Just to elaborate a bit before beginning, I've been a vbulletin user for a little over 3 years now on a relatively small forum with a consistent group of posters. It isn't a 'big board' by any means, but over time I've probably used most the features that vbulletin offers. This puts me at an advantage with that software bundle over IP.Board, so if I give kudos to a feature that is 'missing', but isn't actually missing and a user error of ignorance on my part, please chime in and correct me fully.
I know you can't really be objective on some things, and for those instances I've tried to separate them from the facts by italicizing them. Also, this is not at all a comprehensive analysis of the two softwares. Just a collection of points that stood out to me. Hopefully this kind of thing is allowed if done in a non-hostile/polite to other product way, if not then nuke away or move to the appropriate area, if there is one.
Things in Invision's Favor:
This is based on the 3.0 series of board, after my use of the IP.Suite product that comes with IP.Board/Blog/Gallery
- Private Messaging Private messages are just like email in other forum applications. Back and forth with quotes randomly nested and cut off. IPB has private 'conversations' which is basically a forum thread that only invited people can see. This is by default just you and the person you messaged. You can later invite others into the conversation. A total of 6 people can be in on a private conversation. This seems very similar to what Google is working on with their 'wave' project. Very nice and easy to read. This is by far one of the coolest methods of private conversation I've used and I really dislike going back to the 'old' system when using vbulletin based boards. I can't give this enough praise.
- New-Admin Friendly - There is a search box in the admin panel that dynamically changes based on what words you are typing in. Clicking on each link takes you to that particular menu section. This makes working in the backend as an admin incredibly efficient when you are new to the software, and really helps with the learning curve.
- User Profiles The information presented when you go to a user profile using the default theme is clean, yet abundant. Almost anything a visitor would be looking for can be quickly located on this page. This is incredibly well done. Content 'tabs' in the profile are loaded via AJAX. Clicking the' topics started' and' posts' tab in a user's profile and having it fade in is much better than clicking a link and being taken to a search result page.
- Admin Panel Once you get used to it, finding things in the admin panel seems much easier and efficient than vbulletin. Things are structured in a logical, easy to use manor. It seems somewhat slower than vbulletin's admin panel but not by much.
- SEO Friendly URLs IPB has them out of the box. vbulletin does not. Some argue if this helps or not, but honestly I consider these to be 'user friendly URLs' as well. When someone pastes a link elsewhere, the person clicking has a general idea what they are going to based on the text in the URL instead of thread.php?=231202
- User Agent Mapping I don't think this is a feature in vbulletin. Correct me please if I am mistaken. This is incredibly useful for making a mobile friendly version of your site, even tailored specifically for particular devices. It can map specific themes (and possibly other stuff?) to individual browsers. One of my users actually discovered this first and sent me a thank-you email. I had no idea what he was talking about but after investigating, it is a great feature to have.
- Integration with other products Invision actively support all of their advertised products, and make it a point to have them integrate with each other seamlessly. The blog/gallery are very well developed, and seem to still be getting improved. I've not used the others enough to comment on them. But if you need extra bells and whistles to go with your community, these will and do go nicely together with their other components. The unified admin interface is a great plus.
Things in vbulletin's favor:
This is based on my use of vbulletin 3 series.
- Automated Usergroup Management - Able to have users request to join a usergroup. The user enters their control panel and clicks the usergroup they wish to join. The admin can check a usergroup request queue page and admit/deny/ignore each request. I've seen this compared to features also known as 'social groups.' This is not the same thing. If you have a private section on your boards, and want to limit who sees what, having a system where you can take admin-defined usergroups and flag them as 'joinable' helps immensely in dealing with user wanting into a private area. As it is currently I don't see a way for a user to request access to a private area of your board other than a PM. The above system would let you access a page to see a tabular list of users wanting to join the usergroup, each with a radio button beside them of admit/ignore/deny and a 'process requsts' form button at the bottom to make the changes. I hope I explained this properly; I can elaborate if it wasn't clear what I am talking about.
- User Management It is easier to quickly access and change ALL things in a user's profile using vbulletin via clicking their profile link. Instead of looking up a user in the admin panel (which you can also do) IPB just lets you change lesser options if you click on a username and hit 'edit profile'. For the full list you must go into the admin panel and then look up the user. I guess this is because the 'backend' stuff wouldn't really be considered a part of a users profile, which is the more social/public aspect of their information. Regardless, a quick way to get to the backend for that particular user is a nice ability to have. If I see a disruptive person I would much prefer to just click on their name and be given the option to enter their user page as if I looked them up the admin panel.
- Theme & Customization The only thing that gives vbulletin an edge is the css color selector built in to quickly replace things on the fly rather than toy with an entire CSS layout output in a form field. This is incredibly minor for me, but I believe still worth mentioning as a lot of people enjoy such functionality. At first I thought it was incredibly difficult to work with templates in IPB, but after messing with it a bit more there honestly isn't that much difference in the system.
- Thread Prefixes I've not seen an option for this. I like these and am not really happy to see them missing in IP.Board. Yes they are limited to being useful in certain situations but when those situations arrive they can be invaluable.
- Search Since I started working on this document, Invision seems to be steadily improving on the search feature in the last few minor version releases. Results are getting much more accurate, and I've been able to find thinks much easier now compared to previously. I still don't like the results being post based vs thread based. An option to return results as threads or posts, and letting and letting the board admin set the default would be nice. Users can then move away from it as they see fit, but would initially be presented with a result set that they are accustomed to seeing. As for now, I still am not comfortable with search results, nor are many of my users.
And that's all I really have for now. I've really enjoyed working with something new and seeing what other options are on the market.
One thing I would like to add... and this is that the staff here is incredibly helpful. They come across as genuinely nice, polite, and have always been enjoyable to talk with. After reading through threads on here it seems that it isn't an uncommon occurrence . That is a major plus in my opinion. If you are going to invest in a product that puts you in a relationship with a company for an extended period of time, be sure to know what kind of people you are getting involved with. In this case, I would say you're getting a solid product with good people backing it.
Sorry for writing a book, I'm really finished now.