A community website can be useful in a variety of ways. This is an important source of information for your community members that helps them stay updated about recent news, events, plans and other info that matters a lot to them. Community websites differ with regard to their implication, objective, informational value, size and other crucial parameters. They deliver versatile info and they are used to reach multiple objectives.
Whether you intend to start a project to keep your target audience informed about recent news and events or just wish to encourage your website visitors for further communication, it initially makes sense to find out as much as you can about these projects and ways of their creation.
The notion of community websites mainly encompasses forums and blogs. These are initially those platforms, which are geared towards the communication of users, who have the same niche interests and wish to share their experience, ideas and comments with co-thinkers. Some of the examples of community websites include forums/blogs for sports activists, eco-fans, game enthusiasts, collectors etc. To sum it up, all community websites are meant for people, who share the same interests, irrespective of niches they specialize in.
Community website building success depends a lot upon the right choice of the service, your skills and the task you have set. In other words, you should understand how well you imagine a future website and whether your expertise rate is enough to complete the task. If your coding proficiency leaves much to be desired but you still have the intention to start a quality community website from scratch, there are several ways to go for. You can order a project from a web studio, hire a freelance web developer to design it for you or use a specialized platform to get started with ease. The latter include CMS and website builders – either niche-focused or all-in-one.
You have to take into account your web design skills, the type of project you intend to start, its complexity level, tech requirements, special parameters etc. You also need to define what you should start with, how to keep working on a website and how to boost the efficacy of a ready made project. It’s high time now to review the most popular community website building platforms, their pros and cons as well as main features to help you make the right choice.
Best Services To Create a Community Website:
- Wix – Best Website Builder to Create a Community Website
- WordPress – Powerful and Free Hosted-CMS for Any Website
- Ning – The Largest Online Community Building Platform
- uCoz – Free Online Community and Forum Builder
- Elgg – Open Source Social Networking Engine
- phpFox – Social Network Platform for Niche Communities
Wix – Best Website Builder to Create a Community Website
Wix – is the best website builder to start, manage and run a community website. This is the all-in-one website builder, which delivers a broad range of features, tools and options needed to launch a community project from scratch. The website builder works equally well for beginners and web design experts.
There is no need to be a coding expert to start working with the system as its integrated functionality covers the majority of community website development needs.
The website builder is feature-laden, simple and convenient. It makes it possible for web designers to choose from two editing options – Wix ADI and Standard website Editor. Wix ADI helps create a website in the automated mode by using the information submitted upon its request. This option will work best for inexperienced web designers. Those, who have some site-building background, may give preference to the standard editor that allows for deeper website customization. Likewise, the system unveils the opportunity to work in the mobile editor to let you start a community website that will display and work great on mobile devices.
Another Wix highlight is its integrated blogging engine that allows creating and managing a feature-laden blog. What you can do here is adding and scheduling blog posts and Featured Posts section, adding tag clouds, enabling the commenting feature, creating custom feeds, sharing your blog posts in social networks etc.
The website builder also makes it possible to choose and integrate dozens of free/paid add-ons available in the App Market. Thus, you can pick Wix Forum app to add a forum to your website, for example. Likewise, you can integrate Wix Events widget to promote your community events and share the news on the web.
Wix is the undeniable leader of the web design market, when it comes to template choice. The website builder boats one of the most impressive collections of designs, which involves over 550 themes, all of which are quality, professional, customizable and mobile-ready. Community templates are not an exception. With Wix, you can get access to lots of community themes based on the niche preferences you have.
There is also an opportunity to select a blank template and customize it absolutely from scratch. Mind, however, that the website builder does not let you switch the designs during the customization process. Otherwise, all the submitted content will be lost.
Speaking about the pricing aspect, Wix has one of the most versatile and affordable pricing options to fit any budget and needs. The website builder makes it possible to test its integrated functionality with a free plan that lasts for as long as you need. As soon as you decide to launch a full-featured project and go live with it, you will be offered to upgrade to one of the paid subscriptions with regard to your web design needs and product preferences. Have a look at them now.
