Category Archives: Programming & Design

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.

Websites & Forums: Good First Impressions

First impressions are one of the most underestimated parts of starting a successful forum or website. A first impression is what a viewer immediately thinks about your site at first glace. If a viewer receives a negative first impression, they unfortunately will probably leave your forum or website and it will be difficult to bring them back. There are three very important key points Continue reading

The Importance of Design

What is design?

We all perceive design differently. For some, it might be lots of whitespace and less content, while others like bright colours. When you play webmaster, you have to make sure that your forum has the best possible design possible, because it is the first impression your user has of the forum. Sure, activity is important too, but the first thing the user notices is how does the forum, or in fact, any website looks? Is it too bright? Is the colour scheme conflicting, or do all the colours ‘go’ with each other? How easy it is, to use the forum?

Notice that I highlighted the last question – How easy it is, to use the forum? But we’ll get back to that in a minute, first let us define design. It can be agreed upon that the real definition of design is ambiguous, with many conflicting definitions. Let us attempt to lay down our own definition of design, one that we can use for the remainder of the article with no ambiguity. We know that if something is well designed, then it is called beautiful, or pretty, or aesthetically pleasing or any of the synonyms of the words. This is perhaps one aspect of design that is universally agreed upon, but there is another aspect of design that is rarely touched upon. One that you won’t find in any run of the mill book or blog, but is discussed on only the best. If you ever got serious about design, you probably know it – this aspect in general terms is called solving problems.

Shocked? You better be. Design is not just about making your website aesthetically pleasing. It is about solving problems. Where should the username box go? What should be the size of the header? How many posts must I display before implementing pagination? Taking all of these into account, we can perhaps term design as beautiful solutions.

Most of these solutions, most of the questions have already been answered by the developer of your forum. But usability and good design is not on their priority list. They are under a lot of pressure to ship the best possible product in the least possible time and this pressure often means that good design is sacrificed. You might have an aesthetically pleasing forum, but that does not mean that it is good design, because it might only be barely usable. This is where you, the committed and determined web master come into the picture.

While the developers of your forum are under the pressure of the community to continuously keep fixing bugs and rolling out new and new features all while handling support requests etc. you are under no such pressure. The only pressure you have is to keep the forum active and this is good – because that pressure encourages you to do the best you can do to improve your forum, and one of the best things you can do to your forum is learn how to design. No, you don’t have to be able to make awesome themes like the ones popular designers like envira or Audentio make. No. But you certainly must develop that eye for good design, which will take you a long way, especially when you are choosing a theme for your forum. But more than that, you want to be able to customize the forum to the best of your ability – perhaps you would like to remove the captcha, which annoys many people, and implement better anti-spam measures such as a simple addition or a simple question which does not require a lot of thinking (I am strictly against having the user count the number of letters in a word also, because it is too time consuming and there’s always the possibility of an error). You might want to implement features such as a popup login and register box, and you will be able to do it yourself, like how YOU imagined it, without having to rely on an external designer whom you’ll most likely have to pay.

And that is not all! Design exists all around you – it exists in nature and in all the buildings that surround you. Learning design allows you to perceive all of this in a different and more beautiful way. Believe me, just do it. Take the jump. You will not regret it.

Website Planning

Website Planning

Ask yourself the following question: “What goes into creating a website?” The correct answer to this question is planning. When creating a website, you need:

  • A topic
  • A purpose
  • Goals
  • Multiple Webpages
  • Content
  • Layout
  • Design

The above list is part of the planning process when it comes to creating a website. In this article, I’ll discuss the various aspects of website planning. Each step of the plan is essential to creating your own websites; whether it’s a personal website, business website, fan website, etc.

TOPIC, PURPOSE AND GOALS

You may think that the topic, purpose and goals of a website are the same thing. When I first started designing websites, I thought so too. However, that is not the case. The topic, purpose and goals of a website are all different things and they each play their own role in the website planning process.

