You want to create an online community, you have the idea and you have the audience. Great. And you know a Facebook group simply won’t cut it. Makes sense! You are on the right track. A key question you’ll face early on is how people will access your community. Will it be through an app or through a browser. The decision will will have an impact on development costs and time to market. In this post, we investigate the benefits and considerations of creating an a Community App.

 

Why build an app?

Native apps certainly offer a more integrated experience for the user, over a browser only service. Community Apps can: 

  • Tap into hardware services – an app only needs to ask permission to use the camera or know location once. A browser service must do it each time. 
  • Notifications – a key hook for app.
  • Increase prominence – home screen icons can help with service recall
  • Single focus – your app doesn’t complete with other tabs. If someone is opening your app, that’s where they want to be.
  • Optimise the experience – an app can be adjusted to fit the handset and the operating system offering a more consistent user experience.

These are some compelling benefits. Especially for online community services, where sharing content and staying up to date are critical.

 

Don’t forget the browser…

It may well be that a community app will be be the primary touch point for your community members to engage and interact. But what about those members still using a PC. Or new members, still to be convinced to give away some of their home screen real estate?

A browser presence is as essential as an app. It offers a place where people can access your service without being forced to download a unique piece of software. More over, releasing new features in the browser domain can often be a quicker and more cost effective process. 

And there’s more to your community than the community members alone. You’ll need a place to administer your community – a Content Management System (CMS). And you may well need some proprietary tools for community mangers and partners to use. Analysis decks, moderation platforms, group administration dashboards.

Building these tools in an app environment can be expensive, ineffective and unnecessary.

Ultimately, the benefits of a browser based presence is going to be as important as a community app. 

 

Have your cake and eat it

Ultimately, what is needed is a cost effective solution that gives you everything. This breaks down to four key elements:

  • A browser-based online community, responsively designed so it looks great on desktop, tablet and mobile. 
  • A CMS for managing your community.
  • Additional channels for your Community Partners, Community Managers, etc.
  • And finally, A native community app – the real deal. not just a wrapper for your website. Published to the Android and iOS app store.

Combined with well designed and supported back end services (databases, etc) this suite of interfaces gives you everything your community needs to become a success.

 

WordPress, BuddyPress and a Native Community App 

We’ve been working on the have your cake and eat it challenge for a long time now. And we’ve hit on a solution that not offers everything and at an affordable price. To achieve this, we use WordPress, the world leading CMS as a foundation. We then use Buddypress, a suite of social networking tools to underpin the community member experience. 

On top of this we have built a range of technologies to help deliver browser based online communities, customised to our clients exact needs.

But what about the community app? Zipline now have the capability of taking our client’s online communities to the Android and iOS app stores. We have achieved this by building out a range of in-house technologies. These build off the WordPress/BuddyPress foundations. We call the service BuddyPress Native AppAnd it’s incredible. It gives us the capability to offer clients a complete online community digital ecosystem. All customised to their unique needs. It’s cost effective and infinitely customisable. You can see some examples on our portfolio page

 

Conclusion

Using modern web platforms like WordPress and BuddyPress and then amping them up with progressive mobile app solutions, like Zipline’s  BuddyPress Native App  it is possible to have your cake and eat it. A powerful platform that resides in the browser and an equally powerful community app that ensures the highest level of engagement with your community.

Zipline has been working on this problem for some years now. We have some great solutions to the challenge of creating a complete online community portfolio. If you want to talk, just get in touch.