Migration to xF: How did you sell it to your community?


Well-known member
With interest I have been following how existing communities migrated from another forum software to xenForo and more importantly, how these communities - users and team members alike - reacted to the migration.

Never change a running system is what you often hear, and it may, in particular, apply to already successful communities. I am sure many of you were confronted with similar questions like, why should you switch from vBulletin 3.8 if most of your members are happy with it? As an admin you may try to explain all the details, how vBulletin 3.8 was the last version of vBulletin that was up to your standards, that it didn't receive any feature upgrades in many years, that it's incompatible with modern software such as PHP 5.4, and so on. It sounds all reasonable; yet, at least in my experience, regular members usually have a different opinion about the need to migrate to another forum software.

When migrating to xF, one common "mistake" I have noted in various communities is that admins took an existing community with an established set of features (whether built-in or due to add-ons) and blindly upgraded it to a more or less plain xF installation. The result shouldn't come at a surprise: members complaining about suddenly missing features which they had learned to use and love over the years. No matter how much you focus on the benefits of xF, your members (in particular established ones) are likely to point out how the previous system was "better" because it had this or that feature that is now missing and that was, of course, most important to them.

So what to to do? For my own community, which still runs a heavily modified vB 3.8, I made a list of 60 or so features, some vB built-in and many custom, ranked from 1 to 5 (least to most important), that are presently not available in xF. Before I do the actual migration (which I hope will be around the time xF 1.2 is released), I am working through that list and complement the most important missing features with my own xF add-ons or with add-ons provided by the excellent xF community.

I am interested in hearing how you dealt with the migration process. How did you explain the need to migrate to xF to your community? Did you take time to prepare for the migration and explain it carefully to your members? How did you react to those members who don't like any kind of change and who focus on continuously expressing their personal disappointment rather than on the benefits that the new software brings?


XenForo moderator
Staff member
We told them the upgrade was coming, set up a test site, got it up and running, got the premium members to play with it and used their feedback to make alterations.

When the premium members were 99% happy, we did the switch.


I am interested in hearing how you dealt with the migration process. How did you explain the need to migrate to xF to your community?

Have you tried to play the last Tomb Rider on the windows XP? - I asked - The same is here, mate. Previous forum software was out of date, while server software is continuing to grow and change. One day in nearest future forum will crash and we will have really hard time bringing it back to life.

Did you take time to prepare for the migration and explain it carefully to your members?

We did, one of our team members wrote a review about forum-softwares on the market and reasons why we choose this particular one.
How did you react to those members who don't like any kind of change and who focus on continuously expressing their personal disappointment rather than on the benefits that the new software brings?

We explained it over and over, continuing to work on the configuration and publishing small "howtos" and introducing new futures.

To the most annoying one I told the story how my first wife used to tell me "If you don't like it, don't eat it"
"Guess what happened? " - I asked him, he is still with us tho

Hope it helps

Sadik B

Well-known member
For a successful migration, members don't need to know that the software was changed. What is needed is...

- No missing features.
- Similar style as previous which can be selected if members don't like your "modern" XF style
- A test installation where established members can try out before the migration, with you listening to, even if not implementing, their suggestions
- Provide a vision statement which specifies where you want the community to go, which should be derived out of longstanding cimmunity needs, and how the new software update will help you achieve that vision.



Well-known member
My members hated the change from vBulletin 4.0 to xenForo 1.0 and they abandoned the community immediately. When vBulletin 4 launched I did not upgrade to vBulletin 4, but instead put vBulletin 4 on a password protected directory so that the community could see the new vBulletin 4. The members loved vBulletin 4, but I did not like the slowness and server queries being submitted constantly.

vBulletin 4 being on a password protected directory and members accessing it created an overload on my shared package (15GB bandwidth+vBulletin4 increased the database about to double in size) and my hosting fees were starting to skyrocket through the roof. Not all members where on vBulletin 4 test site, but just enough to push the limits of my "business" shared hosting package. I had gained no money from the community to support the vBulletin 4 and I told the community I could not afford vBulletin 4 server intensive resources. At that time vBulletin 4 has massive bugs and I told the community I was jumping the vBulletin ship.

After I saw vB4 was a sinking titanic, I put the vBulletin 4 license up for sale immediately and sold the vBulletin 4 license for almost full price. I told the current license holder I would need to migrate the vB3.8 and vB4 test site to xenForo. At last I got the test site running xenForo, I was happy! However, the members where not impressed. I told them the change was for the better, but they resisted and told me I was trying to be cheap with less features. All they could think about was features where being taken away from them. During this time they actually pooled money together amongst themselves, which they did not notify me or ask if they could help with me struggling with the vB4 fiasco.

