Launching a new online community

by Martin Reed on 5 September 2008 in Articles

Female Forum

Well the day has finally arrived. I started developing my latest online community way back in November of last year, and now approximately 9 months later the site is born. My new community is an online community for women.

There are still a few minor kinks that need to be ironed out; for example the fonts look great on a Mac but awful on a PC and there are a couple of tiny bugs that are getting fixed as I type this article, however it was time for the site to launch. When developing any website, you need to accept that it will never be perfect and it will never be ‘finished’. A website is a living entity – it should be continuously developing, maturing and improving. If you hold off the launch of your website until it is ‘perfect’, you will find that you never get it launched!

Why did I develop a community for women?

I am a strong advocate of only developing a community based around a subject you are passionate about. This helps keep you motivated and dedicated to making your site a success. I am not so much passionate about women’s issues as online communities in general. One day last year I was talking to my mother about iVillage – perhaps the most popular online community for women. She told me she went there once but couldn’t figure out how to use the site is it was so busy and complicated to use. This got me thinking…

After undertaking some research, I found that many women felt this way. Yes, iVillage is popular but it certainly doesn’t cater to the majority of women online. The site seems to struggle with the sheer amount of content it holds and does not present this content in a clear or accessible manner. As for the community aspect of the site, their message boards are hidden away and extremely long-winded and unintuitive.

After spending a couple of weeks looking for alternative websites in this niche, I didn’t come across any that I would consider as being ‘better’. This was when I decided to launch my own online community for women.

Why has the site taken 9 months to complete?

From the outset, I always knew this was going to be my biggest project to date. I invested a good amount of money in a memorable domain name, and knew that I wanted to have a huge amount of content alongside an integrated forum. I didn’t want to launch a forum by itself. I wanted something more comprehensive, something that would offer far more value than a standalone forum, and something that was unique.

It took me time to develop a logo, time to have a design made, time to choose the right software platform, and time to get the site coded and tested. It also took time to populate the site with content so it didn’t launch as a ghost town.

The benefits of working with great people

I have never paid for forum posts, and doubt I ever will. Paid forum posters will never have the enthusiasm for your community that you should have. They certainly won’t have the same motivation. Create content for your forum yourself – you will then have control over the initial tone and personality of your online community.

Having said that, I did outsource article writing for my new online community. Put simply, I don’t have the time to write 700-1,000 word articles. Furthermore, as my target audience is women I don’t really have the knowledge or experience to write quality, relevant articles. I looked for writers early on by advertising in the SitePoint Marketplace. This ensured that I would be building a good stockpile of content by the time the site launched.

I looked for writers in a similar way that I looked for a coder – I asked for samples, references and then sealed agreements with written contracts. Being thorough at this stage always pays dividends in the future – I now have fantastic, reliable, highly-networked writers who are not only helping me produce content, but are also helping me promote the site by posting articles on their blogs and mentioning the site to other female bloggers and highly targeted websites they are members of. My ExpressionEngine coder has worked with me on an almost daily basis for the past three months without complaint or delay.

If you choose the wrong people to work with, you will suffer the consequences at a later date.

What next?

Visitors that found my website prior to launch had the option of registering their email address to receive a notification when the site went live. Those people have now been emailed, and I am currently working on a promotional plan. I will be promoting the site on my existing communities, and networking with other bloggers who target my new community’s audience. This will just be the beginning – you cannot rely on one form of promotion to make your online community a success.

As always, I will detail the development of my new community on this blog – so make sure you subscribe to the RSS feed if you haven’t done so already. If you don’t have a feed reader you can subscribe by email.

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Michelle September 5, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Whoohoo! It’s about time you stopped keeping us all in suspense. ;)

I signed up right away and got my name as my user name. Yay! Michelle gets taken fast, especially on a femal oriented site. LOL

Haven’t had a chance to give it a good look but the front page looks awesome!


Nicole Price September 6, 2008 at 5:12 am

I agree with what you say about ivillage, it is so vast and there are so many subjects that can be really confusing to navigate, and then you have save/bookmark the links to remember where you were and how to get there. That can be really frustrating.

Nicole Price September 6, 2008 at 5:13 am

“I am a strong advocate of only developing a community based around a subject you are passionate about. ” Passionate about women, Martin? ;)

Smiley September 6, 2008 at 5:42 am

Looking great, old chap. It certainly looks like a lot of work has been put into it, and bravo on “leading by example” – your new community was the perfect example of how to launch it.

No rushing, take your time, keep things simple and not over-whelming and most importantly, create content!

You already have new members signing up.


Amish September 6, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Finally the launch. Congratulations. Your detailed review on why and how you conceived it, what all you did to get it to be user friendly for your audience and how you intend promoting it makes fascinating reading.

