Welcome to my review of XenForo.
I've been using XenForo since its first public release and at one point, I admit I jumped ship once thinking that maybe the grass on the other side of the fence would be greener. Let me tell you right now, it's not. And when I switched back both I, my members, and our web host was happier for it.
I've been using forums since forever. I remember when most people called them bulletin boards. Some people will argue those are two completely different things, but to me they've always seem generally the same in concept. And I'd rather not debate that.
I've had the honor and privilege of using v1 of every current major forum development from free to paid (that I'm aware of).
Which in its self doesn't really say much, except that I believe I have a good understanding of what I want & need, with a wide range of history to compare it all against. And like with any review, these comments are based upon my own personal opinion, but also not to forget my own personal experience thus far. Take it as you will.
While the above is true, I typically try my best to write any review from a "noobs" point of view for easy reading... ie... Someone who isn't technically aware and is completely new to forum communities.
The general goal is not to only go into detail with my own opinion and experience, but a small sampling from trusted individuals who really are not "geek smart".
I find reviews are often used as informational sources people use before adapting a product or service. And while I could get very technical and describe things in complete detail; I'm fairly confident that there are already such reviews & also such review can be a little intimidating.
And finally, when reviewing community software, I believe the community surrounding the software is just as important as the software its self. Simply because support and development extends beyond just the core developers and support / employees. So my review will also include a breakdown of the community as well.
The Software Review
XenForo Software Pros:
Not everyone in the world has a fast broadband connections. Believe it or not, there is still a vast majority, world-wide who are surprisingly not using T1, T3, High Speed DSL, Cable, Fiber, or any other high speed connection to connect to The Internet. There are indeed people who still have a dial-up Internet connection or if they're lucky, maybe lower end DSL.
So when I say FAST, I mean XenForo has little problems loading quickly even on an old dial-up connection -vs- the current alternatives (IPB and vBulletin).
XenForo is about 3 years old and in that history, there has only been 1 security update. IPB (Invision Power Board) and vBulletin has had about a dozen (12) to half dozen (6) on average (between the two) each year.
And yet XenForo has had only 1 in the complete history of its development. And for arguments sake, the patch details not the actual code per say, but rather the 3rd party developed flash attachment uploader known as SWFUpload (link to source). Which hasn't had any further issues and is actually being replaced in the up coming 1.2, while both IPB and vBulletin have continued to release security patches.
The code is overall clean, multi-compatible with common 3rd party products & services (server side) without issue, and secure.
This also meaning that overall the code is current with web coding standards, does not conflict with its self, and is fully functional without repeating errors or security concerns.
- Customized able / flexibility
Overall XenForo is easy to customize the style, layout, and raw editing of the file codes to suite your own personal needs. A simple color change is a few mouse clicks away.
- Fewer Resource / Requirements
XenForo overall uses fewer (less) resources and requirements on a standing forum.
By "standing forum" I mean general usage with active members online reading, posting, searching, and registering on your site all at the same time.
- Easy to adapt & learn
Your users (members) will have little to no difficulty figuring out how to navigate and generally use all the feature and options provided to them. The general interface is fairly straight forward. From an administrative point of view its also very straight forward & finding setting usually are where you would expect them to be.
XenForo Software Cons
( oh noes ! )
Where there needs improvement:
While XenForo does use the fewest possible resources than any forum community, it seems to be a little resource heavy when rebuilding any cache.
For example, adding a new style or language package. These processes cycle through anytime you add something new; even XenForo's own official add-ons.
Adding more than 3 - 4 styles to your site can exhaust resources fairly easily, unless you have a well configured VPS or Dedicated Server. I found vBulletin, phpBB, MyBB, IPB, and Burning Board are all able to process more styles on a shared environment.
- Customized able / flexibility
There are a few things which seem to be very hard coded into XenForo that you can't easily change, for example the text color in php code boxes. Which is fine provided you don't have a dark theme (dark background)
This is a php code box
And there are a few style properties in which could be separated from another and made into their own individual property settings.
- Options & features
While it is important not to fill forum software with bloat, it is equally important to provide a options and features. XenForo seems to be lacking a few which even free products such as phpBB, WordPress, SMF, MyBB, and others currently provide as standard.
Another way to look at this is I personally & currently use 117 add-ons to fill the void. In not to recent poll held on XenForo.com, the average forum member here seems to have between 10 - 30 installed on their community. While that figure maybe debatable & obviously doesn't count people who didn't take part in the pole, it does give some idea that there are some needs to be filled.
Perhaps a better example to suggest an unfilled demand would be the reflection of the top downloaded resources (link), but even that could be arguable.
Continues on post 2......