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.
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.