I represent Infinite Solutions a consulting firm who is starting a website to benefit all all small business owners. It doesn't matter if your business is online or not, every business will be able to benefit from our site for free. We will ultimately sell our consulting services via the web and tasks preformed over Skype. In addition we will also be selling "solutions," or known as "services." We work with the best and we prove value to our clients on a daily basis. The name of the site will remain a mystery as it is currently being developed in beta test format for all of our personnel to view, provide feedback and utilize when requested.
We have decided that we will surely need a forum in addition to our WordPress driven site. The ultimate goal is to provide a great quality forum for our members. I have preferred to work with vBulletin for many years although I have experience with others as well. I have noticed recently some forum software's start to rise in quality. I am open to suggestions and would appreciate all that you could offer as a solution.
I personally have always been a fan of Invision Board, they're systems are built on a solid framework. I've noticed vBulletin's code-base has improved over the years, but it still seems a bit rugged. IP.Boards administrative panel is a lot more intuitive than vBulletins dated iFrame setup...
As far as add-ons, extensions, plugins, ect go - vBulletin seems to have the largest selection. However, IP.Board's selection has really grown since they've created their marketplace.
Then you have the new-age attempt at forum software where things are sorted by popularity, a good example would be Vanilla Forums. I personally, am not a fan of this as it's a bit confusing to the average newcomer; it's not as intuitive.
Lastly, you're open-source solutions are enormous. The popular choices seem to be phpBB and Simple Machines forums. I've honestly not worked with many of the open-source solutions from a developers or administrative standpoint. As an end-user though, I prefer phpBB. Oh, Vanilla Forums is also open-source.
As far as basic features go and a comparison of the many forum systems available, http://www.forummatrix.org/ is a pretty decent tool to checkout.
Hope this helps and good luck with your business!
To keep things fair, I just noticed vBulletin 5 Connect is in Beta and decided to give it a try. They seem to have redesigned a lot, their new Site Editing features are interesting, and the newly designed Admin CP have been significant improvements. However, they are still working with that iFrame layout and there are simply too many categories to look through. The administrative panel reminds me too much of WHM (Web Host Manager) in that you cannot find things in the first place you look. The only thing saving me from losing my sanity in those control panels are the search functionalities.
After playing with a vBulletin 5 Connect demo and the latest IP.Board Demo, I'd still have to say Invision Board is my favorite. Not only as an administrator and developer, but also from an end-users standpoint.
Sorry, I totally skimmed over your message and missed the fact that you're looking for something to integrate with WordPress. I've never been too keen to the WordPress forum solutions. However, there are plugins and hooks (mostly free) to bridge a connection for the Users between WordPress and most of the popular forum systems. If you're insistent on using a fully integrated forum, then your best bet would probably be bbPress.
I really appreciate the time you put into your thoughts. I actually have taken great notice in how IPB continues to grow and develop. It appears to me that they create a product that continues to get better, not just more complicated. All of your advice was really great to read. I believe I just might be moving forward looking to integrate IPB with WordPress as you just confirmed my thoughts. Now I need to find a solution to integrating IPB with WordPress. If you come by a solution and would like to share it, that would be really appreciated.
I've not really looked into the integration between IP.Board and WordPress as I typically don't use the user system in WordPress for anything other than my own personal use.
However, a quick search led me to [ ipbwi.com ] which has an extension available for about $170 USD... Personally, I'd probably end up coding it myself if I needed something like that. IP.Board and WordPress both make it fairly easy to hook into their user functions.
There is also [ this hook ] which notes a possible security issue. It'd be worth looking into though. I'm not sure if it supports single registration between the two systems or not.
And yes, that's the difference between IP.Board and vBulletin. IP.Board has a very well structured and organized code base which allows them to continually extend and improve upon their existing software. I've been following IP.Board since the early days when it was still free to use and I've not seen anything but solid improvements come from their developers.