How to Build a Social Network Website from Scratch

Rating — 5·16 min·September 24, 2023
How to Build a Social Network Website from Scratch
How to Build a Social Network Website from Scratch
Ever thought about the tremendous popularity of social networks among modern Internet users? Starting to create a social network right now, you get the opportunity to join the top wealthiest people list in several years! Let’s see what steps you should take to get closer to your goals
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Social networks rock this world. They have got our most valuable treasures: time and attention; they have attracted billions of dollars of investments and helped former ordinary students like Marc Zuckerberg join the top wealthiest people list.

Online networking is this century’s phenomenon. At the same time, each network is a wide area of enormous opportunities.

An average user of a social website

People spend more than 2 hours per day on social media channels. And can you believe that an Internet user has a profile on more than 7 social media channels on average? Isn’t it a mystery how easily this type of digital tools accessed our life and integrated into our habits? Indeed, it is. And it seems like this type of tool was made for making business

But now, let’s switch from psychology and philosophy to more indispensable topics: how to create a social media website and how to make money with it. Bit by bit, we will shed light on the following essentials:

  • Why social networks are of such great popularity?
  • What types of social networks are there in the modern world web?
  • How to generate a vigorous idea and a catchy name?
  • Which features are essential for a high-quality platform like Facebook?
  • What should you know about networking sites’ design and development?

Find this and much more in our report on how to create a social network.

Why websites like Facebook are so popular

Either it's love or addiction, the popularity of social networks is reasonable. And here we’ll talk about the reasons:

Why do people love social network websites

Always in touch

Profile on a social network is the easiest way to keep in touch with friends overseas, families which are hundreds of miles away, former classmates who went volunteering in Cambodia and so on. No need for calls or personal meetings. However, a person always keeps a hand on the pulse of his or her Facebook friends’ life. It’s convenient and effortless, so people love it.

Sharing common interests and beliefs

Either you are a bookworm or a huge fan of fishing, you will easily find fellows with similar interests on a specific networking web app. Unlike many years ago when a hobby gathered people in clubs and libraries, now, online channels are much more popular for this purpose. Each hobby can be reflected in social networks in the best way.

Not just networking

Networking sites like Facebook aren’t just about communication and sharing cats’ photos. Now, social media are powerful online trading tools. Several clicks and you can get everything you want right to your doorstep. You can order both products and services on social media in a few seconds.

Brand promotions

We have already postulated that social media is great for trading. Besides, these are powerful promotional and PR channels. People talk about brands on social media; people complain about services or share their positive reviews there, too. Most of the adults that use social media websites like to follow brands on social media. Each social network is an enormous source of opportunities and revenue for both established brands and small businesses.

Impact of social websites on purchase decisions

Perks for corporations

From another point of view, a social network is a useful tool for corporate communication. Building a social networking site, a company deals with employee collaboration and productivity improvement. Microsoft demonstrates great proofs: especially in the case of remote employment, a corporate social network is of great significance.

Educational establishments profit, too

Do you know that Facebook web app has started its path to success from Harvard University? Yeah, initially, it was just “a student directory featuring photos and personal information”. Now, this is a social network with more than 2.3 billion users (that’s almost 33% of the world’s population) with net income of $22 billion in 2018. Are you interested in building a social media website for a school, university or a particular department? Take a look at The Social Network drama and proceed with the next chapter of our article.

Facebook audience annual growth

All these points give us enough reasons to dive deeper into the topic and shed some light on how to build a social network website from scratch.

How to start a social network: definition and classifications

An online social network is a website where groups of Internet users can meet, communicate (typically via chats or online calls), share and create content, react to this content and build own digital network of contacts.

Starting your path in web app development, it is crucial to choose the type of social network. Consider these types and make a choice:

Types of social network websites

Social networks for communication

The most common and the most famous type among modern social networking channels. In this sort of network, users can build connections with people they know in real life and people they’d like to get acquainted with. Users share their thoughts, photos, updates on their social media profiles and build a whole network.

