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SpotGuide WordPress Theme Review

My dad is not the most knowledgeable when it comes to computers. So when he wanted to start an online business he told me to start a directory for him and to get the basics up and running. As much as I like to say I’m great with computers, coding is still not a strong skill of mine so I went to Google and looked for a theme that would allow me to start a directory without having to worry about all the coding and databases. I came across this one theme that seemed to be great, it had great reviews and I was satisfied with it from the demo. We ended up buying it from ThemeForest. A few months down the line, we requested a refund as the support was horrible and the theme did nothing that we wanted our site to do. Another search, this time a proper one, and I came across SpotGuide, created by CodeVisionThemes. I instantly fell in love with its appearance and a couple of hours of proper experience of it through the demo and I knew that it was exactly what we wanted.

The theme has been developed very well in my opinion. There are a few issues that I’ve come across which I will highlight later on but apart from those it has been an excellent directory theme to start my dad’s business with.

Like most WordPress themes, the settings for the theme are all located in the Customizer section of the admin control panel. It allows you to do various things from choosing the main colour (from some out of the box choices or a custom one) to choosing what types of listings your users can add to the directory. This theme lets you customise every aspect of it and allows you to make it as unique as you want it to be. Of course no matter what colour schemes you use and no matter how your actual pages are laid out, your website will always be the exact same in terms of style to other directories that are using this theme. That is the one biggest issue with buying premium themes. From the statistics on the developers account, I would presume that there are around 200 other directories with the same style as ours.

The biggest benefit of SpotGuide is that it’s ready to be deployed out of the box. All you have to do is upload the theme to your WordPress installation, import the demo content and edit it to suit your business and you’re done. That is all that needs to be done in addition to adding your PayPal information to the system so that the payments are sent to you.

The thing I love about this particular theme is how well everything looks. With most websites going with flat/material looks nowadays, it is great to see that the theme has got some material design inspiration. The one thing that does bug me is how light the theme is (visually). Browsing through the different pages, sometimes content can be difficult to see and the actual pages seem to be way too bright. That may just be me though, I’ve always preferred dark themes and styles.

The front-end submission system for users is extremely easy to use and has been designed well. It has been split into eight different parts including banner, video, social etc. Unlike other themes that I have seen on ThemeForest, SpotGuide has the option of allowing users to see how many views a certain listing has. This is a massive feature that other directory themes simply do not have and it’s weird because it’s a vital function if you think about it. Is it not important that directory sites are able to offer their users statistics on how much exposure their directory listing is getting? Another feature that I found was lacking in other directory themes was blocking certain parts of the submission system to non-paying users. And guess what? SpotGuide has that. SpotGuide allows you to setup the directory so that non-paying users cannot add their contact details, opening hours etc.

Unfortunately, certain big plugins have not been made compatible with this theme. One example is bbPress. Installing and activating bbPress is fine but there are some asthetic issues and errors which can make the site look a bit unprofessional. When I reported this to the developer they were not much help and I ended up having to go over the WordPress Plugins directory to find an alternative to bbPress which thankfully I did in the end. Another issue I had with SpotGuide was the occassional errors caused by, according to the developer, by server. When I attempted to add a listing through the front-end, it would just re-direct me back to the first page where I would choose the type of listing I wanted. It was forever stuck in a loop. And once again the developers did not bother trying to look into the issue but rather went ahead and blamed by servers not being good enough. I am yet to change hosts to find out what the cause of the issue is but hopefully they are correct and it is my servers that are the issue.

SpotGuide is not the solution if you’re looking to start a directory that you expect to get millions of users. Even though the developers of the theme are always looking at improving the theme and bringing in new features, it may never be exactly what you want. If you’re looking at starting a directory as a serious business venture then you would definitely be better off custom coding a directory or hiring a developer to create one for you. Although, if you’re just looking at starting a small project/business then SpotGuide may just be perfect for you. SpotGuide has to be the number one theme for anyone looking to start a small directory. The theme has been developed with care and every aspect is of the highest quality. And that is why it has an average rating of 4.71 out of 5 stars on ThemeForest.

MyBB Review: You Would Be Crazy Not To Use It!

I’ve used MyBB several times throughout my years of experience as a forum owner and I’ve never been disappointed with what it offers. Don’t get me wrong, it has a few issues ranging from its software to community, but out of all the forum software that I have had an some sort of experience with (as an administrator), it comes out on top easily.

Let’s get the first reason most people use MyBB out of the way. MyBB is an open source software therefore it is absolutely free. This is a forum software that can rival both XenForo and IPB easily, come out on top and still be offered for free for its millions of users. Of course this all depends on who you ask. There are several features that both XenForo & IPB have that I would love to come out of the box with MyBB such as notifications or the like system. However these are available as plugins on the MyBB Extensions site. But then you would expect such features to come out of the box for a software that will cost you $140. Spending $140 on MyBB could get you a forum with a unique look and unique features that no one else would have.

There is nothing complicated about using MyBB, either as a visitor or an administrator. The forum structure is basic yet exactly what is needed. Visitors will have no trouble finding exactly what they want, from the user control panel to replying to a new thread they have just read. Administrators and moderators need no experience at all as both the moderator control panel and admin control panel are extremely easy to navigate and use. Let’s start with the moderator CP – there might as well take it out. The only time I have ever had to go to the moderator CP is to read any reports submitted by the users. MyBB offers in post moderation which means that if you need to close, delete or move a thread/post it can all be done through the post. The admin CP, unlike other software (pointing at you phpBB) was easy to get around when I first began to use MyBB. Everything is broken into 6 categories: Home, Configuration, Forum & Posts, Users & Groups, Templates & Styles and Tools & Maintenance. This means that you know exactly where to go if you want to find something specific. One of the most important parts of a forum is of course the different categories and forums that house the various discussions. The developers at MyBB have done a great job with the “Forum & Posts” section of the ACP. Forum permissions can be confusing sometimes. Do I tick this box? Do I turn this setting on? The permissions feature has made it extremely easy – so easy that it is a simple drag and drop system. Drag this group here so that they cannot view the forum. Drag this group over here to ensure only they can start a new thread in this forum section. But it isn’t that basic. Experienced administrators can choose to set custom permissions which is more advanced.

