An excellent base forum platform for online communities
It has made it easy for us to create beautiful, effective forums with awesome community management features to boot.
Our agency helps other companies manage and build online communities so we've encountered a lot of community platforms. Vanilla is by far our favourite though, for a few reasons. First, it's incredibly customisable. The theming architecture in particular is incredible and allows us to create beautiful forums that integrate with seamlessly with our branding. Second, it's actively developed and open source. You can watch its development openly, suggest ideas for features, etc. Third, it has a killer API which allows you to make cool app integrations, software extensions, etc. Finally, the company's support is incredibles. The support team and customer success managers are amazing at answering questions and will help you implement all kinds of awesome ideas. Vanilla rocks!
Most of my issues are with super technical details nested "Smarty" tags in Pockets would be nice to have, I wish "reactions" and other gamification features were available in the open source product, etc. Overall though those are nitpicky things the base platform itself is awesome even without them.
Best Forum Software
I have nothing but good things and great times with Vanilla. Back in the day over 10 years ago i used Vanilla to learn more about integrating forums into my site and others and these guys were the #1 software to use. They didn't have everything they do now but i learned so much about forum, and Q&A based website software just using it. Today i became a PRO because of using the Vanilla software and i especially use it now for Gaming Websites where community interaction is a major part of the site. The software can also be tailored towards whatever your site is about. It has so many features that can be used for personal and business solutions.
I been integrating Vanilla forums into my site for years. I use Vanilla Forums as a Q & A for a lot of people that need help forums on their site so people can ask questions and get answers to anything related to their content and services and it works beaut full. You can also create your own custom Q & A so if someone is on your website and needs help the answers to their Question are already there and by chance they are not they can always ask. With the notification feature the admins get real time feedback as well as its members. The forums feature, the highlight of the software allows you to build a better community around your product and service to all everyone to be connected and have discussions on a beautiful and simple layout.
I miss the free version ..those were the times but the paid version puts together more enhance tools and added features that you always wished was around. They took all the feedback over the years all the features and fully went over them again and revamped it all. When you use Vanilla now its like a whole new brand of company with everything you need to put a community together on your website.
We started out a little rough with Vanilla, and it taking a very long time to implement the software, but now that we have it up and running it has been a great experience and a great partnership.
Love the features it has to offer to our sellers using the Community.
The time it took to implement this was a really long, drawn out process and the communication wasn't always the best.
The support has been great, the implementation process was easy and simple.
- The product is easy to use from a user perspective.
- Requests are taken seriously and if it's something they can't currently do but recognize it's a good idea, they will add them to their Road Map.
- Great comms from the person assiting the project, very responsive and on top of things
- It's hard to make changes sometimes. The HTML isn't accessible to forum owners so you'd have to write an entire section to make changes to anything other than the landing page. CSS is great to customize theming, but things have odd names so it's not as straightforward as it could be to make changes using it.
- It could be clearer what VF will and won't help with from the very first moment
- There are features missing, such as Tagging being in analytics
- No self-service option for simple things such as pulling the user list, this will make admin experience way better
- Services offered should better structured in the package sell, I.e: For some features requests, there were additional charges. This services should be somehow included in the terms of the service to enhance the admin experience
- It was unclear what changes would happen with a recent update, it's been left down to the forum owner to find the weird behaviors (such as filters not working correctly)
Vanilla is a great choice for your new community!
Amongst several other reasons, we chose Vanilla because of their company values, focus on customer success, sustainable growth and commitment to providing ongoing value. Vanilla offers a Success Community for community managers to connect and share best practices, presents great webinars and holds regular networking events. You can tell they really want to engage with their clients.
I am a Community Manager of One and have no problem managing my daily admin checklist and community "maintenance" with Vanilla's platform. And anytime I need support, ideas or inspiration...I know Vanilla is there to help!
My favorite thing about the Vanilla platform is its simplicity and intuitiveness. It was my top choice after the first demo I did, after seeing the admin view. It is uncluttered and logical. The member-facing community is customizable by choosing a theme or doing some custom CSS work. We did both, and based our design off another Vanilla customer's community we admired. We also have subcommunities built into our agreement, allowing incredible flexibility for future growth with new audiences.
Vanilla has been very responsive to feedback and feature requests. The three things I'm most looking forward to are the development of a Member Directory (to more easily see who else is in the community), the refinement of search results, and additional notification preference options.
Vanilla is an excellent, easy to use but versatile forum software system
Incredibly quick set up which was absolutely vital with the development speed of our company. We've been able to set up our new forum and get it fully customised within a very shot space of time.
