When I first started building online communitiies, there wasn’t much choice. For me, the choice came down to phpBB and vBulletin, though there were a few others. They were, and still are, fairly basic message board software. And, I do have to say that neither of them has evolved much over the years since I launched my first online community (in 2002).
I do try to keep up with what new platforms are becoming popular, what’s on the horizon and such. And, for a practical reason as well. I’ve mentioned that the platform I use has not evolved with the times, and over the past year I’ve gone from having a portfolio of over a dozen communities on the vBulletin platform now to just three or four. Three if you count only the ones that have actual communities on them.
Look at all the options available now. I’ve been looking at Ning, Community Server, Expression Engine, and many others. I just found one called KickApps today. I got a start at a new community site with Expression Engine, but then heard about the upcoming new version of EE and decided that I should just wait and get the ball rolling when that is out instead of doing it once and doing it again when the new version comes.
But that presents me with a problem. After so many years of developing online communities using vBulletin as a platform, my eyes are open to the new possibilities yet there are so many good choices that I’m having trouble settling into one. I’m comfortable developing with vBulletin, and that provides some drag with making the decision.
What has really been helpful in the past is seeing what others have done before. What have you built with an online community platform? When I visit one of the software company websites I usually click around to see if they have a portfolio where they list client sites. Some do, some don’t, some have just a few listed. A lot of them just list corporate sites and those don’t fascinate me so much as the ones that individual developers build. You know, if Coke or Nike is developing an online community there’s millions going into it and the way I see it is that it just has to look good, and if it doesn’t there’s a serious problem there. But, if the platform can allow for smaller companies or individual developers to build something great, then that’s the kind of platform that gets me excited.