Zoho Discussions Review

(December 11, 2009 00:02)
Last Version Hosted (December, 2009). Released under Proprietary License.
Resources Website Zoho Discussions Website Download Host your Forum...
Company Zoho Corp.
Price Free for Free Edition, $12 for Basic Edition, $25 for Standard Edition and $75 for Professional Edition.
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What is Zoho Discussions?

When you look at Zoho Discussions at Zoho website, you see that Zoho Discussions is a small entry of the huge list of services provided by Zoho.com company. Even if this company holds an important list of different web applications, focus has clearly been put on the Zoho Discussions softwares, that is clearly a really modern and ergonomic application.

You will discover in this review that AJAX and Web 2.0 common features have met for the real time bulletin boards, and that fusion is called Zoho Discussions.

Please note that features that are not available on Free Edition are put as Plugin in the review. Those features could be enabled by using a Basic, Standard, Professional or Custom Edition of Zoho Discussions.

Pricing Details

Zoho Discussions is recommended for Large Community.

(and supports smaller communities perfectly as well.)

Client Requirements

Browser & Client Requirements
Compatible Browsers
List of Compatible Browsers.
Mozilla FirefoxMozilla FirefoxInternet ExplorerInternet Explorer
Google ChromeGoogle ChromeOperaOpera
Apple SafariApple SafariKonquerorKonqueror
Mozilla SeaMonkeyMozilla SeaMonkey
Required Plugins/Technologies
Additional or Basic Requirements from Client Side.
Javascript, AJAX.
Localization
Languages supported by Zoho Discussions.
Yes.
Supported Languages:
Chinese (Simplified) Japanese
English (British) English (American)

The hosted architecture does not force us to know and consider the technologies used behind the scene. This is an advantage for beginners.

Compatibility with Smartphones
Compatible SmartPhones
Compatible Cellphone Brands and Manufacturers.
No.
Application Distribution / Type
How it is distributed / App Store Availability
No.

Forum Threads & Posts

Forum Threads / Topics
Forum Style Flat/Threaded Forum Organization
  • Forum Categories
  • Sub Sections
Thread Icons Yes Topic Tags -
Hot Topics - Unread Topics Yes
Hidden Topics Yes Sticky Threads Yes
Related Threads - Detect Duplicate Threads No
Announcements -
Posting Messages / Answers
Message Editing Form
How to Post Messages.
  • WYSIWYG Editor
  • Formatting Buttons
  • Preview Button
Post Editing Format
Supported Markup Language (HTML, Wiki, BBCode,...).
  • HTML
  • BBCode
Spell Checker
Checks typos on posts and topics.
-
Image Attachment
How Images can be Attached and Displayed in Message Posts.
No.
Embedded Videos
Videos and Media Websites Supported in Message Posts.
No.
Posting Features
Quick Reply Box Yes Smileys Yes
Attachments Yes Syntax Highlighting Yes
Message Rating
Yes Message Quoting Yes

Additional & Technical Features

Additional Forum Features
Poll Creation No
Private Messages
Users Can Communicate using an Internal Messaging System.
Yes
Instant Messaging
Discuss with Visitors and Members in a Chat Window.
Plugin
Calendar
Topic, Member Birthdays, Events are available from the perspective of a calendar.
No
Online Users List
Connected User List (Often Found in the Forum Footer).
Yes
Members List
Search and Consult the List of Members.
Yes
Technical Features
Bundled Software
Additional Software Available with the Forum.
  • Portal
  • Website Home Page
  • Bug Tracker
RSS/Atom Syndication
Posts and Threads Exported to Feeds Aggregators Syndicate.
R
Friendly URLs
URLs are clear and contain information about the topic (title, message,...). Highly recommended for SEO purposes.
Yes
Post by Email
Post Directly From your Email Box.
-
Remote Control
Remote Control from External Software/Websites.
No.
Cache System
Cache pages to optimize bandwidth and load times.
Yes
Template Engine
It is easier to theme a forum using a known template engine (more docs & examples,...).
No.

User Profiles & Options

Some details about Zoho Discussions features regarding members.
Member Options & Features
Bookmark Threads
User Profiles Keep a List of Followed Posts and Topics.
Yes
Email Notifications
Receive Emails When New Messages are Posted in Followed Threads.
Yes
Export private messages
Private Messages can be Downloaded by Users.
Yes
Payment Subscriptions
Paying Membership Subscription.
No
User Profiles
User Profile
User Information and Settings.
Yes
Avatars
Pictures of Members, Useful to Easily Identify their Posts.
Yes
Signature
Signatures Added at the Bottom of Each Message.
Yes
Ranks
Tags and Labels Identifying the Members, based on specific criteria (Total Posts Count, Credits, Moderation Level...)
Plugin

