Vanilla's forum software is used by top brands to engage customers, drive loyalty and reduce support costs.

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Overview

Vanilla
Vanilla's forum software is used by top brands to engage customers, drive loyalty and reduce support costs.
2009
  • Easy to use
  • Deploy in cloud or as self-hosted free version
  • Visually appealing interface
  • Optional sidebar for displaying categories can be styled through HTML/CSS
  • Robust anti-spam tools and techniques
  • Multi-forum support
  • Built in gamification engine
  • Enterprise cloud pricing is more costly than many of the free forum options
  • Customer support does not include live chat
  • No reply by email functionality if self-hosted
  • No searchable member directory
Vanilla

Pricing

3600.00
  • 0 to 600k: $3.6k
  • 600k to 3m: $7.2k
  • 3m to 30m: $14.4k
  • 30m+: Negotiated
  • Open source / self-hosting: $0
Month-to-Month
Yes
Yes, get a free trial
Negotiable on multi-year terms
None
  • Optional migration support (included in some plans): Varies
  • Optional integration support: Varies
  • Optional design services: Varies
None
None

Details

Enterprise
  • Login IP Ranges
  • SSAE 16 SOC 1 audits
  • U.S. – Swiss Safe Harbor
  • ISO 27001/27018
  • Qualys SECURE Seal
  • Independent security penetration testing
Support package
SAAS (Single Tenant)
  • Canned Reports
  • Customizable Reports
  • Supports Google Analytics
  • API for integration/selective exports
Medium
API’s available + pre-built integrations with other systems
  • Ideation
  • Salesforce integration
  • Zendesk
  • Social Media
  • Wordpress
  • Mailchimp
  • Wish List
  • ShareThis
  • Github
  • Pockets
  • Viglink
  • Multi-forum Management
  • Mulit-lingual
  • Gamification
  • Badges
  • Social sign-up (Google)
  • Social sign-up (Twitter)
  • Social sign-up (Facebook)
  • Social sign-up (Other)
  • SSO (native or 3rd party)

Notable Clients

Features

Analytics / Reporting toolsAutomated community tour for newcomersAutomation rulesBloggingCase ManagementDirectoriesDiscussions / Activity FeedDocument CollaborationDocument PreviewsDocument SharingDocument UploadsEvents Calendar with RegistrationGroups (Public, Private, Secret)Knowledge BaseMention by @name
Mentor / volunteer matchingMicrositesMobile AppModeration toolsPermissions configurable by rolePersonalizationPollsPrivate Messaging / NotificationsQuestions (with ability to mark questions correct)Ratings and reviewsResponsive designSEO friendly linksSpam control toolsTask Management

Customer Reviews of Vanilla

Reviews Summary

Star Rating
4.2 out of 5
  • user friendly
  • easy to customize
  • SSO options
  • lot of features
  • reasonable price
  • very limited and badly documented API
  • quite buggy
  • Non mission-critical bug fixes can take a long time to resolve
  • Does not integrate with some of the systems I use (e.g Hootsuite)
  • Dashboard elements are sometimes unintuitive
* Taken from our most recent reviews

Latest Reviews

Person

Star Rating Good but not great

We use the hosted option and are quite happy with it. We would welcome more gamification options... Read Full Review

Person

Star Rating Great software and a responsive team

I'm one of Vanilla's earliest customers, having used them since 2012. We've been impressed by the stability of the platform, and have built a great relationship with the company over the years.
... Read Full Review

Person

Star Rating Seamless Import, Top-Notch Support

The platform is easy to customize and very robust for our members who "always want the latest thing." Normally that would kill my budget, but Vanilla has almost everything I need right out of the box.... Read Full Review

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All Customer Reviews

Person

Star Rating Good but not great

We use the hosted option and are quite happy with it. We would welcome more gamification options...

  • user friendly
  • easy to customize
  • SSO options
  • lot of features
  • reasonable price
  • very limited and badly documented API
  • quite buggy
Person

Star Rating Great software and a responsive team

I'm one of Vanilla's earliest customers, having used them since 2012. We've been impressed by the stability of the platform, and have built a great relationship with the company over the years.

Primarily our interest was in reducing the amount of dev hours dedicated to the forum, and Vanilla has consistently delivered 4 nines of uptime over the course of our tenure.

Disclosure: I've worked professionally with Vanilla as a writer, after many years as a client. I consider this an endorsement of their platform in itself rather than a conflict of interest. I no longer work for them in any capacity.

  • Excellent uptime performance
  • Fast, friendly support and bug fixes
  • Responsive to feedback and customisation requests
  • Mod tools are simple and powerful
  • Low levels of spam
  • Non mission-critical bug fixes can take a long time to resolve
  • Does not integrate with some of the systems I use (e.g Hootsuite)
  • Dashboard elements are sometimes unintuitive
  • Search functionality not complete across dashboard
Person

Star Rating Seamless Import, Top-Notch Support

The platform is easy to customize and very robust for our members who "always want the latest thing." Normally that would kill my budget, but Vanilla has almost everything I need right out of the box.

  • - Responsive support
  • - SSO to connect with our existing platform
  • - Multimedia friendly
  • - Smartphone compatible
  • - Customizable templating / colors / etc.
  • - Only getting up to speed...I didn't take the time to read all of the documentation. But getting there!
Person

Star Rating Fantastic team, fantastic platform.