TOPIC

The topic of a website is what the website is about. For example; if you create a website related to the many different Apple products that Apple offers, then the topic of your website will be Apple products.

PURPOSE

The purpose of a website is why the website is being created. Going back to the website about Apple products, the purpose of the website could be a couple of different things:

  1. Selling or exchanging of Apple products.
  2. Providing information to the general public about some of the best Apple products.

GOALS

Goals are objectives that you want your website to reach for you. For example; the Apple product website, dealing with the selling and exchanging of Apple products, might have the following goals:

  • Increase monthly sales by 10%.
  • Increase customer base by 5% by the end of 2015.
  • Promotions will increase the amount of traffic to the website.

Goals usually consist of at least three objectives. The first goal should be the hardest to reach and the last should be the easiest.

TARGET AUDIENCE

Though a target audience was not introduced as part of the planning process, it is very important. The target audience is the people you are trying to reach with your website. For example; the website about Apple products may try to reach out to people who like Apple products. The age range of the target audience might be 13 years old to 50 years old.

It’s important to keep the target audience in mind when you create any website. If you were to create a website for children, you would want the website to be colorful and interactive as that would make the website more enjoyable for children.

WEBPAGES

When creating a website, you need to create multiple webpages. All websites should include ALL of the following pages:

  • Home – The home page usually consists of various different things such as articles and images that link to other parts or pages of the website.
  • About – The about page usually consists of information about an individual, company, product, etc., depending on the website’s topic and purpose.
  • Contact – The contact page usually consists of: contact form and or contact information such as an email address, address, phone number, and or links to various social media accounts associated with a specific person, company, or product. (This information will vary depending on the type of website and its purpose).

CONTENT

Content creation is an important part of the website planning process. Content includes text, images, audio, video, etc. When creating a website, it’s a good idea to plan your content. You need to know what you want to say and to whom (your target audience). You’ll want to pick out any pictures, video, and audio files you will want displayed on your website and pages. If you are going to have videos, make sure you pre-record them so they are ready when it’s time to add your content.

LAYOUT AND DESIGN

The layout and design work together to create the look and feel of your website. The easiest way to achieve a look you want is to sketch it out. You can create a sketch by hand, or by using various design programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Paint, Paint Shop Pro, and others. You may choose that you want all of your pages to look the same; you may want them to look different. HTML and CSS are one of the many ways people design the look and feel of their website.

 

How Design Matters

Forum communities are a bastion of discussion and interaction between anonymous users. Often times we see forums that have overlooked or entirely ignored one of the major points of success they could be capitalizing on. I am of course talking about design. Design is what sets your community apart from other communities, creates a welcome mat for guests, and what keeps your members engaged with the overall appearance of the board. It goes a lot farther than just making your community look nice. Design embraces an age old psychology that people have seized and marketed upon for centuries. This article is going to highlight why design should matter to you and why it should not be something to sweep under the rug when setting up (or maintaining) your community.

1. Design Sets the Mood and the Future

Have you ever walked into a restaurant and noticed that there are decorations and other items meant to welcome you? You find yourself thinking that the restaurant is nice, welcoming, and probably a place you will return to. You consider all of this before even sitting down or engaging in the service. A forum community, believe it or not, is the exact same. When a guest searches for a particular topic and comes across your community, the first thing he is going to see is your design. He is going to consider how it’s different from other communities, if it’s visually appealing to his tastes, and whether or not style variety is offered for selection if the design is unsuitable. As easy as it is to consider the design as your welcome mat it’s more accurate to call it your business card. It is the first and foremost referral to your community. A well designed community is already one step ahead of others.

