This is the ninth article in what I hope will be an indefinite series about the processes involved in developing a new online community from scratch. I am currently developing a brand new online community and will detail its development on this blog. As I have said before, I think it is far easier to learn by example rather than simply reading another person’s theories and ideas.
With any reasonably large project, you will need to undertake a good amount of testing. My new online community includes a database of articles with an integrated forum. Basic functionality immediately after coding was fine, however there were a number of small tweaks that needed to be done after the initial coding – mainly relating to the layout and small changes to title sizes, colours, etc.
I am pleased to say that thanks to having a fantastic ExpressionEngine coder, all modifications were done with enthusiasm, professionalism and skill. I cannot stress how important it is that you work with people that hold these qualities – as I wrote about before, choosing a coder for an online community is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I didn’t spend much time looking for someone to code the design of this blog, and certainly paid the price for it as the development time dragged on and on as they claimed to ‘not be getting my emails’ or claiming they had already sent me the required files. Furthermore, their coded version of my design didn’t include a number of the design elements. You have been warned!
Before launching the community, it is important that I optimise the site to make it search engine friendly. Regular readers will know that I always say people are more important than the search engines, however thinking about the search engines when dealing with your site’s code is always a good idea. The sooner your site is optimised for the search engines, the better. Therefore I am working to ensure all article pages have relevant page titles and include relevant keywords and meta tags. Images also have their own alt tags. By doing this, I am ensuring that the site is picked up speedily and effectively by the search engines as soon as it launches.
As I mentioned before, it is a good idea to create content before you launch and this is what I am currently working on. I am adding articles so that as soon as the site launches, it has a good amount of content for both human visitors and the search engines. I will also be ensuring there is content in the forums – remember, people will not want to join a forum that has no members or content.
By adding content, I also get to test out the site – the more I use it, the more likely I am to catch any issues with the site prior to launch.
By now I am coming up with a number of strategies for promoting my new online community. During the site’s development, I had a holding page up with information about the site and also invited people to register their email address. As a result, I now have 133 email addresses of people interested in the site. Therefore as soon as I launch, I can fire off an email to these users, inviting them to check out the site.
I will also leverage the traffic I get on my existing sites by emailing those who have given me their permission to do so, promoting the new community and sharing information about it. I will also add links to the new community on my existing websites.
Finally, I will check out blogs related to my community’s niche and contact the blog authors and introduce myself and my new website to them. I will make each email personal, and will ask them for their thoughts and feedback on my new site. By actively engaging blog authors, and asking them for their feedback I am developing a relationship with them. This benefits me as I can network with more people involved in my community’s niche, obtain suggestions and constructive criticism, and hopefully get my site mentioned on some popular and influential blogs.
So when is the launch?
I am hoping to launch the site by Monday at the latest – stay tuned as I will be announcing the launch right here and am looking forward to hearing your thoughts!