I have two options:-
1. Approach #1: Build add-ons on the top of XenForo. This would mean we only use the basic components of XenForo to create our applications; like User Management, Tagging, Permissions etc. We'd be using XenForo as a 'framework'.
Pros: Our new offerings become an 'extension' of our existing setup. This is what we want. However, this still keeps the 'forum' component at the core of the site. Users don't have to leave the site and the user experience is uniform and seamless.
1. XenForo developers are very limited in number and it's incredibly difficult to find developers who are willing to learn XenForo. I say this from experience. I even began learning things on my own after getting frustrated finding a right developer after 4 years of constant search. All the good ones are busy or just too expensive for our venture.
2. I think we'll be limited by the design. I'm not sure if we can really make XenForo look like what we want with the limited number of designers available. The designers are *GOOD*, no doubt! However, we'll still look 'forumy'. You may say why did you switch to XenForo when you don't want forum to be the 'center' of your website? That's a valid question. The answer is that we began re-thinking our business model only after we became successful as a forum and our users began demanding more stuff and possibilities.
2. Approach #2: Switch to a new framework (WordPress, Laravel, Symphony...etc.)
I'm inclined towards creating a new domain to host all our new 'services', which I repeat are not dependent on the 'forum'. We may use user account sync to make it easier for our existing members to use new services.
Pros: If we decide on the top of WordPress - I think I will be able to attract developers and designers. We should be able to design from ground up and I see a ton of WordPress websites doing that.
Cons: New domain will have to build its credibility from ground up, including SEO and other stuff. Users will have to leave existing website to use the new services. Just to be clear - we will continue to run our existing forum.
I'll appreciate all your responses. My intention is to get opinions and see if I can gather points that will help me make a decision. This is going to be important for the growth of our business.
Thanks for your time!