XenForo competing in the age of mobile device driven social media and engagement

Chernabog

Well-known member
The entire development team at XenForo is kicking serious butt -- however I wanted to toss this thought into the ring to see if it has any potential to be in the pipeline for the future of XF2.2: mobile device friendliness out of the box. As a rule, XF, does not always handle mobile devices in a way that is intuitive or easy to follow - somewhat dependent on the theme you're using - but it just doesn't have the polish (IMHO) of what most native, mobile friendly, communities have.

Even if the development team were to create and sell labeled and white labeled iOS and Android apps that could be purchased and then placed into their respective stores for forum operators who wanted/needed that kind of mobile support ... or even just a way of making the webpage itself more mobile friendly would be a nice thing to see.

I am no developer, in any sense of the word, so I am just rambling out thoughts as best I can. There are some platforms that offer mobile apps for their products, so I guess it can be done - not sure how much of a pain that would be. I played with some wire framing of GUI to kinda toy around with what I thought would make for a good XF mobile application for forum users.

But rather than me ramble more, uneducated, I just wanted to put the thought out there. XF is a top competitor in it's market and I believe has the best user driven community around... but we are also fighting a generation of everyone on their smartphone or tablet versus laptop/desktop (I prefer desktop, thank you, I am old school! :p ) so I thought it was worth mentioning.

Thanks!

((..puts soap box away..))
 

Chromaniac

Well-known member
putting my 2 cents here. i am personally very happy with the upcoming pwa functionality. tapatalk is the only native forum app that i have used and it eventually ended up being an annoying piece of malware that basically took over your website.

on related note, i checked the apps from both invision and vbulletin few days ago. invision one is under development and would offer multi-forum support (white label is also planned). the current version on play store seems to be nice. but the login page errors out on me so i have only been able to check the content sections. vbulletin app on the other hand does work fine but the user experience is not very good. every page load has a rotating loading image which is never fun to see. even when you go back and forward. web apps do not have this issue if your forum performance is good. pages load instantly. the only annoying bit on xenforo for me is the editor bit which is sort of hard to use on limited screen space and the various formatting issues already reported by other members.

but yes. i have a smallish community with limited revenue so limited budget so this thread is not exactly aimed at me. eventually, it would be make sense to have white label native apps option for operators of bigger popular boards. though it would never hurt to have a unified app that would support multiple forums on single install (like what invision is doing) as an option.
 

Chernabog

Well-known member
putting my 2 cents here. i am personally very happy with the upcoming pwa functionality. tapatalk is the only native forum app that i have used and it eventually ended up being an annoying piece of malware that basically took over your website.

on related note, i checked the apps from both invision and vbulletin few days ago. invision one is under development and would offer multi-forum support (white label is also planned). the current version on play store seems to be nice. but the login page errors out on me so i have only been able to check the content sections. vbulletin app on the other hand does work fine but the user experience is not very good. every page load has a rotating loading image which is never fun to see. even when you go back and forward. web apps do not have this issue if your forum performance is good. pages load instantly. the only annoying bit on xenforo for me is the editor bit which is sort of hard to use on limited screen space and the various formatting issues already reported by other members.

but yes. i have a smallish community with limited revenue so limited budget so this thread is not exactly aimed at me. eventually, it would be make sense to have white label native apps option for operators of bigger popular boards. though it would never hurt to have a unified app that would support multiple forums on single install (like what invision is doing) as an option.

I think one of the older ones would be SocialEngine and their mobile application but white labeled and otherwise. Dolphin did the same thing. While I have toyed with both those other CMS/Forum providers and today just came across Invision - I still do not see any product that is as actively developed, as full featured, strong community marketplace and (even though some of the ones named have been around a long time) give the security that XenForo does. I trust that XenForo isn't going anywhere and that is a very important thing for me to have confidence in -- so just another reason to love XenForo.