One day I swapped over the xenForo install to live. The community uproared and cried out that I was not for the community, but in the best interest of money. None of this was true, why would want to switch if this costed me money and everything about this community is on my dollar. I never charged them for anything, no ads even on the community site. The members of the community pooled money together collectively purchased a vBulletin 4 license and server space. I was shocked.

The switched to xenForo 1.0 which did not offer much when it first launched I could not rewrite all their add-on requests. The community was very picky about design and change. Since the change was too drastic I made the mistake jumping ship and not waiting to migrate the community. I sold the vBulletin 4 license for xenForo, regreate for the community's sake that I should of stayed on vBulletin 3.8 until xenForo became more mature.

There is only a memory of what that community use to be, but I am happy with xenForo. Maybe someday I will get that community up and running again, but for now that community is a ghost town. I have not recovered of what I thought was a sure bet.

More than 2 years have gone by and that community would of had it's 5th birthday on April 14th, 2013. I contemplate countless times about change and how drastic change affects people. I wonder to this day if the community would ever return or if I would ever be able to have another successful community. I do not know, but I do know that change is not taken lightly. We can only see what tomorrow will bring. I have a new outlook and perspective on how change should happen. Leaders rise and fall quickly because they do not understand how valuable it is to carefully integrate your leadership role/vision for the greater good of tomorrow.


Well-known member
I spent several months preparing for a migration and didn't tell any members my plans. Once I had all the modification worked out, I made the switch. My members were extremely pleased with the change and loved Xenforo from minute one.


Well-known member
Luckily for me, my vB3 forum looked fairly stock, so when I migrated, I took the opportunity to style the Xenforo platform quite a lot (as it was so easy to do). This helped a lot with migration because members suddenly had a nice, modern, themed forum to look at, making the old forum seem "clunky".

Also another advantage in coming from vB3.x is that no matter what features you have, or what community you have, the vB3 platform is still old and feels dated. It was that way over a year ago when I migrated, it's worse now. Any vB3 forum I visit just feels so tired, so I think this helps a lot in moving to Xenforo because you can afford to lose some features in return for a slicker, modern UI.

One thing I did was a test import and then give access to this to a small number of members, for them to "road test" and get feedback. This was intended to highlight any critical issues. None came up.

(I also did a test import into IPB for mods to have a look over, see if they preferred it).

Ironically, most of the post-migration issues were from mods who were used to doing things in a set way. The community at large took to Xenforo pretty quickly. Just having features such as "like" really helped.

As many people have said, the advantages of Xenforo do seem to outweigh the loss of some features in vB3.

I think a lot of us worry too much about migration. Xenforo is just so good, I can't see it being a step backwards. There comes a point when for all the preparation and worry, you just have to bite the bullet.

Anyway good luck with your migration.


Well-known member
I told them the switch was coming and what to expect. Only had one complaint, and that from a narcissistic poster who thinks he's god's gift to the Internet. He was point blank told to pound sand.

Adam Howard

Well-known member
We make our community part of the buying process. We told them the truth without any hype
  • It would be faster
  • Safer (more secure)
  • Use less resources (saving us money)
  • And there would be almost no learning curve
Then we pointed them to here (XenForo.com) and gave a few select members access to this very account, so they could try it (and without needing to register). This also gave them an opportunity to see the development community and the type of people we'd be working closely with (all of you).

Once everyone was sold on the idea (which wasn't hard), we switched.

How much did I pay for XenForo?


My members voluntarily chipped in and paid for it. They liked it and wanted it that much. :)

(I technically chipped $20)


Well-known member
It wasn't hard to convince the members on my site to make the switch. We're only a small community and only those who are full members were consulted (those who are registered users tend to be members of other gaming communities and/or don't fully participate in the community).

The previous set-up was a phpBB & Wordpress combi bridged together. There was a bit of customisation on phpBB but not much due to the requirement of modding core files as it has no hooks for plugins. The Wordpress side of things users found more difficult to use when writing blog posts. So when I raised the possibility of moving to Xenforo, I highlighted the ease of adding plugins, flagged up all of the extra standard features that it has that phpBB doesn't (likes, conversations, sharing posts via Facebook/Google/Twitter etc) and stated some of the plugins that would be added (XenPorta to replace the Wordpress blogs, XenAtendo for games events etc). This convinced many members that this was a good move. I then let a few have a look at the new site as it was being developed and they were pleased with it's more up-to-date look.

The move was pretty smooth (having done a dummy run beforehand to see what needed doing post-transition - there was a bit but not a huge amount of work). Since then I've had many compliments from both full members and registered users on the new site and they get pretty excited as an when new features are added.

One thing I have done is a Have You Seen...? section, rather like the one on these forums, where I show users various features of Xenforo and how to use them, complete with instructions and screenshots. I think it's been helpful to them as various features are new or work differently from other forums.