2. Design Shows Administrator Dedication

Once a guest makes the transformation from unrecognizable lurker to active member the very first thing they guage is activity on the forum and the reception they receive. Next the user will start to notice staff members, their activity, and how they conduct themselves. A staff member is a role above the average user after all. The Administrator’s primary job is to direct, lead, and otherwise continue improving the community for the good of the members who enter it. A well designed forum with activity shows dedication on part of the administrator. Whether the Administrator took the time or paid out of pocket for a unique style sets him apart from administrators who stick to a basic or default forum style. It shows that the administrator is not lazy, does care for the community, and sets a precedent that the staff will continue to maintain and improve upon the community’s successes. Even a well designed empty forum still outmatches a poorly designed empty forum, as users are more likely to give the well designed forum a chance.

3. Design Prompts Community Ownership and Responsibility

When a forum changes looks, the first thing an administrator often does is post a feedback thread. How does the theme look? How can we improve upon it? What is wrong with it? Each reply to the thread constitutes further user interaction in the internal matters of the forum. After a period of time the user feel responsible for certain aspects of the forum and may even feel a sense of ownership in some of the community successes. This is how one gets users who self moderate or actively report rule violations as well. A community that cares for it’s survival, existence, and visual impact is a community that will withstand time and challenge. It is a community that will help each other out in thick or thin and can even become pseudo staff members themselves. The design lays the foundation of the community and prompts users to take personal interest in the community.

In conclusion the reader should now understand the virtues, importance, and reasons behind and for a proper and unique forum style. Design is much more than appearance and goes straight to the psychological level of how we as users pick and choose the communities we join. It sticks to our personality and shows us for who we are as a staff. It aids and guides the forum community to success. If you want to succeed understand that you must embrace all aspects of administration – not just the glorious ones. Underestimating design could cost a webmaster his or her success.

Making your Theme Shine Part 1: Customizing the Header

Most people do not have the time or funds to have a custom theme designed for their forum. Working with a designer is a long and expensive process, filled with revisions, errors, and a lot of waiting. A theme has to be designed from scratch, coded, and finally debugged to make sure that everything works. This process is important for large websites which can afford it, but for small ones which are just starting out, there is an easier way which can be just as effective. Continue reading

Internet Security – What You Didn’t Know!

This article was first posted on our blog on 28/01/2011. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.


We’ve all heard about viruses or been hit by one. It’s never a pleasant experience no matter how big or small it is. That being said, what different kinds of viruses are there, and how can we protect our vital information from being stolen?

For several years now, I’ve been a programmer. Be it PHP, C++ or Python, I’ve at least basked in it’s glory; when it comes to malicious code, I’m the expert.
There are several types of virus from which you want to protect yourself, and if you’re a bit lazy like I am, you may want to install an AV (anti-virus) that does the job for you.

Botnets

A botnet is not a virus that you want to be handling. They infect your PC silently and allow the person who deployed it to control your PC at any given moment. Some can even turn your computer on in the middle of the night across the internet and access your files whilst you’re asleep if you’ve got a WEP/WPA/WPA2 key saved on your local drive. This is common amongst hackers since many of them are actually scared of being caught despite their reputation for bragging.
There are many ways of defending against botnets; one simple way is not to store internet keys locally. That being said, it’s my strong suggestion that you keep a physical copy of your internet key (if applicable) and type it in whenever you turn the PC on.
In addition to this, you may want to install an anti-virus to protect yourself. Please see the links at the bottom of this post.

What damage can a botnet do?

Good question! A botnet is a dangerous virus that allows the user to control your PC, so technically, the botnet doesn’t do any harm at all. It just sits in your C:/ drive and waits to be told what to do. The user himself dictates what it will do which can include copying your files to a remote server, logging your keystrokes, watching what you do, or just playing around on your PC to annoy you!

Info Stealers

These are sneaky little buggers that will rob you of everything you have. They bind themselves to files and then are ran by the victim. They generally look like genuine files, such as installers for MSN or Skype, and they collect all of the cookies and passwords stored on your PC and send them to a remote server.
These files are then analyzed by the person who sent out the virus, and your info is then unsafe!

How can I defend myself against these?

