Five Best Community Building Modules

Posted: September 14, 2011 under Drupal

Building social, community-based websites is becoming more common as organizations seek to better connect with their customers. Drupal has plenty of options for strong community building, but which modules are the best? Here are my choices for the top five modules for building a social website using Drupal 7.

Notifications

I think the Notifications module is a great place to begin because not only are other modules on this list able to make use of it, but it can add key social functionality all by itself. As an example, let's say you have a blog. The Notifications module can enable your readers to signup for an alert next time you make a post.

But it's not limited to just blogs. Users can subscribe to comment threads, other types of posts by a particular author and much more. The notifications can be sent immediately or in digest form, with the latter having user-configurable formats. I use Notifications a lot on projects and it has come in especially handy when working with the next module on the list.

Organic Groups

The Organic Groups module (OG) allows users to create and manage groups and is easily the most full-featured community builder on this list. Each group has a home page where subscribers can view the latest activity and communicate with other members.

Subscribers can also have different roles within the group, and depending on their permissions, can post to a blog, create articles and pages, you name it.

You could write a small book on everything you can do with this module, but I've made a brief video that goes over some of what you need to get started.

User Relationships

The User Relationships module basically gives users the ability to 'friend' each other, however, it's more robust than what you might be familiar with on Facebook. Website admins can configure relationship types to be one-way or mutual. This allows for either a 'follow' type relationship similar to Twitter, or a mutual relationship more akin to Facebook. There is a lot going on with User Relationships which, in my opinion, is best thought of as a suite of modules that interact with Views, Rules, user access controls and a lot more. It's also supported by the next module on the list, making for a nice combination.

Heartbeat

Heartbeat displays a stream of user activity on your site. It does this by logging the activity on nodes, comments, users and organic groups.

Drupal Heartbeat module

This allows site admins to set up something similar to the news feed on Facebook or the timeline on Twitter. One of the very cool things about this module is that it can be integrated with the Flags module so that users can 'Like' the activity of other users in the stream.

Flag

Authored by Nathan Haug, who made my list of top Drupal developers, the Flag module allows website administrators to configure bookmarks or flags for content on their sites. We've already seen how this module can be used with Heartbeat, but you can do more than configure 'Likes'. Any sort of content - users, comments, articles - can be flagged as popular, offensive (very important for moderating your content!) or whatever functionality you need. By default, it comes with a simple bookmark configured to get you started.

Wrapping It Up

If you've been paying attention, you'll notice it's possible to build something very much like a Facebook or Twitter on your own site. I have to admit though, I'm not really a 'build it and they will come' kind of a guy. My recommendation with these Drupal community building modules is to make sure you have a compelling business reason to implement them on your website and, very importantly, follow through on engaging with your users.

About the Author

John Hannah

I’m John Hannah, a front end developer at Lullabot . When I'm not building websites, I travel as much as possible and enjoy hanging out with my wonderful family. My favorite place to spend my coffee breaks is Twitter, so please feel free to connect with me there.