.g. like a sign-up form, a message panel, etc).
eFront gives you the flexibility to determine the visibility of your new pages (whether they should be visible by logged-in users only or by anybody visiting your portal), so that you can make information and promotional pages for non-learners (e.g. the general public, or everybody in your company that’s not yet assigned to a learning program).
Customizing your portal’s organization: Branches and Users
The eFront user management system allows you to define your own User Types ― that is, create custom user roles with specific abilities and restrictions and assign them to your users.
Custom User Types extend from the three built-in user types (Instructor, Student, Administrator) and override/extend their capabilities depending on your business needs for that role.
As for user profile info, that’s also extensible, as you can expand eFront User Profiles to keep all kinds of information, which you can later use to search, filter by, and create custom reports with. The extra fields you can add are not constrained to plain text, but can be dropdowns with enumerated options, checkboxes, and more — you specify their name and type, and eFront handles the rest.
Last, but not least, if your users are dispersed in different facilities and/or locations, or if you have different departments each with its own branding or training needs, you can use eFront’s Branches feature to create multiple individual training portals, each with its own URL, configuration, courses and users.
You still get the convenience of centralized administration (and content sharing) between your branches, as they are all manageable from your core eFront portal account.
eFront comes with a number of excellent built-in reports that give you actionable insight on your eLearning portal (or portals, if you use Branches) at the macro and micro level.
If you have some particular training data that you’d like to investigate, though, you also have the option to create Custom Reports, where you set your own scope, filters, configuration and fields that you want to be shown.
Game on! Custom gamification strategies
Perhaps you already know that eFront comes with a full-featured gamification engine, covering all major gamification elements in common use (points, levels, badges, etc).
But did you know that eFront allows you to customize and modify all available gamification options, to create unique gamification strategies that fit your organization and your learner profile?
You can, for example, optionally enable or disable a certain gamification element (e.g. levels), but also set custom limits, determine how many points the learner get for each action, upload your own branded badges, and more.
Plugin power with eFront’s PHP API
The features we’ve mentioned thus far make eFront a very powerful and flexible Learning and Talent Development platform — one that you can theme, brand, customize and configure six ways from Sunday.
But it’s its PHP-based plugin API that turns it into a fully extensive eLearning platform — that is, a core piece of infrastructure that you can create all kinds of specialized functionality on top of.
If you have very custom needs, third party systems to integrate with, or evolved workflows, eFront’s PHP API lets you extend its functionality in a programmatic manner to add anything you want, from workflow extensions (e.g. an “approval” stage for new courses) and new authentication methods to totally customized reports that go beyond eFront’s built-in reporting options.
And with our comprehensive API reference, plugin programming guide and several example plugins available on GitHub it’s not even that difficult to get started with. After all, PHP is a very beginner-friendly language that you can pick up as you go along (and if your company has an IT team, they’ll have little trouble creating all kinds of extensions to eFront).
REST assured of eFront extensibility
If you mainly need to get your eFront to talk with another system, or have it sync its information with your ERP or CRM app (or vice versa), then its PHP API might be an overkill.
For those kinds of tasks, eFront has an additional, HTTP-speaking API based on REST (the lingua franca of modern web and mobile services), allowing you to control your eLearning portal from any programming language in common use.
eFront comes with a large set of “endpoints” (REST-speak for web URLs that correspond to API methods and entity accessors). Using these you can get information about your Users, Courses, Groups, Lessons, Branches, and other eFront entities in JSON format, perform certain management actions and write custom integration and automation scripts.
eFront goes beyond the call of duty, giving you not just a number of REST endpoints to use, but also a PHP wrapper library for its REST API. Oh, and if the built-in endpoints that come with eFront are not enough for you, you can use the plugin API to extend eFront’s REST API with any endpoint you like.
Bespoke customization by eFront experts
If your needs go beyond the readily available customization options, eFront still has a hidden ace up its sleeve.
Customers with elaborate training setups, particular workflow needs, or unique requirements can request specific customizations from Epignosis’ eFront team and have the platform adjusted to tackle their use cases.
These services include UI customizations, adding extra functionality to eFront through plugins, building integrations with third party systems (ERP, HR, etc.), but also server-side customizations (installation, performance tuning, data migration from your old LMS or other platforms, etc).
These custom development solutions are offered to all interested customers but are especially applicable to eFront’s Private Cloud hosting clients, where the Epignosis team takes care of system installation, maintenance, fine-tuning, backup and update.
In general, if you have some feature request that is not implemented in the basic eFront version, Epignosis can handle it for you as a custom solution ― with full collaboration and exchange of ideas and guidance between our team and yours during the whole process.
In this post we had a look at the customization options offered by eFront, starting from the basic configurable options and going all the way to the custom eLearning development provided by Epignosis.
Between these two extremes, eFront can handle the most specialized and/or demanding talent development and training scenarios. Just ask our customers!
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