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Build Upon XenForo Or Switch To Other Framework? What'd You Do?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by TheBigK, Nov 30, 2015.

  1. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    I'm facing a dilemma and would love to get your comments and opinions. I am in the process of building a series of features that are independent of the 'forum'. Meaning, I wish to add services to our website that do not require presence of a forum. Our site is successful and it uses XenForo.

    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!
  2. empire

    empire Well-Known Member

    Wouldn't you be able to build the new services on your own domain and bridge them with XenForo?

    For example, our site has a wiki. We use mediawiki for it and members never realize it's actually completely separate software, because it's integrated so well with the main site. It's just in a separate folder. I know a lot of people use Wordpress in a similar way.
    TheBigK likes this.
  3. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    Thank you for your response, @empire . That's what my second approach is about. However, I'm wondering if integration is easy. I'm not sure if any of the existing wordpress bridges provide total integration - alerts, username tagging, notifications etc. along with regular user login sync.

    I'm currently experimenting with installing WP and XF in the same folder. If that happens nicely, I will have a huge lead with approach #2. I'm however wondering if matching the styling and integration would be an issue.

    I'm totally in favour of extending our own portal. It may be done using multiple software on the same domain or building XF-addons.
  4. Kintaro

    Kintaro Well-Known Member

    I'm not a dev but my 2 cents are:

    API (so the second option)

    p.s. and with xf 2.0 i hope official API!
  5. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    Thank you for replying, @Kintaro . At present, there's no word about XF 2.0 release date and we can't bet on API making it to the core of XF 2.0. I know there are high chances of it; but not something I'm comfortable with.

    My dilemma is all about following the right approach and I'm looking forward to getting information about possibilities.

    AVForums.com I guess has done a lot of customization and I'd like to know their experience. @Stuart Wright - would really appreciate your opinion. Should we extend XF or look at new framework?
  6. tajhay

    tajhay Well-Known Member

    Really awesome question and something im also looking for answers to. At the current moment im looking to build ontop of xenforo, however with xf2 around the corner that would mean a lot of rewriting, whereas with a new framework such as wordpress there is unlikely to be major rewrites.
  7. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Well-Known Member

    There are two elements of our editorial system.
    The back end CMS is completely external to the Xenforo system and doesn't need to be part of it. I guess this meant it was quicker to develop.

    And there is the front end which is completely integrated into Xenforo and there are some distinct advantages to doing it this way. The obvious one is the ability to integrate comments (threads) with the content and the method of doing this is already built in to Xenforo. We use the same tabs system that is used in Xenforo to associate threads with resources and media. We also use the tabs system to show additional information.

    This is one example of how integrating additional functionality on the site using the Xenforo system means that it has a consistent UI so that it's familiar to people.
    This applies also to other elements of the site like forms. In this example, members write user reviews using the familiar redactor text editor.

    Using the breadcrumb system is another instant advantage. There are many such advantages.

    Coding within the Xenforo system has had distinct advantages and disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage for me personally, with over a decade of computer programming experience not being enough to make learning Xenforo 'easy'. The learning curve feels more like a cliff and I need to go on a course to learn Xenforo coding. Want to organise one, @Mike? Being able to code Xenforo is something which would save me a shed load of money and which I would also enjoy.
    Not being able to code in Xenforo means I am reliant on other coders to work for me.
    The main coder who created all of our editorial system costs us a lot of money. Good coders do, and the work is ongoing.
    The advantage I have experienced is that good Xenforo coders tend to work quickly and use their experience to bring their own suggestions for features and UI elements to the table.

    Two worries I have. If something bad happens to Xenforo generally, we're screwed (like if they sell out and it becomes rubbish like vb). Unlikely, but the risk to our business is there. Migrating the forum away from it would be expensive, the same as it would be for everyone else. But migrating the editorial system would be very, very, very expensive.
    The other worry is more imminent. The cost of migrating to Xenforo 2. Given that everything has to be rewritten, we're looking at a lot of redevelopment work. I'd like to ask @Mike and @Kier to consider talking to our coder about what will be needed to recode our editorial system because as a business, we need to budget this at least 12 months in advance. If we aren't able to get a lead on development, I anticipate it is likely to take us at least 12 months after XF2 is available in beta before we can upgrade, purely because of the cost to recode our editorial system. There is even a chance that we couldn't afford to upgrade at all.

    This is the most immediate downside of being integrated into Xenforo.

    The alternative is using something like Wordpress.
    My favourite website using a Wordpress bridge is https://dashcamtalk.com/ who have done a great job.
    I can't give you any experiences of doing it this way. You'd need to be an expert in Wordpress (which I'm not) or whatever software you plan to use. The biggest advantage being the speed that you could get a solution up and running and the low cost of it.

    In a nutshell, I think, if you want the most integrated solution (most familiar and thus easiest to use for your visitors) and you have deep pockets, go for a coded, custom addon.

    On the question of the domain, if you already have an established domain with decent traffic, I would keep everything on there.
    We toyed with using avplay.com and avreviews.com but I think focussing your SEO work on one domain is easier. Takes years to get significant traffic to a new domain.

    Hope that helps.
    JulianD likes this.
  8. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    Thanks a lot for the response, @Stuart Wright , I really appreciate it.
    Could you tell us what CMS are you using for the articles? I think the dashboard looks like WordPress admin panel.

    I think you were lucky to find a good developer who built the system for you. I've spent about one year learning to develop for XenForo; but it still doesn't make me confident about future. I'm not sure if I'll be able to hire people who'll want to add XenForo to their resume and skills. I can't keep coding all the stuff all the time because I have the business to take care of.

    One more thing I want to know - With all the modifications your site runs, have the upgrades been smoother? Or did you have to rely on the developer to make the customizations work well with upgraded XF?
  9. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Well-Known Member

    The CMS is custom written from scratch specifically for our needs. That's why selling it is not an option.
    Development started with vBulletin being the intended platform, but when the lawsuit was resolved, I made the decision to move to Xenforo and the coder took a week off to learn to code for it.

    I've had no problems upgrading Xenforo because the editorial system bolts on to it, I suppose in a fairly generic way.
    The only unusual thing I have to do when upgrading is edit /library/Xenforo/Autoloader.php to replace line 73
                set_include_path($this->_rootDir PATH_SEPARATOR '.');
                set_include_path($this->_rootDir PATH_SEPARATOR '.' PATH_SEPARATOR get_include_path());
    otherwise I get server errors. Always been this way.
    TheBigK likes this.
  10. Kintaro

    Kintaro Well-Known Member

    In what have they done a great job? I'm not registered but as a Guest I can't see any "integration".
  11. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Well-Known Member

    I suppose you're right, there is no integration as such. They've done a great job of creating a comprehensive resource and forum, though.
    Kintaro likes this.
  12. ManagerJosh

    ManagerJosh Well-Known Member

    <sarcasm>perhaps we could threaten @Kier with shoes if he doesn't tell us if there will or will not be API access in XF 2.0?</sarcasm>
    Kintaro likes this.

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