Luckily, info stealers are highly detected. Many AVs are updated automatically, and the new viruses are added to their databases, so if you have an anti-virus, you don’t really have any reason to worry.
However, if they crypt the file, there is cause for alarm. This means that the code inside that is detected by the anti-virus is now scrambled and not necessarily detectable. The only real way around this is to run it through Sandboxie. Of course, trusted software such as Microsoft products from official sites is safe, but for anything you might be cautious about, use Sandboxie.

What is Sandboxie?

Sandboxie essentially creates a new drive within your C:/. By doing this, all of your files that contain any information are separate, and safe. If a program contains a virus and it is run within a Sandboxie environment, it can only hunt the files within the Sandboxie “S:/” drive, thus preserving your info!
Links:
AVG Free: http://free.avg.com/gb-en/homepage

This antivirus is brilliant if you want a free but effective one. I wouldn’t suggest buying it; there are much more powerful ones for only a fraction more.

[b]Kaspersky (30 Day Trials): http://www.kaspersky.co.uk/trials
Kaspersky (Paid): http://www.kaspersky.co.uk/store

Sandboxie (Free!): http://www.sandboxie.com/

Interview with Adrian @ Internet Brands

This article was first posted on our blog on 07/10/2010. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.


We’re very excited to announce Adrian Harris who works for Intenet Brands as Senior Operations Manager – Internet Brands is the company which owns vBulletin, the most widely used forum software on the Internet. We asked him a few questions. This is the third in the series of interviews with commercial forum software developers, check out our interviews with Kier Darby and Matt Mecham too.

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule for us Adrian. Here is the interview,

So firstly – what’s up? Give us a quick bio.
It’s all up =D

I am 26, single, I like good food, motorcycles, the outdoors, people… it is starting to sound like an eharmony profile!

In all seriousness, I stumbled into forums about 6 years ago when I was researching an issue when I worked at Ford Motor Company (I was able to find an answer quicker on a forum, than I could from our engineers!). I kind of got hooked on the “community” and continued to participate, and interacted with some great people. I eventually was made a moderator, then a “super” moderator, and then an admin of the site. I met some great people, and loved the community (still do!), and in late 2007 the forum was purchased by Internet Brands.[more] I was fortunate enough to be offered a position in early 2008 to oversee all of Internet Brands auto communities… given it involved a move to the other side of the world (I was working in Melbourne, Australia at the time), and it would be a big jump from being an engineer, I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but thought I would jump at the opportunity. Fortunately that opportunity has worked out really well, and now I get to interact with over 70,000 great communities, not just 1!

How is life over at Internet Brands?
Its good – it is a relaxed, but focused environment. I don’t think I have worked in a place before where people are so passionate about what they do, nor a place that is so “fast-paced”.

We have stupid Friday shirt competitions (see below), but ultimately we are all here for a common goal, and as enjoyable as the job may be, we try not to let that get in the way of getting our job done.

Image

What do you see in the future for vBulletin – what can we look forward to in vBulletin 5?
Well the forum “space” is evolving, we need to with it – I don’t want to get into specific features, but in general things that we feel will be important with vB5

  • Interacting with other social spaces in a much improved fashion
  • Enable interaction in a more social and rewarding fashion

Will vBulletin 5 be a complete rewrite? When can we expect to see it?
vB5 will not be a “complete rewrite” per se, a significant portion of the code will be refactored, however, there will be aspects of vB4 that will carry over. As for timing, that is completely unconfirmed.

Do you accept that mistakes were made with vBulletin 4? What will you do to make it up to your customers for these mistakes?
Could the release of vBulletin 4 gone better? Sure. Could our product be better today? Sure. I think it is fair to say that all software could be improved upon.

