The notion of community website builders encompasses blogs and forums – platforms for niche user communication. These are comfy thematic resources to share experience, opinions, post comments and just to spend time in the circle of like-minded people.
These can be fan websites, blogs focusing on breeding rare animals and cultivating plants, Go game enthusiasts, wood carving pros, collectors or the fans of extreme sports. In other words, these are websites that unite people based on their interests in multiple niches.
Social networks may also reckon among community websites. They cannot be created with website builders, so, we won’t include them into this notion. The specifics of their development differs a lot and, that is why, this is the task of programmer teams, but not of web design amateurs. We’ll better focus the attention on blogs and forums.
We Tested Out 7 Of The Best Community Website Builders for Membership Website:
- Wix – Best Membership Website Platform
- uCoz – Free Online Community Website Builder
- WordPress – Platform for Any Type of Membership Website
- IM Creator – FREE Community Site Maker for Nonprofits
- HostGator – Best Community Website Hosting
- Squarespace – All-in-One Online Community Creator
- Subhub – Online Membership Website Builder
- Admidio – FREE Open Source Community Management Software
- Growth Zone – Easy-to-Use Association Management Software
- JOIN IT – Online Solution for Community Management
If you are right about to start a community website with minimum effort/time investment, then you will certainly face the need to pick a reliable web design platform to get started with ease. The choice between all-in-one and specialized community website builders may be somewhat puzzling for a newbie, which triggers the necessity to review each of the systems included into the list. The detailed analysis will help you make the right decision regarding the system you will keep working with.
Wix – Best Membership Website Platform
Wix – is the best membership website platform, which can be used to set up and manage feature-rich community projects. As the all-in-one website builder, Wix offers an extensive range of built-in features, design customization tools, powerful integrations and hosting/domain name options. This makes it possible to launch a website for your community from scratch. No coding skills are required to do this, which makes the system a great pick for non-techies and web design pros. The list of Wix advantages currently includes:
- Community Templates – The software grants access to dozens of templates, which can be used for community website creation. The designs are free and mobile-ready by default. They can be customized with regard to users’ requirements and skills and it’s also possible to select a blank template for DIY customization here. The platform offers two website editing options to comply with diverse coding skills of users – Wix ADI and Standard Editor. WIX ADI is the automated website development tool that allows filling out a website with content, using the info a user submits in advance. Standard Wix Editor provides more freedom of design customization, making it possible to independently edit the project.
- Blogging Engine – Wix comes with quite a powerful built-in blogging engine, which lets you connect a blog to your community project. This is a must-have for this project type, which allows engaging user attention and encourages them for active communication. When running a block you will be able to add and edit posts, schedule new publications, customize the Featured Posts section, enable user comments, add tags and custom feeds, share posts in social network accounts etc.
- Wix Forum – The website builder has a separate application for adding a forum to your community project, which is a necessity when it comes to user communication. You can add new topics and threads here, manage user comments and track your forum stats, if required.
- Wix Events – To add, manage and promote community events and to share the news with other users, you can integrate a Wix Events widget. This takes a couple of minutes only, giving your community project advanced performance.
- App Market – The system makes it possible to pick and integrate versatile widgets to contribute to your community website design and functionality. It’s up to you to choose the applications, which work best for your project type. Some of the most worthy add-ons include Wix Video, Wix Music, Live Chat, Simple Push Notifications, User Testimonials, Social Stream, Event Viewer, Event Calendar, Comments and Reviews and many more.
