I have really enjoyed XF and after working through a significant loss of ad revenue for a few months, we have just put together our best couple of months yet.
The users on my forum are extremely loyal, and we have a core group of 100 or so that do the majority of the posting. Most are draw together as fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes, but there is also robust off-topic discussion, including quite a bit of politics. Being in Iowa, we are at ground zero for a lot of big political happenings, and we had a nice revenue bump during the 2014 U.S. Senate campaign.
For a long time, I've wanted a solid front page/portal, for two reasons: First, to give the site a more welcoming appearance for new visitors. Secondly, I would really like to build on the political site traffic, which I think is a huge untapped source of visitors.
One limitation I have is that my loyal group of users have said repeatedly that they do NOT want a dedicated political forum. They want those threads included with the rest of the off-topic threads (which is actually our main discussion forum). The only tool I have to segregate those threads is through a thread prefix.
I've used XenPorta (the old version), Widget Framework and CTA Featured Threads. Each has their limitations. I only want the front page to have the articles, and all comments go to the forum.
- XenPorta: I probably got the best overall appearance with XenPorta, but promoting threads was a chore. I'm thinking about buying the new version, but I'm still a little leery of it.
- Featured Threads: Great add-on, and terrific support, but the styling system doesn't fit my needs. there is no ability to have a custom style for the portal (which I currently use for political threads).
- Widget Framework: I have this as my front page now, but it's extremely limited in what it can do, and moving the blocks around is next to impossible.
Secondly, I've never been happy with my site navigation. The drop down menus are awkward, and not particularly intuitive. I'm open to suggestions on this as well.