A conversion tale

Discussion in 'Administrating Your Community' started by Mike54, Nov 30, 2011.

  1. Mike54
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    Mike54 Well-Known Member

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    In early November 2009, I made the decision to convert four vBulletin 3.8 sites over to Invision. I was not happy with what vBulletin was becoming and I had been doing the comparison-shopping bit for nearly a year prior to pulling the trigger. I had a really good year with Invision, before the bottom dropped out. As time went by, I was concentrating so hard on trying to keep two sites alive that two others shriveled up and died.

    I was hoping IPB 3.2 might represent a turn-around, but it was quickly obvious I was wasting my time waiting and hoping. By August of this year, I was giving serious consideration to simply closing the sites down and finding something else to do with my time. When I saw Azhria had converted this site over to XenForo, I decided I might have written it off my list of possibilities too quickly.

    A week ago Tuesday, I purchased a XenForo license. My plan was to set up a test site and spend some time getting familiar with how XenForo works. By the time I had downloaded the files and installed them in a test directory, XenForo 1.1.0 had been released. Within 3 hours of setting up my test site, I was already upgrading it. But it was good practice for me and I found the upgrade process was smooth and simple. Since the 1.1.0 release had an IPB 3.2 importer, I grabbed one of my smaller databases and gave that a trial run. Very smooth, very simple and very fast.

    By noon the next day, I was already so pleased with XenForo, I was making plans to convert one of my live sites. I gave a few of my members access to the test site and their enthusiasm was driving me forward.

    So on Thursday, while those of you in the States were waking up to the smells of a cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I was busy converting my site.

    The T-Bucket Forums

    The site is still small, a little over 87,000 posts. The actual database conversion took just 34 minutes to run, which I thought was pretty outstanding. Since opening that site, back in October 2006, we've always had a red style as our default. I had discovered Xenique's DXF-Red style and I felt it just worked with the site. I think Kim really designed those gradients to set off my logo, to be honest.

    As mentioned, I was already comfortable in the XenForo Admin CP, so I was interested to see how my members would respond. And their response has been overwhelming. It's been six days since the conversion and I'm still getting complimentary messages from them. I'm seeing my active member number creeping upward. Posting activity is on the climb. And everyone keeps commenting on how easy things are to use.

    The DXF-Red style was a release for XenForo 1.0.x, so it was looking a bit odd without node icons. Yesterday, I decided I was going to fix the problem and managed to make up a node-sprite image. So things are looking a lot better.

    I'm really impressed with how quickly I learned my way around the XenForo Admin CP. After using IPB for two years, I was still having to hunt high and low to find application settings hidden away in obscure locations. Not so with XenForo.

    I'm seeing much faster page loads than I ever had with IPB. Speeds were much faster with XenForo, straight out of the tin. When I started adding the caching code to the config file, I was really impressed. Some tweaks to PHP today picked up speeds a bit more.

    It's only been six days, but I am already seeing improvements on Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. My bounce rate has dropped 1.8% and average time on site is already up a full minute. For months, I kept pointing my finger at IP.SEO as being a large part of IPB's SEO shortcomings. I'm using the XenUtiles sitemap generator and in six days, my sitemap URLs are 104% higher than they were. Google is re-indexing pages well and I'm seeing that number climbing, as well. And to have these kinds of results already appearing within the first week really has me excited about the future.

    When XenForo was initially released, I was still having a pretty good run with IPB. I took one look at XenForo and turned my nose up at it. Today, I'm wishing I hadn't been so hasty to dismiss it. If everything can go from negative to positive on my site in just six days, I'm thinking XenForo is one of the best moves I've ever made. I see IPB is coming up on a new release and it looks like they have made some positive strides with respect to SEO. I'm thankful they waited until after my conversion to XenForo to mention any of it. Had they announced those changes a couple weeks ago, I might have been tempted to remain with them.

    So for all those negative observations I made about XenForo a year ago, about all I can say is to pass me another slice of that humble pie. I'm suddenly excited about my forums again and I've XenForo to thank for it.

    After another month or so, I'll get back in here and post some results from Analytics, to let everyone see how the site is doing.
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  2. Barry
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    Barry Supporting Member

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    This is excellent news, thank you for making such a detailed report, I'm sure many will find it of use.

    I do look forward to the update in a month or so.
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  3. Mike54
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    Mike54 Well-Known Member

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    Here's are two interesting statistics.

    I've compared the average active user numbers from the last week we were on IPB and the first week we've been on XenForo. That number is up an astonishing 49.4%.

    Average daily post counts is even better-looking. That number is up 85.2%.

    And mind this is a custom auto site, populated almost entirely by men averaging over 47 years of age. Men who get their wives to turn on their computers, more times than not. So to suggest these men are "software tourists" ain't gonna hunt for that site.

    My members are suddenly showing up in greater numbers and are posting more whilst there. :thumbsup:
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  4. Azhria Lilu
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    Azhria Lilu Make the stupid people shut up.

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    Good to hear. What's the most consistent remarks you're getting in the way of feedback? (You know, things that keep getting repeated by different people :D)
  5. Mike54
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    Mike54 Well-Known Member

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    Well, you've already seen some of them, but these are typical remarks, copied from the forum -

    That one's down to the great people at Xenique.
    That one is from an IT tech at his local school system.

    I could go on and on. My members are raving about it. When we converted from vB 3.8 to IPB 3.0.4, I had a lot of members grumbling about IPB. I've not received a single complaint about converting to XenForo.

    Whilst running IPB, I would typically get between 3 and 5 messages a day, people griping about not being able to figure something out, or griping about something not working as they expected. Yesterday, there were zero messages. People have been remarking how much easier XenForo is to use.

