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The Power of vBulletin 4 - My review

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  • The Power of vBulletin 4 - My review

    Once upon a time in this forum there was a place to show off your finished vBulletin sites. Unfortunately, it's been so many months that I am sure that the thread has long seen been buried. However, in the spirit of paying it forward, I'm going to show off my newly launched (as of about 27 hours ago) vB4 site and explain what I did, what I used, and throw in a few product reviews as well to get those of you on the edge of purchasing VB4 over the edge.

    First, my site link:

    Note: If you don't want my backstory and just want to see what my site is using, or my final review of vBulletin, skip down to the headers I have placed in this post. It's a bit of a read, but this is the kind of detail I wish I had back when I first was deciding whether or not to purchase vBulletin.

    -----Back Story-----

    Now for some back story. For about a year and a half my site was running on a combination of Wordpress, phpbb3, drupal, and mediawiki. The site was a patchwork of software that was added one piece at a time as new needs arose. Wordpress was my news blog, and phpbb3 was our forum. The two were loosely integrated together with an older version of WP-United. Drupal was installed to allow us to have a file database for users to share game mods. Mediawiki was there for the wiki. To post to the forums, file database and wiki my users had to make three different user accounts - a hassle for the users and a poor way to encourage socializing. Thus, I came to vBulletin.

    I started looking at CMS options around December of 2009. After a lot of investigation, I started to focus on VB4. At the time it was nearing the end of its initial development and I was torn between the people complaining about the changes from VB3 and the massive potential of the CMS package. Additionally, with a lifetime license for the VB4 series I knew I would at least get a couple years of product for my money.

    One last note on the back story: After my experiences with the free software mentioned above I was sick and tired of putting up with add-ons, modules, plug-ins and modifications that were usually left unfinished or highly delayed, and had no support. I finally had enough of a userbase to support the site via a couple of minor advertisements, so I wanted the satisfaction of an active community and the kind of tech support that comes with a purchased product. and the many software developers were what finally tipped me over the edge.

    -----What my site runs on (and reviews)-----

    My site is based off of the VB4 CMS Package. The CMS section of the site is used only by staff members. The forums are divided into sections by a simple forum-sidebar menu and the use of the "This forum is Active" option switched to off. The blogs are available to my users and they have the option to customize them more or less as they please. My Wordpress stuff was imported very smoothly into the CMS via Impex (thanks to the HTML option being turned on by staff) and only required minor maintenace. The forums were also imported via Impex and only required some mild changes to the forum permissions and settings. My review of VB4 will come at the end of this post.

    The theme is a modified version of BluePearl Design's free VB4 Darkness style ( ). Despite being free, I was impressed with the altered header and the nice borders surrounding the site. It makes the site look different from a lot of the VB4 themes out there, but it also proves that the complaints I saw about VB4 being less customizable than VB3 were off the mark. The service I got when I had trouble customizing the theme was also great, despite that this was a free product. If you want a custom theme developed, I suggest going to BluePearl Design and having one made for you, or else modifying something they already have available for free.

    My menu's drop-down tabs are based on Wolfshead Solutions' Tab and Link Manager ( ). There are a few free modifications that do something similar, but they were poorly supported or very bugged. This modification is about 40 bucks, but in exchange for that you get a year of prompt service and unlimited use of the modification.

    There was ONE problem with the drop-down tabs though, and that was if I disabled the natural tabs for things like the CMS, Blogs, What's New, or other products, I would lose the links that appear just below the tabs. I tried to get Mosh at Wolfshead to be able to customize this area as well, but he insisted it was impossible. Knowing that losing this functionality would make the site more difficult to navigate and leave an empty space, I searched for some way to replace it. I ended up going to and putting up a post in the Request for Paid Services forum. To my rescue came TruthElixirX, who ended up making a template-based fix for my problem for only 40 bucks. Now I have complete customization over my entire navbar area, which is a huge bonus in case I ever want to add or remove anything from any part of it. If you need a VB4 modification done, I suggest PMing TruthElixirX to see if he can handle it for you. ( )

    Moving on, the other two most important things I wanted to bring over from my old site were the file database and the wiki. I found my answer to the wiki with VaultWiki ( ), and ended up purchasing the Premium Package. Honestly, it was worth far more than what I paid for it. The import from mediawiki was relatively easy, and after the import I had two options: Turn on the legacy code options to make the original pages show up more or less like the originally did, requiring less work to convert but costing server performance, or leave the legacy code off and undergo the back-breaking task of converting the entire wiki to the new BBCode system. We ended up ditching the legacy code and getting some help from community members to convert the wiki. It took a long time, but it was definitely worth it. Also, Pegasus, the author of VaultWiki, gives some of the best tech support I've ever seen. If you want an integrated wiki for vBulletin, THIS is your best choice.

    The file database I ended up switching over manually to DownloadsII ( ). This is a free modification, and honestly accomplished in about 5 minutes what it took me a couple months to set up and test out in Drupal. The downside of this switch was that the 450 files required manually downloading from the old database, uploading to the new one, and manually copying and pasting the information for each mod's description.

    While the DownloadsII modification technically accomplishes what I needed, I can't help but feel that it still needs a fair amount of work to be perfect. There is no way to keep track of the latest comments on the files, tag files, subscribe to files, etc. A few other users on the forums and myself have been making suggestions, but so far there has been no response (even when mentioning the possibility of paying to make these changes). I read an early comment on the DownloadsII thread that the author tends to make a modification and then leave it to die until the next version of vBulletin comes out. I am holding out hope that there will be progress on the modification, but if not then at least the database serves its basic purpose. I'd still suggest it to anyone who needs a file database.

