We have extensively tested phpbb, myBB and SMF. We faced many issues that are not
Some default themes of free forum platforms are not responsive:
We found that the myBB and SMF default themes were no responsive so that it was even not an option to start with a default theme of myBB or SMF.
Many broken themes of free internet forum softwares:
We bought myBB and SMF themes. We faced many issues with free and paid themes. Sometimes some links of buttons (login, search) were missing. Sometimes, the responsive theme looked messy. Sometimes, the toolbar of post editing was missing.
Bad themes of free forum platforms for SEO and readability:
We saw that plenty of themes from free internet forum softwares that were not designed with SEO and readability in mind. For instance, there are plenty of SMF themes and phpBB themes with a header that is around 300px. It is just too much. On the other hand, when you look at Vbulletin, Xenforo, woltlab forums you can see that valuable information is displayed right from the top.
Upgrades from free forum softwares are dangerous:
Due to how the theme’s files are integrated into the internet forum softwares and since plugins are necessary to get important features, updates can break phpBB, myBB, SMF installations. Themes and plugins may not be compatible after an upgrade. We witnessed this issue with myBB themes. We also witnessed this issue with phpBB and myBB plugins.
Missing features and mandatory plugin installations:
We found no free internet softwares with SEO friendly URLs. This always required the installation of a plugin to get the title of a thread as keywords in the URL. Additionally, many plugins aren’t maintained by developers. It means many of phpBB, myBB, SMF plugins don’t work.
Paid forum softwares are ready out of the box:
I have found that Xenforo, Woltlab, and Vbulletin were ready to be used out of the box without looking for a responsive reliable theme, modifying CSS, adding plugins, changing colors. This tremendously speed up your forum installation project.
Think about the future migration
I have noticed that many internet forum webmasters moved their forums to XenForo. There is an import module in XenForo. However, URL redirection needs to be in place and it looks like it is still complicated today.