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07|06|2007 11:35 am EDT

Domain Development with Ning: FundsOption.com

by Frank Michlick in Categories: Domain Development

FundsOptions ScreenshotSince domain development is and will remain a hot topic, I like to talk to people who have taking a step to develop some of their properties. Michael Monahan is one of them. He has recently developed his domain FundsOption.com into a financial social network. As a backend for his development work, he used the Ning platform, which was created by Gina Biachini and Marc Andreessen (founder of Netscape) in October 2004. I hadn’t looked at the platform in several years, so I decided to ask Michael to share his experience with us.

DNN: Michael, thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your newly launched site FundsOption.com today. I noticed that you used the Ning platform in order to create the site. Did you also look at any other development platforms first, and how did you decide which platform to choose?

Michael: Hi Frank. It’s my pleasure to do this interview.

I originally got started with FundsOption.com by focusing on two distinct concepts. One was to create a Social Networking Website for Investors and anyone in Business. The other concept which is still being developed is to connect this community in a way that hasn’t been done before.

About a year ago I came up with my idea. Unfortunately, at the time I couldn’t find any cheap website developers and the only company I could find wanted $20k for a basic version of the website. I didn’t feel comfortable putting in this much without even having full control
over the website design process. So I decided to wait and explore other options.

Early this month I found a private developer who would design my network, help promote it, and more for less than $2 grand. I immediately said “I’m in�. A few weeks later I sent in the down payment via paypal and the developer agreed to start building it the next day.

By sheer coincidence I found an article about Ning the day after I sent the payment. Ning appealed to me because of it’s ease of use to get started but it also allows advanced editing which wouldn’t limit the functionality of my network. Not to mention that it is virtually free to start a network with Ning (I will pay about $30 this month in fees for my community. That is unheard of for starting a website like this).

I looked at a few sample networks and realized at that moment I wanted Ning to be my platform for development. Right after that I emailed my original developer, explained the situation to him, and he refunded my money. No hard feelings.

Now I was set to launch my community, nothing could stop me.

DNN: As far as I know in Ning you often start from an existing application which you modify. Did Ning already have a sample application for a financial community? What challenges did you face during development?

Michael: The first time someone creates a network with Ning they are taken through a step by step process that allows them to personalize a network. Ning asks the network creator for their community title, keywords, a color scheme, and how exactly they want the layout to look. If you aren’t advanced at coding or developing websites then there are basic options you can choose. These are template based which are easy to set up if you don’t have any coding or developing knowledge.

There was no application for a financial community in Ning, but that was good. I wanted this community to be unique, and not have a “cookie cutter� look to it.

My biggest development challenges were coming up with a layout that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional. It’s just not an easy task. There are so many factors you must consider. You want to make sure the colors are right, the locations of the main info areas are easy to reach but don’t scream for your attention. There are also psychological factors that come in to play that can dramatically affect how a user feels about the network. That’s why the layout took me a decent amount of time to get just right. Fortunately, the color scheme and basic layout are finalized. I will also be tweaking it and adding more features within the next few months.

One thing which surprisingly took some time to design was the Funds Option logo. I hired a talented graphic artist to put this together for me. I told him what I wanted the look and feel of it to be and he was able to deliver this. I spent quite sometime thinking about how the look will carry the brand and I believe it came out perfect.

I am still faced with more challenges in terms of adding mobile functionality to this network and allowing real time data access to stock quotes but I am working my way through it. To help network creators, Ning offers fantastic support through customer service reps and their forum which is quite useful when you have hit a wall. This makes the process a lot easier.

DNN: How difficult is it to user your own domain name with Ning? It was a long time ago that I took a good look around their site, and I remember that back then they were still thinking about how to integrate custom domain names.

Michael: Using my own domain in Ning wasn’t difficult at all. When creating a Ning network, users initially have their community name setup as “Your-community-name.ning.com�. FundsOption.com is actually FundsOption.ning.com. I signed up for a premium service at Ning which allows me to use the Funds Option domain for only $4.95 per month. To change my ning domain to my own I had to just edit my DNS/Nameservers at my registrar. It took less than a day for my domain to resolve properly. It was incredibly easy.

DNN: Once the site was built, how did you go about building traffic and creating a membership base?

Michael: Building traffic and creating my small membership base has been established through market/business blogs, financial forums, forwarding my other domains to this address, and small Google Adwords campaigns. The network is still in its infancy but it needs time to grow naturally. I will not try to force this upon the public. Creating a presence on the web is what I want.

Once I have run the network for a few months and know what my users expect and want then I will begin my major advertising campaign. Right now it’s more important for me to establish a healthy community and find out what works and what doesn’t. When this is done I can start pumping in a good amount of money for advertising.

My initial target is 30 thousand members to be part of the FundsOption.com network. My dream is to have 200-300 thousand members part of this community. This network is targeted to anyone that does any kind of Business. Anyone who wants to make more money or share advice on investing should be part of Funds Option. Keeping that in mind, this network could have a membership base of millions in the future if targeted the right way.

DNN: I see that you have Google Adsense ads on the site – are you considering any other monetization options, do you have any recommendations?

Michael: That’s correct, I am using Google Adsense for monetization. Right now I plan on only using Adsense because I’m so familiar with it, and its ease of use. If other quality advertisers approach me down the road with the right offer then I may consider their offers too for displaying ads.

I have been working with the “Adsense Heat Maps� to best configure my ad placements. To be honest with you, I’m really not that worried about my ads right now because I’m just trying to get the Funds Option name out there. I will worry about making money later because right now I want many active users on my website. But, for those of you wondering. I had my monthly Ning fees and yearly domain expenses covered from Adsense within my first 5 days of launching the network.

DNN: Please let me know if there’s anything else you’d consider of interest to others considering to develop there names.

Michael: For those of you with development on your mind…. DO IT! If you want to maximize the potential of your names then development is really the only way to go. Parking can make a nice profit but development can bring in much more money. When a visitor lands on a parked page most of them know it and don’t come back. If you have a fully developed website that visitors want to be part of and active in they will always come back. They will visit your site, tell their friends to visit, and bring more traffic. That will make much more money than a page that only relies on parking.

Imagine making a thousand a day from a domain. How about 10 thousand, how about a million? If your idea is unique enough and can be used the possibilities are endless. There really is no limit to how big your website can become and how much money you can make. Development is the key.

DNN: Thank you for taking the time sharing your experience with us.

Michael: Thank you Frank. I enjoyed sharing my experience with your readers.

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3 Comments

2w.com

July 7, 2007 @ 3:49 am EDT

>> Michael: Using my own domain in Ning wasn’t difficult at all.
>> When creating a Ning network,
>> users initially have their community name setup as
>> “Your-community-name.ning.com”.
>> FundsOption.com is actually FundsOption.ning.com.
>> I signed up for a premium service at Ning
>> which allows me to use the Funds Option domain for only $4.95 per month.
>> To change my ning domain to my own
>> I had to just edit my DNS/Nameservers at my registrar.
>> It took less than a day for my domain to resolve properly.
>> It was incredibly easy.

please ask My Dear Sir Michael FundsOption
whether “ edit my DNS/Nameservers at my registrar ” =
forwarding
FundsOption.com 2[to]
FundsOption.ning.com or not

on an other hand , would google punish FundsOption.com 4[for] that ?
me seems , google ‘dnt[would-not] like domain forwarding

My Dear Sir[s] DoMainNameNews ,

hi greetings , bestrespects , ThANKye
2w

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