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What is the best solution for developing an online community site in PHP?
March 21, 2011 4:48 PM   Subscribe

I have tried Elgg and BuddyPress, but those solutions just don't seem to work very well, mostly because of issues with the templates. I want to develop an online community that is based around my online radio station. The community should have forums, chat, galleries, user search, comments, walls, and all the other basic stuff that comes with an online community. It needs to be completely graphically customisable I'm looking for the best solution that is under $600, but preferable free.
posted by digdan to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
 
Go check out Drupal Gardens. http://www.drupalgardens.com/ It will do everything you're looking for, and is "graphically customisable". Whatever that means.

Understand -- you're also asking a lot by 'basic stuff that comes with an online community', because there's no cookie-cutter 'online community'. Why do you want the community, what do you want your users to do/participate in?
posted by msamye at 5:08 PM on March 21, 2011


forums, chat, galleries, user search, comments, walls, and all the other basic stuff that comes with an online community.

If you consider MetaFilter an "online community", note that it doesn't have most of that.

Why do you think you need all those things? Narrow your focus and define your goals.
posted by rokusan at 5:35 PM on March 21, 2011


Out of interest, what is it about Elgg templates that don't work for you? I'm a co-founder of that project (although I've since moved onto other things).
posted by bwerdmuller at 5:43 PM on March 21, 2011


Also, what msamye and rokusan said. Make sure you're picking technology that fits your human goals, and not simply ticking off features. It sounds like you're coming dangerously close to wanting to replicate Facebook, which might not be the wisest course of action.
posted by bwerdmuller at 5:45 PM on March 21, 2011


Introductory fact: You are not going to get the feature-set you described completed for $600 (and probably not for 10x that, either), so put custom coding out of your mind completely.

Suggesting that WordPress (etc) isn't "graphically customizable" suggests that you are using a different definition for that phrase than most web developers and designers would. It would help to define that term in specifics.

To that end, it seems like you need to be much more clear about what you want and, as rokusan notes, why you want it. The natural first instinct is to throw every feature in the book at a group of people, assuming they'll use it. As twitter, four square, and countless others can attest: less is often more. Start with a facebook page. Once a community starts to develop, see what features are used there and then think about how best to expand to both foster the sorts of interactions you want in the community and serve the needs of the people in it.

Additionally, note that you are using "community" and "website" interchangeably. You can create a website with all of those features and it might never become a community. Similarly, there are (online) communities that exist despite lacking most of the features you talk about.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:47 PM on March 21, 2011


Ning might be something to check out.
posted by jgirl at 6:10 PM on March 21, 2011


digdan: I have tried Elgg and BuddyPress, but those solutions just don't seem to work very well, mostly because of issues with the templates + It needs to be completely graphically customisable = does not compute. In other words, if you cannot hack a BuddyPress or Elgg template to you whim, you are going to struggle to get any platform to a completely customised level.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:55 PM on March 21, 2011


Sorry I don't have a solution--the web engineer at the place I work at elected to build our social network from scratch for the exact reasons you mention. We also used Elgg (which is fantastic given that it's free) for a little while but couldn't hack it to do what & look how we wanted. ...Pretty much any free or low cost social network platform solutions are going to have their limitations, though. And the feature set you describe actually isn't very basic. It *sounds* basic from UX perspective in our Web 2.0 world, but watching our very savvy web engineer try to make these things happen in existing platforms has taught me much respect for these things.

And yeah, the custom build is costing way more than 10 x $600, so I'll second the Ning or consulting a WordPress hacker suggestion.
posted by smirkette at 8:35 PM on March 21, 2011


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