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Building Social Web Applications by Gavin Bell

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Chapter 3. Planning Your Initial Site

When you’re in your little room and

You’re working on something good,

But if it is really good

You’re gonna need a bigger room,

And when you’re in the bigger room

You might not know what to do

You might have to think of

How you got started sittin’ in your little room.

“Little Room” by the White Stripes

The needs of the people using your site should drive its features and direction. You are no longer presenting a set of pages, but rather you are creating a place where people can talk and build relationships with one another and around your products.

This kind of software development draws on both desktop application design and website design approaches, but it takes a different shape from developing systems where users interact with an application rather than with each other.

Deciding What You Need

Creating a place for a community to hang out ultimately requires some software development, whether it’s a small piece of integration work or a larger piece of system development. Why do you need to write software?

For relatively simple situations—when you are making something that is just for and about the community—you can tailor one of the many existing community products, such as message board systems or blogging software. However, if you want to have a blog and a message board, it can be difficult to integrate two different systems. Similar issues arise when you try to integrate content and social software. One way or another, you’ll likely end up writing ...

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