With the relaunch of the WSF Webzine taking place on the 1st of July our thoughts now turn to the WSF Forums. This is quite a chunky document so I’ve split it into the following sections:
- Why the present forum has to change
- What we are changing to and the advantages of the new platform
- A new design
- What will the new site contain from the old site
- The Removal of the WSF Social Groups and their replacement
- The removal of the WSF App and its replacement
- When is this going to happen?
Why the present forum has to change
I understand that change is always something people need to get used to rather than something many will embrace. However, there is a need for the forum to be updated onto a modern platform. Since 2004 WSF has relied on the vBulletin forum board system. This is a commercially available system that in previous years was the industry standard; something a majority of big forum boards would run. We started with VB3 and then gradually moved up to VB4, the current forum. A year and a half ago VB4 was superseded by VB5. The introduction of VB5 means that eventually, in the not so distant future, support will end for VB4.
Why does this matter? It matters because WSF is a high profile site that needs to be as secure as possible. The discontinuation of any support for VB4 in the future would mean any security holes that are found in the software will not be plugged or fixed and would be left open. It also means that if any potential software bugs were found in the future that needed to be rectified, they wouldn’t. Working on an old platform such as VB also limits the ability of this forum to develop. Things have moved on a lot in recent times!
The easy answer to this would of course be to follow tradition and upgrade to VB5. We do not believe that moving to VB5 would be a wise decision. It is different software to how VB used to be and it would not meet the needs of the forum and the members as effectively as it has in the past.
What we are changing to and the advantages of the new platform
After extensive research of the options available we have taken the decision to move our forums to the Xenforo forum board platform.
What is Xenforo? Xenforo is a forum board system developed by British company, Xenforo Ltd. Xenforo is exactly how a forum board should be like. Clean, efficient, super quick and intuitive. Xenforo was developed by the team involved with early versions of VB (1, 2 and 3), these were by far the best versions of VB. Xenforo is fast becoming the industry standard forum board software and a large majority of VB3 and VB4 boards have moved over.
We haven’t just decided to make this change and force it upon the community. It is important for the community to be involved in shaping a radical overhaul of WSF. Over the past few weeks and for the rest of this week around 150 of our most regular members have been testing and making suggestions. This has lead to a number of improvements on the first version of the software we had. So far, most of the comments have been positive and the suggestions made, if required, have been implemented with ease.
The advantages of moving to Xenforo are:
- Super quick! Xenforo sites are quick. The software itself is not bogged down by bloated, unnecessary code. This means that it not only uses less server resources but also takes less time to download for you. So the server is happy and hopefully you, the members are happy too. Those who have tested the test platform have commented on how quick the new forum is compared to the current WSF Forums.
- Mobile first. Xenforo LOVES mobiles and tablets, it was born to work with them and no matter where you are, accessing WSF from any internet capable modern mobile phone is a doddle!
- Intuitive. Xenforo is a very intuitive piece of software. For most of you it won’t be a very steep learning curve and even for the less tech savvy members, there is little new to learn. Everything that Xenforo does is thought about from the users perspective. This means that things are intuitively placed and work without the frustrations that other forum boards can command.
- What does intuitive mean. It means that simple things that took a lot of time and effort in VB are now easier, some examples include.
1. It’s easier to upload a photo to a thread.
2. Instead of using multi quote you can now reply to each post and XF automatically queues your replies into one.
3. If you are replying to a thread and somebody replied to the thread whilst you were typing, XF will let you know and read the addition before you submit your reply.
4. Conversations open up a whole new world. Instead of the simple PM system used before you can invite friends to your Conversations making it quicker and easier to stay in touch with friends, arrange fishing trips with your mates or club guys.
5. The sidebar now shows you when your friends are online making it easier to send them that fishing invitation or photo of a special fish.
6. Each post now has an auto save draft feature, this means that if you are accidentally disconnected, close a screen or click the back button. When you got back to the thread, your reply is waiting for you to continue writing.
- Safer and more secure. Xenforo is also safer. In the 4 years since Xenforo first hit the shelves it has only ever needed one security patch. All in all, when it comes to software security and making sure this forum is secure and always available, we can’t compromise.
- Social engagement. Sometimes it’s nice to be rewarded for that post, to get a like for that reply and just be appreciated for your contribution to the community. Xenforo has a build in system allowing members to like your posts and replies. It also employs a trophy system, so as your contribution to the forum increases your reputation and rewards increase too.
- Watched forums. Don’t want to read about catch reports from the South Coast but want to read about them from the East Coast? Maybe you want to read a bit of Tackle discussion too and when you’re a bit bored, venture into Chatter? Well why not create your own homepage and have the forums you want to visit there instead? Watched forums allow you to create a section on the site where only the forums you want to read reside.
- Alerts! Want to know if you’ve been quoted, had a post liked or somebody has replied to a thread you started? Not a problem, Xenforo has a great alerting system that lets you know all of this stuff and more!
