Creating a fully functioning online community can be a time consuming, but completely worthwhile, process. Many people make the mistake of assuming creating an online community will only require a domain name and a web hosting company. In reality a successful online community requires a great deal of planning to determine how you want members to interact, what sort of features you want to offer members, and most importantly what type of online community software will be necessary to support your newly launched website.
After you have made a few basic decisions regarding the look and feel of your community it is time to contact a software developer. Even if you are not ready to start and launch your online community talking to a software developer will help give you a realistic idea of the development process. Creating your own, original, social networking site is going to take time and a qualified developer will be able to give you an appropriate estimate on the time it will take to develop and test a new online community software program.
Next you will be faced with the dilemma of budgeting for your project.
Usually it is best to set a budget for your project before contacting a developer but when it comes to a project of this nature many first timers have a difficult time estimating the actual cost of a social networking site. Most people make the mistake of assuming their website will cost the same to develop and maintain as a traditional business website. Since an online community requires a bit more back end design, testing, and maintenance the cost will be more than an average site design. Be prepared to spend a good deal of money for the development of your online community software and the cost of reliable web hosting, domain registration, and eventually marketing.
There are many who attempt to rely on free online forums, chat room sites, and more to start their own online community but always remember you get what you pay for. When relying on a third party site you will be at the mercy of their servers, software, and support teams. If a third part site goes down then your site, while still live, will be virtually useless and your members will go elsewhere.
Last, but not least, extensively test your online community software before letting the public sign up. Get your friends and family members to sign up for test profiles so that they can tell you about any bugs or problems they experience. Find out whether or not your forums, chat rooms, or blogs slow down when multiple users are logged in and also experiment with your communities messaging system. Taking the time to test out your own system before opening it to the public will help you avoid hundreds of support tickets and customer service emails/complaints.