Forum Migration Best Practices – 6 ways to prepare

Migrating from your current forum software (for example, Jive, VBulletin, Invision Board, etc.) to Vanilla is an exciting and wonderful thing.  It’s important to realize how your community may react during this transition, because keeping your existing community active and happy is of the utmost importance.

Most users will be wary of change regardless of the obvious improvements.  Change is scary and most users love to react, especially in a negative way.  If you take the examples of Twitter or Facebook updates: nearly everyone instantly complains. But fast forward to 2 weeks later and it is water under the bridge.  Here are a 6 ways to mitigate this temporary, yet often inevitable, user resistance:

1. Embrace the change.

If you want your users to accept change, you have to accept it first.  When our clients choose to migrate to Vanilla, they feel excited, hopeful, even relieved. However, sometimes even the most enthusiastic client can have a difficult time letting go.  They’ve grown accustomed to their previous platform’s design and work-flow and can be hesitant to embrace a more modern design or new features.  Does this sound like you?

We understand.  Change can be intimidating, even when you’re the one choosing to make the change!  But remember: Vanilla looks and functions the way it does because we have spent years researching, brainstorming, designing and building in order to provide you and your users with the very best and most forward-thinking forum solution in existence.  Trust our extensive knowledge and experience, and let us guide you through the set-up and design of your newly migrated community.  Embrace the change!  Your users and your community will only benefit as a result.

2. Keep your community in the loop.

Change is difficult for users, but a surprise change is even worse.  Prepare your community well in advance of your plan to move to Vanilla and keep them in the loop as the launch date approaches.   Open a thread on your current platform for any questions your community may have about the move.  Share screenshots of particularly exciting, new Vanilla features with your moderators and community leaders, and let them be your voice for the other users. This will cut back on questions asked post launch, and it will generate excitement and make users feel involved, appreciated, and less likely to lash out.

3. Have a soft launch.

To ease the stress and scariness of a full-blown, instant launch, schedule a beta or soft launch.  You don’t need to publicize this launch, or even have every feature or piece of artwork in place.  But invite your moderators and administrators to test out the beta and get a feel for it well in advance of your launch.  Have them submit any questions or concerns during the beta, when you (and Vanilla!) are better equipped to respond and make any changes, if necessary.

4. Confirm user info and settings.

This seems like a small detail that can be put aside until the last minute, but it often becomes a major hiccup when not dealt with proactively.  Were you experiencing spam or trolls on your previous forum platform? Are there any users you would like to eliminate or re-set login info for?  Are there new users you’d like to add or revisions you’d like to make for any Administrators?  How are your users accustomed to logging in: via your own portal or via a social network?  Send a list of any user preferences to Vanilla as soon as you can, as well as a list of any specific settings preferences you’d like us to configure.

5. Organize the feedback.

Amidst all the varying degrees of reactions you’ll witness during a migration, there will be some very useful user feedback.  Assign a Moderator to handle all migration/new forum feedback and set up a special discussion thread where users can post their questions and concerns.  Your users will appreciate this opportunity for being heard, and as a result, they’ll be less likely to react negatively or unproductively.  In order to keep this thread from continuing indefinitely, do give it a deadline (for example, keep it open for the first two weeks after launch).

6. Educate your community.

You chose to migrate to Vanilla for many reasons, so share those reasons with your community!  Educate them on all the new features you’ve just exposed them to. Highlight what’s new and improved on the Vanilla platform, and what plans you may have for the future.  Yes, listen to their feedback, but respond to any user reactions by educating them on all the positive changes and new features now available.