Ownership (How to decide between bespoke and off-the-shelf community platforms)
A community platform is the name we give to websites or applications that help people gather online.
It's the digital tool that becomes the home for your community.
Community platforms come in all different shapes and sizes, from Facebook groups to large custom community platforms designed entirely around the needs of your members and team.
In 2024, there's no shortage of off-the-shelf offerings and we wrote about our favourite here; https://steadfastcollective.com/articles/the-best-community-apps-of-2023
A consideration often overlooked is ownership.
Who owns your data, platform and the long-term home for your members?
Own your home
If you're researching and digging into various community platform options, you're likely looking for a longer-term solution.
We believe strongly in having ownership and control over your assets. This could be your designs, website, applications, and so on.
Owning your platform means controlling your digital assets, from website designs to applications.
This approach echoes the sentiment of digital strategist David Amerland, who emphasises, "In a world where data is the new gold, ownership of your digital assets is akin to having a treasure chest" (Amerland, 2023).
Don't build your business on someone else's.
Why open source
Just as we believe you shouldn't build your business on someone else's platform, the same can be said about closed bespoke frameworks.
At Steadfast Collective, we build our custom community platforms on Laravel. Laravel is a popular framework (toolkit) within the web development industry; it allows developers to create complex applications quickly and elegantly.
At Steadfast Collective, we're platinum Laravel Partners. This partnership not only gives us additional access to the Laravel team, but it also means we've been verified and our work checked by Laravel's founder himself.
What does this all mean?
While our platforms are bespoke, it's not reliant on us.
We work to Laravel and web standards, ensuring that any experienced Laravel developer would be able to take over the project, with the hope that our platforms would outlive our involvement.
Our platforms are built on open-source foundations, embodying transparency, flexibility, and the spirit of communal contribution. Open-source software ensures that you are not tied to the whims of a single provider. It's about building on a robust foundation, tested by a community, and continually evolving.
There's no secret sauce with our platforms.
You own it, and any competent web developer can work on it.
You can bring a team in-house to continue development, move development partners or stop development altogether.
With a community platform you own, you control its destination.
In development, we call this a feature road map.
You may be looking for integration into Salesforce. No problem, let's build it exactly as you need it.
You're not at the mercy of price increases, platform lock-in, or the tool shutting down in a worst-case scenario.
There's much to consider when selecting the right path for you and your community.
We love talking about all things community, so let's chat.