Vanilla Forums Reviews

Vanilla Forums

Engage with Community

4.4/5 (52 reviews)

An excellent base forum platform for online communities

Used Daily for 2+ years
Reviewed on 3/7/2018
Review Source: Capterra

It has made it easy for us to create beautiful, effective forums with awesome community management features to boot.

Pros

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!

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

10.0/10

We have had a great experience so far with Vanilla. The customer service particularly is exceptional

Used Daily for 6-12 months
Reviewed on 6/8/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

9.0/10

A cute online community solution with amazing flexibility and scale

Used Daily for 1+ year
Reviewed on 7/9/2018
Review Source

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

10.0/10

Vanilla has been great from initial setup/launch to daily use & support. We're very happy.

Used Daily for 1+ year
Reviewed on 4/20/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

10.0/10

Vanilla is a robust software, with plenty of add-on options.

Used Daily for 1-5 months
Reviewed on 2/12/2019
Review Source

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

6.0/10

Vanilla is an excellent, easy to use but versatile forum software system

Used Daily for 1+ year
Reviewed on 6/1/2018
Review Source: Capterra

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.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

10.0/10

Flexible platform that allowed us to quickly get a customized Community up and running

Used Daily for 6-12 months
Reviewed on 4/24/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

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.

Cons

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!)

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

9.0/10

Experience has been largely positive, though we have encountered some technical challenges.

Used Daily for 6-12 months
Reviewed on 6/1/2018
Review Source: Capterra

We replaced user forums successfully and configured them to easily. Overall users were pleased and felt it was an upgrade on the previous forums.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

8.0/10

Vanilla has satisfied all of our Community Forum needs for over 5 years and has yet to disappoint.

Used Daily for 2+ years
Reviewed on 4/19/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Experience in managing a Community with thousands of users and creating an engaging ecosystem for our customers to call home.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

10.0/10

Good forum software with great customer service

Reviewed on 12/11/2015
Review Source

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.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Excellent Staff and Software

Reviewed on 12/12/2015
Review Source

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.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Great transition team, awesome support, easy to use product

Used Daily for 6-12 months
Reviewed on 5/8/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Simple support forum solution, cloud hosting, and easy posting for our users.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

8.0/10

We've been using Vanilla Forums software since 2014 and have been extremely pleased and impressed.

Used Daily for 2+ years
Reviewed on 6/1/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

Vanilla Forums software is very user friendly for forum members and administrators. Our community has grown considerably since we adopted this software because it fosters a fantastic online environment. We love the functionality. Our forum is at the heart of our business and we wouldn't trust it to just anyone. Vanilla Forums' customer support is responsive and reliable. You'll love Vanilla Forums!

Cons

There isn't anything that we don't like about this software. We love that Vanilla Forums continues to add new functionality and raises the bar each time.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

We have had a really good experience working with Vanilla. Our account manager has been invaluable.

Used Daily for 6-12 months
Reviewed on 6/14/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

8.0/10

Vanilla is an easy to use product and their staff want you to succeed

Used Daily for 1+ year
Reviewed on 4/26/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

8.0/10

Great Value for Money with all the bells and Whistles

Used Daily for 2+ years
Reviewed on 5/8/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

- 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

Cons

I would have once sent integrations between other products, however the new API v2 solves this. So no cons :)

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

10.0/10

Simple, but effective.

Used Daily for 2+ years
Reviewed on 2/2/2018
Review Source: Capterra

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.

Pros

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.

Cons

Over the years, staff has been slower to fix bugs, with some minor ones persisting for years at this point. Communication could be better.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

9.0/10

Great balance of features and ease of use.

Used Daily for 2+ years
Reviewed on 5/30/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

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.

Cons

Nothing in particular stands out.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

9.0/10

Overall positive experience after migrating from a different forum platform.

Used Daily for 1+ year
Reviewed on 4/25/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Overall, we have a good experience that can become perfect if few features will be added\fixed

Used Daily for 6-12 months
Reviewed on 6/7/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Better communication between clients and between clients to employees

Pros

Vanilla is very easy to use and manage, looks good, offer great gamification that make our community fun, great value for money, good training materials, easy solution to support multilingual.

Cons

Reporting & stats needs much improvement: At the moment you cannot download/export any report nor create one of your own. To receive a very simple report of members list I have to contact my CS. While Vanilla do their best to fix bugs, it sometimes takes a lot of time. To make a truly beautiful and customized community you'll either have to know coding (css & html), pay a freelance or pay for professional services that have long ques.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

8.0/10

Our experience with Vanilla overall has been excellent.

Used Daily for 6-12 months
Reviewed on 5/15/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

It provided a solid platform to launch our member engagement initiatives, and provides valuable tools that work well for our needs.

Baked-in customer focused features such as the gamification engine and the availability of a customer analytics dashboard are great!

Software is iteratively tweaked and improved as time goes on.

Cons

Inability to fully customize the look and layout of our community/subcommunity pages.

The use of sub-communities to manage separate site forums that fall under one umbrella did not work as expected.

Small things like tailoring tags to display only on specific sub-communities was not possible.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

8.0/10

You won't be disappointed

Used Daily for 2+ years
Reviewed on 5/7/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Pros

Easy moderation tools, FANTASTIC customer support/success team, and lots of great tools for the community such as badges and reactions.

Cons

Would like to see more reporting capabilities, an in-depth knowledge base for self-service so that we can learn about best practices. Would also like more advanced AI and Q&A functionalities.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

10.0/10

Easily one of the best forum platforms

Used Daily for 1+ year
Reviewed on 3/11/2018
Review Source

Pros

-Lost of modern functions including the ability to like posts and @mentions.
-Open source
-You can self-host it for free of charge or go for a paid version that provides support
-Very flexible: Can even be customised to display web pages
-Gamification: reward users for participating by earn badges and new abilities

Cons

The ability to add images is a little cumbersome. I wish it could be done with 1 click! But other than that, there is little to complain about.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

10.0/10

Vanilla is easy, intuitive and full of useful features.

Used Daily for 1-5 months
Reviewed on 4/23/2018
Review Source: Capterra

This software has allowed our members to engage with each other in ways other platforms don't support or offer. As a company we pride ourselves on customer engagement and to have a tool that supports us in this aim has been fantastic.

Pros

As we're very new to community management Vanilla has made it incredibly straight forward to setup, moderate and grow our online community. The post sale support they offer is fantastic. There hasn't been a question they haven't been able to answer in a timely manner. The software itself is very easy to use, and as someone who has never used community tools before that's saying something. It's packed full of all the features you need to make your community a success.

Cons

The lack of customisation without having technical knowledge has been a mild inconvenience. We'd like to stand out and be different, but if we're using the same format/layout as almost all other community sites it's hard to do that. So more support for customisation for newbies would be welcomed.

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

8.0/10

Finally Amazing Service with a Great Product to go with it!

Used Daily for 2+ years
Reviewed on 4/19/2018
Review Source: Capterra

Gives us a support community within our budget.

Pros

Ability to Multi-Quote to respond with one post
Reply by email makes it easy
Badges: are fun
Signatures: Help give context

Cons

Looks somewhat outdated
Out of Box metrics are basic
Wall posts and status updates don't count in metrics
No Merge option

Rating breakdown

Value for Money
Ease of Use
Customer Support

Likelihood to recommend

9.0/10