Vanilla software is incredibly easy to use but with lots of customisation available. It also features a variety of handy plugins to expand your forum capability further including the 'Mark as Troll' plugin which is hands down the best feature of any forum I have used. Managing categories and forum groups is a straightforward task and the features can easily be explained to new staff members so they can get up and running with the software without any lengthy training period.
The only flaw I have experienced with Vanilla is in countering spam farms (Not bots). There is no option to enforce a captcha for posts which would help in some circumstances. However, Vanilla makes cleaning up spam very quick and easy and you can use user roles and forum settings to limit the impact spam can have on the forums, switching it from a problem to a mild inconvenience.
Flexible platform that allowed us to quickly get a customized Community up and running
Vanilla has allowed us to customize almost every aspect of the Community experience: content organization, moderation, additions of new spaces when the need arises, gamification - all of these components can be built out and tweaked by a team without coding experience. The ability for our developers to own and push changes to the code allows the next level of customization we needed to get our community off the ground.
The analytics is one place that is lacking a bit. Their advanced analytics dashboard gives insights into some useful metrics but doesn't allow any form of filtering (except for the date) or examining side by side comparisons of different user groups / content sets. The analytics API gives a bit more useful information but it still takes a bit of work to really answer some of the more complicated aspects of the value the community is providing to the organization. Additionally, their documentation is significantly lacking - once you know how to do something in the platform, you find that it can probably do what you are looking for but many times you have to rely on your CSM to help get you that information (which they are normally great at!)
Outstanding community software and service
We've been working with Vanilla Forums since 2014 and have had a wonderful experience. Their team is responsive and the software has helped us grow our community considerably. We also appreciate Vanilla Forums' knowledge base and resources for community managers.
We love Vanilla Forums' user-friendly features and our community does too.
We don't have any cons and have been very happy with this software.
We have had a really good experience working with Vanilla. Our account manager has been invaluable.
It's pretty straightforward to use, but once you're comfortable with the basics there is a lot of room to customize the tool to fit your needs. We needed a solution with a robust API and Vanilla has done a really great job on that front.
Our account manager has been easy to work with and very responsive. She's knowledgeable in many aspects and not afraid to connect me with her team members if they have a deeper understanding to share.
I'd recommend Vanilla for managing a support community.
Some functionalities are a little unwieldy and certain workflows are cumbersome to maintain when we're seeing a lot of volume.
When moderating our Community as a team, we sometimes stumble over each other and do the same work twice because it's difficult to tell where your team members are working in the community when.
Plug and Play for Community Interaction
I have a large community and wanted to be able to allow them to communicate with each other and share information. Several years of use has left me a satisfied customer
Easy to deploy, effective tool for communication and sharing, continual updates from provider
There can be a learning curve for new users
We have had a great experience so far with Vanilla. The customer service particularly is exceptional
Moving to Vanilla was a great decision for us as we were provided with many more features, customization areas, and settings than we had with our previous forum software. We have been able to implement our own themes, enable plugins, add moderation rules and permissions and also apply stronger security than we had previously.
The migration process with Vanilla was very smooth and we have had contacts within Vanilla to ask questions throughout the process. Once we had migrated, it was relatively simple to get everything set up as most of the data which was set up on our staging site, was transferred over to the live site.
The users love our new forum, preferring the different options available to them such as private messaging, reporting posts and being able to edit their posts in more detail than before. They also find the usability of the new forum easier and clearer to use which is perfect for us as we get many new users on our forum.
Due to the high number of extra settings, plugins, and options available, it's a lot to take in and learn, especially if you're coming from another software where there was a limited amount of settings to use. We're grateful to have our wonderful Customer Success Manager on hand to guide us through these, send over the best guides to read and explain how it all works.
A cute online community solution with amazing flexibility and scale
For our startup in online solution space, I was looking at a stable and easy to manage community solution and I found vanilla as the perfect solution to meet our requirements.
It is pretty simple for Administration. We took a few hours to create and organize our online community. Building it up is easy.
I found the solution, extremely flexible - a handful of options,and business rules.
The design is cool and UX is perfect.
The large pool of add-ons and themes are definitely advantages for customers.
Coming to forum specific features, there are plenty of cool features like social login, polls, media management, ranking system, gamification, and the newly added business app integration.
I recommend Vanilla forums to anybody who wish to launch an online community. Vanilla is simple, stable, and having excellent add-ons compatibility and this is going to exceed your expectations.
So far, our experience with Vanilla is perfect and hence no dislike. If get more deep in to functionalities, probably analytics portion is something which require further improvement.
Vanilla Forums for the win!
The sales process was awesome. My CSM is awesome. Support is very impressive. I really love Vanilla as a company. They're tuned in and know the secret to their success is mine. It's evident in every interaction I've had with them.