Business network

This sort of networks is built to improve online communication among the representatives of one corporation. Earlier we’ve mentioned the case of Microsoft: such a network with limited access for specialists of one company only is a good example. The critical feature of a business network is exceptional security.

Professional social network

If you’ve ever tried Linkedin, you already know how the professional social network looks like. Here, users highlight their career specifics and achievements, present their skills, share their experience and create communities. Still, the goal is the seamless communication; however, the focus is on formal professional networking only.

Social networks for entertainment

The scenario is quite like the one described above. However, in a case with entertaining networks, its users gather here because they have common hobbies, love the same books or prefer the same TV shows.

Social networks for academic purposes

Entertainment and hobbies connect people. Science and investigations do, too. On websites like Academia, people share scientific articles and research results, as well as their opinions about each particular case.

Dating networks

If hobbies can bring people together, why romantic relations can’t? This type of web apps become highly popular nowadays. Although it seems like you can meet your partner on Facebook as well, apps like PlentyOfFish have set the market on fire.

Social networks for sharing multimedia

This is how Instagram has born; this is how Flickr and YouTube look like. On social networks like this, people now can share visual content, communicate and even promote their businesses!

Informational social network

Looking for the answers to your question, where’d you go? Mostly, Internet users ask Google about what bothers them the most. But informational social networks change the tendency. Now, you can find useful, reliable, expert answers on social networking platforms like Quora.

Now, when you’ve chosen the type of network, it’s time to find out more about how to create a social network and define key steps to reach the goal.

How to build a social media website

Your path towards social network development will take time, efforts and resources. The deeper you dive into the process and the more skilled engineers you work with, the better solution you’ll launch.

Here are top steps to take to deploy a social network website from scratch:

  1. Study the industry and choose the direction that would take you to success;
  2. Evolve your idea and come up with a striking web app’s name;
  3. Decide on a potentially profitable monetization strategy for your social media website;
  4. Implement your idea to a real software solution.

Let’s analyze each step, find out more about essential functionality and get closer to the viable social network website.

1. Get acquainted with the niche you plan to break into

Let’s say, you plan to create a social network website for book lovers. To start the process, you need to answer several questions first:

  • Are there similar global solutions that have reached success?
  • What’s the situation on a local market? How many potential competitors do you have?
  • What is your considerable advantage in comparison to these websites?

Depending on the type of your social network, questions may change but the core is always the same. To make a difference with your social network, make sure you:

  1. Enter an unoccupied niche;
  2. Know your target audience and how to solve their problems with your app;
  3. Build an app with unique features that solve existing users’ problems.

These 3 cornerstones are essential to keep in mind when thinking about how to start a social network.

2. Proceed with brainstorming

You already have a vision of how a perfect social network should look like. To draw a better, brighter and more clear-cut picture, share your opinion with your teammates and external experts; look at this with potential users’ eyes. Thorough planning and new ideas would become fuel for your further movement.

Essential hint: a striking name

How to create a social media website that will attract users’ attention? On this stage, you should also come up with a catchy and easy-to-remember name of your website. Depending on your social network’s specifics, there may be an ocean of options. You should pick the simplest and the brightest one. But what about the options you should ignore?

  • Names that may violate someone else’s copyrights;
  • Names already used by other brands;
  • Names connected to intolerance, discrimination, etc. and other negative things;
  • Names that don’t match website content.

Study the market, think about your own business and come up with a brilliant name.

3. Think about your revenue

Creating your own social network is good. Creating a social network that brings you money is much better, isn’t it? Thus, on this stage, you should decide how to monetize this website.

Typically, there are the 5 most popular ways to make a profit with a social media website:

Monetization strategies for a social network website

  • Good old ads

Even though Internet users don’t like annoying digital advertising, it is still one of the best ways to monetize a website. Working on a design concept, think whether you have enough space for attractive banners to catch users’ attention.

  • Promotion of brands and bloggers

Employing this method, you promote content published by particular organizations or individuals. Content appears in top of newsfeed, it is suggested to target audience and gets more views than a typical post on a social network. In turn, promoted content creators pay for this service and get more post views and followers.