It is also fair to say that there has been a lot of commentary about vB4. Our obligation to our customers is to continue to build on vBulletin 4 and provide the best product we can. We have a number of features we have planned for vB 4 which we have shared with our customers here: http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthre … in-Part-II

We are also providing bug fixes to reported issues, and completing development updates at a much greater pace currently than we were earlier in vB4’s development cycle, we have expanded the development and the management team to further increase our ability to try to meet our customer requests and support our vision of where vBulletin should go.

What’s your favourite vBulletin modification?
I think either the post thank you modification or the Sub-Forum Manager plugin – both pretty simple, but effective in my opinion J

As we’re a promotion forum – how would you recommend new webmasters go about promoting their websites?
Well some of the “more conventional” marketing techniques for webmasters (if you will) that are still very effective, actively seeking out link exchanges with other similar and reputable websites to increase referral traffic and your search engine rank is always going to be valuable. Maintaining an active social media presence (facebook, twitter, youtube etc.) with appropriate referral links back to your website can be very beneficial as well. The biggest thing in my mind however is, content, content, content. We have found that the best way to build both search, referral and direct traffic is to have frequently updated and high quality content published on your site. I understand for newer webmasters that may not have a userbase to leverage to build that content it may be more difficult, but if you seek out a couple of professional, or semi-professional writers that can write relevant articles on a regular basis and upload them to your Content Management System it is a great way to attract users that might be interested in whatever topic you are discussing.

What impact will the growing popularity of social networking sites have on the usage of discussion forums?
They are both a competing entity, and an opportunity for further growth at the same time. It is definitely a tougher “marketplace” on the web, competing with users who have to buy a new tractor on Farmville, upload their photos of their trip to Spain to flickr, Facebook and Picasa, tell everyone via foursquare and Gowalla that they are at Starbucks, comment on Hugo Chávez’s twitter feed and watch the latest Ken Block video on youtube… when is someone going to have the time to even think about the topic that your forum is on, let alone post on it and visit on a frequent basis? I strongly hold the belief that forums need to adapt to the burgeoning social media entities and leverage them to provide enhanced exposure to your forum. Forum software offers a number of tools and optimization for SEO, why-not the same for SGO (social graph optimization) too?

Where do you feel vBulletin and Internet Brands will be in 10 years?
I think it is hard to tell. Ten years is a long time for the web and the Internet for a product or organization. However, I would venture it will be more intra-connected. What I mean is that there will be little differentiation as far devices go in terms of accessing content and services. We want both vBulletin and Internet Brands to be in the middle of that.

Now let’s ask a few questions about your newest competitor. Do you plan to update ImpEx for XenForo -> vBulletin conversion?
There are hundreds of forum software’s out there, we typically provide Impex support for those that have the greatest market need. If there is a need for a xenForo to vBulletin converter we certainly will provide it.

Recently you published some details about a lawsuit against XenForo. Why did you make the information regarding the lawsuit public, did publishing the information actually work to promote XF?
We made the information public so to inform our customers. We have made a concerted effort recently to be more transparent in how we interact with our customers, and sharing details such as these goes in part with this policy. I acknowledge that this attempt to be more open may expose us to being the recipients of a greater level of criticism in the court of public opinion, however we feel that ultimately that approach is in the best interests of our customers.

Many vBulletin users actually oppose the lawsuit. Do you think it’s actually bad for business?
I can understand the sentiment expressed by some of our users. It is difficult to comment on its affect on our business until an agreement or verdict is reached, and I think that myself, or anyone else forming an opinion before the court does would be jumping to conclusions.

Interview with Matt Mecham @ IPB (Invision Power Board)

This article was first posted on our blog on 07/10/2010. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.


Invision Power Services Chieft Software Architect and founder of the forum software, Matt Mecham has accepted an interview with ForumPromotion. We’re thrilled to be interviewing this highly skilled software developer. IPB is currently leading the commercial forum software market in the eyes of many, and has remained loyal to it’s customers where vBulletin and Internet Brands hasn’t.

Matt’s a busy guy but he managed to answer these questions by working around his busy schedule. Cheers Matt.

