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XenForo vs. IPB/IPS What's your honest opinion?

Discussion in 'XenForo Pre-Sales Questions' started by Tigratrus, Feb 7, 2011.

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  1. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    I'll preface this by saying that Susan and I have been actively evaluating new platforms for about a year. We've been developing/extending our community solution (currently vB 3.8 + WP/Joomla! and PHPMyDirectory) for about 5-6 years. Our community is how we make a living. It pays our mortgage and all our bills, so it's both a business AND a labor of love.

    I've tried very hard to give an honest comparison of the two systems based on our experience. Susan and I would very much appreciate hearing what others think from *their* experience and perspective.

    Obviously vB 4 is not even vaguely in the running. This isn't an emotional decision it's based on hard cold facts about the platform, it's resource consumption, it's likely future, and how freaking impossible it is to work with if you want to modify/extend it.

    Our take, based on working with both systems for about a month, popping for a "Hosted Community" with the full IPS Suite loaded on it (if you get the "Plus 40" for $29.99/month and pay $5/month more you can get the entire package including IP.Content and IP.Nexus) is:


    Benefits of IPS:
    1. IPS is a very mature system with a LOT of capability. The development pace is rapid, and they have come a long way from a year or two ago. The have importers, and seem to provide excellent service on tickets, the forum based help is spotty, but as long as tickets work that's fine with me.
    2. IP.Nexus is a real gem, seriously impressive what you can do with an integrated ecommerce solution, next version has ala cart ad sales, even the ability to use as the front end for hosting reselling. Awesome stuff.
    3. The mobile skin and built in iphone app are definite benefits.
    4. The IP.Content article system being able to promote from forum topic to an article and fully integrate the comments and topic replies is a major plus.
    5. They have a great search system that is fully integrated across the whole system (except for only searching a single IP.Content database at a time) as well as excellent support for Sphinx.
    6. Their gallery is getting a major upgrade, though it lacks meaningful integration with the rest of the system. It's very nice, and works well with the mobile skin/app.
    Downsides to IPS:
    1. The 3rd part dev community is very VERY thin. The core products change so frequently, and break skins/mods with incredible rapidity. The end of last year IPS was releasing a major upgrade to one of their apps EVERY WEEK! That has driven a tremendous # of the Mod and skin developers away from the IPS platform simply because they can't afford to be updating everything they do so often. There are currently a LOT more mods for XF already built, than there are 3rd party mods that work with the current version of IPS.
    2. The IPS platform (while it makes vB 4 look like stone tablets and chisels) is somewhat dated, and despite all it's technical capability, feels clunky to me personally. There are a lot of inconsistencies between apps, and the CSS is really hard to work with.
    3. The promise of IP.Content is largely unfulfilled as it's very awkward to deal with. The documentation is quite lacking, and it's flat out hard to work with.
    In short: If you like the stock IPS system out of the box you will probably love IPS and it's what you should go with, it's a great product. But if you want to extend it in any significant ways to meet your communities specific needs, you are likely to be fighting an uphill battle and a rough time finding someone to help you with the development, and a rougher time maintaining your customizations. Same for styling, if you don't like the stock skin or a fairly simple variation based on the stock skin, you CAN find some custom skin devs, but they are expensive and maintenance will be a major problem with every app release requiring significant work to maintain the skin multiple times a year. IPS has some very technically capable solutions. IMO They need a better UI designer (little inconsistencies like things not being exactly aligned and the CSS being hard to work with).


