Anywhere from the next few days to weeks I will be converting one of my IPB forums. I've taken a small group of people to test xenForo including some staff members. Mostly, the feedback has been positive, especially from my staff that can access the admin panel. They're very happy with how add-ons don't crash other add-ons as often, they also love the template system so I'm not worried about my staff. It's my members that might give me some trouble. Some have become very used to the current forum. They complain even when I rearrange forum order for better visibility of important sections. So it's safe to assume that pitchforks may rise for changing to an entirely different script. When we first moved from phpBB to IPB, no one complained even though I didn't make an announcement about a change in forum script. Everyone celebrated because they hated phpBB but this won't be the case now. So how do I go about handling this?
I think the biggest difference will be addons/hacks that your members are used to.
Other than that people don't like change but eventually get used to it.
When I went from vb3 to vb4 I got comments like, what was wrong with the old version?
When I went from phpBB to vB3 members liked the change.
I made public my test install. Overall it was favorable except for the features that we require.
I'd recommend disabling/uninstalling any functionality that isn't going to be part of XF, so that the members get used to not having it. They might not like it, but then they'll get used to not having it.
After that, open a test installation of your XF for the members to look at. Take their feedback in, listen to their suggestions (and apply them where appropriate) to keep them happy.
In reality there's not an awful lot you can do, other than letting them know in advance there might be some downtime. I agree with Brogan, no matter what you do, not everyone will like it.
My only suggestions are: Do the actual switch over during a quiet period for your forum. Afterwards, be prepared for people having access problems (although the conversion is likely to preserve passwords there are always some people who are permanently logged in for so long they forgot their password - and their email address has since changed!). Be on-line to post guides, help out - you may get some confused members
The thing to remember is it's your forum, and after evaluating the different packages you know what's best for your community and the future of it. You know that good forum software outweighs the lack of a few specific mods - so don't let a vocal minority who don't like change spoil it, once you've changed over
The reasoning behind this move includes several reasons. First of all, we the ones managing the site are tired of spending more time on fixing modifications, skins and what not than actually building a bigger and stronger community. We've got a number of skins but I'm not worried about that, Mico and Pank have already pumped out two excellent skins and they're working on another. What the members will miss are probably some of the bloat that cause us far too much stress than their value, which isn't much as it's 90% eye-candy, 9% ego boost, 1% functionality. The biggest concern at this point is the gallery. I've been testing various things to see what we can do about this. Galleria which is an up-coming add-on will have a importer built in but for this to even get a beta release, we're probably looking at quite some time that I can only speculate. The other gallery modifications don't have an importer so I've been looking at third party gallery scripts like coppermine but none are really satisfactory... they feel very old and clunky. Worst comes to worst, I'll take the hit and lose all the uploaded content and have my staff re-upload it manually to whatever platform we choose for the gallery, it's just that there hasn't been anything satisfying.
Perhaps this thread would have been better titled "getting members off of fatty goods". On our side, we the management like xenForo's minimalistic approach. It does what we want a forum to do for the most part although it is lacking one feature I find absolutely vital - tagging/pre-fixes that spiders can crawl (IPB doesn't have this either but it will in 3.2). So we're going to be removing a lot of modifications that aren't useful, just pleasant, something probably teenagers will mostly like... and most of my members are of that age. I'm also worried about the inability to disable post incrementation... we have a forum games section and it gets quite a lot of use but I don't want people spamming games to get a higher post count. I could probably deal with this by deleting forum games thread once they reach a certain threshold but it seems tedious.
Also a question for those that did a conversion from IPB to xF, how did your member react? What did they miss the most? Did it impact your activity negatively at all? If yes, for how long?
PS: Thanks for the prompt replies. I had three to read right after I posted this.
Just to reiterate what others have said, in preparation for my migration from VB3 to XF I have performed the following:
Disabled most of my mods which do not exist on XF so members get used to not having as many bells and whistles.
Some mods I most definately want so have one of my members currently coding them for me, prime example is XenQuotation.
Altered the layout of the existing forum (out of date housekeeping) so members get used to the new layout.
Created a public copy of the forums behind HTTP Auth and posted the details on how to access it.
Take any feedback and respond and perform any actions if required.
So far the response has been very positive and as soon as Thread Prefixing is available then I will migrate, the members know and are actively particpating, ie I want them to feel a part of the migration and their opinions can and do make a difference.
As an aside I regularly perform test imports to just a site I have access to so that I can measure the time taken to do the import based on any changes I have made to the live forums. So far it looks like it will take around 16hours to import 3.6 million posts, 25 thousand users and over 10 thousand private messages.
Slowly disabling some of the bloat on my IPB install may be a good idea. I've been pondering it but didn't know how it would work out. Members might have gotten irritated that it was "disabled" for no good reason. But yes, I suppose I'll make the test board accessible to all my members and take into consideration everyone's input instead of a sample population. But which should I do first? Disable some of the bloat and then announce the migration intention or the other way around? Yes, my OCD says this is important.
You probably need to learn to prepare yourself more than your community. The will hate you, they will hate the changes and they will probably blame you because they burned their breakfast that morning
At least that's how it will appear because people get comfortable and hate change even when it's for the better. You should however remember that people often complain when they are unhappy but keep quiet when they are happy.
I've handled a lot of forum conversions and they have ultimately all been successful but that's rarely apparent from day one. Some practical advice...
Keep your users informed and give them good reasons for the conversion. Don't allow it to become a forum discussion or you might find yourself trying to cater for individual requests just to keep one or two users happy.
Plan and test your conversion fully. It's worth saying twice, plan and test your conversion fully. Do this yourself if possible or at least with minimum intervention from others. Again you don't want to bogged down by too much opinion.
Try and maintain some semblance of the look and feel of the original. A forum is a home to some, somewhere they might spend a good deal of their time. Logging into unfamiliar surroundings will really upset some people. A logo and a few familiar colours will suffice and keep a surprising number of users happy.
When you go live, make sure you have a thread for people to post issues. Insist that they use only that thread and ensure that you acknowledge every single issue as it's posted and reply again when the issue is fixed.
Don't let the bu**ers get you down. Negativity breeds negativity so maintain a positive atmosphere and go easy on moderation. Disgruntled users hate being moderated.
And finally don't forget rule number one, take a full backup of everything before you convert. I wish you the best of luck
Like someone previously mentioned all the MUST HAVE/DIE IF I DON'T HAVE mods are not really so. I disabled a number of mods and only a few members (out of thousands) complained. A couple of the sites that I have switched took some getting used to, but I posted a number of "Did you know..." threads to help highlight some of the changes that XenForo brings to the table.
At the end of the day, you are not going to be make everyone happy. But the solid members of your community will see the bigger picture and the awesomeness that is XenForo.
My todo list for non technical/ IT- forums is:
1. i check which mods are a "MUST HAVE". If i remove the gallery in an photographer/event forum, i'm sure that i'll lose 3/4 of my users, even i would bring some months later another gallery back...
2. check if importers are available for the "must have data". Back to the photographer forum: i'm sure most would hate me and stop supporting the page, if i would delete all the photos they uploaded in the last years.
3. I'm altering the style of the NEW FORUM to be similar to the old forum.
I think that most of "average joe" users don't want too many changes and because they need to learn how the new software is working, they shouldn't bother also about a completely changed design.
4.After the conversation I disable many features and activate and introduce them weekly.
I think im going to move my forum over to IPB ive had an issue with one of Jaxels mod's which it seems he's now totally ignoring, between that and what IPB are putting in 3.2 it seems that's where MY site's future is.