VanillaAPP - A native App for Vanillaforums
I am happy to share a new project with you I have been working on recently: A native iOS app for Vanillaforums OS called "VanillaAPP".
VanillaAPP iOS Demo
In the last 12 months two fellow developers and I created a native app for iOS (based on Swift) and a server-side API (based on PHP and NodeJS) to make something work what I wanted for my communities and many forum managers have been asking on these boards here too.
The app was created to give forum users a faster and better experience on mobile, which makes it easier for them to engage with their preferred community. And I guess every community manager knows what this means: More sign ups, deeper engagement, higher retention and through these facts a more active community. I knew that an app has become inevitable for me to keep my communities healthy.
I also run the app market analysis service APPlyzer.com) and I know how important the app stores are nowadays when it comes to discoverability and user acquisition. Not even speaking about the technological image in front of advertising clients, monetization, the comparability of paid acquisition channels, etc. Ok enough chatter, you get the point it's an entire ecosystem that an app ads to a community in a landscape where mobile usages has surpassed 80%. So... what is VanillaAPP capable of?
The App includes all core functionalities like discussions, categories, conversations, the activity wall and user profiles of Vanillaforums OS. In addition, we included a lot of cool things that make the app very straight forward in usability. For example a very smooth way to jump forward or backward in a discussion by simply sliding left or right in the heading area (to improve/replace rather boring paginations) or the integration of a picture gallery in the user profile where users can see which images they have posted in public discussions or in private messages.
We also integrated a list of add-ons which we keep extending.
• Advanced Editor (Partially, BBCode < that was difficult integration, picture upload, etc.)
• YAGA (partially)
• Post Count
• Facebook Login
• Better Notifications
• Image Gallery (not based on a plugin)
Optimized for iPhones and iPads. Horizontal sliding galleries if someone uploads more than X pictures with lightbox style effect. A sidebar functionality to navigate to your websites, shops, advertisers or anything. Possible integration of Google Firebase and Fabric or Facebook Analytics for measuring community activity and Cost per Install campaigns (i'm at 0,06 cents per user). Terms of Service which need to be accepted by the user. Inside the app there is a functionality to open their Mail client to write to the webmaster/administrator, and some more functionalities.
Important to know: Admin/Moderation functionalities as well as the Dashboard are not integrated in the app. We think this should be done in the web version. It's far to complicated to port this to a mobile app and manage things there.
Why did it take 12 months?
Coding a quality app nowadays which also meets the User Interface Guidelines of Apple is not an easy thing. Seriously, you don't want to push a half-baked app to the app stores. You would want to make it so good that Apple would even consider featuring and show it in front of hundreds of thousands of app store visitors. I know quite something about app marketing being in the field several years and issues like code quality and design along the guidelines are fundamental in Apple's review process. Everyone is better off creating high quality apps to get better ranks in the app store and to create more fresh installs. In addition Vanillaforums has not yet a fully developed API and a lot reverse engineering was mandatory to proceed with the development. Also, raising money for the development (the whole development process cashed a 5 digit number excluding all my work) was an important issue. So there are many things taken in consideration and they stole some time.
I decided to white label the app and to service it to companies and community managers to give back to the community AND to make a coming Android version of the app and continuous development financially possible. The white labelling comes as a SaaS. We can setup the app on every Vanillaforums OS community and adapt colors, logos and images in the app to your needs (further customizations are also possible). And trust me I'm not getting rich with this, it just covers the work and some cocktails afterwards. My business happens in my communities.
On the website you find a scheme for the pricing. I was in talks with some community managers before and I often heard that they are not willing to pay more than 60$ per month or similar. Just to clarify this. Quality software, testing, debugging, support, continuous development, etc. is not possible at prices like that. VanillaAPP is not a transistor radio which can be build with 6 parts available for 3$ each. It's a software made by 2 senior developers and 1 senior designer and project manager who are constantly tackling quality in meetings and calls to make a very good product. Please write me a PM or an email if you are interested in using VanillaAPP for your community.
I'm currently heavily planning the development of an Android app with the same high quality standards too. But as stated above... to get this project going I look for some people who could make use of the iOS white labelling service to then invest the money in the Android development. The app is already in the design stage.
Most of you know me as Vanilla fan since the early days. After running phpBB, Simplemachines and others I came across Vanilla 1 around 2006. Never really a coder, more a designer and community manager I hang around in the community of the Open Source offspring ever since. I run a big parenting network in several countries and many web platforms and a variety of apps.
Thanx go to
The Vanilla Team for being so persistently behind this product, to @Kasper on whose API the VanillaAPP API was extended on, and of course to @R_J who was always helpful to me in this process. It was quite a sweat.
Drop me your thoughts,