    Benefits of XF:

    1. XF is FUN. Seems shallow, but using XenForo is a very engaging experience. The #1 goal for a forum (IMO) is to reward people for their efforts. They need to feel appreciated by their peers, they need a sense of affirmation. XF does that better than any system out there, hands down. In my opinion, this is a crucial thing, hard to achieve and absolutely priceless for a community builder.
    2. The community. The XF 3rd party dev community is bursting with energy and people getting mods built. XF is built from the ground up to be modification and styling friendly, that that's a benefit that will draw the modification community in droves..
    3. As XF has been built from the ground up with a fully modern design with a single, well architected CSS styling plan in place, it's very easy to customize the look/feel of the forum. The ability to put virtually ALL your styling changes in a single extra.css file means that XF upgrades have very VERY little impact on custom styles.
    4. Once you get below the surface of the ACP and look at the templating system, you quickly find just HOW powerful the system is. It's designed so that you can take any part of the system and extend it (both templates AND code) without modifying (hacking) the original. Again, that will make it a lot easier for mod developers to maintain their mods ad XF upgrades.
    5. XF is built as a platform like IPS. Kier and Mike have said from the beginning that they will will building a CMS, Gallery etc. Based on the best of breed nature of the Forum component, I have a high confidence level that those components will also be innovative and best of class. Looking at how fast their development cycle is, and how fast they built the whole platform AND the Forum component on top of that platform, I'm willing to bet that other parts of the platform will be available much faster than many people think.
    6. The SEO is superb out of the box, the fully semantic markup is the best we've seen.
    Downsides to XF:

    1. It's new. As it's not *quite* gold release (though I feel sure that it will be very shortly:)), a lot of Devs are waiting until they have final code in their hands before putting out their mods.
    2. There is a degree on uncertainty regarding the future of XF based on the legal disputes with IB. Personally, after reading the pertinent documents, I think IB is clearly gaming the legal system in an attempt to bleed XF dry before they really get rolling. I think they will fail, but it's a legitimate concern that must be considered as a person who has a BUSINESS building and running a community (as you and Susan and myself do).
    3. XF as a platform is nowhere *near* as comprehensive in functionality as IPS, nor do they have the corporate resources that Invision Power Systems has.
    4. Migrating a complex community to XF is currently going to be a somewhat complex, phased process. To start the process requires a level of faith in the platform and it's future development that many will be uncomfortable with.

    After working with our IPS installation for a couple weeks, getting a feel for what's involved in making it what we want for our community, we came back to take another good hard look at XF. Honestly, I wish it was an easier decision, IPS is a GOOD system, with a ton of capability (esp IP.Nexus if you are selling ads and or any memberships or tangible/digital goods).

    In two days we made more progress in XF than we had in 1-2 weeks in IPS. If *we* can do things that much faster, a real developer will be able to give us *far* more bang for our buck, IMO.

    At the end of the evaluation we asked ourselves 2 questions:

    1. Would you regret going with the other platform later?
      1. If we went with IPS: Yes. We'd always wonder how much better the community would have grown on XF.
      2. If we went with XF: We'd miss the capability of IP.Nexus most. But we built more with XF pages in 1 day than we did with IP.Content in a week.
    2. Which do you think will encourage community participation more?
      1. XF. Hands down. IPS relies too much on blocks to "integrate" things. Likes/Alerts system >> Rep.
    As a final reality check we chatted with a developer that's a good friend of ours that both runs his own vB forum and is looking to move. He said that he's looking at XF, and is very excited by the platform. He's never looked at IPS though so that's not a comparison, just an opinion on the XF side.

    What it comes down to is both are good systems. VERY good systems. Both make vB 4 look like stone tablets and chisels. But we've been doing this for 5-6 years now, and we've learned that a modern system, built right from the start is a better fit for us. We never... NEVER seem to be able to use an out of the box system, we always push the envelope. For us, that makes IPS less of a good fit than XF.

    What about others looking at the same choice? What have you found?
    Farook, Miner, Non Guru and 15 others like this.
  2. Dean

    Dean Well-Known Member

    I also rented a hosted community for months until xf.com opened up, and bought all products available in April 2010. Could never understand the UI of ipb. My understanding is that they will re-visit several aspects of the UI soon - 3.3? Rather than mentioning details, why don't you ask yourself how easy and reliable ipb is to navigate.

