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Advice needed for creating a community for car enthusiasts

Hi Everyone,

After searching for the past several months and looking at the pros and cons of each forum software, I decided to my community with Vanilla Forums. I love VF's feature of rewards and can not think of a better way to encourage contributors.

Long story short, I have never built a site before and need advice on what platform/software I should use to develop my site. The site will be a community for car enthusiast with a feature that will allow users to review aftermarket parts they have for their car.

I will create a product catalog on the site for all popular aftermarket parts and allow users to discuss, leave reviews, ask questions, and rate different criteria of the car parts.

For example, there will be a product page for a popular car stereo. Users can come on to this product page and ask questions or leave reviews on the car stereo.
Users can give a 1-5 rating on the criteria that I have setup for the specific that item. Example for car stereo:

Easy To Install
Sound Quality

The widget would look something like this:

When users wants to create a review it would look like this:

Here is the actual live site is here in case you guys want to check it out:

The site is super slick with a lot of cool features that I would love to add to my new site. For example, users can see what products other people like or want on their user page. They also have a pretty cool "follow" user feature and will update your activity log of your friends activity.

With that (I hope you guys are still with me haha),
I am 99.99% sure that I want to use Vanilla Forum as the community part of the site. I just do not know what other platform/software I should use to create the other part of the site. Or if I even need another software at all? I looked into embedding VF forums but read the pros and cons and thought it might not be too intuitive for the users. I would rather have two separate sites but somehow use a single sign on application.

Some additional features I would like for the new site is:
Single Sign On
Reviews and Comments created on the product page will automatically create a new thread or add to an existing thread, similar to vanilla comments.
Follow feature would be very cool. I understand VF has a plugin for not sure if it is working or how it works.
A "Own" or "Want" button, When users own or want this the car stereo, they can click it and it would show up on their profile page in an own or want section.

Does anyone have any recommendations on what I should use to build this type of site. I would need a find a developer somewhere to help me with this but I am not exactly sure what skills they must have to create this.

What do you guys think of using WP? My site will have a blog and WP has a lot of plugins available but I am a afraid that WP would limit me if I needed to add features that are "outside the box" in the future.

In addition, I am only a college student and do not have a lot disposable income and spend $xx,xxx to build this. However, I really do feel that car enthusiasts like me needs a community like this. I am not 100% sure if the site would be successful but I really want to give it a shot and try my hardest to grow the site.

If you are still here with me, thank you! soo much for reading this!!! Any help or input would be truly grateful. Thanks again.


  • Options
    hgtonighthgtonight ∞ · New Moderator

    With the functionality you are describing, I would either write a custom application for garden or use a custom post type in wordpress and implement sso with vanilla.

    This is a large project, but I can point you to some resources.

    On this site, there is a section called addons. It is an application written on top of garden and the source is available here: It is licensed under GPLv2. This would be a great starting point for learning how to make a full featured application.

    The other way would be creating a custom post type in wordpress. I suggest doing this if you are already comfortable using WP. It is also pretty easy to find a dev available to work on WP.

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    vrijvlindervrijvlinder Papillon-Sauvage MVP

    ok , well at least you know what you want.

    I recommend you use wordpress as a base camp. you can make it anything you want. And it is compatible with Vanilla has a good user interface and is not to hard to learn to use all it has to offer.

    The site you like is very complex but you may be able to achieve similar results using the widgets at WP.

    You can find themes that work well with mechanics , I made one called Heavy Metal.

    You can copy the style to have your wp and vanilla match as best as possible.

    Because you are on a budget, you need to learn as much as you can about html css and php etc. To be able to maintain the site once you create it. Start by installing WP, if it will be the main site then install in the root. Then install Vanilla in a sub folder. Or vice versa. Or you can start by Installing Vanilla and growing your community then branching out to more content production on WP.

    You should always start an endeavor with certainty of success. When you believe in something you can make it happen and in turn others believe in you and join the community.

    Good luck :)

  • Options
    businessdadbusinessdad Stealth contributor MVP

    As others pointed out, this is a very large project, and many of the features are outside the scope of Vanilla intended as Community forum. In my opinion, you have several choices:

    • Develop a completely custom Application using Vanilla, as suggested by @hgtonight.
    • Use another framework for the main Application and Vanilla for the Community, using SSO to integrate the two. In this case, I would avoid WordPress, as it's tailored to blogging, and look at other "barebone" frameworks (not necessarily PHP ones).

    How to do it

    I see three options:

    • Hire a professional to work on the project. Beware, though, that, based on the rough specifications you have given, a budget would most definitely be a five-figure one.
    • Good old DIY, as @vrijvlinder suggested, if your budget is too low. That means you would have to do most, if not all the work yourself. The pitfall I see in such approach is that, since you wrote that you never built a site before, you may get "lost" in the process. Website development is not something that one can learn in a week or two, there are many concepts to learn, especially about securing the application.
    • Find one or more technical partners who could help with the development. This might be the best compromise to have the project completed sooner, at the cost of sacrificing some equity. Note that, if the project is not going to produce any significant revenue, it may be difficult to find someone interested in it, as he would be working for free.
  • Options

    Thanks everyone for your suggestions. This definitely clears a lot of things up.

    I now have three options and is trying to decide the best way to go.

    Opt #1) Going custom by using a barebone framework or garden as suggested by @hgtonight and @businessdad.
    I think this is the best way to go in terms of customization and user experience. I will be able to make the site exactly how I want it. Creating a site with all the bells and whistles right out the gate would be incredible. Unfortunately, I do not think I have enough saved up to start this.

    Opt #2) Using a barebone framework. I will build a blog on top of it and use Vanilla for forum and SSO to integrate the two. I will not build out the rating and reviews part of the site yet but grow the community by creating and curating content. If the community does become big then hopefully I will have enough save up to add the additional features a little at a time.

    Opt #3) Using WP and Vanilla and a SSO plugin. I like the fact that WP has a lot of addons/plugins that helps you build the site. For example, I heard that WP i very good for SEO right out of the gate but there are also a lot of plugins that make SEO even better. Rather than hiring an On page SEO guy, I can use a lot of the tools that already exist in WP and save some money there.

    There are also a sea of WP devs and they seem to be a bit more affordabl. I think this might be the most affordable option of the 3. I can create a blog and community and slowly grow the site (my estimated cost should be under $xxxx). Once I have enough money saved I would move out of WP and start building custom. The biggest problem here is the migration. I do not want to lose members or have them sign up again or have create huge breaks. I fear that it would be hard to migrate over or move customers login and passwords to the custom site.

    Which one would you guys choose out of the three? Thanks again esp on the advice about learning HTML/CSS/PHP. I am hitting the books to bed tonight

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    vrijvlindervrijvlinder Papillon-Sauvage MVP
    edited June 2013

    Even though WP is marketed as a blog software, a blog can be anything you want you don't need to call it blog.

    If you install WP or similar un the root then you can use the software to do whatever you want . It is just a tool for creation .

    What I see as the benefit of WP is it's user interface. It makes it easy for anyone to put together a site. You can make anything for anything.

    Then you have Vanilla for the community part of your site. The WP side would have the content for which discussions would be started.

  • Options

    Coooll. what if I needed to migrate later to another platform. Would i still be able to keep user logins and password so they don't have to sign up again? Thanks.

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    hgtonighthgtonight ∞ · New Moderator

    WP is open source software; you will always be able to see the implementation of user authentication in WP.

    Search first

    Check out the Documentation! We are always looking for new content and pull requests.

    Click on insightful, awesome, and funny reactions to thank community volunteers for their valuable posts.

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