Pity that I can not join up! My best wishes however, for the forum’s success.

Patrick September 6, 2008 at 10:29 pm

Congrats! :)

Angela Connor September 8, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Your site is awesome. The work you put into it has paid off. I am so impressed and I forwarded the link to my boss. Awesome niche. I think I’ll mention it in my online community as well. The functionality rocks and the clean look lends itself to nice navigation. Congrats to you!

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 9, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Michelle – Glad you got your preferred name; I guess reading this blog has its advantages, eh? It’s really great to have you as a member – I hope you enjoy the site and remain a member for a long time to come.

Nicole – Recognising the flaws inherent in some large websites can help you gain a competitive edge. Remember that just because a site is big, it doesn’t mean you can’t compete against it!

Am I passionate about women? Sure! Am I passionate about online communities? Most definitely!

Smiley – So far the launch has gone great, I just need to work at keeping the momentum going.

Amish – I am glad you enjoyed the article, thanks for your kind comment.

Patrick – Thanks :)

Angela – Thank you for the kind words; coming from a reader that I would consider to be within my target audience makes your positive feedback all the more rewarding and encouraging. Any mention you give to the site would be hugely appreciated. Thanks again :)

Nick September 9, 2008 at 6:59 pm


How much money did you invest in the articles that you currently have on your website? I’m guessing you have about 100 of them. I also plan on launching a new community with about 100 articles. But before I do it, I want to make sure that my budget is big enough.


John Walters September 10, 2008 at 1:14 am

Looks great. I like how you have the recent posts from the different categories as a lot of forums just have recent posts but include the posts from every category.

The layout is very clean and it looks easy to navigate around. You can definitely see the fruits of your labour.


Smiley September 10, 2008 at 1:17 pm

I always find it hard to keep the momentum going myself. I have a burst of initiative and then I gradually slow down, I know I shouldn’t. I give my self a kick up the bum now and again, though, and everything gets done eventually.

Michelle September 10, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Thanks, Martin. :) I don’t have a lot of time to spend on a new site but I’ll keep visiting and post when I can.

Smiley: I’m the same way. I work on my site in bursts and try to keep the conversation going when it flares up. But then I need to work on other projects and slack off again. :(


Mr Woc September 10, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Hi there

I must confess to not knowing about ivillage and i agree it is somewhat confusing, i didnt realise how popular these sites were, i would be interested to read how your going to promote your site.


Amish September 11, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Any chance you will launch one for men? Something as simple as this will surely be welcome! I for one will immediately sign up.

teo brebeanu September 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm

I was just analysing your new female portal . The first page articles are really interesting and i would call them a Must read for every ‘internet woman’. Also you should post some piece of advice like : how to manage a relationship , difficulties in a relationship and so on. This will get you lots of visitors , because i belive thats some important issues in the females today.The forum looks okay, i can notice its new by reading the stats. Don’t worry, time is the key of success. You cant have 1000.000 visitors the second day of the launch, unless you invest 1 million:)
All best wishes with your site!

Jaison L September 14, 2008 at 7:03 am

Congrats on launching female portal. At least some one took step to raise women voices and discuss women issues.

MOin September 14, 2008 at 8:54 pm

oh 9 months are too much but i am glad you made it, i am also planning to launch some community type website for that i bought a domain “” last year soon i’ll start working on it i am very happy to find this website so i’ll be having a lot of help to make my own social website.

bucko September 16, 2008 at 2:46 am

Good call on taking the time and making something more substantive than just slapping up a forum.

Amish September 19, 2008 at 1:11 pm

I had given femaleforum’s reference to a couple of my friends who have just called me to say that they are unable to access the site. They keep getting “Not Found” responses. Any problems?

Gustav September 19, 2008 at 2:24 pm

I really have to congratulate you for the great efforts you have made to develop the community, I am also doing kind of the same but first of all I will build my reader and suscriber base before jumping on the Community part… but as things are going now I think it will be soon…

thanks for the great post and support


Martin Reed - Blog Author September 28, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Nick – The cost of articles varies wildly according to what subject you want them written on, how many you are ordering, their length, your writers’ skills and where they are from. I have contracts with the writers I use so can’t divulge exactly how much I am paying them. I would suggest that for 100 articles, you should be able to get quality articles of around 750 words for around $20 each, but again it depends on a huge number of factors.

John – Having a strong forum integration was one of the key requirements of the new site; this meant including recent posts from each category to maximise the exposure of the forum posts throughout the site.

Thanks for your kind comments.

Smiley – I think we all have times like that. I work so hard during the weekend, I struggle to find the time or effort needed to keep the momentum going over the weekends but try to make up for it come the start of the following week!

Michelle – Great :)

Mr Woc- I plan on writing an article in the next couple of weeks outlining my promotion methods. Stay tuned!