    There are a few more major modifications installed that are worth pointing out. For my media needs, I have installed 8WR Media Library ( )for a video gallery, and have it set so only staff members can modify it so that no unrelated videos are included. I have also installed Picture and Album Gallery ( ) to allow my users to include their own screenshots and fan art. With a small tweak to my navbar modifications I was also able to include an easy-to-find list of staff-maintained galleries for newcomers to the site.

    The last set of major modifications I have installed are all from Dragonbyte Technologies ( vbShout provides a nice Shout/Chatbox for my users to converse in, vbOptimise maximizes my site'd caching and server performance, and vbActivity provides a ton of social features for my users. I also plan to purchase one of their future forum RPG modifications so that my users' well-earned points can be used for something fun. I've contacted them several times for little support problems, and each time they have responded in excellent time and with excellent support. At the time I bought the three products they were available in a lifetime support package bundle for 150 dollars. That package is no longer available and their prices have gone up a bit, but the products and service are still well-worth the cash. If you have the money, I suggest spending it here.

    There are other minor modifications installed, and you can feel free to ask me how I did things with my site in this thread, but I won't cover them anymore in this post.

    -----My Review of vBulletin 4-----

    At the time I bought VB4 it was still new and the response from the vBulletin community was rather mixed, but now, over 6 months later and having just finally relaunched with vBulletin, I am glad I chose the VB4 CMS suite. The community is excellent, the service I have gotten for most of the modifications has been nothing less than outstanding, and the potential is amazing. I have heard there are more vBulletin products in development for the future, which will work alongside with and integrate with the Suite, and I look forward to seeing what they are and how I can use them for my own site. As for the tech support from vBulletin itself, I would give it four stars out of five. I rank it down just one star because there is one person on the support team who I have felt like doesn't take the time to read through my entire support requests before responding with automated responses. The other people who have responded have been excellent though, so it's just luck of the draw when you make a request.

    -----Final Thoughts-----

    If you are looking at a situation like mine where you want to leave behind the hassle of poor integration between free CMS and forum software, then this is a good choice for you. If you are starting up a new site and want unlimited potential, then VB4 is for you.

    One thing you may have noticed is that a lot of what I mentioned in the above post involved money. That is because you get what you pay for when it comes to service online. If you have a community-based website, then you should wait until you have enough advertising (or sales, if that is your area) money coming in before upgrading to VB. If you are starting something new and aren't sure if you will ever grow that big, you may want to wait and try something else before upgrading. If you have the cash, need to make something professional and powerful, and have the time to get it all set up, then vBulletin is for you.

    I hope that wasn't too long for you all. I spent about 8 months from the time I started thinking about CMS options until I finally launched my site. I took the time to test out a lot of things before putting anything live. What you see at is the end product. I hope something I said here can help you too.

  • #2
    thanks for the great post. really cool.
    however, I must say, I don't like the theme you are using. The colors just simply doesn't mesh together properly.


    • #3
      I actually rather like the style.

      Nice post


      • #4
        Thanks for the kind words mate Site is looking really good
        Bluepearl Skins - vBulletin 4 & 5 Skins


        • #5
          I like the theme but runs slow for me.
          Get rid of the silly elephant in the php execution modules.
          I replaced the icon with a 1x1px transparent png image or you can edit the template.
 (vB3.8) | (vB4.2)
          "I tried to clean this up but this thread is beyond redemption." - Steve Machol


          • #6
            Good job Webbstre, nice style and navbar, good luck with your site.


            • #7

              Good job. I can tell you really busted your butt to get the site to look like that.


              • #8
                Looking good there, Webbstre.
                vBulletin - Sometimes, I'm just like, Wow, and then I'm like, Whoa, and then I'm like, Damn.

      's ol' Moderator

                I have a lifetime terrorist hunting permit - #091101

                chmod a+x /bin/laden -- Allows anyone the permission to execute /bin/laden


                • #9
                  Thanks Guys, and I'm aware of the slow loading. I discovered a server problem with my caching and need to get my server host to help setup something more effective. Still that's not VB's fault :P


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Webbstre View Post
                    Thanks Guys, and I'm aware of the slow loading. I discovered a server problem with my caching and need to get my server host to help setup something more effective. Still that's not VB's fault :P
                    It's looking great on this end. Keep up the good work. One of the best integrated vBs I've seen in a long time. Congratulations!


                    • #11
                      Nice looking site and a nice write-up. You did a nice job.

                      Please don't PM or VM me for support - I only help out in the threads.
                      vBulletin Manual & vBulletin 4.0 Code Documentation (API)
                      Want help modifying your vbulletin forum? Head on over to
                      If I post CSS and you don't know where it goes, throw it into the additional.css template.

                      W3Schools <- awesome site for html/css help


                      • #12
                        I really like the design. Good job on the site


                        • #13
                          Looks great, although something is wrong with your sections because you have Home duplicated (Home ->


                          • #14
                            Thanks for the review mate.

                            May I suggest cleaning up the javascript:// links in your navtab items.



                            <a href="javascript://" class="popupctrl navtab" id="tabpopupctrl">News</a>

                             <a href="#" class="popupctrl navtab" id="tabpopupctrl">News</a>


                            widgetinstance 262 (Related Topics) skipped due to lack of content & hide_module_if_empty option.