  • Paid features

Let’s say, you provide access to basic functionality for free. But on top of that, you can build catchy games or implement AR tools or offer a great photo editor for a defined fee. If the paid functionality is really nice, users will be ready to invest a few dollars in it.

  • Paid content

What if you charge your users for listening to music on your website? If you have a good rich database with great audio files, you can grant access to this sort of content for a fee.

  • Subscription

In some cases, users pay to enter a specific social network. For example, if you run a powerful professional or job search network, you can charge your users for a subscription.

4. Find out more about software development workflow and pick the most important features

Once you’ve got to know how the situation in the market looks like and who’s your key competitors, when you’ve come up with a great name and got a strong intention to make money with a striking web app, it is time to define how the process will look like. Here, we’ll show you the step-by-step guide on how to create a social media website.

How to develop a social network website

Build a prototype

A prototype is a simple model of your future social networking app. It demonstrates the app’s general idea and allows building the relations about different components and screens. Making a prototype doesn’t require extraordinary technical skills but helps to visualize the concept and improve it easily.

Come up with UI/UX design concept

Design is one of the most significant stages of the entire process. Here, an in-depth understanding of users’ wishes and preferences is a must. App’s design includes creating a user interface and user experience parts. So whatever happens, your design must be:

  • Simple;
  • Intuitive;
  • Attracting.

Study users’ preferences and stick to the defined, most suitable color scheme. Find out more about the latest trends in software design and select those that would help you to acquire new users and make them keep using your network.

Start software development

To create social media website, engineers implement design from a prototype in a real web app. Here, you should decide on the most important functionality and start enhancing your website with things that make it special.

We’ve shortlisted the essential features the users will appreciate; take a look at them:

  • Seamless single-click login: don’t ask for too much data on the initial stages, minimize your login form and make good UX from the very first minute;
  • Integration with other social networking channels: add Facebook or Youtube API to help people log in and synchronize their accounts on different channels;
  • Personal profile with photo, contact details, places users visited etc. Here, profile management and editing features are crucial;
  • Full-featured search: in order to make users networking on your site, help them find each other effortlessly. Implement a variety of search options like Surname, City, Educational Establishment, Occupation, Hobby etc and watch users’ networks grow.
  • The contact list is a major feature, too: after filtering existing users, every profile owner should be able to send contact requests and accept the ones he or she gets;
  • News Feed: thanks to it, the users will be able to share news from their lives, post media files, add updates etc;
  • Chats: with no exaggeration, this is your social media website's most important feature. Let users create both private and group chats to improve their experience;
  • File exchange: this is the extension to a standard chat. Let users share audio, video files, photos, books etc via their virtual dialogues;
  • Notifications are needed so users were always aware of the recent updates, messages, news etc. Push notifications, emails and SMSs are the most common options here.

This functionality is a must. Each additional feature will warm up users’ interest; however, without the ones we’ve described your networking site will be rather weak. So here the tip from CS team: focus on basic must-have set of features and launch an MVP. Once you’ll see your product works and attracts attention, you can augment it with more advanced functionality.


Talking about features, there are 3 more things to remember:

  • Admin panel

You as a social network website owner should either be aware of everything that happens on your platform or hire a responsible person for that. To manage processes properly, to keep a hand on interactions, to have access to statistics and to block/ delete any account, admin panel is required. It should demonstrate a convenient and intuitive interface as well as provide access to all the needed data.

  • Database

As your platform will grove, data storage will extend, too. A database will contain various types of data like text, video, audio, photo content etc. It should be flexible and scalable, powerful and well secured. To make the right choice between relational vs non-relational databases, PostgreSQL, Oracle, MySQL, and many others, extra research and some tips from the development team will be useful.

  • Payment

Do you plan to monetize your web app? Have you already chosen how exactly to monetize it? Anyway, to do so, you should integrate your programming solution with well-known payment gateways like PayPal and enable payment with credit cards.

Test it; then, test it once more

The point is to build a high-quality network so the users would fall in love with its impeccable functionality. Thus, a website’s testing is an integral part of the entire process. First of all, software engineers write unit tests to make sure the code is written correctly. Then, QA/QC engineers do their job and check if every single website’s component works well.