Standard Wix Plans
- Combo ($13/mo) – free hosting, absence of system ad banners, free domain name connection;
- Unlimited ($17/mo) – 10GB storage space, unlimited bandwidth;
- Pro ($22/mo) – integrated Google Analytics and statistics collection tools, 2 hours of video storage space;
- VIP ($39/mo) – professional logo, first priority support etc.
- Business Basic ($23/mo) – acception of online payments;
- Business Unlimited ($27/mo) – business development tools, integrated eCommerce platform, special apps for entrepreneurs;
- Business VIP ($49/mo) – unlimited bandwidth, unlimited video storage space, complete Wix Suite;
- Enterprise ($500/mo) – end-to-end business solution that provides the highest functionality and maximum amount of tools.
To boost the loyalty of its subscribers, Wix frequently introduced discounts, special offers and bonuses. They make it possible to save your budget and effort, when looking for a worthy subscription. What’s more, Wix deserves the attention due to its 14-day money-back guarantee applicable to any plan chosen.
Wix is the all-in-one website builder, which stands out from the crowd due to its website editing options, versatility of pricing solutions, integrated WYSIWYG editor, blogging platform, multiple mobile-ready templates, App Market widgets and other powerful design customization tools. The system is a good choice for all user categories including beginners and proficient web designers.
WordPress – Powerful and Free Hosted CMS for Any Website
WordPress – is a powerful and free-hosted CMS that lets you build any type of website, including community projects. The Content Management System was initially created as a blogging platform and, thus its feature set is geared towards the development of this type of project most of all. With WordPress, even a newbie can run a quality community website as no special coding skills are required to do that. What you should know, however, is that you will still need to deal with hosting and domain name choice for your project to go live with it.
The CMS delivers a broad spectrum of features for professional community website set up. Downloading and installing the platform is easy, fast and convenient, while the process is quite intuitive and is mostly done automatically. Just follow the guidelines the system generates by default and get ready to complete the set up in almost no time.
One of the undeniable advantages of the CMS is the need for plugin integration. There are lots of plugins – both free and paid – you can find on the web and further install at the website. They let you extend your community website functionality, getting the most out of the system’s performance. Among the blog/forum plugins you may pick for your project, it makes sense to mention the following: Youzer, Content Sensor, Wise Chat, BuddyPress, bbPress, UserPro, Socialize, Invite Anyone and more.
The CMS makes it possible to choose and customize multiple templates. The system already comes with a set of pre-designed themes, but you can actually find many more quality samples on the web. The platform grants access to lots of advanced features and tools you can use to give the selected theme high end look. It is possible to change website colours, backgrounds, fonts, footer/header along with other website parameters. What’s more, you can upload and integrate media files and other related content to get the desired result.
WordPress is a free CMS and it can be downloaded/installed at no cost at all. The platform still implies some budget investment, when it comes to publishing the project. This is not to mention the cost of paid plugins/templates you might need for your project. Mind that to go live with your community website, you will have to pick hosting and domain name, the cost of which will depend upon the company and the plan you will go for. The most affordable solution here is choosing Bluehost, which is a reasonably-priced hosting provider that is officially recommended by WordPress. The cost of Bluehost plans is as follows:
- Basic ($2.95/mo) – unlimited traffic and bandwidth, free SSL connection, one website hosting, free WordPress updates, 50GB storage space;
- Plus ($5.95/mo) – unlimited email accounts and domains, unmetered storage space and bandwidth, unlimited number of hosted websites, $200 for advanced marketing options;
- Choice ($5.45/mo) – enhanced domain privacy, website backup, anti-spam protection, etc.
WordPress is the world-known Content Management System, which has gained immense popularity due to its deep integration options and absolute customizability of projects. The system can be used by all user categories, although, its application still requires deep coding awareness. Hosting/domain choice is also a must here, which requires extra financial investment. This is a pretty nice platform for community website development.
Ning – The Largest Online Community Building Platform
Ning – is the largest online community web building platform, which also makes it possible to start full-featured gaming websites and even social networks. The system has gained worldwide popularity as a trusted niche resource that can be used both by newbies and web design professionals. The platform comes with a handy drag-and-drop editor and it doesn’t require a line of code to create feature-laden community websites.
The website builder lets you make use of multiple content management features that make it possible to design and update your community projects with any content of your choice. There is an integrated blogging engine here, opportunity to add events, polls, video/audio/photo files as well as connect/manage a forum.