Wix is a reasonably-priced website builder which has two groups of plans to offer to its subscribers. Prior to making the choice, however, you can test the system or practice your web design skills on a free plan. It lasts for an unlimited period of time. As to the premium subscriptions, Wix offers two groups of plans – Website and Business/eCommerce. Website plans will work best for a community project – just explore the available terms and options to make the choice. The cost of subscriptions starts at $13/mo. By the way, Wix lets you save big, when registering for its plans for the first time. If you buy a subscription from Tuesday to Thursday, you will get a 50% discount. The offer is viable on a weekly basis.
uCoz – Free Online Community Website Builder
uCoz – is a free online community website builder, which is module-based, letting you create your website layout and structure by means of picking and integrating the required content modules/blocks. The system is not the easiest choice for beginners as it may require some coding awareness, if you wish to make your website more feature-laden. However, it’s definitely the best solution for everyone willing to start and manage a quality community website. Let’s enlist its feature set right away:
- Forum Creation – The website builder lets you create a functional and quite powerful forum via integrating the corresponding module. To enable the feature, you just need to access the settings section, pick the Forum module and set it as a Home page. The Forum allows adding the required number of sections, branches and categories that tackle the niche it covers. You can also assign author rights to certain users, set the number of themes displayed on a page, adjust view and status display options etc.
- Blog Connection – The feature is also realized by means of integrating a special blog module you can choose in the settings section and set as a Home Page. A blog module makes it possible to create categories of materials, filling them with posts you can update whenever required. It’s also possible to set up the news feed design here, pick the most suitable blog template, adjust display parameters and articles design, define general characteristics for blog images etc. Additionally, you can enable a post rating option, email comments notifications, pick the best presentation format, set up the number of posts displayed on web pages etc.
- HTML Skills – Even though, building websites with uCoz is not that difficult, it is still desirable to possess HTML skills, if you wish to give your project high end look and unique performance. The more code aware you are, the more advanced and full-featured your community website will be.
- Template Choice – uCoz boasts a collection of custom integrated customizable templates as well as its own marketplace with multiple professional ready-made layouts and templates. These designs are paid, but they have up-to-date and stylish look.
uCoz offers moderate pricing policy. There is a free version of the service, which comes with a custom domain, ads displayed on the homepage, limited disk space and other functionality restrictions. If you really intend to start a feature-laden community website with uCoz, then you should upgrade to one of four paid subscriptions. The cost of the cheapest plan currently constitutes only $3/mo, which is a real advantage for the system subscribers.
WordPress – Platform for Any Type of Membership Website
WordPress – is a platform for any type of membership website. To be precise, this is the world-popular Content Management System, which enjoys extensive user recognition. Initially created as a blogging platform, the system has evolved into a trusted software used to start and manage all kinds of projects. It’s quite easy to master WordPress even for first-timers, even though, the system implies awareness of coding basics. This is especially true, when it comes to the development of complex feature-laden projects. To discover the features the CMS offers to its users, mind the following aspects:
- Ease of Installation – WordPress download and installation takes a few minutes only. The process is automated – what you need is just to follow the guidelines the CMS generates to help you get started with your website creation.
- Flexibility and Design Customization Freedom – The CMS allows for design customization freedom, granting access to multiple tools and features. There is much you can do here to give your community website the desired look and performance. Thus, you can change website colours, fonts, backgrounds, header, footer and other sections/parameters. Additionally, the system allows uploading media files and other content types you wish to integrate into your project.
- Plugins for Community Websites – WordPress stands out from the crowd due to its rich selection of external plugins that are specially designed for community websites, namely blogs and forums. Some of the most popular and widely-used plugins encompass BuddyPress, bbPress, UserPro, Youzer, Content Sensor, Wise Chat, Invite Anyone, Socialize and many more.
- User Interaction Plugins – The CMS makes it possible to connect plugins, which are required for more effective and hassle-free interactions between the community members. Among the extensions that can enhance user experience, it makes sense to mention LiveAgent, WP Testimonials, Live Group Chat, WCP Contact Form, Quick and Easy FAQs, BuddyPress Group Tiny Chat and more.
The final cost of using WordPress depends upon several factors. The CMS itself is free for download and installation, but it implies budget investment, when it comes to its performance and promotion. If you plan to start a feature-laden project with high end performance, you won’t go without opting for paid plugins or themes. They differ in cost and functionality provided. But that’s not it.
To publish the ready-made project, you will need to pick reliable hosting and domain name. The cost will also depend upon the company you will choose, the plan you will select and the price of the domain. In this respect, Bluehost proves to be the most suitable solution, which is officially recommended by the CMS. The cost of the cheapest Bluehost plan constitutes $2.95/mo, while the range of features provided for this price is impressive and versatile enough to cover your web design needs.
