I’ve been contacted by a number of people saying “I wish I could create a website like yours” – I’m sure they don’t mean exactly like mine, but simply to create a community website, affordably.
With so many people looking to work from home and start their own business, to have fun, build themselves a niche, or just pull the community together, then why not have a go?
There’ll be things you don’t know, or don’t understand – but those challenges are met my everybody and can be solved easily enough with a little bit of time, hard work or tenacity.
Create Your Own Community Website
There are four stages to create your own community website:
- Firstly you’ll need a domain name, that’s the website address.
- Secondly, you’ll need hosting – that’s just the word for “space on the Internet where I put my files”.
- Thirdly, you’ll need some software that holds/contains and delivers your content to your readers. You might learn html/css, or you might look for an Instant Website Builder, or you might look for a Content Management System (CMS). This site is using WordPress (which is free), WordPress is a CMS and probably the easiest of all to use, there’s virtually no learning curve.
- Fourthly, you’ll need to create your content – that just takes time!
Simply take what you’re interested in, locally (whether that’s your town, county, country – or even just your personal interest), and set out to provide comprehensive information about it to people.
Beyond that, you’ll then want to monetize it, to enable your community website/magazine to at least cover its costs – and perhaps (over time) build you a full-time income. For this you will need to think about how you will run adverts on your site.
Domain Name and Hosting
I’m sure you’ve probably already got a name in mind, so why not register it to stop others grabbing it for themselves? I use Bluehost for hosting, it’s simple, affordable -and- comes with a raft of instantly installed free software, such as WordPress.
Content Management/Website Builder Software
I always use WordPress now. WordPress is free and easy to use – and it has thousands of free plugins that you can use to give your site the functionality it needs, plugins such as membership management, automatic backups, stats – if you want your site to do something there’ll be a plugin for it already. Many plugins are free too, and many professional plugins cost less than one hour’s cost of a programmer. One I use on this site is a great Events Calendar, essential for a community magazine style website!
There are thousands of free templates available online here: http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/atahualpa
There are professional template software choices too, if you want a much more polished look, then check out the Flexx/iThemes system.
More Than WordPress
If you want to have the biggest and the best community website out there, to turn it into a full-time income, then you will need to involve the local people. To do this, you’ll need to have some way of them becoming a member and contributing. For simplicity, again, I’d recommend you get Bluehost hosting because another of the great free software installations you can do with one click is their Free Social Networking Software. Simply install this on your site in addition to the WordPress and you instantly have a full, working, social networking website – and it’s free. I do plan to use that myself soon.
Remember that everything takes time. You won’t have your website up and running in the next 10 minutes, or even an hour! Getting your domain name and hosting takes just 2 minutes, then you need to log on and install WordPress, that’s another 2 minutes … but now what you have is a working website with a content management system – that’s empty!
What you need to do next is to create your website, you need to write the words, write the pages, choose your template/look/style and tweak it.
But, within a week or so you should have a fully operational website, with great local content – and you should start to see people coming to your website to read! That’s the best bit about it 🙂
What stopped me starting my first website was that I wanted an all-singing, all-dancing website that did a gazillion different things – and I knew I couldn’t afford a programmer/designer to make it for me; especially as I didn’t know everything I wanted!
WordPress enables you to get started and get that all essential content written and available. Then, over time, you can simply improve your website. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your website will improve and grow and build over time. Today – do what you can. Improve what you have over time. Don’t be impatient – play the long game.
At some future point, you can hire graphics designers to give you a fab new look, or employ a programmer to write you something just for you – but for 99% of people, the functionality of WordPress + plugins is more than they will ever need. All you need to buy and pay for is your domain name and some hosting. Once you’ve got those nothing else need cost you a penny.
Community Website Ideas
You’ve probably already got an idea what you’d put into a community website or online magazine, but here are some ideas:
- List of local businesses
- Events Calendar
- Comparison website for local services, venues, hotels
- A social networking site for your town, your generation, or your interests
- A classified ads website
- Run your site like a local newspaper, where you’re the lead journalist
You can use all of these ideas on your website, just build them in slowly over time. There’s no rush to the end, there’ll always be something you can do on your site that adds value for your readers.
Here’s your list of resources to build your own community website cheaply: