Practical Ecommerce

The PeC Review: Elgg Lets Any Business Create an Online Community

Elgg is an open source platform to power any kind of social media community, and it is a tool that online merchants can use to help develop a loyal flow of site traffic.

Three-and-a-Half Stars Social media communities similar to Facebook and MySpace are extremely popular. For example, eMarketer, a marketing analysis firm, estimated that more than 44 percent of Internet users would visit a social networking site at least monthly in 2009. What’s more, online socialites are finding specialized communities to network with. Flowwrestling.org, for example, is a social networking community built around collegiate, high school, freestyle, Greco-Roman, and Olympic wrestling.

I believe that ecommerce businesses can begin to use the social media trends and tools to develop specific communities on their sites that both increase web traffic and develop a loyal customer base. So in this The PeC Review I am going to examine Elgg, a social media platform that online storekeepers can use to build their own online community. After nearly three weeks of testing, I am awarding Elgg three and a half out of a possible five stars.

Video: How Do You Pronounce Elgg?

A Great Concept

The folks at Curverider first developed Elgg in 2004. Its goal was to empower individuals, groups, institutions, and businesses to create and grow full-featured social communities.

Easy Integration With Other Web Community Technologies

While I have tried to use the term “easy integration” less often of late, I have to say it about Elgg, especially if you have any development experience. This social networking platform can integrate with granular RSS, Friend of a Friend (FOAF), OpenSocial, and OpenID. Elgg also works well with PHP, XML, and a number of plug-ins, widgets, and APIs.

Activity Tracking

Similar to the activity feature on LinkedIn or Facebook, Elgg 1.5 enables an activity stream that keeps track of what your friends are up to. This feature encourages a lot of member interaction, and is stable and ready to go right out of the proverbial box.

Drag and Drop Profile Manipulation

Setting up an Elgg profile is as easy as dragging and dropping modules and filling out information. And there is a nice avatar-making tool that lets you crop images from your Elgg photo galleries and convert them in to profile images or avatars.

Plug-ins, Widgets, and Themes Aplenty

Elgg also offered several plug-ins, widgets, and themes. Users on the Elgg community I set up have integrated numerous widgets, and the client has added many effective plug-ins.

Better Documentation and Fewer Links Would Improve the Project

So far I have had pretty rosy things to say about Elgg. And my very positive review is a result of Elgg’s function and utility. But as with many open source platforms, Elgg could do a better job with its documentation. It is not so much that the platform’s documentation is bad. It was average, but open-source tools often require a developer or do-it-yourselfer to go it alone with little or no technical help and support. So the documentation must be exceptional.

My most pronounced issue was Elgg had to do with the number of links back to the Elgg.org and Elgg.com sites. When I first loaded the platform several links which intuition said should lead to the community’s home page actually targeted Elgg. And even after the site was up and running with new members joining, virtually every page had links back to Elgg.com (not to be confused with Elgg.org or Elgg.net), which offers professional, and commercial services related to the tool.

Summing Up

Elgg is a free and open source platform that ecommerce businesses can use to develop social communities associated with their stores. The platform has many features and was relatively easy to implement, earning it three and a half out of a possible five stars in this The PeC Review.

Resources

  • BudoKin is an Elgg-powered social network for martial artists
  • UnLtdWorld connects social entrepreneurs using an Elgg network
Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
Bio  |  RSS Feed


Get the Practical Ecommerce RSS feed

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Chris "Cartel" English March 17, 2009 Reply

    Seems to have grown a lot since I first tried this when I was looking to create my version of Myspace… lol.

  2. iryna April 3, 2009 Reply

    Elgg is really one of the best tools used in social network development. We have stong experience in working with Elgg. And during the recent time we are working on development of social network for medical workers based on Elgg framework.
    Description of this social network you can find at http://www.web100.com.ua/eng/expertise/social-networks/index.html

  3. Armando Roggio April 7, 2009 Reply

    @iryna,
    Thanks for the link. You might also like http://www.helpfulmothers.com/social, it is a site that I worked on using Elgg.

Email Newsletter Signup

Sign up to receive EcommerceNotes, our acclaimed email newsletter.
And receive a free copy of our ebook
50 Great Ecommerce Ideas