IM Creator – FREE Community Site Builder for Nonprofits
IM Creator – is a free community site maker for nonprofits, which comes with a broad spectrum of tools and features that simplify the website creation process and have a notable impact upon the final result. The website builder is free for all non-profit organizations/users, which is another highlight that contributes to its popularity. The list of features IM Creator is ready to offer includes the following points:
- Niche Designs. The website builder grants access to its integrated collection of thematic designs, which are free and responsive by default. The system additionally offers multiple design customization tools to give your project high end look and there is also an opportunity to integrate HTML codes for more appealing website presentation.
- Blogging Engine. IM Creator boasts a powerful blogging engine, which allows creating and setting up a feature-laden blog. The platform lets you create the required number of thematic blog sections to further upload and manage new posts or schedule their publication. It’s also important that you have an opportunity to enable user commenting feature to let your blog visitors share their community news, opinions, ideas and thoughts that help them stay in touch with each other and with you (as a blog owner).
- eCommerce. Along with blogging options, IM Creator makes it possible to give your community website an eCommerce focus. This feature may be handy, if you plan to sell something or offer paid services via your community project. You will come across multiple eCommerce features here that will help you get started with ease, even if you are not a coding pro.
IM Creator is a completely free website builder for nonprofits, students and artists. If you belong to any of these user categories, you are welcome to sign up for the system and use its entire feature set at no cost at all. The price of paid plans IM Creator offers starts with $8/mo, which especially works well for entrepreneurs and resellers.
HostGator – Best Community Website Hosting
HostGator – is the best community website hosting, which makes it possible to set up and host different types of community projects on its servers. This eliminates the need to look for a third-party hosting provider out there. The software comes with a rich set of integrated tools and features that contribute to its performance. It also provides website hosting/domain name connection opportunities, making it possible to choose from several packages. Some of the most impressive features are as follows:
- Gator Website Builder – The software powers a simple yet feature-rich Gator website builder, which allows starting and customizing quality community projects from scratch and with no coding skills required. The system offers a set of ready-made templates to choose from with regard to your project specialization. There is also an image library, a Logo Maker as well as integrated SEO and analytic tools here.
- Useful Extensions – Integration of special add-ons and extensions will certainly help boost your community website performance. Thus, you can add contact forms, Google Maps, user commenting feature, Live Feeds, social network buttons, media files and other elements that will fit your project specialization and complexity level. These and other widgets are available in the App Market.
- Free Website Transfer. If you already have a community website hosted with another provider, you can move it to HostGator at no cost at all. The system offers a set of tools and features to make the transfer process hassle-free and effective for everyone.
HostGator offers reasonable fees for the opportunity to host your project on its servers. There are several subscription packages to choose from, which can be billed monthly and annually. It is also possible to sign up for a 2-year plan here, if you intend to use the system for hosting in future. HostGator does not offer a free plan, but the cost of its paid subscriptions starts at $2.75/mo.
Squarespace – All-in-One Online Community Creator
Squarespace – is an all-in-one online community creator, which offers a set of niche tools and features to users, who have an intention to launch non-profit and community projects. You don’t have to be a skilled web developer to work with the system yet some time still may be required to get started here. If you are also thinking about using Squarespace for your community project development, go ahead to browse its major services now:
- Community & Non-Profit Templates – The website builder does not boast a rich template collection, but the available designs are definitely worth user attention due to their high quality, deep customizability and responsive nature. The collection includes a category of Community & Non-Profit templates, where one can pick the most suitable design for any kind of community project.
- Logo Maker. When you plan to launch a community website, you should think about the necessity of designing a unique logo for it. This is a nice way to make your project stand out from the crowd, attract user attention and make them focus on the messages you wish to convey.
- Unfold App. To popularize your community project in social networks, it makes sense to use the Unfold App. It lets you create and post stories and niche-related content in your social networks accounts to target more users. To create and post a story, you can get access to numerous themes, filters, stickers, fonts and other tools/elements to effectively complete the task.
