Posted on: 25 Sep 2015

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3 key things to keep in mind when building a social networking site

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Staying connected and sharing your thoughts with like-minded people has become easier than it was a decade ago. Social networking websites have revolutionized the way people interact socially and share their common interest, concerns, thoughts, ideas and objectives.

In recent years many smaller social networking sites have been launched that facilitate connectivity, community bonding and bring people with shared objectives on a single platform. Custom social network sites, by virtue of the fact that they were custom built for a specific audience, give the personal touch that is prerequisite for community bonding.

If you have found a social niche that is untapped, getting a social networking site built for this purpose is definitely a great idea. Whether it is a small and private social network or a bigger one, which is open for global audience – it is an achievable dream!

All you need is a clear vision and a good team to turn the dream into reality. However, before you begin, careful evaluation of following key considerations will help you get the best social networking site that caters to your specific needs:

1. Long term scope & Scalability

What is the objective of this network? Is it for fun, raising awareness, charity, profit making or something else? What is the future growth prospect and how beneficial would it be to the users?

The success and future growth of any social networking platform depends on its usability and relevance in the long term. Also, the model should have a scalable approach so all the future needs of the growing community can be catered to.

Having a clear vision would make it easy to begin the development process based on your specific requirements.

2. Hosted model vs Cloud model

Choosing between hosted model and cloud model is an important decision that should be made early on. The hosted model allows for installation of the software on local server and access is confined to users within the network. Cloud model allows users to access the application from anywhere in the world, provided they have the right credentials to login.

The initial set up cost, ongoing maintenance cost, recurring cost and costs associated with scaling the network are completely different for each model. Both these models have their own benefits and depending on the requirement and the size of the social network, this decision should be made with appropriate inputs from your development partners.

For maximum flexibility, one can even decide to start with a hosted model, that gives greater control over access and data security, that is required for smaller communities, and later migrate to the more cost effective and widely accessible cloud model, where more users and features are added.

Deciding on the right application hosting option early on in your project is essential for the development and delivery of a good social networking site.

3. Pre-packaged solution vs. Custom solution

A key decision, and perhaps the most important one to be taken before building a social networking site is deciding between:

a) Customizing a pre packaged social network framework and

b) Getting a social network custom built from scratch.

There are a number of popular pre-packaged solutions available in the market that can help get your social networking site off the ground rapidly. These third party solutions, namely Elgg, PhPFox, Oxwall and others offer comprehensive networking solutions suitable for the diverse needs of various businesses, academic institutions and non-profit as well as for-profit organizations.

Thanks to the large user community, these customizable social network frameworks are thoroughly tested and widely used by various sites, and hence provide a robust solution.

These pre- packaged solutions have various features that can be tweaked with minimal effort to suit your specific needs, and deliver a fully functional networking website. They are cost effective, don’t take much time to implement, and easy to maintain.

However, these solutions may not have certain unique features essential for a specific community. In such situations, a custom solution that is tailor made to meet your requirements is the way to go.

One can also take the approach of building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) by customizing a pre-packaged social networking solution, and as the scope and requirements are clearly defined over a period of time, custom develop the social networking website.

Vinod Subbaiah

Founder and CEO

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