Community-based Apps To Battle Loneliness
Being part of a community gives us a sense of belonging. Close-knit groups help us share a personal affinity and foster persistent growth of each other and ourselves. As we are rolling into a new decade, the importance of communities has become even more tangible. Dire times evince just how indispensable the social aspect is to us, both personally and professionally.
A community can be anything from a physical place to community-based applications like Quora or Github. Those spaces connect like-minded people with similar interests and hobbies.
That is the main reason why lots of aspiring business owners are looking to build community applications. Especially now, when online social platforms are experiencing an unprecedented swell in demand.
This article expands upon the process of building social group apps. We will also look into the main functionality of such solutions and guesstimate the costs.
A short primer on community-based applications
Social mobile apps cater to a particular community and target the audience of it. These platforms update users on local information and news as well as bring people closer. This type of application resonates on a visceral level among users since it allows us to put ourselves out there in the way we want to be seen.
Although these apps rely heavily on a specific location, the community or location could be a vast geographical region or even the whole world. Also, community apps provide more personalization than others thanks to their nature.
When the Internet was in its infancy, all societies resided in web-based forums. Users would create threads to ramble on about a particular subject. In 2021, this concept migrated into local community apps. However, there are some old-school forums like Github and Quora. And they still have an upward trending profile backed up by an avid community of enthusiasts.
Why create social applications, anyway?
At this point, you might be left wondering. Why go the extra mile if Facebook groups and such do an excellent job?
Well, there are some good reasons behind this choice. Community-based apps compare favorably with generic social media platforms thanks to the following differentiators:
- Tailor-made functionality
- Superior user data privacy
- User-friendly politics
Let’s take Facebook as an example. This leading social media network was repeatedly slammed for multiple unsavory incidents like selling users' data to third parties. In 2018 the mounting criticism was reinforced once again due to the handling of political content.
In contrast, community-based applications place users at the heart of the solution. Thus, brands can connect with their audience directly and build loyalty. Neighbors who reside in geographical proximity can bridge the communication gap. Social applications also help users receive professional advice and tap into new knowledge areas.
Overall, people build community applications to get an online connection with other users without exposing confidential data to third-party providers.
Now that we’ve studied the basics, let’s see how you can develop social applications and what functionalities you will need.
Guide to building community-based applications
App development is no mean feat. Although you delegate the lion’s share of work to development teams, you still need to make some critical decisions.
Here they are:
Identify your focal group
Some clients can boast a well-established community on Facebook or some other social media. In this case, they are well aware of their target audiences and app needs.
But if you are building your community from the ground up, you need to get a clear understanding of your users.
For this goal, mull over the following questions:
- Who are your users?
- What hobbies do they have?
- What is their occupation?
- What are their staples?
In any case, avoid hopping on the ‘trendy’ bandwagon. Instead, your cornerstone should stem from eternal values. This foundation will future-proof your product and make it appealing to a greater number of people.
Outline the must-have features
All society applications are based on different business needs. Therefore, you should define must-have and nice-to-have features that suit your aim.
The "must-have" list refers to a set of basic features. This combination must be enough for community users to test its interface and provide feedback. Although you’ll have to implement customized functionality, there are some essential features needed for all social apps:
- User login
- User profile
- Adding friends
- Advanced Settings
- Advanced Search Criteria
- Push Notifications
- Real-Time Messaging
- Content Sharing
- Audio/Video Chat
- Image/Video Editing
- News Feed
Also, we recommend implementing some bonus features that will add a nice zhoosh to your application. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Video streaming for setting up a digital event
- Google Calendar integration
- Fund-raising functionality to collect money
- Advanced matching system to connect people with the same interests
At this point, you must be wondering - Why do I need two different lists of features? Read on to find out the answer.
Request a quote
To price the unknown, you need to contact a service provider first. And here’s when both lists hit the spotlight. The development team will estimate the time and money spent on building the app's MVP with essential functionality and costs to implement bonus functions further in the development.
Choose the design
Leveraging top practices for mobile design is essential to get your app in stores and used frequently. If you have a clear vision of the future design, you can share screens and links with your dev team. In case you’re clueless about this aspect, hired designers will offer multiple variants of the application UI/UX during the Inception stage. After making the right call, designers will create an app prototype with the app's main screens.
Build an MVP
A Minimum Viable Product is exactly what its name implies. It’s a product in its smallest, least featureful avatar with just enough functionality for users to test the look and feel of it.
So once the last feature is up and running, your dev team developers will run the final demo for you to demonstrate the ascetic version of your application. After that, the MVP gets uploaded to the marketplace and is visible to the target audience.
The MVP concept allows you to avoid unnecessary costs and provide the solution fine-tuned to users’ needs and preferences.
However, if you don’t fancy hiring a development team, there exists another way. Instead of building a social app from scratch, you can create a product using a SaaS platform. This brings us to our next point.
Tailor-made applications vs. using an app builder
When building a successful social platform, you can either fork out for a development team or leverage SaaS platforms. Such services offer several pre-made features and spare your time and effort. SaaS applications run on the SaaS provider's server, and users access them via Internet browser. The user does not buy a SaaS application, but rents it, i.e. pays a certain amount per month for its use.
The SaaS provider takes care of the availability of the application, provides technical support to users, and installs updates. Thus, the user thinks less about the technical side of the issue and focuses on his business goals.
With that said, let's compare both methods.
Custom-built community application
Custom-built product refers to the solution created based on your unique business needs and requirements. It’s the right call when you need:
- to raise investment
- to build a long-term project
- better quality and flexibility
- bespoke functionality
- complete control of your product
- integration with external APIs and services
- customized UI/UX
However, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. Since your mileage can vary, you can face the following disadvantages.
- It guzzles up lots of time. The dev crew will spend from 2 to 5 months creating documentation and delivering your project. But it’s the best-case scenario. If your project calls for a great number of features, be ready to allocate much more time to the development.
- It requires some effort from you. A development team is neither a genie nor a mind reader. First, you need to communicate your requirements, agree on the project scope and support constant contact with the team about its progress.
- It needs quite an investment. App development costs vary from $30k to $150k based on the project complexity, functionality, and the number of platforms.
Community-based apps build on SaaS platforms
Applying the philosophy championed by leading website builders, SaaS platforms allow non-coders to build their applications with no hassle. All you need is to drag and drop pre-coded elements. And this option is actually plausible, especially when you:
- want to validate your concept
- need a quick and standard solution
- don’t mind limited functionality
- have budget constraints
- have no technical background
On the other side, if you’ve made up your mind to use an app-building platform, make sure to factor in the disadvantages:
- Lack of scalability. When you are using an app builder provider, you have to use what’s already in there. This means your access to features or third-party integrations will be more limited.
- Data privacy issues. All the information that users share is kept in the platform's database. Therefore, there is a risk of leaking sensitive data linked with your customers.
- Template design. If you are looking to implement a one-of-a-kind look and feel, you should search for another option. SaaS platforms provide a sample design that you cannot change. Sometimes, it’s possible to fine-tune the app's URL, add a logo, and change the color. But that concludes your coding freedom.
There is no easy answer to whether you should hire a development team or DIY a community app with a SaaS app builder. Your choice should be based on your needs, the app’s functionality, and tech requirements.
Now, let's close the files.
The Final Word
Community-based applications are the audience's favorite. The secret behind the surging popularity is the general frustration with social networks that both lack the specific functionality and leak users’ data into the wrong hands.
Also, social platforms drive value to global communities, brands, neighbors, and enthusiasts.
To build a community-based platform, you don't have to master programming languages and such. You can either hire a development team to create a unique product catered to your needs or land any of the online community app builders.