If you intend to sell anything via your community website, you might be interested in the integrated eCommerce platform Ning offers to its subscribers. The engine lets you monetize your project to generate profit with it. What’s more, you can make use of multiple integrated business tools, namely statistics collection tools, MailChimp email automation etc. It is also possible to organize live broadcasts for registered community website members and to send private messages to them as well.
Ning is also known for the variety of social networking features it offers to its subscribers. Thus, users can try extensive social sharing options completed through popular social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.
Ning offers a quality template collection with multiple themes for different types of community websites. This is where you can find templates for blogs, forums, portfolios, sports projects, education and charity organizations and other websites. There is a live preview feature here that lets you see the way the template looks in details before deciding on its further use.
The website builder doesn’t have a completely free plan, but there is an opportunity to test its functionality for free during the 14-day free trial. If you are satisfied with the system’s feature set, you can upgrade to one of its paid subscriptions. There are three of them here.
- Basic ($25/mo) – up to 1000 members, 10 GB storage space, community and forum support, referral program, photo/video integration, activity feed, multiple blog and forum creation, social network integration, social sharing options etc.;
- Performance ($49/mo) – up to 10000 members, 50 GB of storage space, photo/video integration, activity feed, multiple blog and forum creation, social network integration etc.;
- Ultimate ($99/mo) – up to 100000 members, 100 GB of storage space, live chat, personal manager, 24/7 support.
There is an opportunity to save up to 20% of the cost of paid subscriptions by opting for annual plans and by making a one-time payment.
Ning is a quality website builder used to launch community and gaming projects as well as social networks. The platform provides a range of content management features, design customization tools, social networking options and other features needed for professional community website development.
uCoz – Free Online Community and Forum Builder
uCoz – is a popular free online community and forum builder, the foundation of which dates back to 2005. The system is one of the oldest and the most feature-laden platforms used to start and manage different types of projects for commercial and non-commercial use. Mind that the website builder can be mastered by all user categories, although, it still implies the awareness of coding basics to start and customize community projects.
One of the most remarkable uCoz features is its module-based structure. This means that you can create your own website layout and structure, configuring the available content blocks/modules with regard to your project needs and web design requirements. The modules are free and paid and each of them performs a certain function.
The most popular and widely-used uCoz modules are as follows: Site Catalogue, Online Store, Ad Board, FAQ, Tests, Users, Polls, Social Media Publisher, Page Editor, Forum, Blog, Photo Albums, Guest Book, Site Search and more. Some of these modules work great for the development of community websites. Forum and Blog are, probably, the most popular blocks of this type. You can reach these modules in the settings section to further integrate them into your project and customize with regard to your needs.
Integration of the Forum module lets you start and manage a quality forum. You can add the required number of sections, branches, categories based on the niche specialization of your forum. It’s also up to you to assign author/website management rights to any members of your choice and make other required settings. The same is about the Blog module, which makes it possible to create and set up a quality blog that adheres to the niche you specialize in. What you can do here is adding, updating and scheduling blog posts, choosing and customizing blog templates, picking the most suitable blog display format, connecting the news feed, enabling commenting/post rating feature etc.
uCoz grants access to the extensive collection of professional templates, which are completely customizable and optimized for mobile viewing. If you can’t find a suitable design for some reason, you can browse the integrated marketplace of the system with the rich choice of ready-made designs and layouts. These templates are paid, but all of them have stylish up-to-date look. What’s important, uCoz themes are customizable, while the system makes it possible to access and edit HTML code. This will help give your website individual and completely personalized design. The more proficient in web design you are, the more full-featured your community project will be.