But what about appearance? The theme of a forum can be the deciding factor for a member when deciding whether they want to join a forum or not. MyBB have again excelled at this part of the ACP. Importing a ready made theme is as simple as uploading a single file through the ACP and uploading some images or javascript files to the forum directory. Want to make that theme unique? MyBB contain in built editors so that you can add, remove or change any part of the themes coding easily to suit your needs. The templates have been split into several different parts from the postbit to the footer. This means that it is extremely easy to find a particular piece of coding that you want to remove or change.

Similarly to themes, plugins are easy to install on to a forum. Just upload a few files to the forum directory and activate the plugin through the forum. And that’s it. There are hundreds of plugins available for MyBB both on the official MyBB website and through other MyBB resource sites. Want to have a currency system? Then there is NewPoints. Want to have a betting system for NewPoints? A quick search on Google will give you a plugin for exactly that.

However, like most forum software there are some parts which need improvement. Although the available themes are great, there is a real lack of them for MyBB 1.8. The current themes all feel over used and if you want a completely unique theme then you will be required to hire a custom designer. You could visit a hundred MyBB forums and most likely you will see the same theme several times. Furthermore, although plugins can be extremely easy to install, they are an absolute pain to uninstall and remove completely. If you want to remove them completely, you will need to find each and every file throughout your forum directory and delete them. Or you can do what I do most of the time and just leave the files there to take up valuable space on your server. Spam is another real issue. The default CAPTCHA system is just not sufficient as bots will always end up getting past it. To stand a chance you will need to find a good anti-spam plugin.

My experience with phpBB a long time ago was short. I was, in the end, frustrated at how confusing it was* and that was what made me find MyBB. I am delighted that I found out about MyBB as if I hadn’t maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into forums. Maybe I wouldn’t have found out about Forum Promotion. There are a few cons of using MyBB but the advantages of using it heavily outweigh them, and that is why I recommend you to use MyBB.

* This is solely my opinion. This opinion is based on an experience a while ago and I’m sure phpBB have improved since then. This may not represent the phpBB experience now.

XenForo Review: A lot of Hype About Nothing

I just want to say this before hand: this is solely based on my experience for the most part (though some of the things listed below have also been echoed by other forum admins who have used, or still use XenForo as well). I know some XenForo fans get defensive and aren’t open to criticism of the software :)

Background: We’ve given XenForo 3 chances. Once in 2013, Once In 2014 and Once in 2015. So we have more than enough experience with it. Continue reading

Promotion Forums: Do They Really Help?

This article was first posted on our blog on 31/01/2011. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.

I’ve been a member of Forum Promotion for a little over a year now. I’ve used several of the services offered as well as the services that many other promotion sites offer. To help you decide which services may be useful to you, I decided to break down the pros and cons of each of the services I have used.

Almost all promotion sites use their own virtual currency that you can earn by posting/replying to topics. This currency can then be used to purchase different posting packages, reviews, and other promotion tools.


 

The “Basic Promotion” service is probably the most common service provided by promotion sites. On most promotion sites, this service doesn’t cost anything. You can simply create a thread that markets your website or forum and wait for results.

Pros of Advertising Services:

  • People will see your link
  • They’re usually free
  • The links can increase your page rank

Cons of Advertising Services:

  • Usually the only other people who look at these “Basic Promotion” boards are the ones who are there for the same reason as you are. It’s not very common for someone to look through these boards to find a forum to join.
  • Due to this service being free, there are many users taking advantage of it. This causes a long list of threads that can very quickly push yours to a second page which decreases the chances of your thread being noticed. Most promotion forums that offer this service will allow you to bump your thread, but you often have to wait twenty-four hours or more.

 

Posting packages are also commonly provided by promotion sites. Users who have accumulated a certain amount of a site’s virtual currency can apply for a package of their choice from a list provided by the “Package Team.”

Pros of Posting Packages:

  • They offer an easy way to increase your forum’s post count
  • They add one to three members to your member count
  • They make your forum appear more active

Cons of Posting Packages:

  • After the posting package is completed, the user that completed the package usually becomes inactive.
  • In some cases, users completing packages may make lower quality posts than you would like due to the large demand for the package service.
  • You may request a package to make certain boards on your forum active, but the members of the package team may not be knowledgeable about those specific areas. Thus, the package cannot be completed to your liking.

 

Reviews are a great way to get feedback on your website/forum. Most promotion sites have a review team that will log into your website, look through it, and let you know what they like or dislike about it.

Pros of Review Services:

  • They offer you quick feedback on your site layout, theme, and features
  • They give you an idea of what other people would like to see on your site/forum
  • They offer you a perspective from a person who is generally knowledgeable about forums

Cons of Review Services:

  • You’re given a pretty biased review. The feedback you’re getting is from one or two people and they grade you based on their own personal opinions
  • To get an accurate review, I would recommend asking your own users what they want to see in the site/forum

 

These are the services that I have used so far. I just recently launched my own website and forum, so I will be looking into the other services that FP and other promotion sites provide. I will give my pros and cons for these in a later blog entry. My general opinion of promotion sites is that they aren’t as effective as we might think they are. However, it is possible that different users with different sites may have different results.