Tips on software to use to help manage a community

(Kim Harvey) #1

Hi there,

Just starting out really. I am a freelancer and working with a client on creating a community.

I am very new to this, so my knowledge (and what I say) is very basic and obviously I have a lot to learn!

I am currently looking software to help us to manage the community - high-level needs are:-
•a place to communicate in a closed group
•an area (like a library) for sharing documents
•a place to search and replay videos/webinars

(Happy for input on what else I should really look for too!).

Nice to have
•integration with software to manage memberships
•integration with software to invite to webinars
•integraton with appointment booking software
•integration with Mailchimp/Insightly

Looking forward to any tips to help me start out.

(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hi @kimharvey
A couple of questions to narrow down the field.
What is your budget (both to set up and ongoing) and do you have any technical resource in house?

(Darren McKay) #3

I just watched @richard_millington’s MozCon talk about launching an online community (which is what brought me here) and I was interested when he covered community platforms. My interest heightened when all of the platforms I am aware of received no mention at all.

Now, I’m very much from what Richard referred to as the ‘hobbyist’ sphere. I administer a community with 22,000 registered members and 7m posts in over 300,000 threads. We typically serve 4-5m page views to c200,000 users every month.

The software I am familiar with is the likes of vBulletin and Xenforo. Maybe they are considered a bit old-school now but they are easily deployable, highly flexible and scalable. As such, if I were to be launching something new (and I’m having thoughts, which is why I watched Richard’s talk) then these packages would be my first port of call, especially given the apparent cost of the modern funky alternatives that Richard detailed.

(Sarah Hawk) #4

I’ve run several communities on vB and it sounds like we’ve had very different experiences – mine have been awful. For that reason I haven’t given Xenforo a try, so I can’t speak to that. :smile:

It is true that enterprise platforms are costly, but there are a number of modern open-source platforms (this one, for instance) that are very cost effective (or even free if you have the skills to customise them yourself). We’re platform agnostic here though – any recommendations are made after carrying out a needs analysis.

I would definitely recommend looking into Discourse in favour of vB if you’re starting from scratch.

Edit: I’m interested to hear whether there are any aspects of vB that you don’t like or would like changed.

(Darren McKay) #5

The CMS is weak for sure. It’s not a massive part of what we do, but I’d like richer functionality. There are Wordpress <-> vB bridges but I want everything in one place for simplicity.

On the core community discussion and interaction side, I can’t think there is too much lacking for what we need. I know Xenforo has more bells and whistles, but from my usage of that platform, there is nothing compelling enough to make me consider a migration.

(Sarah Hawk) #6

How do you find the notifications? These days my only vB experience is on Cloud and it’s sub-optimal (indicator at the top of the screen that requires clicking through).

(Kim Harvey) #7

Hi there,
To be fair we haven’t yet come up with a budget as we are so new to the arena. But I would have to say the lower end of the scale as this is an a pilot project for us. The client is a sole trader/entrepreneur and will invest in technology (so it doesn’t have to be for free!).

Will likely be around 100 members to the community in longer-term (would like more but being realistic!).

So I suppose something scalable would be great but starting off a the lower budget end.

Does that make sense?


(Kim Harvey) #8

Hi Darren,

Thanks for the background information and tips on resources to watch. We will not have anywhere near your community (not eto adjust my requirements notes!) - it is very likely to start off with lower numbers as there will be a cost to join. With a smaller community of say 200-500 would you still look at vBulletin and Xenforo?

Many thanks again,

(Darren McKay) #9

Hi Kim,

Sure thing - there’s no reason why you couldn’t use forum software for that.

I could probably quickly knock-up a vanilla install of vBulletin for you to have a play with if it would help.


(Darren McKay) #10

Native notifications aren’t as good as Xenforo (and, possibly, Discourse - this is my first time using this platform) but again with some plugins they certainly do enough for me, I think.

vBulletin doesn’t come with @ tagging but I’ve added that as well.

(Sarah Hawk) #11

Yeah, see that’s the issue for me. In my experience it is all the plugins that cripple the system, making it cumbersome and time consuming (and in some cases impossible) to upgrade. That was a show-stopper for me in the end.

[quote=“Darren_McKay, post:10, topic:1116”]
vBulletin doesn’t come with @ tagging but I’ve added that as well.
[/quote] That was the final nail in the coffin. These days @tagging should be core on every platform. vB have made an attempt at it on Cloud and it’s honestly laughable.

I am aware that I sound very scathing of vB – I fought with it for 10 years across two communities and I’ve come out the other end pretty bitter. :wink:

On a more objective note, I think it’s important to mention that there is going to be some level of technical knowledge required to get vB integrating with the systems that @kimharvey mentions in the initial spec, which is something to consider when making this decision. You might be able to give us a more clear idea of how much know-how would be required @Darren_McKay

(Sarah Hawk) #12

What you are describing is essentially what we have here at FeverBee Experts. We have a blog and a public facing community, and we also have a membership-based paid community. The platform is based primarily on WordPress & Discourse, with Mailchimp, Stripe and Paid Memberships Pro integrated.

Discourse handles your first three requirements, WordPress handles 2 of your final 4. We don’t have appointment booking requirements and use GoToWebinar which isn’t integrated.

The software is free. Hosting is ~$220 per month (there are cheaper options) and development was in the vicinity of $25k (not counting my own time, project management and dev work, which was significant).

@bsk1970 – would Vanilla be a good option here?

(Bradley_Kravitz) #13


Based on what I have seen from the requirements Vanilla Forums can cover most.

•a place to communicate in a closed group We provide the ability for users to create groups that can be private and are typically invite only. You can have discussions, post events and announcements in these groups
•an area (like a library) for sharing documents For videos and images they can be posted in discussions and you can create specific categories for them but we do not have a specific repository for that function
•a place to search and replay videos/webinars

(Happy for input on what else I should really look for too!).

Nice to have
•integration with software to manage memberships We integrate with Wordpress Wishlist, to integrate into other tools is possible through API
•integration with software to invite to webinars Could be possible through API integration
•integraton with appointment booking software Could be possible through API integration
•integration with Mailchimp/Insightly We have a plugin for MailChimp

The @ functionality is also native to our platform. We have pricing options starting at $199 per month for the hosted version please visit our website for more information

Thank you,


(Alessio Fattorini) #14

Discourse is awesome from a community platform point of view, a few examples:

  • Badges: absolutely are really really addictive (i’m still working on a lot of badges!)
  • Discussion discussion discussion, reply with context, dynamic notifications and mentions are useful for keep people involved
  • Once you’re trusted, you can click a button to invite your friends via email and they can reply to your topic with a single click. Let people promote your community!
  • Community moderation - As users regularly participate by reading and posting, they gain trust. With that trust, they gain powerful abilities to help maintain the community and push out trolls and spammers.
  • first PM after registration is very helpful for newcomers
  • Statistics about “read” time, logged in and simple metrics about community healthy
  • email notification only when someone reply to you or the email digest keep people always connected with Discourse, without too many notifications.

These are just few, hope it helps