A white label native mobile app does not have to be expensive, it really depends on how quickly and how much revenue the developers want to gain above R&D. Personally, I wouldn't want someone coming to one of my XenForo sites seeing a list of everyone else they could go to... but that's just me, some people don't care. With all the time and effort put into my communities... I do care lol :p

That's also another factor that makes XenForo a great product: it has a fair and rather generous price point for all the development and effort that goes into it.

I am a fan... no question.. I just know from my community that there is a fight to get people off Discord and into the forums. Many people view forums as old school - so it's just about finding a way to be relevant and attractive to the old school and new school.
 

Chromaniac

Well-known member
i think the biggest problem with forum based apps is that most forums run third party addons and they want those functionalities to remain available on apps. this becomes quite complicated, almost impossible unless the app ends up using webview for content pages which basically means you are not really using a native app for actual functionality. plus with whitelabel apps, there is this additional cost of keeping active accounts on play store and app store. and the approval process and so on. from developers point of view, this also means that they need independent developers for both platforms.

pwas basically overcomes most of these problems. at least on android devices.
 

briansol

Well-known member
The api improvements in 2.2 tell me the future is coming. Using something like a react native front end hitting the end points of the forum install, it will be much easier to maintain the app. Assuming, proper versioning of the end points is maintained.

All I really want out of an app is to 'share' a photo from my camera directly. Not nav to the forum first. There's been some debate about how this could work, but ultimately, this sharing is killing us. It's simply easier to post it to fb/ig/etc instead of the boards so, fb groups get the first orig content
 

Straydog

Active member
Ohh dear; some effort is needed to make a post. A job is too much effort. Posting is too much effort. Farcebook is just so much better. I am so sick of this stupid lack of any effort on the users part to accomplish anything. Seriously it is little wonder where we are today with forums.
 

Chernabog

Well-known member
Ohh dear; some effort is needed to make a post. A job is too much effort. Posting is too much effort. Farcebook is just so much better. I am so sick of this stupid lack of any effort on the users part to accomplish anything. Seriously it is little wonder where we are today with forums.
I'm not sure what your post was meant to convey @Straydog ?

Yes FB and Twitter dominate the markets and Forums may be a nostalgic idea of the past, for some, however --- there is a growing discontent with FB/Twitter users as forums do not tend to utilize people as pure marketing and statistical data mules.

Moreso, private communities that want autonomy from "big business" social media sites require a private solution, such as XF, who is positioning themselves to be competitive in that market.

What were you trying to say?
 

briansol

Well-known member
Ohh dear; some effort is needed to make a post. A job is too much effort. Posting is too much effort. Farcebook is just so much better. I am so sick of this stupid lack of any effort on the users part to accomplish anything. Seriously it is little wonder where we are today with forums.
I hear ya...

but people are lazy.
we need a way to 'push' content into our platform, not pull it in.

phone - snap pic - share - posted to my site
not,
phone - snap pic - close camera/switch to browser - type my.com - navigate to or start post / click attach - browse for image.

That can only be done with a native app.

The response is often, where does the pic go? a new thread? a profile that doesn't exist? an pre-set forum? There is no wall!

i don't have the answers - i think massive a/b testing needs to be done.
But I would lean towards a 'drop zone' or some sort with an AI engine to auto-sort it and move it to a correct forum.

I've been thinking about how to build that model in sagemaker and expose it as an API...
 

Chromaniac

Well-known member
pwas does appear in share menu. twitter app is a good example. i can share photos from anywhere on my phone to twitter from the share menu. but not sure how it would work out on a forum software where you would need to select a thread or gallery or profile to post the image in. something that you would still need to do in the app. i imagine it should be possible in a pwa.
 
Everyone keeps talking about how to make forums more like social media. How to make posting and commenting easier like social media. I think a forums strength, and what I've always liked about them, is that they do take commitment from the user. Thus, the user becomes more invested in the forum. I get a headache reading Twitter or scrolling through Facebook at the sheer trash posted there. I don't have that issue with forums. I would love to keep it that way.
 