Vanilla has a highly configurable platform that fits every use case that we've been able to throw at it. The team at Vanilla is also fantastic. Every step of the journey there has been clear and constant communication.

  • Customizable platform
  • Great pricing
  • Amazing team
  • While highly customizable, there are still a few items that we've had to employ their dev team to create from scratch. (The fact that they are willing to create bespoke items is another Pro)
Person

Star Rating Easy to use community forum

Vanilla has been great for our community forum. From discussion boards to submitting feature requests, fun contests, videos, and custom badges promoting engagement, it's easy for us to manage, and even easier for our customers to use.

  • Can customize freely ourselves
  • User friendly
  • Easy to manage/maintain
  • Limited custom reporting
Person

Star Rating Good basic forum software; weak moderation tools

Vanilla Forum is reasonably priced, has a clean easy to use interface, and has lots of great customization options. If you're willing to put in the effort, there is a lot you can do with Vanilla, and we've found that it's been effective for our needs without requiring a lot of time and effort on our part. The learning curve is easy.

But a challenge we have had is that the moderation tools for members, while potentially very robust, are either buggy or designed in a way that makes them not useful (at least for us). We can't temporarily ban a member or limit their ability to post in a way that doesn't reveal that fact to the rest of the community, which for us is real problem.

In addition, we've found that the dashboard module (stats) that comes with Vanilla is useful for top level metrics but doesn't give access to the level of detail we sometimes want.

  • - Reasonably priced
  • - Single sign on integration
  • - Clean interface
  • - Robust configuration and settings options
  • - Lots
  • - Moderation tools are buggy or poorly designed
  • - Stats tools are good for top level metrics only
Person

Star Rating Robust and reliable but lacking in some areas

We used the self-hosted version of Vanilla for two years and then moved on to the hosted version.

We had a lot of problems maintaining the self-hosted version and bugs frequently popped up. Since moving to the hosting version it's been much better - the platform is stable and we don't need to worry about upgrades. The team at Vanilla have been great and are always eager to help.

Overall, it's a good platform to use and quite reasonably priced but the user experience and functionality seem to be a little behind other platforms.

  • Great support
  • Stable hosting
  • CSS and HTML template can be easily customised
  • Lots of useful plugins
  • Some features are slightly half-baked - such as email notifications, questions, and the best of page
  • Feels a bit old fashioned compared to some platforms
Person

Star Rating Love this platform

I just love working with this platform! The team at Vanilla have been incredible. Since making a seamless switch to Vanilla, we have had no bug issues. Our community adapted straight away. From the layout, to the ease of use, I highly recommend this platform.

  • Easy to use
  • Great layout
  • Easy to follow analytics
  • Bug free
  • Amazing support from Vanilla
  • Turn around time with minor issues
  • Nothing to add here!
Person

Star Rating Decent product, less than stellar support

We have been leveraging Vanilla for a little over a year now. We have a hosted solution which works OK for us. It meets most of our needs but I don't feel it is a viable long term solution.

  • Ideation
  • SSO
  • Limited in terms of customization in that in order to make any changes to our style sheet we need to get our selves added to their sprint.
  • Ranking and gamification is also pretty rudimentary.
Person

Star Rating Good, But Not Perfect

We've been on the hosted version of Vanilla for about 3.5 years now. In a word, I'd give it a 7.5 out of 10 rating. Good, but not perfect.

What it does well: the permission system is fantastic. You can setup roles and limit categories and activities based on those roles. We use this a lot to prevent certain people from seeing certain parts of the site, or be able to assign people "read only" roles. Customization is pretty decent as well in terms of theming.

Downsides? The API is not super comprehensive and not well documented. It's also pretty expensive. We pay $400 a month for a feature set we'd pay $100 for on Discourse.

Also, email notifications are "meh". Not possible to reply to notifications via email unless you pay a bundle and no round-up emails.

Speaking of Discourse, the feature set there blows Vanilla out of the water. If I was starting today I'd probably go with them for our needs. But if you're looking for something with great permissions or Discourse isn't a good fit Vanilla is worth looking for.



  • Permission Rules and Roles
  • Customization of Theme
  • Price
  • API
  • Feature Set
  • Email
Person

Star Rating High quality embeddable forums, now MUCH more expensive than when I last used

It’s probably at least 3-4 years since I last used Vanilla and then only in a pilot community. Please treat my observations therefore with some care!

I used the hosted version of Vanilla as opposed to the open source self hosting version. Overall, I was very impressed with the evidence of a well-developed, mature, stable and highly flexible platform.

When I looked at the Vanilla product pages and pricing before writing this review, I was very surprised to see the very large increases in pricing since I last looked. Minimum pricing is now $299/month, which from memory is about a 500% increase on what I paid. I seem to recall that there was even a free edition. Presumably this is simply evidence of a mature organisation having used an initial development community of users to get everything in place before pricing at a level consistent with providing high levels of investment and support.

  • Every significant forum feature (at least according to my limited criteria!)
  • Easily embeddable with lots of available HTML and CSS customisation
  • Colourful and attractive
  • Gamification
  • I recall receiving excellent support
  • Why would you spend this much when hosted Discourse is available from the outstanding and highly supportive developers for a third of the price?
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