- Custom Domain Name Connection. To enhance your community project performance and to drive user attention with its help, you can give it a touch of personalization by connecting a custom domain name to it with regard to the website specialization. Squarespace offers a free domain name connection opportunity, if you upgrade to one of the paid plans.
- Video/Image Galleries. Squarespace is known for its impressive visual aids that can make any website appealing and interesting to browse. Opportunity to integrate video/image galleries contributes to better user experience as you can create albums to post, store and share your community-related media files.
Squarespace does not provide an opportunity of free system use yet you can test its features on a free trial. Its duration constitutes 14 days. To get access to advanced tools and features, you will have to upgrade to one of the premium plans. Their cost starts at $12/mo.
SubHub – Online Membership Website Builder
SubHub – is an online membership website builder, which comes as the fully-integrated solution that empowers everyone to publish community-related content, making money from extensive membership, subscriptions, eCommerce options etc. However, a newbie may find it difficult to master the platform because of its complex web design approach. If you are right about to create a membership website with the system, consider its major advantages:
- Membership Options. The website builder provides a stunning selection of powerful membership features and levels, which make it possible for different member groups to join the project, see relevant content and make the allowed edits.
- Versatile Content Management Solutions. SubHub allows for simple, convenient and effective content management. You are allowed to add and update articles, videos, images, website pages and other related content that can be published immediately or scheduled in advance.
- Responsive Design. The system lets you pick and customize either one of the integrated custom templates that are responsive by default or hire its developers to develop personalized website design to come up to your particular needs.
- Integrated Shopping Cart. SubHub comes with the integrated shopping cart that lets you sell digital/physical products, using multiple payment options like Stripe, PayPal and more.
- Community Management Options. The website builder provides extensive community management options to help build ongoing user engagement. Thus, you can start and update discussion forums, member directories, event calendars, social media channels etc. here.
- MailChimp Integration. SubHub is fully-integrated with MailChimp that allows getting the most out of email marketing options the system offers. As soon as a user cancels the subscription, MAilChimp integration is automatically cancelled as well.
SubHub has three pricing plans, the cost of which is moderate. The cheapest Starter subscription costs $47/mo. Each plan comes with a free 14-day trial offered to test the system’s functionality. Additionally, it’s possible to save up to 15% by opting for the annual subscription.
Admidio – FREE Open Source Community Management Software
Admidio – is a free open source community management software used to run websites of groups, associations and organizations. The platform offers a set of community management features, integrated modules and other options that allow creating functional projects to reflect the permissions and structure of your organization. At the same time, Admidio is not that popular with users because of its complexity and time needed to amster all the integrated features. Here is the list of the most impressive Admidio highlights you should be aware of:
- Web Masters Focus. Admidio is the online membership software, which was specially developed for web masters, willing to maintain their own organizations or associations, using all the advantages of membership management. This includes access control options set up, which is required to protect member data from unauthorized access.
- Membership Rights Management. The website builder lets you individually assign membership rights to properties, departments, user groups and separate website members you plan to cooperate with. It’s also possible to make up configurable member lists that can further be exported to different file formats, including PDF, Excel and CSV.
- Event Creation. When managing websites launched with Admidio, you can create separate events that imply the possibility to further cancel or commit them. Additionally, it’s possible to view, upload and manage photos/photo albums here.
- Plugin/Module Integration. Along with classic user management features, Admidio grants access to multiple modules/plugins you can choose, install and adjust on your homepage. These include Awards, Birthday, Calendar, Form Filler, Random Photo, Sidebar, Announcements, Statistics, Written Communications, WP plugins for Admidio and more.
Admidio is the downloadable software, but the vendor does not provide the cost of the program right from the start. The system can be downloaded and installed at no cost and there is also a free trial that lets you test the platform’s functionality without any fees.
