We are all born to become a part of the community. The sense of belonging is, without question, central to the human experience. Being a part of civilization embraces courage and character while making us feel as though we are a part of something greater than ourselves. Among other things, the community is critical for our well-being as well.
Thus, according to a systematic review of 40 studies, there is a significant association between social isolation and loneliness and mental health issues as well as overall mortality.
Therefore, it is important to take care of your mental health especially in these dire times of the global pandemic. Today, as we’ve combined efforts to stay safe, our daily ways of hanging out with our beloved ones have been put on pause. The underlying stress of worrying whether you’ll catch the virus doesn’t help as well.
So how can we fight back against loneliness?
Technology. Or to be more specific, we should invest in a community app.
However, legacy messaging tools are not good enough to set up genuine connections to other members. That is the main reason why the development of community applications has been on a rise over the past few years. Society-driven apps are predicted to beat social networks since the latter make you feel even more disconnected and lonely than in real life.
This article will give you a low-down on the difference between social group apps and social networks. We will also look under the covers of resident app development, identify features for a community app, and estimate its costs.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
A short primer on community apps
Let’s get on a nostalgia train. Do you remember web forums? That greybeard standby of Web 1.0? So they were the predecessors of modern community applications. Both forums and community applications cater to a group of like-minded individuals with shared interests, morals, and beliefs and help them engage socially.
Community-based apps are the space where users can create and add multimedia content, share it with other users, and spark up discussions in in-built threads.
Back to web-based community forums. Some online communities still choose this format over mobile apps. You must have bumped into them at least once:
- GitHub is a project and code version management system and a social networking platform created for developers. It allows you to work together with other people around the world, plan your projects, and track your work.
- Quora, social service of knowledge exchange in form of a Q&A website.
- Airbnb, which is a P2P network that helps rent accommodation from individuals around the world. It also has a dedicated community for hosts to share their experiences.
Why do people invest in community apps?
Why bother spending resources on developing a community app when you can easily provide the same experience in a FB group? There might be a strong reason for that.
People opt for the app community over social networks for the following reasons:
- Poor functionality
- Arguable user data confidentiality
- Undermined credibility of social network politics
Facebook, for example, had to settle privacy concerns quite a few times. It was upbraided for harvesting user data, applying face recognition without users’ permission, and a constant cascade of other security issues and privacy scandals.
On the flip side, a community-based mobile app compares favorably by offering the following disadvantages:
- Build loyalty. Brands choose community-driven apps to give their users a secure and special place to share their likes and dislikes, to ask questions and get answers as well as to have a say in their favorite brand’s direction.
- Stay on comms. Neighborhood community apps provide a way to effectively communicate with your neighbors. Whether you need to throw a party, organize a football team, or get a recommendation about the best roofing company, neighborhood apps have it all.
- Get advice. Business owners use community applications to locate reputable application service providers, stay au courant with booming trends and activities, ask for business insight from leading experts, and exchange relevant business cases.
- Explore new stuff. Applications for learning communities allow both students and teachers to access digital learning spaces, gain knowledge and skills, as well as become proficient in any specific topic.
In sum, like-minded individuals create mobile apps to mingle with other members without providing sensitive data to outsiders while receiving all the necessary functionality.
However, if we’ll dig deeper, the mass appeal for community apps is even more intricate. It stems from a social media paradox. Unlike social networks, community-based applications support genuine connections among compatible users.
If all the aforementioned benefits have convinced you to create a community mobile app, keep on reading.
Creating a community management system: Step-by-step
Luckily, you don’t have to be a guru of programming to build an application. The professional dev team will have your back. All you need to do is decide on core factors that will influence your app’s functions, expenses, and time.
Step 1. Target your end-users.
If you already have a target group on any social network, it’ll help you to envision your future community. If not, you can define your users by checking the following list of questions:
- What is your community like?
- How do community members spend their free time?
- What do they do?
- What are their essentials?
Are you into books? Do you want to share your impressions and chat with other bookworms? Or would you rather rate read books and local bookshops? You get the gist.
However, avoid building your application around fleeting trends that will sink into oblivion in a few months. Instead, try to focus on something long-running, something simple yet engaging.
Once you’ve got to grips with the basics, it’s time to move on to the functionality of your future solution.
Step 2. Mull over the functionality
Your staple app functions will depend on the nature of your community. In any case, you need to write down both essential features and nice-to-have highlights. The staple features refer to core functionality that then will be used in an MVP. Although all communities are different and call for well-suited app functions, we can give a general idea of must-haves:
- User name
- User account
- Adding friends
- Instant messaging
Apart from must-have features, decide on the extra highlight that would add a spark to your application. It can be a matching feature that brings together like-minded people, offline capabilities, or a phone call option.