Well-known member
I told them the switch was coming and what to expect. Only had one complaint, and that from a narcissistic poster who thinks he's god's gift to the Internet. He was point blank told to pound sand.

I had one of "those" members too. Some people are incapable of change and complain all the time.


Active member
I faced a HUGE protest from my members and I had to make a similar style to vB3.8 default colors to make them calm down


Well-known member
We actually didn't warn our users beforehand... It was kind of a weird way to do it (and a big risk at that), but we had some security concerns in moving, so we felt it would be best.

Prior to moving (from vB4) I spent a lot of time finding equivalent add-ons to the ones we relied on. Several fell by the wayside and users definitely did not like that, so I do echo the importance of making sure feature loss is minimal. For the most part, though, our major offerings were still supported.

Our community had also gone through adjustments before, so I think we were well poised for this one. We started on phpbb2 and moved to vB3 in 2006. For some reason the owner/admin at the time did not choose to import the phpbb database, so users lost all their posts and accounts. We don't have many users left who remember that change, but the fact that people still had their old accounts I'm sure softened the blow. We had also moved from vB3 to vB4 in 2010, which is less of an adjustment, but all the same. Xenforo has been my favorite of all so I think we'll be on here for good. ;)

When doing the import the site was taken down for I think two days. In that time we customized Flexile Dark to be more specific to our site so that there wasn't a huge disparity in design from the new site to old.

What we tried to emphasize most was how Xenforo was a thriving platform and that, in addition to the stock features that are huge improvements over vBulletin 4 (Alerts alone are a godsend), it would let us take the site in entirely new directions. There was a significant outcry from users who didn't like the new system but it's since died down, probably because they realized that the differences on their end weren't that significant--posting was still the same, the people were still the same, and they had some shiny new things to try out in the meantime. We've been on Xenforo for eight months now and I can't remember the last complaint. Some older members have come back since and said that they really enjoy the change.

One piece of advice I would give, especially for communities with a younger userbase (ours ranges from 10 to people in their 20s) is to make sure to provide help & guides to navigating the new software. That was one thing I failed to anticipate and spent some time making a comprehensive FAQ. But a lot of what we had to deal with was how do I do ____?

At the end of the day, I think users can see that Xenforo is the superior system. Even if they don't for whatever reason like it (or simply prefer another software), posting is almost identical regardless of what platform you're on, and that's 90% of their interaction with the site. Those who were initially skeptical, I think, shut up once they saw all the great stuff we can now do.


Well-known member
My users (EE Forums) hardly noticed since the Honorable J. Bunce was able to move the passwords.
I also did it off-season (1/3 of my normal heaviest traffic) which helped.

I pretested it with my mods and then brought over a dozen or so of the regulars to look at the test site.

We made the move - over a million posts - with virtually zero burps! One of my mods who was in IT all his life (ran IT for Exxon-Mobile!), said it was the only time he saw a migration go so smoothly....

I'm actually not a meticulous person - more quick and dirty - but in this case, we took our time and made sure it was A-1.

My users are completely sold on it now. Big time.


Active member
This thread has reminded me of the issues with migrating to vb3 in the early days. Back then I was using an old phpbb-fork and had created/operated a separate community on vb3 for several months before doing my first test migrations with impex on the large site I owned back then.

With the negative feedback received today from IB's support, it looks like I need to start developing a migration plan soon ;)

Francesco V.

Active member
My vBulletin installation was not plenty of add-on, actually almost a plain installation. I migrated to vBulletin but the new forum is still officially work in progress alhtough it's opened to public. I still need to integrate graphically with the content portal (wordpress) and i should give a little bit or personality to the skin.
Anyway users seems ok, they like the quick interface, no drama or compliants. After all core of my community is "content", they...well, WE could continue exchange infos & opinions about our hobby also by writing them on the rocks.
Thumb up for the administration and moderation tool (expecially bot spam management). Great improvement, a pleasure using it.


New member
I told the guy who pays the bills that it would greatly expedite my development of our external application to the rest of our community and he said yes, that's about it.

And now all the other people on the dev team are loving it compared to MyBB.. Me, I'm wondering how the heck I ever delt with MyBB in the first place.

Sure we lost some polls, and birthdays got messed up (still not sure on that, probably due to the MyBB -> PHPBB3 -> XF migration) but everything important was saved, and is being further enhanced by the wonderful addons.


Well-known member
My members loved the change from phpBB3 to XenForo. When we migrated from phpBB2 to phpBB3, they hated the look and feel with the user info down the right hand side etc, so when we moved back to a more "standard" forum layout, this was well received.

The only thing we lost was the Garage modification for phpBB3 (which we also lost when we initially moved from phpBB2 until someone built another one). This has just been replaced with "Showcase" and the members are loving it again.

We were in a lull in the last 12 months on phpBB3, and since moving to XenForo, post count, user registrations, and general user interaction is all up again.