The website builder is reasonably-priced. There is a free plan you can use to test the functionality of the platform and improve your skills. It comes with an ad banner, custom domain name, limited disk space and bandwidth, but the available options are more than enough to explore the feature list of the service. As to the paid subscriptions, uCoz has four of them:
- Basic ($3/mo) – 2GB disk space, unlimited bandwidth, free 24/7 support, basic security features;
- Optimal ($4/mo) – 10 GB disk space, premium antivirus access, PHP scripts, absence of the system ad banner, free domain name connection;
- Shop ($5/mo) – all premium features plus 10 GB storage space, eCommerce features, product import/export feature, discounts and special offers;
- Maximal ($8/mo) – 20 GB storage space, mobile optimized templates, online shop, premium features.
uCoz is a popular DIY website builder, which works well for community website development. The system makes it possible to create your project layout out of multiple customizable content blocks you can arrange and adjust as you need. The platform is also known for its affordable pricing policy, deep design customization options, advanced marketing/promotion tools, HTML/CSS editing options and other must-have features.
Elgg – Open Source Social Networking Engine
Elgg – is a top notch open source social networking engine, which offers a robots framework that allows creating a professional and versatile social environment. The platform can be used for effective school, university and college collaboration as well as for customer interaction. Elgg provides flexible, elegant and scalable web design solutions for individual users, groups and organizations.
Elgg is a content management framework that comes with a rich feature set needed to start and manage powerful social networking projects. The system allows assigning website membership and administration rights to different users. It’s up to you to decide on the plugins/modules you would like to integrate into your project to get the most out of its functionality. Thus, you can set up profile management options, create and add activity/news feeds, enable blogging/microblogging options, make use of the integrated API feature etc. Likewise, it is possible to set up group management options for more efficient social networking experience.
Elgg doesn’t have a rich template gallery yet it makes it possible to pick and integrate themes designed by third-party developers, illustrators, graphic designers and other professionals. The templates available on the web are free and paid and they are also completely customizable. The system allows for code editing to ensure maximum flexibility and unique design presentation.
Elgg doesn’t have a free trial yet there is a free version of the platform that lets you test its integrated functionality at no cost at all. The starting cost of the service is not provided by the vendor, but the company accepts donations and, thus, it makes sense to specify the payment details with the managers depending upon the type of project and your individual web design requirements.
Elgg is a powerful open source social networking platform, which allows creating community projects and different types of social networks. The system provides the utmost functionality expected from a social networking platform. It comes with modular design and rich plugin choice (there are over 900 plugins here) that allows for the system expandability and makes it possible to avail quality design.
phpFox – Social Network Platform for Niche Communities
phpFox – is a professional social network platform for niche communities and social networks. The system allows creating customer and brand communities, product and streaming forums, social marketplaces, interest groups and other types of advanced community projects. The platform encourages users to stay connected, sharing their interests, promoting campaigns, events and businesses.
phpFox delivers a broad spectrum of features that are a must, when it comes to the development of social networking platforms. The system comes with a live streaming solution, advanced chat option known as ChatPlus, integrated media library that makes it possible to choose and add different types of media files. The platform also comes with a blogging option that allows for starting and managing different types of blogs.
Other highlights of the platform encompass enhanced data security, advertising and group management, social media tagging, real time chat and other high end features that make it possible to start and effectively manage different types of community websites and social networking platforms.
The platform makes it possible to get the package, which involves theme design and implementation. The system developers help create and design professional, clean and efficient themes for your phpFox-based website. It ensures professional online presence for your community to fit your web design needs, budget and requirements. The system developers will be able to design themes based on your input with multiple pages. If needed, they will implement your design, integrating HTML/CSS code into your phpFox theme. The terms and cost of the website development are discussed individually with the system developers.
phpFox is not a free platform, but there is a 14-day trial for everyone willing to use the system for community website development. The system pricing starts at $299 – this is the one-time payment that involves a number of features and advantages. The cost of using the system as well as the cost of project development is discussed with the system developers individually.
phpFox is a social network platform for the development of online communities. It lets you start and manage different types of projects and social networks, including streaming and product forums, social marketplaces, groups of interest and other websites. The platform delivers a broad spectrum of social networking features required for professional community website development.
How to Create a Community Website with a Website Builder?
If you have decided to start a community project and have already chosen a worthy website builder to do this, it’s high time to define the list of must-have steps to launch the project. Mind that website builders differ in their parameters and functionality, but the list of steps required to start a community project is almost the same:
- Sign Up. To start working on your website development, you first need to pick the program and register with it. Most website builders offer simple and quick sign up procedure – just provide you login details to join the system and proceed to your website creation.
