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Currently, I am planning to build a dating website. We already have a WordPress version running with LoveStory as a theme and with a lot of hacks and plugins. Good for a version 1.0, but pretty soon I ran into limitations and the interest is growing, so I want to start thinking about a v2.0

The question is: what's the best way to build a dating website?

The WordPress approach isn't bad, but it's the flexibility limitation that you run into at some point. The chat provided by the theme is OK, but lacking in some features that I'd want to include. Looking at some of the chat plug-ins, I saw a lot of nightmarish layouts and a disastrous flow to tame. For instance, I'd only want people to be able to chat with each other when they've already added each other to their favorites. With a lot of chat plugins you just get a list of all people that are online, quite like Facebook. Getting the channels of WP themes and WP plugins to like each other can be tough.

I'd want to also design a front-end from scratch. So at the very least, I think I should build (with a team and outsourcing) a custom WordPress theme. I've also looked into ready-made scripting packages like SkaDate and Chameleon, but when I heard "you can choose from a lot of templates" yelled at me in a promotional video, a lot of alarm bells went off. They do have chat and video chat (mandatory) set up, but the question is if they are all too great. A lot of these Script dating services rely on CometChat which looks terrible. Unless that can be thoroughly customized I'm not going anywhere near it.

The scripting and online-hosted solutions (like DatingSiteBuilder) all seem sleazy and aimed at people who want to make a quick buck with yet another dating site. I want this engine to be more robust, personal, flexible and honest. One other option besides the scripting packages, self hosted, WordPress with a theme or WordPress with a custom theme is of course building the whole thing from scratch. Full control? Yes. Megalomania? Also. Before I reach down that deep I want to know how foolish it is not to rely if at least in part on existing engines, given they are clean and reliable.

I don't mind spending money on things, this is not a "I want the world and it should be free" type aim. I just want to know what the best options are and if they are worth the investment. Most important are control over the frontend, security and control over how the communication channels are flowing.

What are your experiences and suggestions?

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