Did you think ever IPB would get as big as it currently is?
When Charles and I started IPS in 2002, we never dared to think that we’d end up employing over a dozen people and doing something we love doing for a living. I still had a full time job at the time and I couldn’t see that changing. We feel very fortunate to have been able to turn a small PHP script into a business that continues to grow.

Of course, we’re never complacent and always strive to improve. I don’t think you can really take too long to enjoy the scenery. There’s always competition nipping at your heels and that drives you on. I get up every morning and can’t wait to get stuck into the day’s challenges.

Where do you see IPB in 10 years?
That’s a very good question. If you had asked Apple that question 10 years ago, I’m not sure they would have said “Leading the way in portable music players and smartphones”.[more] With this industry trends change dramatically over a short space of time so you have to always be willing to adapt and change. 10 years ago the notion of ‘social networking’ was still in its infancy so few could have predicted the impact Facebook and Twitter have on the web today.

For IPS, I would like to see us continue to grow and still pushing the boundaries of community software. As long as there are people, there is a need for a centralized community.

What do you do to help the mod community?
We love our modifications community and we continue to work with the community to help nurture it. First and foremost, almost all of the IPS staff are very active on the forums. This includes all the senior developers. I think this is important for many reasons but in regards to modifications it means that we can listen to feedback on how to improve the built in systems in our products.

We host a ‘community resources’ section on our own site that allows modification authors to list their mods. We give them a ‘contributor’ badge on the forums if they have modifications listed. We also have ‘contributor’ forums so that modification authors can ask direct questions to the development team and each other.

We’re always trying to improve documentation on our systems. IP.Board 3 was a huge step up for modification authors because it introduced applications and hooks which makes writing modifications much easier.

Both Brandon and I come from a modifications background, so we appreciate the challenges and needs that it brings.

Developing such big software must be very time consuming – do you ever feel like giving up?
It’s very much a team effort but I never feel like giving up, not even for a minute. I can’t express how much I love what I’m doing. I love the challenges and the people. I am constantly thinking of new ways to drive our products on. Development can be time consuming and frustrating but I thoroughly enjoy it. I’m lucky to do something that I enjoy for a living.

How would you recommend new webmasters go about promoting their websites?
It largely depends on the community. The basics are the same for everyone, though. Harness social networking, don’t be afraid of it. IP.Board comes with Facebook and Twitter integration. Allow your members to share links to these sites so that their social circle can discover your forum and content. I’ve tweeted links to our community forum and that topic can have a few hundred guests on within ten minutes. I’m not saying that those guests will register and become long standing members, but you have to admit that it is a powerful tool when used correctly. I’d say that you have to make it as easy as possible to register and join in. Enabled Facebook Connect. It’s reasonable to assume that most people have a Facebook account so being able to register simply by clicking a few buttons will increase registrations.

Even if you intensely dislike Facebook, don’t underestimate its reach. Facebook may be a short lived fad but it currently has 500 million users. It’s fast becoming a ubiquitous sign in method. I love forums and websites that allow me to sign up using Facebook.

What impact will the growing popularity of social networking sites have on the usage of discussion forums?
When I want to go and see what my friends are doing, I check in on Facebook. I can see their status updates, videos and pictures about their weekend. When I want to make contact with my customers to get feedback on our latest products, I go to our forum.

This isn’t revolutionary but it underlines that social networking sites have a different purpose to forums. Of course, there is some cross over but you cannot replace a forum with Facebook and vice-versa. There is always going to be a need for organized discussion that focuses on specific topics.

More and more people are going from vBulletin to IPB – what does IPB3 have over vBulletin 4?
I think there are several factors in the mass migration from vBulletin. The biggest being that Internet Brands have completely destroyed their brand and customer loyalty in the past year. They have slayed their golden goose. Inertia will keep sales ticking over but the dinosaur is definitely staring at the asteroid.

