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My 2013 Review of XenForo

Discussion in 'General XenForo Discussion and Feedback' started by Adam Howard, May 28, 2013.

  1. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    Do not buy a single license of XenForo, buy several of them. They're addictive and fun. And more importantly, you'll not regret it. :D

    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:
    • Fast
    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).

    • Secure
    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.
    • Stable
    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:
    • Resources
    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...... :eek:
    wedgar, wcbryant, ZeWildGuy and 6 others like this.
  2. Carlos

    Carlos Well-Known Member

    Nice review, Adam. Most down to the point review I've seen yet! :)
    ZeWildGuy and Adam Howard like this.
  3. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    The Developer Review
    Developer Pros:

    • Active
    XenForo's developers seem to be very active in their progression & progress between releases.
    • Compatibility
    Release are commonly released in such away as to prevent incompatibility from previous releases. This meaning that fewer add-ons, styles, or personal customizations require updating... ie... Things done in the next version usually don't break things.
    • Communication
    There are 5 kinds of developments in regards to communication. Those who talk only to promote themselves, those who only talk to make announcements, those who interact with their community in regular conversation, those who only address support, and finally those who say nothing at all.

    XenForo's Development would be an overall mix between promotion, announcement, and support. There is some general talk from development, but most of it is done privately (via PM or private forums).

    Trust me, this is usually the good kind you want.

    Their primary goal is their product and their customers. And that means keeping them informed, promoting to bring in new people for growth, and supporting those who are already here. There's nothing wrong with that.
    • Support
    The developing staff actively involves themselves with addressing support issues both via ticket support and forums.

    The Developer Cons
    ( oh noes ! )
    Where there needs improvement:
    • Indifferent
    While the old saying is true, everyone's a critic. Sometimes you should accept alternative which you, yourself disagree with. It's called compromising. When you have paying customers, you sometimes do have to do so.

    There have been a few concepts which have been suggested repeatedly the last 3 years. And while the development may not have those in mind, clearly everyone else does.

    ** It is worth noting that this is not exclusive only to XenForo. Generally it seems more paid productions are having a growing trend of stamping their foot down generally assuming that ignoring or dismissing something will make it go away. History shows this is not the case though.

    Final Software Conclusion:
    A (y)

    No production is perfect, although its always nice to both strive for that achievement & in part expect it. The moment either side doesn't the productions growth and development fails because there are no expectations.

    XenForo really is faster, secure, stable, easy to use, and overall customizable to fit your needs. And while it could use some improvements and features, its still growing and maturing.

    The development behind XenForo seems fairly rock solid. And while it was built upon with 3 guys having a dream, they should expand that dream just a little to include the dream others may have. Although, they're pretty much already there & there isn't to much adaptation required from them to reach even a higher standard of excellence. :)

    Continues on post 3..... :eek:
    wedgar, wcbryant, ZeWildGuy and 2 others like this.
  4. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    The Support Review

    Support Pros:

    • Friendly Ticket Support
    The official support staff is friendly and professional in addressing tickets
    • Productive Ticket Support
    The official support staff actively engages & involves themselves in reaching a solution.
    • No Script
    The official support staff does not defer to a pre-approved & pre-written script and actually provides real answers in real time.
    • On hand support
    The official support staff is willing to actually willing to look into the matter & not just give you hits or suggestions.
    • Support active on forum
    The official support staff is also very active on the community forum.
    • Free support (no extra cost)
    The above support is included at no extra cost to you. It is included free for the 1st year after purchase of XenForo and only $40 each year after. Making their support the most economical (affordable) support available.
    • Community involvement
    The community at large (fellow customers) also is supportive of one another without demanding or actively suggesting or seeking payment.

    Support Cons:
    • None. Zip. Zero. Na`da. Nothing.
    • There are no cons.
    At this time, there are no negative or alternative suggestions for support. (y)

    Arguably, someone could suggest phone or live chat, but historically in any forum software productions, this usually draws away the quality from the support in tickets and forums (often closely associated to push the sale of extra support fees). So I would argue its not needed and may not be a good idea overall.

