With the growth of the Joomla! CMS as a website platform and framework upon which to build robust applications, Webmasters, Site Integrators, and Website Developers are faced with an often daunting array of potential solutions, components, plugins, or hacks to get your site to do just about anything!
One of the most common requests we get is to integrate in some way or another, the aspects of a community. Requirements can vary widely from simply the ability for users to message each other privately, the ability for users to fill out a more robust and expanded profile, or even all the way to creating a lively, self-sustaining community with regular interaction, community involvement, and communication. To answer these requirements with a sustainable and effective solution, we undertake a rather robust process to determine what the goal of the community functions are, the requirements needed for users to interact, and then finally what solution can be used.
The truth is, in web development, one size does NOT fit all. Each site has a unique goal with unique requirements, and what may be an ideal solution for one site is not necessarily the best route for someone else. Determining which solutions to use is a big step in ensuring that your site stays on target, and effectively reaches your audience. When it comes to communities, these differences are magnified since the level of user interaction and time spent on the site grows drastically, so here’s our quick look at what’s out there for communities, and what I see as the best ways to deploy some of them.
Jomsocial: The Social Engine
Jomsocial is probably one of the most popular community building tools. As a relative newcomer, Jomsocial has taken over the Joomla! community world dazzling users with its wide array of features and social actions. If you’re looking for an actual community where people connect, talk, share what’s going on in their lives, and generally just “hang out” then Jomsocial is for you! With everything from photo sharing, a personal “wall” making “friends” and connecting in groups, Jomsocial creates a branded atmosphere for people to connect and enjoy themselves.
Community Builder: The Business Engine
Creating your own Facebook may not be for everyone, in fact, I’d venture that most sites don’t want to go all the way to a full-blown community like JomSocial. This is where Community Builder comes in. With many of the same features as JomSocial including the availability for User Profiles, Private Messaging, Connections, and Groups, Community Builder still represents a more business oriented community. CB is great for advanced profiles, creating lists for personal or group directories, and presents a bit more of an “official” atmosphere that is great for sites wanting a little more interaction than just having users read content, but don’t need things like live chat, and video sharing.
Anahita: The Newbie
Community Builder and JomSocial are pretty much the pillars of creating interactive communities in Joomla!, but there’s a new one that has caught my eye. Anahita is not necessarily a Joomla! component (when you download it you’ll get an entire Joomla! installation with Anahita already inside it), but rather a community system that leverages the Joomla! framework. It offers many of the same features of JomSocial and Community Builder with a clean, fresh profile, connections, groups, sharing, etc., but takes community collaboration to the next level with the ability to add Group based project management. Anahita will definitely be something to look at for sites looking to have goal-oriented communities.
Wrapping it Up
When it comes to communities, getting the right solutions in place can make or break your site. And determining exactly what your goal is for your users and then what solutions are available to fit those requirements is crucial if your community will grow and expand. Whether it is a social, friendly community, a business oriented website, or even a goal-oriented gathering, Joomla! has great solutions for each. Couple that with the expertise of a Joomla! Development Team like CNP Integrations and you’ll have a sustainable portal to engage your users for years to come!