    I've visited a few ipb 2.3 powered sites, they work well enough, but not the newer ones (to me).
    Jamie and Umit like this.
  3. Markos

    Markos Well-Known Member

    IPB is more complete (robust forum platform, often upgraded, etc.) and has the great advantage to have a full suite of addons that cover the major needs (cms, gallery, shop, blog etc.).

    Xenforo is more modern, very social and has a very receptive developer community. But now is immature to do a true paragon between this platform...we have to wait a year...or two...to see a XF full suite.
  4. Kim

    Kim Well-Known Member

    Couldn't agree with you more James, that is spot on ime.

    I am one of those Skinners who after 7 years had to walk away from IPB due to the upgrade insanity. I still get enquiries daily, it is nigh on impossible for people to get a good Custom Skinner to do a skin for IPB, and those skinners that are still doing them, are so fully booked it can be months and months or even as long as a year, then there is the upgrades that come thick and fast, not just to the base forum, but to all the components too.

    IPB is very good software, I would still recommend it to those who need all it does... but you just can't get past the slick, clean, modern FUN of XenForo, and for me there is no going back!!!!
    hellreturn, Sava Victor and Umit like this.
  5. ragtek

    ragtek Guest

    Tigatrus, i can understand you.
    We have the same problems...:(

    Since yesterday, we don't know what to do.

    We have ~20 boards (ipb,vb,mybb).
    I want to move them all to 1 software, to make add-on development, management,etc... easier, faster and cheaper.

    vB4=> NO WAY

    XF =>it's too young, too many features are missing, there's no roadmap, nobody knows what features will come in the next version, so we can't plan anything for the future... I can't spend my freetime coding add-ons which i'll never use, because they were quitly included in the next xf rc version!

    also i'm extremly scared because of the lawsuite...
    Until yesterday, we wanted to switch 2 boards ASAP to xf, now i stopped all the development & planing for our move. (that doesn't mean that my released add-ons will be unsupported)
    Lets see what's happening here in 1/2 year, but ATM it's nothing for us, without investing too much time/money:(
    IMHO we wanted to move to quickly to xf, that was a big mistake.

    IPB3 => as i saw that vB4 will never be, what IB promised us, we got some ipb licences and played around..
    But we decited to stay with vB because we hadn't the time/money to port all our add-ons to ipb, and to help IB as much as possible (Just check how many bug reports with fixes i reported^^), but they still don't know what the're doing so i had to move away.

    Personally i still don't like the UI of IPB3, but the Framework is very modern and they have great official add-ons, there announcements in the blog are great and they have no lawsuite in there back...
    That's why i'll spend the next months on there community to see if ipb3 is something for our boards.
    Paul likes this.
  6. majdi

    majdi Well-Known Member

    my first advice to you: your forum is your business, you are paying a mortgage thanks to it, dont change it, yet.
    IPB is a nice script with a LOT of makeup. when it comes to what a real forum is about it fails, big time. The UI is complicated, its not easy to use, take a look at the member control panel and you'll understand.
    its SEO is very bad, after migrating to it my search engine traffic dropped by at least 60% in the first weeks and after 6 months now its still 30% below my old script traffic.
    IPS team don't take criticism very well, try posting a bad thing in their forum and you will see yourself, however if you post a "IPB is awesome thread" you will get at least 3 posts from the team!

    now to XF: its an awesome script with a very bright future (except for the IB trial thing) however as you said it is still young, it lacks converters for example. anyway starting v1.1 which according to Kier shouldn't take long to release, i wouldn't hesitate to buy it as long as there is an IPB converter.

    there is another alternative but it is not very known and it is called wbb: woltlab burning board: it is a mature script, very powerful plugin system and seo. i wont list all its benefits as it is always better to try yourself, since you've been doing it for the last year, evaluation wbb wouldn't take too long. it is the real competitor to xf. its downside is: its a german script: english support is limited.
    i used wbb before ipb and i regret the day i decided to change.

    you might wonder why did i change? because of the misleading stuff i read about ipb, how awesome it is and because when testing it i couldnt find how much it lacks on the SEO.

    finally excuse me for any spelling or grammar errors, english isn't my mother tongue nor my second language, it comes in the third place :)
    baloo and AzzidReign like this.
  7. ragtek

    ragtek Guest

    no way, we're waiting since years for something NEW,why should i spend now time/ money for new add-ons coding for mybb & vb when i know, that i will switch?
    it's imho better to switch AS SOON AS POSSIBLE because it's cheaper.

    WBB: http://community.woltlab.com/forum/user/26001-ragtek/ ;) but i don't like it, i sold already the license..

    mine too^^
    Vodkaholic likes this.
  8. Floris

    Floris Guest

    Honest opinion: I find it irritating to participate on IPB powered sites, always have, and unless dramatic modern changes happen with IPB4, always will. I doubt I will ever run a site powered by IPB.

    In my opinion IPB is only in the top5 list, because there's no other commercial bbs for consumers that fills up a top5 to compete with.
    Stormraven and kyrgyz like this.
  9. hellreturn

    hellreturn Active Member

    1. IPB URL: http://community.invisionpower.com/...ow-far-gallery-4-misses-the-mark/page__st__40
    Xenforo URL: http://xenforo.com/community/threads/xenforo-overview.567/page-5

    Xenforo URL structure wins anytime.

    2. Moding community at IPB charges high prices. I have seen many mod's in the range of 25-50$. If you have extra $$ in pocket after buying license, sure feel free to spend money.

    3. No way to short posts/topic based on replies, views, etc.

    4. IP.Content is not for users who don't know much about html, css, php, etc. It requires heavy coding on user side to make it nice website. If you are happy with stock skin then it's good for you.

    5. IP.Blogs and Gallery 4 doesn't look good IMO. All you see is bunch of blocks surrounded by white space.

    6. RSS feeds of IPB is horrible if you have many categories/section on forums. Yes, I use RSS feeds in outlook so it's much useful feature for me.

    7. IPB 'View New Content' doesn't work as it should. It's core function of any forums and if it doesn't work right through 4 point releases then....

    8. Watched threads function on Xenforo is very nice.

    9. I like how I can see which of my content is liked by others, using 'likes received'. Sure, IPB as reputation system on forums but it's useless. It's just +1 or -1 and does nothing else.

    10. I like the news feed and conversation features on Xenforo. They are pretty much helpful when i am following someone or to see my topics.

    I personally can notice the speed difference in page loading.

    The main thing I like in Xenforo is most of the things happens right in the middle of screen. Example: Hit 'report' this post here and on IPB and you will know what I am saying.

    If any admins just want to run forums, then I would say Xenforo is good choice looking at present scenario. I will be buying Xenforo when final version is released for my new upcoming forums.

    IP.Downloads, Gallery, Blogs, Nexus, Tracker, etc keeps IPB in market. If you compare just IPB forums vs Xenforo forums, as an user, I would say I like Xenforo. Off course all above is my personal opinion.
    jeep123, Jamie, Zenbaku and 2 others like this.
  10. Carl

    Carl Well-Known Member

  11. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member

    I "like" the choice of my Gallery thread from over on IPS ;)

    I pretty much agree with a lot of what you said, though if you read about the changes they are implementing in the "Likes" system for IPS platform wide you can see that it's likely to be a lot more useful than the "Rep" system they have now.

    I have great respect for Matt and many of the devs over there, Matt in particular dealt quite well with constructive criticism on that very thread.

    I STRONGLY agree with the fact that IPS seems to rely too much on on "Blocks" as a solution for "Integration" between disparate elements of the IPS platform. Blocks != Integration IMO. They are more like inter-app advertising, and do virtually nothing to develop a gestalt.

    Blocks == Fail IMO for integration, they are NOT in the center content space, and they only hold "Most recent/Most popular/Top 3" kinds of things. Not terribly useful. Not terribly engaging. Better than nothing, but so is a black and white 80 column display monitor. ;) IP.Gallery does NOT make IP.B a better tool for communication. Neither does it help IP.Blog.

    The thing that makes Blogging on IP.Blog, or hosting your images in IP.Gallery compelling should be that there is some SYNERGY between Blogs, Gallery and Forums. That you have benefits in how you use those images, or the ability to leverage your Blog entries to enhance your ability to communicate things in the forums (and gain recognition/approbation from your peers). And the reverse is largely true, the Forums don't interact with Gallery and Blog to bring visibility to blog entries and/or images/albums. If there's no particular advantage to hosting your images in IP.Gallery, or chronically your project progress in IP.Blog, then why would wouldn't you simply host your images on Flicker, and your blog on Wordpress.com or Blogger?

    What an integrated platform brings to the table that should make a difference is the fact that it's INTEGRATED.

    Blog entries are seen and commented on directly in the forums. Gallery images are uploaded INTO the galleries and then used IN the forums. Those same images are available to be reused in a Blog post, which gains visibility because it's associated with both those images/albums and the discussion in the forums.

    It should all be intertwined and interacting to provide a community experience that is greater than any single functional component could provide on it's own. A Gestalt. THAT should be the goal of an integrated community platform in my opinion.

    Nobody has really gotten that even vaguely right yet, and Kier and Mike have the best chance IMO of finally GETTING IT RIGHT. They've got the modern, object oriented, extensible platform to make it happen. They've got the experience of not just know what works, but of seeing what went horribly wrong in vBlog and vB's "Social Groups" I have hope that with the superb insight they have shown into the user experience thus far, that the XF platform may finally be the fully integrated solution that community sites have been waiting for for soooooo long.

    Sorry about that. I seem to have trouble making short posts.

    :: sheepishly returns soapbox to it's storage cubby :: [​IMG]
    Alien and GofD like this.
  12. 3dsoft

    3dsoft Active Member

    At this current state, IPB ist the best forum out there because it offers a full featured package with user blogs and a modern gallery. After the switch from vBulletin 3.8 to IPB my users needed some time to find their way around. Now, they say that the switch was a great improvement. The only bad part was that google didn't like IPB as much as our users and our traffic dropped by 40% which never bounced back.

    Xenforo will stay on my watchlist because it looks promising and I might switch again when blogs & albums are being added. This will not happen within the next year but maybe at some point later.
  13. GofD

    GofD Well-Known Member

    OUCH! Thanks for sharing your honest opinion. I agree that IPB is a fully featured package, but it does lack the TRUE integration we want, and the dev community is somewhat lacking. :(
  14. glorify

    glorify Well-Known Member

    My switch to IPB from vb 3.8 killed my visits from guests and registereds and hasn't recovered either. Can't wait to be IPB free.
    Tigratrus and majdi like this.
  15. Xarcell

    Xarcell Well-Known Member

    IPB more stable, full suite.

    xF, more fun & promising and search engine friendly. Some say xF will take some time to mature, but I think at the rate the Mike, Kier, and Ashley are going, it may be sooner than you think.
    Leo Koo and Kim like this.
  16. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Well-Known Member

    WHich version of IPB did you move to?
  17. glorify

    glorify Well-Known Member


    Running 3.1.2 and not going to update... That was the worst $250 for 6 months I ever spent.
  18. Tigratrus

    Tigratrus Well-Known Member


    That's really scary given that I remember seeing your site when we first started evaluating IPB, and I remember thinking it was one of the best implementations I'd seen. Ditchmonkey's site was the best use of IP>content, but your homepage and general skin implementation was excellent.

    Thank you very much for sharing. There seems to be a disturbing pattern in traffic drop off when going from vB -> IPB.

    I'm assuming you did all the redirects etc as part of the migration?
    glorify likes this.
  19. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    IPB isn't the way to go ...
    Xenforo + Wordpress is a much better idea.
    fattony69 likes this.
  20. glorify

    glorify Well-Known Member

    Yes, but forum traffic was a huge indicator on how well I was doing. Worst it has been in a very, very, very long time. It was a bummer.
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