JomSocial looks great out of the box, has a very mature ‘ecosystem’ around 3rd party products, but I was ‘spooked’ when they closed their forum some time back. It seemed like they were saying ‘just buy the subscription, but please leave us in peace’. Suicidal business move IMHO. They have since been taken over and the forum reinstated, so time will tell how things go there.
What of the new kid on the block, EasySocial?
I can sum EasySocial up in one sentence… If all of the best bits of Community Builder and JomSocial had a baby, that baby would be EasySocial!
EasySocial is young, energetic, and eager to learn and please. EasySocial makes me enjoy developing websites. It is simply a joy to work with. I have four websites planned for this year and EasySocial is going to be the backbone of all of them.
As for Mark and the rest of the team at Stackideas. The work ethic of these guys is insane! I don’t honestly know when they sleep. I’ve been in touch with Mark about various things, including improvements and suggestions over the last week or two and I receive helpful and informative replies from him at all hours of the day and night. As if that wasn’t enough, this is on top of him and his colleagues being in the middle of getting the eagerly anticipated 1.2 version of EasySocial ready for release.
Every post on their forum gets answered, and gets answered quickly, politely (non of this condescending, curt and intimidating nonsense seen elsewhere) and is signed of with a smile :-)
As for the 1.2 release of EasySocial, it is a HUGE update. I think Mark said on the forum that there have been something like 600 changes and new features! You know I said they didn’t sleep? Well, in the last three weeks, they have released four betas and one release candidate of EasySocial 1.2. The EasySocial community is very active and have supported the beta programme, reporting on bugs and feature suggestions etc. The good thing is that these guys listen. They fixed something like 300 beta issues in about 1-2 weeks.
Other Joomla developers, are you listening?
Sometimes I have to remind myself that EasySocial is just a few months old. You forget and think that you are working with a very mature product. That is the biggest compliment I can give these guys. Yes there are some things missing, but 1.2 addresses the most important ones, such as groups and I expect they will release a stable version in the next few weeks. They publish a road map here (google it), so you always know exactly which features are coming and when.
Development of EasySocial is progressing at an astonishingly rapid pace, there are lots of new features on the horizon. The ones I personally can’t wait for are Events, Paid Subscriptions and a built-in invite system, all due in the next 2-3 months! With events, I even made some suggestions about the ability to link events to Joomla articles via a plug-in and/or module and Mark took the time to understand exactly how I thought it could work and I’m sure we will see that excellent feature.
3rt party support is gathering pace, with Jreviews (my Joint favourite Joomla developer), SourceCoast, Simbunch, TechJoomla and many, many others having already integrated their own products with EasySocial. On top of having integrated some of their existing products, the latter are also jointly developing a mobile app for EasySocial, with Stackideas providing the UI design expertise.
Can it get any better?
It is so flexible and well thought out, you really cannot go wrong!
The added scripting capabilities for me was a life saver on my current project. It is what takes RSForm to a whole new level and allowed me to build a workflow which has automated who a form is sent to based on what page on the website they entered the form from - fantastic.
Well, what can I say - I hope he doesn't mind me name-checking him, but Andrei has been fantastic and helped me through getting my automation script (see above) working.
In twenty years plus working in IT, this was the best support I have ever received and I told him so.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Developers quoted me $350-$500 USD to add functionality to the current form built into the listing component I was using. RSForm's scripting capability meant I could ditch the limited built in form and use the scripting to get me required functionality and a whole lot more.
If RSForm were four times the price, I still wouldn't hesitate adding it to every site I build.
I am going to be pushing the limits of ABPro very hard, since it is going to be one of the three main components of our site. Therefore we have had quite a lot of detailed questions and requirements.
Even during testing on a sandbox server, Rob answered all of my questions amazingly quickly, with clear outcomes. "no it won't do that", "yes, you can do that, here's how you do it".
In all he has answered every question within 25 minutes of emailing support or posting on the forum. Incredible.
Remember, ABPro comes with free apps for the three big mobile platforms (iPhone, Blackberry and Android), so any authorised admins can receive and manage their bookings anywhere at anytime. This alone is worth hundreds, If not thousands of pounds, since developing an iPhone app with this level of integration would cost a fortune and yet it's FREE... crazy!
The apps are simple to install and use and cover all of the essentials, view and edit bookings, add bookings, manage availability etc. Simplicity delivered.
All I would like to see is the ability to change the screen title labels on the mobile screens, but this is minor.
Both the backend admin and the front end screens, which allow resource administrators to manage their bookings, resources and availability are brilliant. All can be customised, so you only have to give resource admins access to the areas they need.
ABPro has very good PayPal integration (I've been testing using the PaPal sandbox) and the SMS notification features are just brilliant.
I can't praise this product and it's developer enough.