• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint

To Buy or Not to Buy?

Let’s start with the fundamental question. If you’re going to have community features on your site, you’re going to need some server-side software to accomplish the task. There are two ways to get that software: You can buy it, or you can build it. Each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Buy it

There are some amazingly powerful community packages out there, if you can afford them. Buying software is nice, because it often comes with someone who will take care of installing and configuring it on your server, leaving you to do all the fun stuff.

But buying has its downside, too. It can be expensive—some packages come with charges that get more and more expensive the more successful you are. Do you really want to be paying for your software by the user, message, or month? And, of course, sometimes companies go out of business, in which case that expensive software you bought just became worthless, because there’s no one left to support it.

If you are going to buy, be sure you get everything in writing, and ask all the tough questions right up front. Does this come with technical support? Who do I call if it stops working? Who will help me integrate this with my current site? How much is it going to cost?

Build it

Nine times out of ten, you’ll be better off building something yourself that’s custom fit to your needs. The advantages of this are that you’re not at the mercy of another company when something goes wrong, and there are no hidden charges.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be any less expensive. If you’re like me, you know Photoshop like the back of your hand, but databases and programming languages? It’s time to call in a friend.

To build your own, you either need to be a programmer, have a talented programmer friend, or an employee. Still, this takes work, too. If you’re going to start talking to a programmer, you’re going to need a very clear vision of what you want built, how it looks, and how it works. Programmers tend to get grumpy when you change your mind a lot.

It is possible to do this on the cheap, though. There are a number of free scripts floating around on the web (more on that later), and sometimes all it takes is a programmer to sit down with one and hack it to do your bidding.

But, in the end, it all depends on what you want out of your site and your community. So before you can really decide to buy or build, you have to decide what you want to create.

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint