SMF vs Vanilla Forums

SMF vs. Vanilla Forums: Which is Better?

One of the absolute best ways to build a loyal online community is to add a forum to your website. Their passionate people in your niche can gather together and communicate with other passionate people.
There are numerous benefits to having a forum:

  • you can generate ideas for your website based on recurring questions or concerns,
  • it increases the amount of website engagement (i.e. time spent on site, number of pages read, etc.)
  • you can learn things from other people.
  • and perhaps best of all: the community generates content without you having to lift a finger!

There are numerous forums, but the two that we recommend are vanilla forums and SMF (Simple Machines forums). Here we’ll compare each of the forums and give recommendations on when each particular type of forum application is best for you.

Contender #1: Simple Machines Forums

simple machines forums -smf vs vanilla

About Simple Machines:

What we know now as Simple Machines Forums grew out of an old forum-software application called YaBB SE, which had problems with resource application. It’s current form came about in 2006 when the developers all met and created a mission for a free and open-source application that was free from corporate influence.

Best Feature:

Lots of features. Anything you can think of can be added to your website. If you know have the technical know-how, you can add whatever you like to your website.

Worst Feature:

The steep learning curve. As we will mention later, vanilla forums offers a pretty powerful support system for a price. Although if you go with a developer-oriented hosting company like Mediatemple, they can help you get your Simple Machines Forum up and running with minimal effort. (if you use them, use a promo code! Here’s a place with some good updated ones:
http://couponcodehoster.org/mediatemple-coupon/

Big Websites that use SMF:

Avast; Red Hot Chili Peppers; Comodo Security

Quick Facts about SMF:

  • Latest release: SMF 2.1 November 2014
  • Large Community of users.

Contender #2: Vanilla Forums:

vanilla forums

About Vanilla Forums:

The original version of Vanilla Forums was created by Mark O’Sullivan as a way to manage his growing graphic design community. It has since grown to become a user-friendly, free, open-source application. And while it is free, there is a cloud-hosted version you can purchase from vanilla forums that includes pre-moderation, reactions, polls, as well as support if something breaks.

Best Feature:

Social sign-in. Instead of going through the tedious forum registration process (create a username, click on a verification email, wait for moderator approval, etc.), users can use their Facebook or Twitter accounts when logged in to vanilla forums.
The second best feature is the clean-looking, customizable interface. Even the most novice of users are able to interact with your community.

Worst Feature:

The best stuff is held back. You can add the forums, but if you want extra features like emoticons, reactions, and all the fun, unique stuff that really makes forums fun, you have to pay.

Big Websites that use Vanilla Forums:

Penny Arcade, 9to5Mac, Hubspot; (These links take you directly to the forums sections of each website).

Some Quick Stats About Vanilla Forums:

  • Latest Release: Version 2.1.6 (November 2014)
  • Medium-sized community of users and developers.