Growth Zone – Easy-to-Use Association Management Software
Growth Zone – is an easy-to-use association management software that was developed to handle all the everyday operations of trade and business associations, chambers, convention and visitor bureaus as well as other organizations. Even though, the platform is not that popular with contemporary institutions because of its complexity, some of them still use it for data storage as well as for the development or promotion of communities they serve. The software comes with a distinctive feature set needed to successfully start and manage these types of projects, namely:
- Association Management System. The platform comes with a sophisticated database that lets you conveniently manage different types of member-based organizations. It offers a powerful foundation that effectively supports your business strategy and allows chambers and associations to scale their performance. The software comes with a built-in marketing automation module for enhanced productivity and better results.
- Integrated Billing. The system comes with the integrated billing/invoicing processing feature that ensures quick and safe completion of financial transactions.
- Custom Reporting. The software lets you gain more accurate insights due to the easy-to-read dashboard of multiple reporting capabilities and key metrics. It’s possible to measure, test, explore and analyze the performance of your organization as well as to build and update reports.
- Communications and Groups. This is a group of modules that simplify the process of connecting the members of your association and organizing them into different groups based on the communication types involved.
- Events Module. Accessibility and integration of the ChamberMaster module allows you to organize and manage different kinds of events. The module helps take into account all the stages of the event planning procedure, ranging from attendee invitation and up to invoice issuing or registration tracking.
- Member Management and Retention Options. The Memberships Module allows working with versatile member structures, including individual and organization-owned. The software lets you grow memberships with online applications, set up and customize membership directories, detect and manage unpaid memberships etc.
Growth Zone is not a free software. The platform offers four pricing options that range in terms, features and options included. To pick the right plan, you need to view the features included into each subscription, taking into account the chamber size. The most affordable pricing option is the Essential package, the cost of which starts at $249/mo.
Join IT – Online Solution for Community Management
Join It – is an online solution for community management, which allows organizations to effectively track, manage and grow their communities. The software makes it possible to monitor the major processes that take place within the organization to successfully manage its members and unite people around their interests and occupations. Join It lacks popularity as compared to other similar platforms yet it still makes sense to find out the major features of the platform, if you think about using it in future:
- Advanced Membership Program. Join It comes with an advanced membership program that can be configured with regard to special user requirements. It’s possible to adjust the configurations in the system dashboard. This is where you can modify membership types, financial settings, online presence parameters, custom fields, specify multiple admin access rights etc.
- Organization Management Tools. The software allows leveraging organization management tools to give your business the best value possible. Among the tools you can manage, it makes sense to mention Process Member Payments, Members Timeline, Members Table, Targeted Member Emails and more.
- Members Portal. The system makes it possible to enable users to easily join your organization and stay connected with other members. Each subscriber gets an opportunity to edit the profile, verify member account and email, explore and use the available cancellation options, submit and update credit card info etc.
Join It currently offers three paid plans, the most affordable of which – Starter Package – costs $29/mo. Each plan comes with the 30-day free trial to let users test the features it encomopasses and decide on its further use. The software additionally offers the 20% discount for non-profits and 20% for annual subscriptions.
With such a versatile assortment of community website builders, the services reviewed in the article seem to be the most reasonable solutions. They don’t have anything in common and are interesting for different categories of web developers ranging from newbies and up to professionals, who design unique custom made websites from scratch.
Blogs and forums frequently combine well in terms of one website, which makes communication between users convenient. Thus, they may all read the posts to further discuss them on a forum or in the comments section, share the experience, clarify the most burning problems. uCoz, IM Creator and WordPress work great for these types of websites. It is simpler to set up the design and add specific features by means of app/plugin integration, module set up and customization of niche-specific templates. Much is done through code editing in uCoz, while the simplest way to get stunning design here is to buy it in uTemplates. Generally, all the systems reveal themselves from the best side, when it comes to launching community websites.
When it comes to uCoz, you can avail more diversity from all the points of view, if you possess coding basics. This is a platform for experienced users, who create powerful and large custom made or personal websites with further monetization goals. If you plan to launch a blog with a high publication frequency and multiple sections, then you won’t find a better website builder to reach this goal.