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I'm thinking about starting a website.
October 5, 2011 3:53 PM   Subscribe

I've been toying with the idea of starting a website that's sort of half forum, half store. I have a general understanding of how the web works, but I haven't done anything web design-ey for about ten years, and even then I was definitely quite amateur. What would I need to do to get going?

So I had this idea, the other day. I was thinking of keeping it sort of quiet for now but I guess I don't mind being attached to it.

I'd like to have a website wherein people could talk about the problems of the day (rising unemployment, concentration of wealth, environmental destruction, etc.) and create slogans which would help to raise awareness of these issues and/or encourage people to take action against them. The idea would be to have a forum (not unlike Metafilter) in which anyone could propose a topic that was worth attention, which the members would then try to boil down into a punchy slogan suitable for printing on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. Then, once a consensus had been arrived at, we'd print up the bumper stickers and/or t-shirts, stick 'em in an online store, and ship 'em out to anybody who wanted to buy them.

There's a lot more to the idea than that (much of it in terms of philosophical, financial, and plans for long-term growth should it become successful) but that's the skeleton of the logistics side of it. Problem is, I'm quite out of the loop on how people go about starting up this kind of stuff. I'd love it if there were some cheap-and-quick way to build up the basic functionality for this, at least for its early stages, that was functional and easy to throw together. I'm not looking to raise a ton of venture capital, I don't have much capital myself, and I don't really have any of the relevant technical skills (though I'm willing to learn some if necessary).

How would I do this? I don't mind if things aren't totally automated and scalable, hopefully by the time things needed to scale there would be a bit of money banked up to move to a more permanent and fully-functional home. I do want it to be run from its own domain rather than hosted as a subdomain of some other organization, at least the forum part of it. I don't care if it's ugly, even Craigslist-ugly, though my preferred aesthetic is something closer to Metafilter's own layout. (I also like flat discussions. I feel like threaded conversations tend to fragment and make it much harder to reach consensus on a topic.)

I just don't really know where to start with all of this, and I don't know what resources exist at the moment to do this stuff. What is out there, what do I need to know, and how do I get started putting it all together so that I can figure out how to do this? Also, are there any examples of people who are doing similar things? (In terms of format, not necessarily message.) I'm not looking for detailed instructions, more to be pointed in the right direction. Any recommendations or pointers will be greatly appreciated.
posted by Scientist to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You could do that with Drupal and plugins. A lot of hosting companies offer a 1 click install of Drupal so your cost to start messing around with the idea is a $50 a year hosting account and a domain.
posted by COD at 4:03 PM on October 5, 2011

You could run the forum on Drupal or equivalent. And produce the tchotchkes through CafePress or the like. There's probably a way to integrate the two, but that might be more trouble than it's worth.

Drupal can be a pretty complex beast, but for running a forum and hosting some static content, it'd be fine and not hard to set up—it's a one-click install at many web-hosting companies.

Alternatively, you could go with straight forum software like PHPBB, again using CafePress or equivalent to produce merch.
posted by adamrice at 4:04 PM on October 5, 2011

You could just do the forum and make a deal with Cafe Press, unless you're longing to get into production. Quirky has crowd-sourced design and innovation, and they subcontract all their production--you could take a look at their process.

Why not just start a slogan blog? You can do polls and get reader feedback, etc., and then figure out production of the mugs, shirts, whatever, with little to no cash outlay.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:21 PM on October 5, 2011

Drupal sounds like it's just the ticket for the forum. Where does a chap go for help learning how to use it, and later for advice and support in getting the most out of it?

I think the Cafepress model is the way to go on the store as well, but likely I'd go through Skreened for the shirts as I like their business ethics a lot better. They only do shirts, though.
posted by Scientist at 5:04 PM on October 5, 2011

Just to offer some alternatives, common free forum software includes bbPress (made by the same people as Wordpress, and they just launched a new version!), Vanilla and phpBB.
posted by Magnakai at 6:38 PM on October 5, 2011

Drupal sounds like it's just the ticket for the forum. Where does a chap go for help learning how to use it, and later for advice and support in getting the most out of it? and (commonly referred to as d.o and g.d.o).
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:34 PM on October 6, 2011

Wordpress. Find a theme at ThemeForest. You can have something basic rolling in a week. Wordpress has forum plugins you can try out. These days I'm recommending Wordpress to a lot of people.
posted by bprater at 11:10 PM on October 6, 2011

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