Mike Creuzer

Well-known member
Everyone keeps talking about how to make forums more like social media. How to make posting and commenting easier like social media. I think a forums strength, and what I've always liked about them, is that they do take commitment from the user. Thus, the user becomes more invested in the forum. I get a headache reading Twitter or scrolling through Facebook at the sheer trash posted there. I don't have that issue with forums. I would love to keep it that way.
^

There is some truth to being the hot blonde or the fastest car, so NOT adapting with the times should never be the goal. But agreed with above.
 

Chernabog

Well-known member
^

There is some truth to being the hot blonde or the fastest car, so NOT adapting with the times should never be the goal. But agreed with above.

Oh the hot brunette :ROFLMAO: couldn't resist. I agree with both sides and I think therein lies one of the most complicated tasks for a company like XenForo, for us as a customer base and for our respective end users within the communities we host.

There is a MUCH deeper sense of community, friendship and closeness that is generated in a forum base CMS than what you can achieve or that I've ever seen achieved in a FB, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, etc. Those social media services, despite being hot, now and what our younger markets are most attached to provide a shallow, surface level connection. Or, IMHO, we are more connected than every before by these systems but we're also further apart.

Environments like XF, which to those in my age range that remember BBSs, help to foster a community that is a closer and functions on a deeper level.

The biggest need is trying to find a way to integrate with these social networking sites is in its ability to allow us, as forum owners/content creators, to expand our markets and to reach the age groups that find those environments to be their go to and who find utilizing a XF, for example, complex and not intuitive.

I've done several focus groups and when someone accesses either of our communities via smartphone that is the #1 complaint: it is confusing and not intuitive. XenForo does not render well on a smartphone. Table and above is perfectly well.

What we could use is what some other competitors have: a dedicated iOS and Android mobile application with the ability to pay for SDK/White Labeling for those of us who want our communities to be private and the only stop on a mobile users list.

That would best be done by the XenForo team or a hired on extension to the XenForo team and perhaps should be something we ask their feedback on and/or offer to assist in covering their development costs to create. If enough of us chipped into to development, think in house crowd sourcing, we could likely make it reasonable and advantageous for XenForo to take on that development, if they wanted to.

If not, there are several add-on developers, with close enough relationships to XF and the skill sets to pull it off under the same ideology as above.

Just my couple of cents :p
 

JRangelle

New member
Some thoughts in no particular order:
1. You can make a mobile app, but that doesn't mean you made a good one. Designing an experience for mobile is very different than designing the traditional desktop experience (which have been the historic domain for forums). Viewports, limited space, gestures and taps on mobile are fundamentally different than the desktop experience of a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Based on everything that I've seen in the traditional forum space (Discourse, Tapatalk, and Invision Community), all they've done is develop a mobile wrapper for forum content. Most of them haven't deeply thought about nor crafted a truly good standalone mobile-first app. Everything should and ought to be re-imagined for a mobile app: the editor, attachments, forum layout, the postbit, the menu navigation, and more.

2. Clients says they want a mobile app. What clients really want is a white label mobile app, which is not so easy. It requires an independent submission and developer profile on every store. If you barely take in enough money to cover your forum's cost, you're nowhere near the market for a white label app development.

3. The one clear benefit you get from a mobile app is push notifications. If iOS ever allows push notifications from websites, that benefit immediately goes away and the costs to develop a mobile app become a very expensive detour.

4. There are also some huge downsides from a mobile app. Just like with any software, it'll take multiple iterations and years before it reaches a level of polish that we expect and demand. You also lose all customization, all theming, all template changes, all add-ons. Forget about your custom latte coffee theme or your fun lottery arcade or even the donation system that you rely on. None of those will be there in the mobile app, which will necessarily be built to the lowest common denominator.
 
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