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Community Websites
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Principles of Website Design
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A quick description of this type of website
A more in-depth look at this website type
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C ommunity websites
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A more in-depth look

More detail:
Community websites often use several different technologies to allow members to talk to one another. Our standard of choice is to start off with the GeekLog blog engine/content management system, and then to modify and extend it to include extra community functionality, such as a forum and chat room.

In a forum, posts are made by members and replied to by other members. Typically the posts with more recent replies are moved to the top of the forum, so that they show up first.
More information about forums in general

The forum software that we use allows the administrator (that's you) to set up any number of forums within the site, and give each one a different level of security. For example, you might have a forum where anyone can post, another forum for registered members only (people who have signed up for the forum and have their own username and password), and yet another forum where only selected members have permission to post. This final forum could be a place for only contributing members - that is, members who have contributed money (or considerable amounts of high-quality information) to the website.

Most forums also allow private messaging - a method by which users can send messages directly to each other, rather than posting them on the forum. This is desirable because it lets people talk privately to each other without needing to disclose their E-mail addresses.

Forums must be moderated, to ensure that discussions are valuable and that offensive posts are deleted straight away. Moderation must not, however, be too heavy-handed, or members could become discouraged. Moderators are often referred to as "Mods."

Ordinary members whom you trust can be promoted to Moderator status, giving them the power to edit, move or even delete the posts of any given user.
More information about mods

Some forums have lengthy sets of rules dictating behaviour that is acceptable and unacceptable. We recommend using a single rule of "Don't be a jerk," with the caveat that if the user has to ask by what standards a member is judged to be a jerk, then he or she should not be on the Internet in the first place, and certainly not on your forum.

Chat rooms:
Chat rooms can be compared to forums in that users are free to converse with each other about your chosen topic. The main difference is that chat rooms take place in real-time - you join a room full of people, type a message, press "Send" and it arrives on the screen for everyone to see and respond to.
More information about chat rooms

In most chat rooms, you can also "Whisper" to an individual member - that is, send them a message that nobody else can see, and take part in a conversation with them without everybody else knowing.

Chat rooms should also be moderated, although this can be harder than moderating a forum because moderators cannot always be at their computers.

Having a blog on a community website can be very handy, as it gives the forum members something to respond to and talk about. Indeed, some community websites actually evolved from simple blogs, having had extra features such as forums and chat rooms added to them over time.

Blogs are discussed in more detail in the "Blogs" section of this website.

Picture and Media Galleries:
It's possible to allow users to upload pictures, video clips and audio clips to your website for others to see. This is discussed in more detail in the "Galleries" section of this website; the major difference when a community website gets involved is that you're opening up the Gallery to people other than yourself.

FAQ systems:
Having a dynamic FAQ system means that anybody can ask a question, and then you can answer it. The questions and answers are then stored on the site until you decide to delete them.
More information about FAQ

This can be very helpful to busy forums, especially if you get new members asking the same question quite often.

A Wiki is a system that displays articles, allowing anyone to edit them or create new articles. It can be compared to an FAQ system, but is distinctly more open.

For example, a user on a community website based around custom-built arcade machines could write and upload an article about vector monitors. Another eagle-eyed member could find a mistake in the article, and correct it - and, if the mood takes them, they could add further information to the article.

WikiPedia is possibly the most famous Wiki, and the small-text "More Information" links scattered about this website will take you to a relevant page on WikiPedia, like this one:
More information about Wikis

Putting it all together:
Most community websites use some or all of the above systems, working together in harmony. Very, very few community websites start off with all of these systems in place, but instead build themselves up as demand (and number of members) increases.

Making Money:
Community websites can be monetised by encouraging donations, by running advertisements, or by selling products or services. The first two methods should be kept to a minimum until the website has enough visitors to keep itself lively without much intervention from you.

Nearly every website could become a community website if it gets enough visitors. Even business websites and E-Commerce sites can benefit from having some community elements, since people like to buy from the same websites that they visit regularly.

Another strong argument for starting your website with a view to creating a community is that people write for you. This makes it very, very easy to get good search engine traffic - people search the Internet for the answer to a question, and find that someone has already posted that question on your forum, and somebody else has answered it for them.

Allowing advertising on your forum or community website can also be quite lucrative.


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