Moderation & Users Management

Moderation & Threads Management
Moderation No.
Moderator per section Yes
Global Moderator Yes
Move Threads
Move Threads from Topics
Yes
Shadow Topics
When a thread is moved, the previous position is kept in order to inform users of this modification.
Yes
Close/Lock Threads
Close/Lock Problematic Threads
Yes
Users Management
User Groups
Organize and define groups of users, and apply different actions and settings on them.
Common Groups: Guests, Members, Moderators, Administrators,...
Yes
User Registration No.
Limit Features For New Users
Features are limited if a user has created a small number of posts.
-
Guest Posting No
Multiple Administrators Yes
Send Warnings to Users
Inform users by email or PM that they infringe the board rules, and could be excluded for such behavior.
No
Forum/Section Restricted Access
ACL could be use to determine if a user or a group of users can access (in read only, post message) to some sections and topics.
Yes
User Banishment Yes

Administration & Support

Database Management
Backup Database
Backup forum datas that you could store somewhere else.
No
Prune Database
Remove old and unused datas from your forum.
No
Restore Database
Restore a backup of your database if the previous install crashed.
No
Administration Tools
Statistics
Statistics about posts count, users, traffic...
Plugin Error/Notice Log Viewer
Forum Logs could be consulted.
No
Tasks Scheduler
Maintenance tasks are regularly launched and could be scheduled.
No Mass Mailing
Send an email (newsletters, advertisements, information,...) to all users.
No
Installation & Upgrading
Installation Method
How this forum software could be installed.
Upgrading Method
How this forum software could be upgraded.
Updates Notifications
The Admin Panel informs you when a new version is released.
No
Forum Migration
Convert an existing forum to Zoho Discussions.
-.

Security & Spam Protection

Security & Spam Protection
CAPTCHA
Captcha protects your forum against spam bots.
e.g., Syndicate
Yes
Abnormal Behavior Detection
Detect users or request strange behaviors, and try to process proactive actions.
-
Words Filtering
Offensing Words are automatically replaced.
No
User Blacklist
Prevent specific user accounts to register (based on email address, name,...) and disable potentially harmful members.
Yes
IP Blocking
Prevent access to spam robots and other scripts that could attempt DDOS or Brute Force attacks on your forum.
No

Customization & Social Networks

Customization
Plugins
Add new features to your forum installation.
No.
Themes
Modify the style of your forum easily.
Yes.
Custom BBCodes No Smiley Packs -
Custom
Thread Icons
No Additional User Profile Fields
Ask more about your members with custom fields.
No
Integration with Applications, Social Networks, Intranet...
Social Networks
Users can share information from their social network account...
No.
CMS / Blog Bridges
Integration with existing Web publishing tools.
No.
User Accounts Integration
Do users be able to log in with their corporate, Google, Facebook,... accounts?
Content Aggregation
Forum allows to integrate news and content from other website, using an aggregation protocol (RSS, RDF, Atom,...).
No.

W3C Norms & Accessibility

Norms & Accessibility
HTML / XHTML Markup
XHTML 1.0 Transitional.
XHTML 1.0 Transitional
Click to see if it respects HTML norms.
CSS Stylesheets
CSS 2.
CSS 2
Click to see if it respects CSS norms.
Accessibility (WAI)
Web Accessibility ensures that the forum is usable by people of all abilities and disabilities.
Conformance to AA level.
AA
UTF-8 Support
Default encoding used to support all locales and countries.
Yes
Conformance to W3C Norms
Does Zoho Discussions correctly follow (X)HTML and CSS norms?
Yes.

Nothing special to tell, instead that Zoho Discussions respects the norms, that is more and more common now, and that's a good news.

Unique Features

Key points and major differences that make Zoho Discussions unique:

  • Good usage of AJAX
  • Tags are really useful to organize and helps users to find what they need.
  • Creation of new topics, that are classified by Discussion, Idea, Problem Reporting, Question Asking and Announcement are really good to help the user to organize his posts.

Final Words


Great!

Zoho Discussions literally makes us rediscovering forum softwares. It was a real pleasure to discover and see how each features and advanced tips have been integrated in the general user interface.

Of course, as usual with hosted forum solutions, you do not have any controls on your datas, and the datas of your community. That's the price of exporting infrastructure to the Web cloud. Indeed, when we are talking about services, it generally means commercial services, that signify that for advanced usage, you will have to pay something for what you need. Fortunately, prices that Zoho offers are quite good and are valid against their competitors.

The navigation is really efficient and easy. The usage of AJAX replaces tons of useless pages by simple popups and dynamic reloading of some parts of the page. Moreover, it gives the feeling that the forum is much more fast than any classic forum software. No doubt on this, this forum software has been really well designed. To conclude, Zoho Discussions makes the bulletin boards entering to the Web 2.0 world.

Additional Resources:

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Comments (1)

I used Zoho Discussions as a

I used Zoho Discussions as a university-level educator for 4 months from September to December in 2010. It was very user friendly overall and I'd give it a 7 out of 10.

Good features included being able to identify your message as an idea, discussion, problem, etc., each color-coded with a symbol. It also has a clean look and good overall user experience of entering messages and attaching files and embedding images into posts, etc, nice interface. For the lowest paid plan, you can get 3 forums, public or private, and each has 5 subforums.

The main problem I had was related to my use of it as a PRIVATE CLASSROOM forum (students in my class only). I had to send out invitations for each student and then manually delete students who dropped the course, which became too onerous for classes over 30 students large. I also had to encourage students to make usernames that were actually in line with their student names, since in a classroom you can't be anonymous or use a pseudonym. And they didn't always do this.

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