Of course, disgruntled vBulletin customers are only a small part of our customer base. We do still keep an eye on the situation but we are now also paying great attention to other competitors with a more modern, stable platform we can focus our competitive efforts on

Personally I see the growth in social sites as a good thing. I can broadcast links to topics to my social circle who can choose to share that information on. I can sign up to forums without filling in a long complex form and waiting for an activation email. I can update my status updates from a single source. More people connected means more traffic if you leverage it correctly.

How do you compete in the competitive battle between vB and IPB? – are you winning?
We produce good software at a fair price. We treat our customers with respect and listen to their opinions and needs. I don’t think we need to do anything more.

What do you think about other free forum software alternatives e.g. phpBB, how do they compare to IPB?
I think there’s lots of great free software out there. I have a lot of respect for developers that donate their free time to those projects. I’d say the gap between commercial software and free software is growing wider as the web moves on and we adapt to it. In many ways simply having a ‘forum’ isn’t enough. Customers are looking for an integrated suite of applications they can use to built a complete and feature rich site.

Kier has begun development on a new forum software – XenForo – what are your thoughts on it?
I have a lot of respect for Kier. We only really started talking after he left vBulletin and we have a lot in common. He’s a very skilled developer with a lot of experience and an existing “fan” base which will be a fantastic boost in the early stages. Lots of new projects fail because they don’t offer anything new and are not significantly different from existing and well supported applications so it’s nice to see XenForo approach things a little differently.

XenForo has a lot of visual flair which is great to see. It’s certainly generating a lot of buzz at the moment. I really do wish Kier and Mike all the best and look forward to many years of healthy competition.

You can check out IPB here – http://www.invisionpower.com/products/board/

Interview with Kier @ XenForo

This article was first posted on our blog on 19/09/2010. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.


On behalf of forumpromotion.net, I have had the pleasure to interview Kier – one of the most talented forum software developers in the world – about his brand new software which has smashed the current commercial forum software market, with just a preview of the first Alpha of XenForo.

Thank you so much Kier, also considering the huge workload you have on you at the moment.

What inspired you to create a new forum software?
There has been a trend in recent years for forum software to diversify and add more and more features while allowing the core functionality to stagnate. The fundamental basics of forum software needed to be brought up-to-date, to bring it inline with peoples’ expectations of today’s web applications. [more] We believe that our new software, XenForo, has the capacity to reinvigourate communities by allowing them to rediscover the simple pleasure of posting messages though a polished, modern interface.

We’ve focused on a modern UI and engaging features to keep visitors on your site for longer, and to inspire them to return. By building on top of our new application framework, we are to develop very quickly and reliably, and in turn modification authors will enjoy the same benefits when plugging-in their own functionality.

How do you think XenForo compares to rival softwares such as vBulletin or IPB?
That’s a somewhat difficult comparison. Both IPB and vBulletin have a big head-start on us in terms of the range of features they have built-in over their years of development. On the other hand, by virtue of being completely new, XenForo has the advantage of being designed for the way people want to use the internet today, rather than being encumbered with legacy functionality that was designed for a market that existed ten years ago.

XenForo seems like a healthy mix between vBulletin and IPB – was this intentional?
We haven’t gone out of our way to copy either, though by virtue of being a forum system we obviously share our core functionality.

Starting out on our own has required that we work very quickly and concentrate on what we consider to be the most important and valuable functionality. In a number of cases, we have looked at features that have been built in previous years and decided to drop those features as irrelevant to the market in 2010, or to merge several features together to make an overall more useful system.

What are your thoughts on vBulletin 4 and Internet Brand’s development on the product?
It’s no secret that my team and I were committed to a complete rewrite of the vBulletin code for version four and were waiting to get started on it since the release of vBulletin 3.6. Internet Brands management believed that the rewrite would take too long, favouring instead an approach that kept the 3.x code in place, which they believed would result in a product being brought to market sooner. Who can say what the situation would have been like today had the chosen approach been different.

