Hari's Corner

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Creating a new website is a daunting prospect

Filed under: Software and Technology by Hari
Posted on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 16:45 IST (last updated: Wed, Nov 10, 2010 @ 12:19 IST)

I recently had an idea for a community based website project and I immediately thought of a good domain name and purchased it. And from there, I've found the going tough - right from the starting post.


Because creating any new website from scratch is daunting. I want something between a blog and a forum, but I don't want a site that is empty to start off with. I want some content and a unique look and feel. So far, the idea is fine, but getting the right tools together to achieve the goal is a whole different story.

WordPress is a good choice for a blog, and indeed is one of the most feature rich blog platforms built (maybe apart from b2evolution), but it is still a blog. It looks, feels and works like a blog. It requires a ton of customization to make it feel and work like a community website. Many community specific features I am looking for are lacking in WordPress. I don't want to start just another blog when I'm not sure how to attract contributors in the same manner as a forum.

A proper forum seems the best choice actually, but I am not happy with most of the forum software when it comes to content presentation. Somehow, a forum lacks the simplicity and content-richness of a blog. But there is no doubt that a forum system has better community management features than a blog.

I would have explored a full-fledged CMS like Drupal or Joomla, but two things stop me from doing so: (1) the prospect of customizing a complex CMS beast doesn't appeal to me; and (2) a CMS is a heavyweight solution for a community website. A CMS might work well for organizations and large communities with a dedicated writing and editorial team, but for a new startup a CMS doesn't appear to be a good idea to attract new contributors. Certainly I've never joined a CMS based community so far and I have no idea how the whole setup works - both from a user and from an administrative point of view.

I prefer to deal in known quantities especially for new projects where the real work starts AFTER I set up the backend software.

After all this decision making, the other big task ahead of me is customizing the look and feel of the site and making it as unique as possible. :-/

I guess I'll have to take a break for a few days to consider my options!

8 comment(s)

  1. Most definitely agree! Making a website is no easy task at all. Actually, let me rephrase that. Making a website is easy. _Designing_ and _planning_ a website is very, very difficult to master. It is almost never correct the first time.

    The trick is to ensure you know exactly what you want. You must have an extremely clear of your goals in your mind and how the site will work. This idea must not be compared to other sites (eg: It'll be like facebook but with digg incorporated, etc <-- that's the worst ever thing anybody could say) Don't think about the technical details before you work out how your site is going to deliver the experience to the user. Technical details are easy. Anything can be accomplished - just think about the experience you want to deliver.

    The next thing I've really found useful is to ask yourself if you are going to use such a site. WIPUP is an example of a site, regardless of other people using (or not using) it, I will happily use it alone.

    I am personally against these large frameworks and especially CMSes for any personal project. Get yourself a lightweight framework and code from scratch. It's infinitely more flexible and you can really work into the details of the site.

    Just to throw my own opinions into your choices - I find that WordPress is good for a blog and blog only. Any extensions upon that make it hell. I would not recommend Joomla or Drupal especially because I agree with your first point, but not really for the second, it can be very useful for community sites.

    Finally, come on - _share_ your idea for a community site. The hard part is actually _getting_ the community. Why don't you ask for a few suggestions before making the site?

    Comment by Dion Moult (visitor) on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 @ 18:25 IST #
  2. Thanks Dion.

    Yes, the community is around law students. I plan to write articles on legal topics and also provide a common platform for law students to discuss their studies and careers.

    A forum seems to be the best solution for this. The reason is that I want it to have the "feel" of a discussion group and not merely a content platform. WordPress doesn't seem to fit that niche.

    What I vision is something like this:

    1. A community site with user contributed legal articles and essays on a variety of topics like law careers, law books, news in the legal world and so on.
    2. A discussion platform for both articles as well as other topics.
    3. (Later addition) possibly a paid "legal advisory" service for members. I have to work out the legalities of such a service though, before I venture into that aspect of it.

    So what would you say for this? I can actually plan this out easily, but the technical details seem to be the hard part for me. I know how I want my website to be fleshed out, but getting the tools together to do the job seems more daunting.

    If I do create a website based around this idea, I want the platform to be easy for lay users to generate content. Only for that reason I fear getting into Drupal, Joomla and the like. The intended audience is not tech savvy.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 @ 18:35 IST #
  3. Look into WordPress + BuddyPress - as they are both by the same company they integrate very well and mean that you don't need to have a separate area for the forum. There are also themes that make the integration easier and more attractive.

    Comment by ray (visitor) on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 @ 15:29 IST #
  4. I'll take a look at buddypress, ray.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 @ 17:05 IST #
  5. Naansense, all you need is Microsoft Frontpage.

    Comment by Teknomancer (visitor) on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 @ 17:36 IST #
  6. Actually all you need is www.blogspot.com. And it's more useful than FrontPage. :biggrin:

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 @ 18:37 IST #
  7. Frontpage? Bla. Too much bother to get it running in WINE properly. And, who has a (legit) license key for it?

    Agree with Ray's suggestion. Plus, you're familiar with how WordPress works (sure, you remember!), so it'll be a lower learning curve for you

    Comment by mrcorey (visitor) on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 @ 19:18 IST #
  8. WordPress is definitely looking more and more like my choice of platform. I don't really know how well it will succeed as a community though.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 @ 19:46 IST #

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