Amish – Hmmm, well I never say never but I can’t see myself launching an online community for men (at least not a general one). The fact is, men are less communicative than women and would likely be more interested in the kid of content I wouldn’t want to focus on. Wow, have I just stereotyped my own sex?!?

Teo – Thanks for your kind comments. I post new articles to the site every few days and I know for a fact we have articles coming up covering the subjects you mentioned so keep checking back!

Jaison – Thanks! There are sites already out there that cover women’s issues, I just felt I could do it in a way that was more user-friendly and would better integrate community features.

MOin – I definitely could have launched the site sooner if I had been more focussed on the project and didn’t have so many other things going on in my personal life. I love the domain name you picked, well done! Keep us updated with your progress, and good luck. :)

Bucko – Thanks. From the start I knew the site would have to be more than a forum if I wanted it to succeed. Now, even if people aren’t comfortable in joining a forum with a small number of members, I am building a relationship with visitors and building loyalty through the articles section of the site.

Amish – Very odd; I have checked the error logs and see nothing. Are you sure you have them the right URL?

Gustav – Thank you so much for your kind words! Make sure you keep us updated with your plans for launching your own community, and good luck!

martin September 30, 2008 at 11:36 am

I hope the new community works out for you. Do you mind me asking how you did your research to find there was indeed a gap in the market for this besides talking to your mum?

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 6, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Martin – Thanks for the comment. I didn’t notice so much that there was a gap in the market – I was just surfing around looking at different online communities and came across iVillage. I thought it was a great resource, but it just seemed to be so user unfriendly. That got me determined to find a website for women that was easy to use with a well-integrated community. I couldn’t find one, and so ends (or begins) the story!

Paul November 16, 2008 at 11:14 pm

What kind of research do you do before you decide what niche to after next? What type of forecasting do you do?

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 17, 2008 at 8:08 pm

Paul – Have you ever used the Google Adwords Keyword Tool? It’s a fantastic tool that helps you research keywords and gauge the interest people have for certain subjects.

kalin December 3, 2008 at 3:41 pm

you are right- url is memorable, design rocks, content-excellent. The time it took you was definitely time well spend. How do you monetize your site? I have been thinking about that for a few months already. I have about 600 people on my list and want to build a community where people can get to know each other.
Look forward to hearing from You

Martin Reed - Blog Author December 6, 2008 at 12:25 am

Kalin – At the moment Female Forum is not monetised. There are a lot of ways to make money from online communities, though.

Nicu January 9, 2009 at 12:16 am

Hey Martin,

Great job with the new forum. I am also planning on launching a similar community but in a slightly different niche.

And here comes the question: how much of your forum’s content is created by you and how much by your members? Souxi, Squeezy, Crazycat and Sally are the users that participate the most. Is this you posting under different accounts, are they real users or are they your friends? Sorry if I am indiscreet. I just want to get a feeling of how much work is required on my part when launching a new community.

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 12, 2009 at 11:24 am

Nicu – My members create the majority of content in the forums. Of the users you mention, I used to post under the username ‘Sally’ but haven’t done so since 3rd December.

Scared to Launch February 10, 2010 at 12:08 am

Thanks for all the great articles, Martin, I have learned a ton from them.

I run a site that generates decent traffic, and that is (in my opinion) the perfect niche for a support-oriented forum. I have the forum built, a couple of great moderators ready to go, but I’m terrified to launch it.

Because of the ‘helping’ nature of the niche, I don’t want to create users myself to generate content, because trust will be huge. But how else do I get things going?

I have a facebook group of around 600 members…would opening it to them first be OK in order to start generating some action, or are they also unlikely to participate in an empty forum (as I’m quite sure my search engine traffic visitors would be)?

I’m just so scared of starting it, because nothing drives away traffic on a site like a ghost town forum!

Martin Reed - Community Manager February 10, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Scared – Does your existing site contain any user generated content? If you already have people commenting on your content, then you can approach a small number of those commenters to be the first members of the new community.

Keep it closed at first, and exclusive. Use your facebook group to invite a small number of people to join the new community. Only invite the right people – those you know and have a relationship with.

Tell them what you’re building, why you’re building it and how it will benefit them.

People don’t mind emptiness when they’re expecting it. If they know they’re the first members and that they’re part of an exclusive gang, they’ll be more motivated to contribute and make a success of the forum.

Good luck.

Christina March 24, 2010 at 6:56 pm

You state that you are a strong advocate of only developing a community based around a subject you are passionate about. I am surprised to see that you decided to launch a site about women, although I understand why you made the decision. I am currently struggling with the same exact thing and haven’t decided if I should create a community that I am not passionate about.

Michelle March 24, 2010 at 7:49 pm

@Christina: What makes you think he’s not passionate about women? ;)