(this is a live report for a project to be launched early 2007)

As I am busy building a new community website for expats working and residing in the Netherlands, I think it wise to share my workflow for creating this website and building the community itself.

Preparation
My preparation started about half a year ago. While playing with the thought of creating a community based website, one thing was already clear: The site would need expat members. So all I did was launching an one-page website on the specific domain, with some subject related content, a line of adsense ads (revival of the 1-page adsense website) and… the most important… I put up a mailing list.

People can sign-up to receive information on the launch of the actual community site, which gives me a nice target group of potential members.

Off-line preps
As this is a website for a quite specific target group, I choose to approach an off-line network of people that might provide both content and members.
So, I am preparing to contact:

  • different international companies located in the Netherlands
  • governmental agencies involved in international affairs and international trade
  • municipal agencies involved with expats and expat info housing of the 3 big cities

Research/Role-models
First, and very important, I took a very good look at the (possible) competition. The few websites available for expats (1 big one and a few clones) all offer more or less the same: Dutch news in english language, city-, housing- and legal information, some classifieds and some kind of forum for the interaction.
Another fact is that all competition has websites with an old-fashioned layout (very small in width) and most content comes from the team that built and maintains the site.

While preparing and building this site of mine, I have some very nice example I keep in mind while doing this. Already some time ago I got notice of the very fast growing community of TEAMSUGAR, part of the Sugar Publishing series of websites: POPSUGAR, DEARSUGAR, FITSUGAR, etc.

Teamsugar is a very user- and visitor-friendly example of how a community site should look and feel. Many of the elements I point out in the following overview have been derived from TEAMSUGAR.

Core
I am building this site on a heavily loaded version 5.0 of Drupal. Not only because TEAMSUGAR is powered by Drupal, but also because working with this module enabled piece of high-end open source software simply is a breeze.
I am no web-, tech-, net-, PHP-, HTML- nor CSS-specialist, but Drupal brings a lot of power and capabilities in an extremely admin-friendly package.

Furthermore, while I am building this alone, I might as well have a very large and quickly responding community behind me for guidance and backup.

Features
With this community, I am aiming to launch a website that already has all the stuff members usually ask for. So I envisioned myself as expat and surfed different websites to pick those specific elements that would appeal most to me in that role.

Before putting down this list, which I will do in Part II, I ask you to comment and provide the features you would want to see in a community.

Some pointers: Expat, foreign language, housing, community, blog, homefront, Netherlands, cities…
So please: shoot!

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