Why I chose to build my forum with XenForo?

Support BikeGremlin

Help BikeGremlin stay online with a Patreon donation:

This forum is powered by the XenForo software (a link to the official website). I already wrote about how I built this forum. Now, this picture clearly shows how much a loathe Xenos: 🙃
the shirt :)

So, why did I chose XenForo, instead of some other forum software? Let me try to explain:

1. Background (in my days...)

I've been using forums since the BBS times. Both as a user/member and as a moderator and administrator.
Tried different software over the years and seen their pros and cons. It is probably fair to call me an experienced forum user and moderator/admin.

2. XenForo​

My impression of XenForo (first as a user and now running this forum) is that it's pretty good.

It looks as if a forum user/admin did what I did (i.e. used and tried different forum software for a while), made a list of what's good, and what needs to be added or improved - and then built a forum software that ticks all those boxes.

No unnecessary stuff that will make it difficult to build, secure, and keep up to date. Nope. That's left to the add-on/extension developers to build and maintain on their own.

XenForo's developers' choice of what should be in the "core" and what should be left out is pretty good and reasonable. Sure, there are some things that I (me, me me me 🙃 ) would like to see included, but objectively, that's my problem. I think it's fair to say that they drew the line correctly. And it's good to see they don't include every feature that everyone (or even a greater number of users) suggests - as that has its costs down the line.
Though I am looking forward to some of the improvements announced for the new, 2.3 version. :)

Regarding the "pace" at which new XenForo versions are published:
I suppose that its developers are normal people with lives and families. Can't really expect them to work night and day. Hiring more developers may not speed things up (not really, not for every project), and it would definitely cost more (XenForo's price and update costs are really reasonable and don't look like a cash-grab scheme).

Also, the now-forgotten & obsolete discipline of "beta testing" seems to be alive and well with XenForo. Instead of shipping update after update (for update's sake?), XenForo devs appear to be actually testing and caring about the quality.

3. Alternatives: IPB, Vanilla, Flarum, SMF, and bbPress​

Nothing (and no one) is perfect (except Taylor Swift! 🙃 ). When I say something is an "optimal choice," or "the best choice," I say that considering its pros and cons compared to the available alternatives (and its intended use case, budget, other preferences, etc.). So, what about XenForo's alternatives?

Before I dive into that, two notes:

1. Of course, no one can please everyone. XenForo may not be a perfect fit for everyone. Like everything else, it does have its cons along with its pros.

2. This is not a paid review, and I'm not trying to sell or convince you to choose one forum software over the other. I don't care which one you choose - choose whatever you like. :) So, I will give myself the liberty of not including detailed comparisons. That way, this post will not be extremely long, and I will save myself some time.

3.1. IPB (former "Invision Power Board," now "Invision Community")​

"IPB" (formerly known as "Invision Power Board," and now as "Invision Community") seems to be concentrating on their cloud solution, and leaving the self-hosted option as an extra (needless/neglected?). That, more than their pricing, was why I decided to go with XenForo. Another aspect is that the IPB seems like a do-it-all solution, while XenForo seems to be concentrated on "just" a forum (I suppose you can do more than that with XenForo too, but the software's "emphasis" is clear).

For some people, this could be an advantage. For me, it is a disadvantage.

You can make it good, no doubt about that. My favourite cycling-related forum (in my native), 2bike.rs, runs on an old IPB version.

3.2. Vanilla (the free, open-source version)​

The "Higher Logic" company (that's its name) sells Vanilla forum in a cloud-hosted version (paid, cloud Vanilla forum software version), but there is also the free, open-source Vanilla:
My favourite computer-related forum (LowEndSpirit) runs on Vanilla. It's good, fast, stable and secure. But, compared to XenForo, it does lack a lot (at least for my intended use case). At the time of writing, I happen to be a moderator there, so I can compare it with XenForo both in terms of user interface, and admin/moderator interface.

I very much prefer XenForo. It makes moderation and spam prevention easier, simpler, and less time-consuming. At least that's my opinion, based on my experience and preferences.

3.3. Flarum​

Flarum is another free open-source forum software. Amar Dugonja's HostingForums runs on Flarum (I helped build and administrate that).

It is like a more mobile-friendly, but less powerful version of Vanilla. That's how I'd describe the Flarum software.

3.4. SMF (Simple Machines Forum)​

SMF (Simple Machines Forum) is another free open-source forum software. Our local motorcycling forum MotoManijaci runs on SMF (and yes, I'm helping to keep it running with all the user and admin access).

You can build awesome stuff with SMF, but it is not nearly as simple and intuitive as XenForo (again, in my experience at least).

3.5. bbPress (+WordPress)​

bbPress is a plugin that lets you run a forum on a WordPress website (or use WordPress as a forum software).

bbPress works, it works fine. I'm stressing this because people often talk about it being poorly optimized and slow etc. Well, the GeneratePress support forum runs on bbPress (GeneratePress is the best WordPress theme by the way :) ).

Yes, I do think that it is best to use dedicated forum software. XenForo is better optimized and suited to running a forum compared to bbPress, but bbPress is free, open-source, and you can make it work. It just would not be my first choice.

4. Final thoughts (i.e. more drivel 🙃 )​

Building software that is powerful (and feature-rich), good, swift and secure is not easy. Every choice has its pros and cons, just as every feature has its costs (not just in terms of money).

My impression is that XenForo developers know what they're doing (a rare thing nowadays), and that they care about building a good product.

I've paid for the license and am using it to run my forum - guess there is no more honest recommendation than that. So far, I'm happy with the choice I've made. If that changes, I'll update this article.

Relja BrevityIsNotMyVirtue Novović


Top Bottom