Pass to the production stage

After months of hard work, the production stage comes. In case if you write a social network app for mobile, you need to check App Store and Play Market requirements in order to publish your app there and make it available for iPhones and Android smartphone users.

Promote your solution

Another significant component of the process is social network promotion. Actually, marketing is the never-ending process: from the moment the idea comes to your mind and till the day when you’ll reach 1 million active users (and even later on) you’ll need to invest in powerful marketing strategies and use the latest trends to make your way to success. Use existing social networks and popular websites to promote your business; start an informative blog and create special offers for your very first users. Find the key to people’s hearts and don’t hesitate to use it.

Measure your progress

For marketing needs, various metrics would be useful. Measure customer acquisition cost (or how much money you need to invest to attract a new user) and user activation statistics (or the relation between the number of active users and downloads); keep an eye on churn rate (a number of users who stopped using your tool) and user engagement (the time users spend in your app). These metrics reflect your chances to join the group of leaders in your segment so don’t underestimate the importance of quantitative data for your business.

Social network website development: Team, Time & Cost

Now when you are fully aware of how the typical development process looks like and what features to add to your website it is time to answer the following questions:

  1. Who can do it for you?
  2. How much time does it take?
  3. How much it costs?

To launch a powerful and profitable solution, you need to delegate development tasks to competent experts with deep experience in social network websites development. The team should include:


The group of creative-thinkers will come up with a great prototype and suggest the best ways to appeal to the potential users with a networking website. They know everything about Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and similar tools and have a clear vision of an attractive app.

Front-end developers

These specialists are responsible for user interface development. In fact, they turn a simple prototype to an app. Their key skills include HTML/CSS, JavaScript and its most popular frameworks like React or Angular. Along with engineering skills, they have well-developed creativity and attention to details.

Back-end engineers

On the other side of barricades, back-end developers work. They are proficient in server-side development and take care of the app’s architecture and logic; they create APIs and website’s core; they work with databases and make sure the app responds correctly to the queries from the front-end. For a high-quality networking website development, back-end programming languages like PHP, Ruby or Python would be acceptable. Back-end engineers should be also aware of algorithms and able to solve system related issues.

QA team

As we have mentioned above, software testing is essential to deliver a powerful software solution. Thus, you need to cooperate with manual software testers and automation QA/QC engineers. Testers check buttons, fields, lists, colors and other website’s components manually while QA/QC experts write automation tests to ensure all the features work well.

Project manager

To handle all the development hustle and bustle, an experienced Project Manager should lead the team. For this person, understanding of engineering and testing processes as well as advanced communication and soft skills are a must.

Do you wonder how much time these specialists need to invest in your website? Here’s brief approximate info:

  Number of Specialists Hours of involvement
Design 1+ 50-150
Front-end development 2+ 150-300
Back-end development 2+ 300-500
App’s testing 1+ 200-300
Project management 1 60-100

In case if you plan to produce social network website with basic functionality and involvement of 7 specialists, you need to invest approximately:

  • 760-1350h
  • 30к-55к $.

Keep in mind that the number of team members and the amount of costs to invest fully depends on your wishes and requirements. Here, we describe the approximate estimations based on our experience.

NB: before making a decision, share your thoughts with competent experts and get a quote describing the more accurate web app’s price.

Building a social network from scratch: what’s next?

Now when you have the full picture of what waits for you, you need to be ready to:

  • Find reliable partner

It is essential to work with a reliable engineering team. We have already prepared an article on how to find the best app development partner, and we can give you a hand with all the engineering and development tasks. Just drop us a line and head up to success.

  • Invest in development process

Software development isn’t cheap but the development outsourcing is a great way to cut costs for a brilliant product. It is always hard to predict the price for the end product, but you can always read about the costs to build a web application and make a rough estimate for your social network project.

  • Be patient

Depending on development’s complexity, the website production may take up to several months. 

We can provide you with a more precise estimate.
Let's discuss the requirements of your new social network website

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