For a forum builder, choosing the right software is a big step. I have used both vBulletin and Smiple Machine Board (SMF) to build forums, and some thoughts that I have maybe helpful to you.
SMF is free. vBulletin costs $160. Both require to display their company name and licensing information but for $85, you can remove them from vBulletin.
Both apps offer great range of functionalities. A comparison head to head doesn’t really yield a lot of differences. But one major lacking from SMF is the missing of the WYSIWYG Editor. ForumMatrix provides a great comparison tool to illustrate this.
Modification and administration:
The biggest differences between the two are in this area. vBulletin’s admin interface is well-designed and much more complicated than SMF (also well designed), and as a developer, I feel SMF is more suitable for someone who has a strong coding background; versus vBulletin doesn’t require this. On this note, SMF gives more playground for flexibility and creativity if you are willing to dive into the code and work on it.
I like SMF for its clear design and separation of the core code and presentation.Â The core is stored in the Sources directory and presentation is stored in the Theme directories. In this way, Upgrade or changing theme will not affect each other. vbulletin saves all the theme changes in the database, and one can revert to the previous look if the new one doesn’t work out. Personally I don’t care much about this feature.
SMF is known for its simple structure and faster load time. I don’t have any data to back this up. Hopefully as my forums grow I can have more info to add to this section.