    I'm lovin' it!
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  6. smackLAN
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    smackLAN Squirrel!!!

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    Nice results Mike. Glad to hear you are getting renewed enjoyment out of your sites!
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  7. AzzidReign
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    AzzidReign Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for this post. I hope to have the same results with my members.
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  8. Mike54
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    Mike54 Well-Known Member

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    Here are some interesting numbers. All of these page generation times were developed using the specific software's native debug mode and are the average of five page refreshes on the index page. Online user counts were always within 10, from highest to lowest.

    IPB, with eAccelerator doing opcode caching - 0.4500 second
    XenForo, with eAccelerator doing opcode caching - 0.3670 second
    XenForo as before with Core caching on the front end and using file caching of the back end - 0.1556 second
    XenForo as before, with some tweaks to php.ini - 0.1304 second
    XenForo as before, but exchanging APC for eAccelerator - 0.1346 second (Yes, eAccelerator was faster)
    XenForo as before, but enabling APC caching of the back end - 0.1233 seconds
    XenForo as before with Memcached enabled - 0.1213 second and a drop in server load of 0.09

    XenForo, straight out of the tin is certainly faster than IPB. And if you're willing to put some effort into it, you can make it a l-o-t faster. A tip of the hat to the XenForo devs, I'm convinced they have built a better mousetrap.

    I also just converted all the appropriate database tables from MyISAM to InnoDB. I think my members are going to be hard-pressed to grumble about the site for the foreseeable future. :thumbsup:
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  9. Mike54
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    Mike54 Well-Known Member

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    Two weeks after the conversion and all the numbers I record are still improving. Recording the improvements on a daily basis makes them seem pretty miniscule, so I'll wait another couple weeks before I start posting any comparisons. But after watching these numbers for the last four years, I can already say I'm well-pleased with the money I spent on the XenForo license. Bounce rate is down, time on site is up, search traffic is improving. The upward trend in ad revenue has really put a smile on my face.
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  10. Mike54
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    Mike54 Well-Known Member

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    OK, it's been 30 days since I converted from IP.Board 3.2.2 to XenForo. Things are starting to show signs of settling in and I really don't imagine there will be anything major to report for the next 3-6 months. But I am happy to say the numbers are all still looking good. The few numbers that appear to be down are down because other numbers are really climbing.

    My Bounce Rate is hovering around being down about 1.8%. It's will drop a couple hundredths and then will pick one of them back up, before dropping again.

    Average Time on Site is up 1:46 from where it was the day before the conversion. Again, we'll add a couple seconds one day and lose one of them the next. Six months from now, there will be enough data to show what the trend really is.

    The site visits number is up 14.98%. Just that one number assures me XenForo was good decision for me to make.

    My longtail numbers dropped, but have floated back up. I'm not real concerned, because the Search Keywords number continues to increase, just not as fast as the Search Visits number is climbing.

    For those who still might think IP.SEO is a winner, my recommendation is to drop it like a hot rock. My Sitemap URLs number is up 132.5% from where it was one month ago. And the Indexed URL count is up 179%. I always thought IP.SEO was a lot of useless fluff wrapped around a sitemap generator. Now I can see the fluff wasn't wrapped around anything. Smoke and mirrors, maybe, but that's all it was.

    My average, daily post count is up an amazing amount. Comparing that number from the last 30 days on IP.Board to these last 30 days on XenForo, the number is up 58.8%. The active members per day is holding in at a 49% increase.

    My average, daily AdSense revenue is up 79.6% and my VigLink revenue is up 110%.

    I'm getting more indexed pages, my search keyword count is climbing, I'm getting more visitors, I'm getting more members, fewer visits are bounces, people are spending more time on the site, people are posting more than ever before and my revenue is climbing back out of the hole. I've no quarrel with anyone who wants to run IP.Board, instead of XenForo. All I can do is remind them there is something better, whenever they are ready to step up their game.

    Before anyone comes along and suggests this is a case of "software tourists" (a Charles Warner-ism, if I ever heard one), I want to point out the majority of my members are men who are very close to retirement age. I know two of them have admitted to me their wives turn on their computers and open a browser for them, because they simply do not know how to do it. I know I have a half-dozen techies on the site, but to pretend people are being more active to "try out" the new software is a dog that just ain't gonna hunt, in this case. I've had 4 members who have been MIA for a long time and have now come back and started participating again, simply because they find Xenforo so much easier to use. People have quit complaining about registration problems, people have quit complaining about log-in problems, people have quit complaining about the text editor giving them fits and people have quit asking all of the same-old, same-old questions about how to do things. I used to average 7 messages a day, people asking me how to do this or that. I've not had one of those messages in 12 days. I've finally managed to stop playing nursemaid for an hour every day. It's a simple fact of my members enjoying the site more than they did when I (mistakenly) ran IP.Board.

    Thanks to the team at XenForo, for a well-designed product.
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  11. AzzidReign
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    AzzidReign Well-Known Member

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    If these people were software toursists, I would have seen an increase in visitors, activity, pages, and decrease in bounce rate if that were the case when I converted to IPB. I actually had quite the opposite and it's gotten worse through all the updates. I hope xF is the answer to this ongoing issue I've had since I converted to IPB. I think you said you converted from vb to IPB as well, so I would guess you had the same trends I did...since I've spoken with 3 other big board admins that run IPB and if you overlaid our charts, they'd be almost identical in terms of pre-IPB and on IPB.
  12. Forsaken
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    Forsaken Well-Known Member

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    There are very few niches that can be described as software tourists, and that is generally developer/designers and forum admins.

    Any other niche is unlikely to care about the software other than usability and ease of use of a product. If Charles really does say crap like that, its just him lying to himself to explain away all the converts from their software.

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