How Vanilla Forums and The Mix Create a Safe Space for Young People
The Mix is a nonprofit located in the U.K. that provides integral information, support and advice for young people under the age of 25 on a range of issues, including mental health, money, homelessness, finding a job, relationships, drugs and more. They deliver this often life saving assistance via chat, forums, helplines and e-counselling.
“Vanilla gave us the platform we needed; one that would match the look and feel of what we had, but allow us to continue to make changes and grow from there.”
Engagement and Support Manager (Former)
While The Mix community had been around for a long time, the bugs and broken features within the community had slowly become more and more unmanageable to continue on.
The Mix carefully researched all community vendors, assessed their offerings and their ability to deliver on their must-have list. Vanilla took their number one spot and their business.
Vanilla made good on their promise for a smooth migration; more than 9 GB of data and millions of posts were easily moved to the new community without issue.
The community has overwhelmingly responded positively to the migration and the new community platform, which has delivered a much better customer experience.
The Boulevard of Broken Features
The Mix was no stranger to online community forums. In fact, they’d had one for close to 18 years. What The Mix was a stranger to, however, was having an online community forum that wasn’t riddled with bugs and broken features. As one could imagine, this provided a negative and frustrating experience for members, which was particularly difficult to swallow for the Engagement and Support Manager, James Pickstone, since he knew that many members were in a bad time in their lives.
As James says, “there were bugs and broken features everywhere, [and] the worst was when someone would try to post and things would break.” He goes on to explain, ”it would load indefinitely, then they’d have to manually refresh the page a couple times to see if their post showed up...it was a terrible experience for the community member, at a bad time in their life.”
The bugs and broken features quickly became unmanageable, and for an organization who works to provide life saving assistance, that was completely unacceptable. James explains,“the whole process became so complicated and unmanageable that it limited what we could do with the community...it was no longer fit for our purposes.”
And so, James and the team at The Mix decided that they needed to cut ties with their current vendor and find a more suitable long-term solution. But finding another solution wasn’t just as easy as making a quick switch. James’ biggest worry was the migration itself. As James said, “people had poured their heart and souls into these posts—they meant a lot to them...the last thing I wanted was to lose all their content.”
Finding a vendor who could ensure that all their data was safely migrated was therefore a priority. With that in mind, James cautiously began the search for a new community forum.
Lots of Bugs
The bugs within The Mix community were becoming so frequent that it not only affected community members and their experience, but it was also difficult to maintain the constant patches required.
The Mix community was riddled with broken features, which became unbearable when it started to affect even the most basic community features, such as posting a discussion.
The Last One Standing
James and his team made sure they did their due-diligence when looking for a new solution; they left no stone unturned and considered no vendor without proper analysis. As James explains, “we did lots of extensive research, [and] we looked at a whole bunch of options.”
When doing their research, James made sure to compare the vendors offerings to his must-have checklist. Any and all vendors who couldn’t fulfill an item on his list were immediately crossed off.
After all of their research and vendor analysis had been completed, there was only one vendor left standing: Vanilla Forums. “In the end—and hands down—Vanilla gave us the platform we needed; one that would match the look and feel of what we had, but allow us to continue to make changes and grow from there,” says James.
Vanilla not only offered the customizability that The Mix was looking for to suit their brand vision and mission, but Vanilla also offered a platform that they knew could grow with the organization as more members joined.
The Mix Checklist
“The Vanilla team did an amazing job in the [migration process]—it was painless and went off without issue.”
“With Vanilla, we’re able to easily customize the look and feel with access to the CSS and HTML, which is really awesome!”
“Every service offered by The Mix now comes with its own login system, and Vanilla’s SSO capabilities make it easy to integrate.”
“We wanted our members to have a seamless experience when using the community, and Vanilla addressed all of our concerns.”
Safe and Simple
Although James and his team had dedicated a ton of time and effort into carefully assessing and researching community vendors, they considered that to be the easy part. Now, they had to face the reality that they would indeed be migrating more than 9 GB of data and millions of posts—posts that meant the world to their authors.
But the truth is, James didn’t have to worry. He was right to select Vanilla as the vendor that would be able to fulfill the first and most important item on his wishlist: a painless migration. The team at Vanilla was experienced and had already led thousands of organizations through their community migration process. Simply put, the team at Vanilla wasn’t worried at all.
James quickly found out that he too had nothing to worry about. The migration went without a hitch and all community data had been safely migrated to the new forum.
Finally at Home
Due to the sensitive nature of the content within The Mix community, James wanted to make sure that once the data had been migrated, that they made the transition as easy as possible for their members. They didn’t want the migration to be too drastic and prefered to take a more paced approach at implementation.
To do this, James started by creating the same look and feel of the old community, but without the bugs and broken features. This was a relatively simple task to accomplish as Vanilla makes customization easy through access to the CSS and HTML. From there, they slowly rolled out the changes and the new features.
During this rollout, James made sure to collect as much feedback from the community as possible; he wanted every community member to feel part of the process. This turned out to be exactly what was needed as the feedback and results of the migration were overwhelmingly positive. As James says, “the Vanilla team did an amazing job.”
Members were especially pleased with the more unifying experience that The Mix community now offered. As James explains, “every service offered by The Mix now comes with its own login system, and Vanilla’s SSO capabilities makes it easy to integrate.”
At the end of the day, trust is everything to The Mix and their community, and Vanilla not only delivered as promised but also helped to create a safe space for young people—something that is so incredibly rewarding in and of itself.
Reflecting on The Mix's Journey
When we look at The Mix’s journey, it’s easy to see how organizations might be afraid to move to a new community platform. The Mix, however, with 18 years of sensitive community data consisting of over a million posts, didn’t let this fear stop them. They knew they needed something better for their members and trusted Vanilla to get it done. Vanilla proved that The Mix had made the right choice, and they couldn't be happier with the results. If you have a large community and are considering a migration, be sure to hit us up—we’d love to let you know how we can help.
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