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Looking back at previous articles, I noticed I often talk about the importance of clearly writing down your website requirements before purchasing a community website software package.

A lot of the bad reviews some of these community website scripts are getting are due to customers not clearly understanding what they needed in the first place. Obviously, what they buy can never meet up to their expectations, as they are not really sure of what is they are supposed to expect!

To help you out in choosing the best community website software, I’ve put together the below in helping you understand what you really need. It might seem obvious, but for someone without IT or software development knowledge, it can actually be quite tricky.

I will take as example the specification of requirements to set up a professional social networking site for back office bankers (reffered to as BOB in the below). Simply apply the logic to whatever community website project you are working on.

Defining the goal:

The goal of BOB is to create a website where back office bankers (bobs) can meet, connect ands share information.

Defining the user community:

The users are either bobs or people working in the financial recruitment industry. The users speak English and come from banks all over the world.

User community needs

The bobs have the following needs:

-    networking with others in the same industry
-    receiving job offers from recruiters
-    easy access to common back office banking procedures which apply to all banks

The recruiters have the following needs:

-    easy access to profiles from bankers
-    way of contacting the bankers

Website needs:

So, in order for BOB to be successful, the below is needed:

- Different types of profiles for bobs and recruiters
- Possibility to invite and suggest friends
- Possibility to send mails and instant messages
- Announcement job board with possibility to apply
-  A wiki for common banking procedures
-  video and audio upload possibilities to support the wiki
-  Membership management: memberships for bobs is free, recruiters need to pay a monthly fee
-  advertising modules for books and business seminars
- RSS to support the wiki
- and so on….

You understand the picture. What I’m doing here is defining requirements for my website based on the needs of the users. What you shouldn’t do, is buy a community website script and then see how you can force its features down onto your users. It sounds obvious, but you’ll be surprised how many people make this mistake.  As a webmaster, you might find it really slick that your website allows users to “poke” each other, but my back office bankers will not be so impressed.

The users define the community requirements. Once you have your list of requirements, you can start comparing it to the features each of the software packages has to offer and buy the best community website software for your website!

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