Would you say you have learnt from vBulletin 4’s mistakes?
Absolutely. It’s been an education.

How easy will it be to convert our current forums to XenForo?
We don’t have a convertor for phpBB yet – given our background, a vBulletin converter was our highest priority, but I can say that the importer does a good job of matching up data from vBulletin with the corresponding XenForo fields. It also has two additional features which should make the import go as smoothly as possible.

Firstly, although XenForo has its own method for storing passwords that differs from that used in vBulletin, and IPB etc., XenForoo has the ability to specify a different authentication scheme on a per-user basis. Therefore, if we import a bunch of users from another system, we can store their passwords as they were stored in the imported application, and then use the authentication method of that system to verify them when the user attempts to log in to XenForo. As a result, users need not lose their passwords when being migrated to XenForo.

Secondly, we have a script that can pretend to be the old application, and 301-redirect requests for content on the old forum to its new location in XenForo. This means that visitors arriving at your forum via search engines or bookmarks will not find themselves at a dead page, and should help to preserve page rank for the content in question.

How easy will XenForo be to style and mod for?
The styling system has been one of our highest priorities, as making styling as easy as possible for novices while not getting in the way of experts is a guiding principle. There is a lot to talk about, and we will soon be doing a Have you seen… post describing some of the things customers can expect in version one.

XenForo is built on very solid MVC principles. I have already built three applications on top of the framework for my own personal purposes, and creating them was a joy. Although working with fully object oriented code is definitely a step up from the procedural scripts that some plugin authors may be used to, I think that with a little user education on our part and a willingness to try out new things on the part of the community, we will see some truly great add-ons of a quality not seen before emerge from the community. We already have the support of a number of highly influential developers from the modification communities of other forum software – they say they can’t wait to get stuck into XenForo.

Where do you see XenForo in a years time?
Within a year, XenForo will have certainly seen its first major version release and may even have seen its second or third, depending on how quickly we iterate and the nature of the new features and API changes we develop.

We hope to have a significant number of licensees running successful sites, both those who have migrated from other forum software, and brand new communities. We expect to see some very interesting things coming out of the modification community as those developers who are using the system to its fullest introduce the fruits of their labours.

In terms of the core product, We expect it to retain its ease of use and focus on user experience and quality features as we extend the scope of its functionality. We certainly don’t want to clutter the intuitive and graceful user interface with controls and icons and gadgets for infrequently-used functionality. A prerequisite of a feature making it into XenForo is that it must have a great UI and be pleasurable to use.

Could you give us a clue as to how the pricing details will be?
XenForo will be priced competitively with the leading commercial bulletin board solutions. The exact prices will be announced when they are finalized, but right now our priority is the software not the finances.

What methods should new webmasters use to promote their forum?
The same guidelines apply to running a site and promoting it as apply to writing good software. Keep your focus narrow and concentrate on doing a few things really well rather than spreading yourself too thinly and doing a lot of things in a mediocre fashion. Engage with and foster your enthusiasts, and they will do your promotion for you.

Will you be implementing a CMS, or blog system later on?
Given the demand that has been shown on our forums, I would have to say yes, I expect that there will be. The difficulty with a CMS in particular is pinning down exactly what people really want. The definitions of ‘CMS’ as far as customer expectations seem to range from a simple article publisher to a tool that would allow you to build your own Amazon.com with a point-and-click interface. For the time being, our focus is on the forum functionality and ensuring that it provides best-in-class performance and user experience. Once we have nailed that, we will start looking at branching out.

Congratulations on creating such a marvelous piece of software. I can see already the huge potential in this. Thanks for the interview. :)

Thank you very much, and thanks to all the people posting on XenForo and making it such an engaging place to be right now. We are looking forward to once again our software running on sites all over web once XenForo goes on sale.

Want to see it for yourself? See XenForo for yourself here – http://xenforo.com/community/