If you've been with us for a while, you'll know that we've been through quite a few forum softwares and none of them have done what we've needed them to do. We think we've now found the right solution...
At first we used Get Satisfaction
as a hybrid community/support service but quickly found it's support component limiting for the scale of what we do. It was a great way to track conversations, but the moment we wanted to turn the query into an issue that we needed to develop, it all started to get a little flaky.
We then moved to Zendesk
as the main portal for our knowledge base and customer support. It offered a lot better integration with our development tools and the 3rd party functionality allowed us to add things like Live Chat. It also came with a built in Forum which we'd hoped would develop as quickly as the main product, but alas, it hasn't and it's not allowed us to foster a healthy community. Like Get Satisfaction it's hard to tell what's a support question and what's a conversation! The good news is that Zendesk is working well as the PhotoMerchant Support Portal
Most recently we decided that the best thing to do, however reluctantly, was to use the workhorse of forum software, VBulletin
. Personally, I never liked the way the forums looks and behaved - everything was far more technical and convoluted than it needed to be. From an administrative point of view the options were extensive but the interface was quite obviously developed by software engineers with no thought or regard for usability. Hardcore forum admins may think it's the bee's knee, but the rest of us hated it.
I'd always liked the simplicity of Vanilla Forums, but they used to be too simple and didn't offer enough depth for customisation or membership. It looks like they've recently made some massive changes and it now looks like it's much closer to the zenith of perfection we're looking for; easy to manage, easy for anyone to use and fun at the same time.
So, we're going to test this out for a little while and see if we can get some conversations going. You're welcome to join in and start testing the new forum with us and hopefully together, we can put it through it's paces and determine whether she's the right software for the budding PhotoMerchant community.
What do you think of it so far?