Now the question arises: Why bother creating two separate lists for the same application? Hold on to that though. We’ll give you the answer in our next step.
Step 3. Ask an app quote
A quote request is something that will help put together an app cost. Did someone say elephant in the room? Price can be the most daunting thing to wrap the mind around. But a good software development company works through pricing by average profitability and this is when your both lists come in.
Typically, a dev team will provide you with an accurate estimate for a community app and give you an average time range to create a Minimum Viable Product.
Therefore, by compiling a list of features, you save time and financial resources from the very beginning.
Step 4. Choose the design
While an MVP helps you to validate your business idea and attract early adopters, the look and feel of your application are important as well. The joint forces of designers and developers will make sure that your vision is properly implemented.
Mobile application design always consists of UI and UX design. Therefore, designers should chart out the overall style of an application, choosing the right color scheme, fonts, and buttons. Overall, the main idea of UI and UX design is to ensure the best user experience possible.
If you haven’t got the clearcut vision of your future app’s looks, don’t worry. Before diving into the development process, UI/UX designers offer several variants of the application UI/UX. It usually happens during the Inception Phase. After choosing the perfect design, professionals will provide an app prototype that will demonstrate how the product will function.
Next, the developers take over which brings us to the next step.
Step 5. Build an MVP
MVP is a version of a product with just enough features to get meaningful feedback from users, understand their needs, and create something they will be interested in. The idea of your startup is a hypothesis. To test it, you need to do the following:
- Clearly articulate the hypothesis
- Define the viability criteria
- Build a minimum viable product to confirm the hypothesis and deploy it
- Measure the performance indicators
- Make conclusions and check the next hypothesis, if necessary
No matter how brilliant it is, the idea is not the result. By creating a minimum viable product, you can save money without investing it in a failed project. Additionally, it allows you to use iterations to decide on the optimal development direction.
The aforementioned steps describe the process of creating a community-based application from scratch. However, you have quite a few options to do it another way. For example, SaaS platforms allow you to build your application without reaching out to developers. Let’s have a closer look at this alternative.
Is a community app builder a better alternative?
Instead of paying for the coding services, you can also use a toolset that helps companies with the development of their applications. This toolset is called a SaaS platform. Such platforms provide several in-built features, thus reducing the time and effort to build a community app.
Custom-built community platform
Here are some major pros and cons of tailor-made software solution:
- Bespoke functionality. The final product is geared towards customers and their business needs, so the developers fine-tune the app to the specifications and requirements provided.
- Unique design. Custom applications also help you support your unique business identity by maintaining the loyalty of staff and customers alike. Also, a tailor-made user experience is what wins over the hearts of the target audience.
- Bespoke software solutions can adapt to new processes so you can retain your marketing stronghold. You can always ask programmers to add a feature or two to respond to the changing needs of a growing business.
- Custom-made applications minimize the risk of unwelcome surprises. As long as you discuss all fine points with your dev team, you will have a reliable community-based application just the way you’ve envisioned it.
- Superior security. You have the power to decide which data-security technology or protocol to choose in order to keep user sensitive data safe and secure.
- Time-consuming. A custom software’s design, setup, and implementation is a long process that takes months to deliver. However, the fewer features you need, the quicker it is to create your application.
- Labor-intensive. You need to allocate the time to discuss the project scope with the development and keep in touch with the project manager.
- Due to a wide range of off-the-shelf solutions, custom software is generally a project associated with high cost. On average, the price lies in the range from $50,000 to $160,000 depending on the project scope.
Community systems build on mobile app builders
If you’re mulling over this option, consider the following:
- App development speed. You can set up the application in just a few hours. However, it will take several days to complete the development process, and a week or two to launch it on the App Store or Google Play Store.
- Fixed price. Typically, you will pay a membership fee that varies from $50 to $300 depending on the solution.
- Ready-made architecture. You won’t have to puzzle over element placement since app builders provide a pre-built structure with ready-made templates for specific niches or app types.
- Limited scalability. You don’t have the possibility to change the structure and code defined by the template.
- Loose data privacy. The app builder stores all the user data generated by the app. Only a handful of platforms offer to store user data on your server or end-to-end data encryption.
- Template design. SaaS platforms usually offer a sample design that allows no or little modification. Like it or hate it, your application will inevitably get lost in the ocean of other solutions that all look the same.
There are no right or wrong answers. Both options are viable and should be taken into account. But your decision should be based on your community needs, resources, and deadline.
Now, let’s draw the finish line.
The Bottom Line
The secret behind community app popularity is simple. Social networks fall short to ensure a positive user experience and proper security measures. Additionally, companies of all sizes build applications to establish deep connections with their audience.
And the best thing is that you can build this solution even without a software professional. You can either contact a development team to deliver a tailor-made application or make use of community app builders.