    Final Support Conclusion:
    A + (y)

    Between the official support staff and the active community members here, you're going to get helped. And you're getting to get help in a timely manner. In fact, people jump at the opportunity here to help one another. It's amazing and I can't say I've seen anything like it anywhere else. :)

    Continues on post 4....... :eek:
    wedgar, wcbryant, ZeWildGuy and 3 others like this.
  5. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    The 3rd Party Development Review
    The 3rd Party Development Pros:
    • Active
    There is an active group of developers showing an interest in making 3rd party products for XenForo.
    • New Development
    There are continually new developers releasing 3rd party products and not just the same people
    • Support
    There is an active level of support from the authors who release 3rd party products
    • Low abandonment
    There are few if ever abandoned released projects.

    For this review, arguably abandoned projects are projects which no longer function as designed and no support or updated are forth coming from either the original developer or community at large.
    • Communication
    The majority of 3rd party developers make an effort to communicate with individuals politely and professionally

    • Balance Release Ratio
    There is a respected balance between the free to paid ratio releases. This implies that the ratio of free vs paid products is about equal
    • Balance Quality Release Ratio
    There is a respected balance between the quality of free and paid ratio releases. This implies that the ratio of free quality products equal to the ratio of paid quality products
    • 3rd party developers use XenForo
    Its important that developers not just develop 3rd party products for XenForo, but they themselves have a self interest in using XenForo for their own personal use.
    The 3rd Party Developer Cons
    ( oh noes ! )
    Where there needs improvement:
    • Deleted Projects
    These are projects which may have been functional and the developer elected to remove them for whatever reason. This leave no opportunity for others to enjoy the product or the community to help one another resolve issues that may turn up. It also makes it hard for people who may already be using the project, from re-downloading it for whatever reason.

    Even if the developer simply wishes to no longer support it, its overall better to say so and not just delete it.
    • "Putting a flag in ground that many people already live on."
    I've seen this happen to a few developers here (other than myself).

    Someone will cry that someone else is using a spacing of 12px and the person will demand they switch it to 11px, because they're already using 12px. Or someone will use the color 00001 and someone will demand they change it to 00002, because they're already using 00001.

    These are concept idea's that no one owns.
    Not me, not you, not anyone.

    I've seen someone here try to claim "open source code" from Ubuntu Linux as their own. And I've seen people here try to claim XenForo Code, which belongs only to XenForo Ltd as their own. :confused:

    Neither of which are none exclusive among XenForo customers with the use of XenForo. Odds are high (guaranteed) that every style or add-on you use has some in it.

    But this poor mentality has the potential to limit and restrict further development from outside sources (3rd party product developers).

    Final 3rd Party Developer Conclusion:
    A (y)

    No production is perfect, although its always nice to both strive for that achievement & in part expect it. The moment either side doesn't the productions growth and development fails because there are no expectations.

    XenForo like with any production environment is like a sandbox and we all play in that sandbox. We should be adult enough to share the sand and most of the time we are, but that isn't to say there isn't room for improvement.
    Continued to post 5...... :eek:
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  6. Carlos

    Carlos Well-Known Member

    wow. Your dedication to reviewing xenforo..... wow.
    ZeWildGuy and Adam Howard like this.
  7. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    The Community Review
    The Staff Review
    The Staff Pros:
    • Living
    Ironically, I do recall a bot being used on a forum before. It responded to automated replies. So no, that expectation is not as crazy as it sounds.

    • Provides Support
    The staff do not just administrate the forum, but also address support questions on the forum.

    • Active
    The staff is generally active in that they are viewable and responsive to comments.

    • Good sense of humor
    Its important that the staff not always be to serious all the time.

    • Clear in communication
    Its important for the staff to be clear and easy to understand (not be descriptive or drop hints)

    • Gives warning
    Just dropping the authority out of the blue without explanations isn't productive or fair. Of course the exceptions being example like obvious spam.

    • Aware of spam
    Being pro-active in this department is always a plus.

    • Friendly
    Overall the community staff is polite and friendly to members

    The Staff Cons
    ( oh noes ! )
    Where there needs improvement:
    • Favoritism
    People are human and ergo so is the staff (obviously). Though rare, there have been a few actions taken where some individuals were given more breathing room than others

    • Double Standard
    Though rarely applied, there are some moments when the rules only apply in select situations or with select individuals.

    • Political Judgement
    Though rarely applied, there are moments where the staff acted upon not what was right -vs- wrong, but rather what people wanted to see happen (either by majority or vocal minority)

    ** It is important to not the these are not exclude to XenForo and affect even the best of communities. To error is human and we're all human.
    Final Staff Conclusion:
    A (y)
    We're all human and no matter how hard we try, we're not perfect. And while it's nice to reach for perfection, it is not realistic to expect it in our fellow beings. The important part is that we try our best and that it shows we're making an effort.
    For any staff it's also important to show they care. These individuals must have an active, positive interest in the community they're a part of. But they also must be helpful and reachable. And XenForo staff overall do a good job at this.
    Continues on post 6.... :eek:
    wedgar, wcbryant, ZeWildGuy and 3 others like this.
  8. Sheldon

    Sheldon Well-Known Member


    For the "clearly everyone else does" part especially? I'm interested in seeing exactly what it is you are talking about that "everyone" wants, that is being "ignored or dismissed".

    Nice write up either way.
  9. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    The Community Review
    The User Base
    This part of the review is usually the hardest, because you're basically reviewing everyone as a whole. And we're not all cookie cutter examples of one another. So grouping everyone is never easy.

    But its still important to address because the "vibe" of that community which surrounds a development such as, XenForo, can also drive people toward it or running screaming away into the hills.

    The community after all are the people others will encounter when the staff and support is away from normal business hours. So completely ignoring the community when reviewing any forum development seems illogical.

    A review can be very informative in that most communities are often misjudged by the vocal minority, who are mistaken for the vast majority. A review when done with an open mind, can attempt to close that misconception gap.

    The Community Pros:

    • Supportive
    I've not been a member of many communities where people jump over each other in order to answer questions. Usually on most communities people race each other for a quick thrill.

    XenForo is one of those rare communities where people actually race one another to help one another and answer questions.

    In the few times in which I've need something answered, I've found at least 1/2 a dozen replies in the time it took me to make a cup of coffee. And they do this without hinting or suggesting the need for payment (as opposed to my experience on IPB).
    • Informative
    Knowledge is free and it belongs to the people. This is a concept not lost here on XenForo's Community. There are tips, tricks, and general information throughout the community and not just surrounding XenForo its self, but on a wide range of topics.
    • Newbie Friendly
    XenForo's community at large is overall friendly to newbies (new members)
    • Community Friendly
    XenForo's community at large is overall friendly to other members (after newbie status).

    This is important because on many software developing sites, people are quick to put on a smile to a new face, but later that smile turns out not to be so friendly.

    XenForo's community overall remains friendly to one another. :)
    • Active
    The community on XenForo is very active. There is a new thread, replied post, like, or comment made throughout a full 24 hour period, leaving no hour without some actively from members other than just browsing (lurking).
    • Communication
    The member overall make a "best effort" to understand one another.
    • Feedback
    Community members voluntarily offer and submit feedback to one another.

    Where there needs improvement:
    • Undertone of disrespect (community policing needed)
    Sometimes you'll get a group of individuals who are able to be disrespectful or generally negative, but do it just enough within the rules, that nothing is done about it. This is not uncommon for most communities,

    XenForo does have such a small group of individuals (very small minority). The community would be better off either ignoring these people or policing them as the need comes up.

    Final Community Conclusion:
    A (y)
    No community is perfect and without flaws. But its always good to strive for perfection. The majority of XenForo's community is friendly, helpful, and very supportive. It's a community you generally want to be a part of. :)

    Final Conclusion:
    A+ (y) :cool:

    At this time, XenForo's software, development, developers, staff, 3rd party developers, support, and community make for the perfect blend. There is no concerning reason not to buy into XenForo.

    Thanks for reading

    And finally, I should note that the finishing closing titled, "Review of Review Follow Up" of this complete review will not be posted here (for sometime and generally last).

    It's become my policy to "wrap up" such review based upon how the development, staff, 3rd party developers, and community at large receive these review.

    There are a lot of final things to fill in once such a review is made public. :)

    wedgar, wcbryant, TsuChi and 4 others like this.
  10. DRE

    DRE Well-Known Member

    This is a wonderful review. I agree with every point, even if some points make me look bad (not supporting my own resources) :p This is the most positive community of webmasters, developers and coders I've ever seen or been apart of. Yes it's true we argue or fight but after awhile, we're cordial again like nothing happened. Fist fight, then drink a couple beers together type of vibe. There's really only a few individuals here that hold grudges. Generally I think everyone here is pretty cool and I'm proud to be a part of a community that likes to get ship done.
    Morgain and Adam Howard like this.
  11. Morgain

    Morgain Well-Known Member

    Adam that is epic and I hope it gets used as alink for newcomers who ask about XF.

    I like they way this is a balanced perspective. It is neither a fanboy puff piece, nor a bichfest. It is easy to write puff puff, and fatally easy to write yuk yuk nitpick. I like particularly the way you handle the negatives, stressing that we are all human. Balance takes real skill and you deserve congratulation for your meticulous care on this.
    I like the diplomatic way you avoid giving your own list of the 'missing bits' - any list is bound to incite a weary war of words. Instead you link to the top addons search results to make your point. Elegant.
    You also obviously deserve credit for your devastating thoroughness!

    If I had written this I would have critiqued the way destructive behaviour has been handled by closing threads. This penalises the well behaved majority. I would prefer an offender was moderated instead.
    Delightfully I can think of nothing on the positive side which you overlooked. XF has so many strengths it would actually be easy to do.

    Heartfelt admiration - a chalice of mead or beverage of choice for that man!
    Adam Howard and DRE like this.
  12. DRE

    DRE Well-Known Member

    I already wrote a review, but after reading Adam's review, I'm inspired to create a separate thread for my old review later and just update it... nah I'll update it after 2.1
    Adam Howard likes this.
  13. erich37

    erich37 Well-Known Member

  14. Da Bookie Mon

    Da Bookie Mon Well-Known Member

    Will there be a Cliff Notes?
  15. Jeremy

    Jeremy Well-Known Member

    Source? This has been stated no where. There has been an additional upload method (drag & drop) added, but only if your browser supports it. I doubt they'll take away SWFUpload.

    There is nothing XenForo not anyone else can do. Its is up to the developer's wishes on whether or not his project remains.
  16. Carlos

    Carlos Well-Known Member

    What's so funny? Nobody's perfect.
  17. erich37

    erich37 Well-Known Member

    you are perfect, Carlos.
    But I am not prefect.
  18. EQnoble

    EQnoble Well-Known Member

    Well written Adam...you clearly took your time and put some effort into this, and regardless if I agree with everything or disagree/(agree with modifications) to a few points, you did make this about an individual's perception of the whole of Xenforo and not about you and your perceptions and I do appreciate that very much.

    When an effort like this is put forth it is nice to see a publisher actually trying to paint a realistic picture rather than
    color inside of the lines that someone else draws and I commend you for that.
    Indeed...that is why he is probably laughing...because he, like you and I ... are not perfect... and that is funny because as humans most of us have our moments where we appear to think we are perfect...and everyone is guilty of that...and that is funny :)

    If I am correct in that...I would assume he is laughing at himself because nobody is perfect and because if one can't laugh at themselves...they believe themselves to be perfect.
    Adam Howard and Morgain like this.
  19. erich37

    erich37 Well-Known Member

    I am just laughing because I get Addams sense of humor........

    Adam Howard and EQnoble like this.
  20. Carlos

    Carlos Well-Known Member

    LMFAO. I didn't notice that before! :ROFLMAO:

    Hey, Adam - fix this typo!
    erich37 likes this.

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