- Pick the Design. Most website builders grant access to their template collections. The designs are divided into niche categories based on the topics they cover. Your task is to pick a theme that works best for your business/niche and proceed to its customization. Templates may be free and paid and it’s up to you to pick the most suitable variant.
- Customize the Template. Having selected the required template, you may reach the dashboard of the system and use multiple design customization tools available there. This is how you will be able to create unique and personalized website design. What you may customize here is website styles, background, fonts, layout, colour palette, icons and other website elements.
- Add Content. As soon as you are done with your project design customization, you can proceed to content uploading. The type of content you will fill your website with depends upon the kind of community project you run and the info you plan to publish there. Thus, you can integrate media files, add articles related to your website specialization, create and manage image/video galleries and slideshows, add polls, user testimonials, contacts, links to social media accounts, reviews and other related info.
- Connect Domain Name. Having coped with your community website creation, set up and customization, it’s high time to think about its domain name. There are actually lots of variants to choose from. Just make sure your website domain is not quite long or complicated. It should be memorable and informative so that the potential website visitors could understand its implication and specialization. What you should also know is that most website builders offer plans that already come with free domain name connection options and free hosting.
- Adjust SEO Parameters. Setting up SEO parameters is one of the must-have steps to be completed before website publication. The better you fill out the available SEO characteristics and parameters (meta tags, descriptions, titles, keywords, alt tags for images etc.), the higher the positions of your project in the search engines will be and the easier it will be for your visitors to find it on the web.
- Go Live. The final step of your community website development is its publication. To go live with your project, just activate the corresponding button and publish it. This is usually done in less than a minute!
How to Create a Community Website with a CMS?
Starting a community website with a Content Management System is more complicated and it usually takes more effort/time. No matter what CMS exactly you will choose, it will still require coding skills and web design background for deeper customization. However, if you feel that you are ready to try working with the CMs of your choice mind the steps you should complete to get started:
- Choose Hosting. Before you even start working on your community website development, you have to take care of hosting choice. As a rule, CMS don’t come with integrated hosting solutions and you will have to pick a reliable hosting company on your own. To make the right choice, you have to check the credibility of the service, its pricing plans and terms offered.
- Pick Domain Name. Apart from hosting choice, you will also have to take care of domain name selection. Some companies offer bonus domain names provided along with hosting plans. You can also make up the domain name in advance by following standard rules applicable to the procedure of domain name selection.
- Install the CMS. In case you have chosen the CMS, which is not web-based, you will have to invest some time into its download and installation. This usually doesn’t take much time as the process is completed with regard to the specified guidelines and directions generated by the system.
- Integrate Plugins. To boost your community website performance and to enhance its design, you won’t go without plugin installation. They will make it possible to give your project the required functionality depending upon its specialization. Plugins can be free and paid – just check out what the CMS has in stock.
- Create a Website. As soon as you are done with plugin installation, you may proceed to the development of your community project. Pick the required template (either free or paid) and check its quality/safety to make sure it really comes up to your requirements.
- Add Content. Having created a website, you are welcome to fill it with content. The type of files you will upload depends upon the niche specialization of your community project. These include posts, media files, links to social network accounts and other elements.
- Make SEO Settings. If you are successfully done with content uploading, you may proceed to setting up your website SEO parameters. To do that, access the corresponding section in the dashboard of the system and fill out the fields available there.
- Go Live. The final step of your website creation is its publication. Fortunately, this is done quickly and effortlessly by means of activating the “Publish” button.
How to Choose the Service to Build a Community Website?
Picking the right service for your community website development is not an easy task. The process becomes a real challenge, if you are not a web design pro, lack coding skills or just don’t have time to complete the project on your own. There are lots of crucial factors to consider while making your choice. These include the type and complexity of the project you intend to start, your expertise level, budget you are ready to invest, goals and aspirations you initially have.
When thinking about the choice of the most trusted web design system – be it a website builder or a CMS – consider the features that may seriously affect your choice. These include simplicity, safety, quality, functionality, convenience, affordability, extensive template selection and design customization options as well as user- and SEO-friendliness to mention a few.
When thinking about the final solution, ask yourself the following question: does the system you have picked adhere to these requirements? If it does, then you may proceed to its further testing and use. Good luck!