Update [November 2015]: CMS Critic has published an updated Boonex Dolphin Review.
Boonex Dolphin is a social networking platform that can be used for creating communities or dating-based social networking sites. Boonex Dolphin has been around for quite some time and has a pretty big following of users. In this Boonex Dolphin Review, I'm going to take you on a tour of the free edition and discuss some of my thoughts on the product and its uses.
This video gives you a bit of an introduction to the product:
Boonex Dolphin is available in a number of licenses. You can get it for free (the community edition) or in a plan which gives you various options. The plans range from $99+. Pricing is pretty reasonable considering how much you get for the product. The one drawback to using the free edition is that there are embedded ads for Boonex Dolphin within the product that cannot be removed without purchasing a license. Having said that, I feel it's a fair trade-off considering what you get for free. Let's get to the Boonex Dolphin Review.
Installation is pretty straightforward.
Once you click past this installation screen, the system does a quick permissions check to see if your host is configured correctly. If not, you may have to make some permissions changes.
Once you've got your permissions sorted out, the system will attempt to detect all of the paths such as the URL, the file folders and more.
Next, it's time to configure the system with a site name, admin credentials and email for various system purposes.
Once you get through the installation, you'll be greeted with the default implementation of your social networking site, which looks like this:
Obviously, you aren't going to want to stick with the default, but it's a good time now to browse through the system and see what you've got to work with for your social networking website. The default setup is nice and clean and gives you a decent idea as to what you can expect.
Once you've had a chance to explore, you can log into the admin system and get tweaking! Here's what the admin side of things looks like:
Clicking on the Members module will bring you to a list of the various members of your site. Since it's a fresh install, at the moment there is just the one but more can be added if necessary. Once you've got a few people signed up for your site, you can modify them here as well.
Hopefully you won't need to use it but, there is a ban option as well for those who are rowdy or sign up with the intent to spam.
Next is the Modules menu, where you can add some extra functionality to your site. There are quite a few modules that offer extensive enhancements for any site.
There are too many to list here but let me just say that Boonex Dolphin has a lot of functionality and there are innumerable ways in which one can expand it. Here is a list of modules you can set up with the default installation (there are plenty more in their market on their website as well if you want even more).
The issue I have with these modules isn't their functionality but rather the complete lack of any help or documentation anywhere within any of them. I had to Google each of these to find out what they did (well, the spy module anyway). It would be more helpful if there was a popup description for each module that accurately describes what it does and how to go about using it / finding it on the site once activated. As it is now, you have to hunt around to see what functionality was added and hope you find them all. This can be confusing and frustrating when you just want to get the site up on a deadline. I checked the help link in the back end of the installation and that simply brought me to their wiki. In the administration guide, I could not find anything on any of these modules, which I found odd considering they are there with the default install.
Under the tools menu, there are a number of options, as you can see below. Some of these are implemented well, while others could use some improvements.
Take for example, the Mass Mailer tool. Here's how it looks today:
There are a couple of inconsistencies that, while not rendering the tool nonfunctional, certainly don't make sense. The first is the naming convention, “Notify letters”. I have no idea why they would call the tool the Mass Mailer and then name the tool Notify letters. Poor English and bad wording just lead people to becoming confused about the purpose of the tool. Secondly, as you can see, the input boxes are ridiculously small and cannot be resized, which is just plain silly. I don't know about you, but I don't want to type a long mass mailing out in a teensy little box that I have to scroll all over the place within to read and check for spelling mistakes. Last but not least, I could not get the preview to work. The system simply flashed something and went back to the input box. I tested it in the latest version of Internet Explorer (yes, I had to launch IE, which was punishment enough) and Firefox. Neither of them worked for the preview.
The other tools within this menu allow you to add banners to various sections within the site, blacklist IP addresses, perform database backups and manage your antispam settings. They are pretty straight forward so I'm not going to discuss them further in this review.
The Builders menu is where you will likely spend the bulk of your time setting up your site and arranging everything.
This is where you create the structure for your pages and menus. Let's take a look at the menu builder first off.
As you can see, there are a number of available items under theAll Items section. All you have to do is simply drag and drop them as you would like them to appear, click save and the changes are applied. This makes for easy navigation changes and from what I can tell, everything worked without issue.
This design interface is identical for the Profile Fields which users fill out when signing up, as you can see below.
I like the interface. It's simply and easy to use and should be pretty easy to pick up for most administrators. The page builder, while quite similar, is slightly different in that it offers column sizing as well. You select the page, add or remove columns and size accordingly.
In the page builder, you add blocks of content to the pages via the same drag and drop functionality.
For the most part, you should be able to create a reasonably unique-looking site using these tools in concert with styling via CSS. There are numerous themes available for the system as well which you can find in the market on the Boonex Website.
Additional settings can be found under the Settings menu.
Within here, most of the settings are standard fare. The issue of the input boxes being too small is present here as well though and needs to be corrected. You can see what I mean when you try to enter custom CSS styles into a tiny input box similar to the one used for mass mailings.
One thing that Boonex Dolphin is not lacking in is its configuration settings, which allows you to really keep your system clean and functional while controlling almost every aspect of it.
I like the inclusion of the database pruning and watermark settings in Boonex Dolphin. The prior allows you to clean up old content from the database to keep things lean and mean and the latter allows you to embed a watermark on your images while controlling said watermarks' transparency. The watermark capability is rather unique and I've not seen it included by default in similar tools.
There are a few things that I've identified above in this Boonex Dolphin review that I'd consider more annoyances than real major concerns and I'm sure they'll get sorted out in due time. In addition to the items mentioned above, there are a few more points I wanted to make:
Overall, in concluding this Boonex Dolphin Review, I'd say that Dolphin is a good choice for those looking for social networking software, provided you are willing to overlook the few issues I've identified in this review. The price point for the product seems reasonable, the community is large and there is the option to get the system for free for those who want to mess around and don't mind the Boonex ads.
You can learn more, download, or purchase from Boonex.