It's easy. There are a few small areas that could use more robust documentation, but overall I feel like I could have launched this platform in my sleep. Which is a huge win for our org. We're fairly small, growing really fast, and we've all got to put on additional hats to keep getting stronger. Vanilla forums provided a tool that could be spun up quickly without sacrificing how powerful it is. Having complete control over the look and feel was also a big win. A little HTML and CSS know how really created a unique forum for our users.
The built in analytics are a great starting point. The granularity as it pertains to permissions is very impressive. And the Salesforce integration is so EASY.
This was a great solution for a small company, limited budget and hardly any know-how. Our forum looks and feels really professional, and it looks like it's going to scale with us as well.
Just that the permissions are so granular they can get a little cumbersome. It just required really taking our time and testing. Not such a bad thing when it comes to permissions.
Like I said, the current analytics built in are a great jumping off point. But we're leveraging google analytics as well to fill in the gaps. One "for instance" is what our customers are searching for. But this was easily solved leveraging the pockets and throwing in a GA tracker.
Vanilla has been great from initial setup/launch to daily use & support. We're very happy.
Vanilla is easy to use and navigate, and the tools/options/add-ons are explained thoroughly in the dashboard. This was very helpful to me, especially in the beginning when I was fairly new to forum software. When we were just getting started, having several design options/layouts to choose from helped us get the look we wanted.
The webinars I've watched were very helpful, and I've downloaded and read just about every eBook Vanilla has published (from their resources) to get advice and roadmaps for different aspects of managing a forum.
Technical support has been outstanding throughout. Whenever we have an issue large or small, I can always count on a quick response and a solution or at least an explanation.
The only cons are that there are just a couple of specific features that we would like to have but they're not available for us:
When starting a New Poll, options are limited. For example, a "select all that apply" option would be beneficial to the types of polls we take.
In the theme we are using, we're unable to sort discussions based on number of views.
Vanilla is a robust software, with plenty of add-on options.
While searching for ways to create a private intranet for my author friends and I to utilize, one option I looked at was VanillaForums. It has some great options out of the box, with the ability to create groups of interconnected forums, subforums, and discussion boards based on topics. The ability to add reactions and to include files and photos in our posts was also a big draw. I loved that as it has an open source option, I could host it myself and save a lot of money, as we are starting with only a few users.
Unfortunately, a lot of extras are add-ons for Vanilla. To fully customize your site, a knowledge of CSS and HTML is almost mandatory, as there aren't really any options for simple customization like adding color codes to a pre-built theme or uploading a background to the same theme.
When bugs are posted about in the Vanilla forums, they aren't handled very quickly. I understand that a lot of times most bugs are user error or add-on related so every circumstance is different, but when it is a bug in the system itself, then it's not the user's responsibility to 'you break it, you fix it' as stated on the open source documentation.
For users who are used to the forum-style architecture, Vanilla is a robust software that provides some great add-on options and is pretty user friendly on the front-end. For me, I'm used to PHP based software that was a full social network, so I found the forum/discussion board options limiting and it didn't suit my needs. However, I we need a forum option in the future, Vanilla will likely be my first pick.
Experience has been largely positive, though we have encountered some technical challenges.
We replaced user forums successfully and configured them to easily. Overall users were pleased and felt it was an upgrade on the previous forums.
The product is fully featured and relatively straightforward to configure and set up. Integration with SSO has been very easy and appears to work well and there are a number of plug-ins available which enable further customisation. Our forum moderators and the majority of users have found it simple and pleasant to use. Account management has been very good and fairly responsive to issues.
As a managed service there are a few hidden costs (migrations in particular). Some of the technology seems a little outdated and a bit inflexible - changing simple headings etc should be fairly straightforward but is in fact a manual task by the account manager, who has to root about in the code for the relevant strings. Also, the migration from staging to live is manual and open to user error. Image compression (or the lack of) has been a big issue for us as our sites are very visual and performance has suffered. I am hoping that some of the infrastructure changes they are making will improve this though.
Vanilla has satisfied all of our Community Forum needs for over 5 years and has yet to disappoint.
Experience in managing a Community with thousands of users and creating an engaging ecosystem for our customers to call home.
The simplicity of the overall functionality, as it is clear on how to navigate and manage all aspects of the software. I began managing our company's Community Forum without prior knowledge or experience. The ease that comes with Vanilla, has allowed me to gain the confidence in my ability to learn, grow, and excel as a Community Manager.
I believe that Vanilla can become even better if they improve their analytics system which at times does not reflect accurate data and appears to be buggy. Although, to be fair this feature is relatively new on their end so I'm sure this will become up to their overall standard of providing flawless service.
Good forum software with great customer service
I'm a moderator on a community that switched to Vanilla three years ago from a heavily hacked-together vBulletin. I was initially ambivalent about the switch - even though our old software had become hopelessly inadequate to our needs, it was super-tailored to the needs of our community - but Vanilla won me over, primarily on the strength of their support staff, who are not only pleasant and helpful, but are engaged in the community in a real way. As participants in our forum, they've come to know our needs as well as we do, and not only have all our old favorite features come back in newer, spiffier implementations, in a couple instances they have added entirely new features that addressed needs I didn't even know I had but now couldn't live without.
It's a slick, modern forum implementation that is heavily customizable (as a cursory flick through the diverse kinds of communities running the software can illustrate) with some features I really welcome in 2015, particularly the Minion, which automates a lot of tasks that used to require babysitting by moderators or community managers. This was something Vanilla provided us because they saw the kinds of things we were dealing with and they anticipated the need - that's service I appreciate.
The customer service is excellent and the team is eager to help find software solutions to community problems, but it can take a while for requested fixes to make their way through the pipeline.
Excellent Staff and Software
After many years of using vbBulletin, our site switch to Vanilla Software in 2011. The problem with vbBulletin was one of stability: we were having frequent outages in one incident we had to close the forum for about a month to deal with issues. The software was also not very flexbility, with each custom feature we added increasing vbBulletin's instability. With so many users, however, we need software that would cater to our needs and provide the features our users had become accustomed to over the years.
Vanilla solved these problems wonderfully. While Vanilla's primary service is simple, straight-forward forum software, they were incredibly accommodating to needs. Many features were tailor-made for us, and forum stability has been excellent. Their staff has always been patient and friendly, taking our requests for new features without any problems.
The staff is excellent. They are in constant contact, and are very easy to contact in a moment's notice should something go wrong. In many cases they go above and beyond what we request, adding useful new features for us to test before deciding to fully implemented on our own forums.
Vanilla's strength is very strong and basic forums, and as a result it can take time for them roll out requested feature. This is typically not a problem, as the extra time is generally spent ensuring that the feature will satisfy our needs.
Great transition team, awesome support, easy to use product
Simple support forum solution, cloud hosting, and easy posting for our users.
After completing our transition to Vanilla and getting the community in place, the thing that makes Vanilla really stand out is how easy it is to use day to day. Tracking new threads, seeing new comments quickly, and being able to respond to our customers promptly make the product a great fit for our support forums.
We also use Vanilla to host some locked knowledge content, a function beyond the scope of the product, but one Vanilla adapted to very nicely.
Some of the limitations in the text box can be frustrating. Our users often post written content and edit each other - previously we used a product with the option to change text color, something Vanilla lacks (outside of BBcode). A few other small functionalities of this sort are lacking, but on the whole nothing that has reduced the number of posts we get daily.
Vanilla is an easy to use product and their staff want you to succeed
Vanilla is intuitive and very easy to use. The support staff at Vanilla are easy to work with. They want you to succeed with their product and are willing to help in any way possible to see that through. Their integration with GitHub is a nice way to control the custom theme without having to worry about all the details. No complaints on downtime. Working with Vanilla for migrations from multiple products has been a breeze.
Vanilla is not as fully featured as other forum/community products. If running the hosted option, some configuration options are not readily available to administrators. Some options are only controlled by the system administrators at Vanilla.
Great Value for Money with all the bells and Whistles
- Easy to customize
- Dedicated Success manger that is very responsive and helpful!
- Cost effective with all the features that very high costing solutions have - we trialed 10 different solutions before selecting vanilla as they winner
- New features rolled in all the time
- Gamification between users have kept customers engaged and excited about what we do
I would have once sent integrations between other products, however the new API v2 solves this. So no cons :)
Simple, but effective.
Allows our users to engage and communicate in a fashion that was similar to previously used software, while simultaneously being a significantly more stable and less stressful product.
Vanilla provides simple forum software, but they still possessed the know-how to incorporate features needed by our community. Staff is friendly and quick to handle major problems and crises that occur.
Over the years, staff has been slower to fix bugs, with some minor ones persisting for years at this point. Communication could be better.
Great balance of features and ease of use.
The ease of using it both as an administrator and a user. The control panel is very clear, and while some other forum software has far more features, most of those features are bloat that most forums never need. I currently have five active sets of forums with Vanilla, after having used everything from Invision to Drupal, and Vanilla remains my favorite.
Nothing in particular stands out.
Overall positive experience after migrating from a different forum platform.
The software is very easy to manage and it gives our community managers and moderators the tools they need to work easily and efficiently. The plug-ins give a good level of customization and the software has been relatively easy to configure to meet our business needs.
Coming from a different platform (Lithium) Vanilla is somewhat limited. There is no concept of custom HTML pages or custom navigation paths. As long as you can work within those constraints, this still delivers a very fluid and efficient forum experience for all of our users.