- Great social integration. Xenforo is fully integrated into all modern social media platforms allowing present members to connect their account to their Facebook, Twitter and Google accounts. New members now sign in to WSF from their FB, Twitter and Google accounts without having to go through the whole WSF sign up process. Making WSF one of the most integrated angling websites around.
- Compatibility with other WSF sites. By using a variation of OpenID, for the first time it is now possible for you to use your WSF account details to login to our other sister sites. This removes the requirement for present WSF members to have to re-sign up to a service already offered by WSF on another site.
A new design
Mobile First – you’ve probably heard this a thousand times before but for the first time the WSF Forums have been designed with a mobile first strategy in mind. The new design of the WSF forums will take into account each device that you are using the forum on. It doesn’t matter what you want to consume your WSF daily fix on, it will work on any modern phone, tablet or your standard PC.
Cleaner and brighter – the new forum has been designed to have a cleaner, sharper look than before. It borrows a lot of elements from the newly launched WSF Webzine. We’ve ported over our pale blue, black and white colour scheme to the forums.
The site features two skins, the main WSF skin, which is our native look and a Dark skin. The Dark skin has a slightly darker background, bolder text and is designed for those of you who like to read against a darker background. Something some of our testers pointed out and something we tried to implement quickly.
We’ve also moved the main font back to Times New Roman, yes its old but it’s making a bit of a comeback these days. Its clean, its easy to read and also looks great too.
What will the new site contain from the old site
With 10 years worth of posts in the WSF Forum database it is important that we preserve all of this valuable information. So all of the current posts will be moved over to the new site. All present usernames and passwords will also move over to the new site. This means you wont have to re-register on the site and all of your valuable posts will be present. Your likes will also move over with your account too.
Your “Buddies” on WSF will move over in the shape of Followers and your Ignore List will continue to be the same too.
All of your PMs will move over to the new Conversations system. Your PMs will import as standalone messages but any messages you create in the new system will be created as a threaded conversation. Much like a forum thread or a Facebook message. You can also invite multiple members to one Conversation.
Your album photos will be moved over to a new album system, we’ve had a quick play with this and the new software is really, really good!
Removal of the WSF Social Groups and their replacement
Sadly not everything can be moved over to the new forum software, the one thing that we can’t move over is the present Social Group system. The simple reason is that they are not compatible with how these groups will work in future.
WSF Groups will be the re-launched social group platform. Offering secure, invite only forums for members to run and look after themselves. These will be ideal for clubs and groups who want to chat amongst themselves. Organised and plan meets and all the other things a group of mates want to chat about.
Removal of the WSF App and its replacement
The current WSF App only runs on the VB forum software in its current build that we use. Because of this once the new forum is launched the WSF App will no longer work and will be discontinued. We will be making it unavailable to download from the Apple and Google stores shortly.
At present there is no plan to replace the app. Why? Because it is no longer needed. All a forum app does is strip out the design features that are not needed to read the base content of a forum. Our new design does that for you already and makes the WSF App, Forum Runner and Tapatalk redundant. We’d argue that using the new responsive WSF Forums is actually quicker to use than an app and saves you the hassle of having to download an app to use a forum effectively.
By making the site fully mobile responsive we have opened the opportunity for members who are using the forum on Windows Phones and other platforms to use the site effectively for the first time. It doesn’t matter whether you are using an Android, iOS, Windows or any other smart phone platform, as long as you’ve got a browser installed you should have effective and quick access to the WSF forums!
When is this going to happen?
Our planned date for launch is the 28th of July 2014. The importing and testing of the forum is likely to take some time and we don’t envisage the WSF Forums coming back online until, potentially Tuesday 29th of July 2014. We hope to get it done quicker than this, but it’s a big job and will take time.
Due to the size of the forum simply using the inbuilt importer is not practical. To that end we have employed one of the worlds leading Xenforo to vBulletin migration guys and he will be handling the database migration.
Once the forum has been migrated it will likely take us a few hours to check permissions, import the new WSF Look and also add on the Add Ins that we need for the forum. We are looking at a possible 24 hour shutdown during this process.
The forum app will be removed from the Apple iTunes Store and the Google Play Store on the Thursday 24th. You can still use the app up to Sunday.
As with any major upgrade, there will be teething problems. We will setup a special forum for people to highlight these. Of course we will endeavour to fix any problems as quickly as possible when the new site goes live. We would however, appreciate patience. It could take us a week or more to iron out any problems and roll out any fixes that might need to be corrected. We’ve tried to test everything as thoroughly as we can but, sometimes, things do go wrong and don’t always work as they should do. That my friends, is the nature of IT
Before I sign off, I’d like to thank the WSF Moderators for helping to test the initial site. A huge thanks to WSF member, Gusmcg, who once again helped tremendously with testing and also –Stevie- for the same. Last but not least, the 150 or so WSF Members who have been logging in with regularity, testing and offering suggestions on the new WSF Forums.
Mike Thrussell Jnr
Founder, World Sea Fishing