Guide to Software for Community Building
Since 2005, ScienceSoft helps businesses launch web portals of various types. Experienced in community portal development, we will help you bring to life the best-suited engagement opportunities for your target audience.
Community Portal: Key Facts in Short
- Community portal software is used to create online portals where users interact around a shared interest, chat, impart knowledge and ideas.
- Commercial benefits from community portal implementation are: better understanding of target audience preferences and product evolution (e.g., a gaming community), paid services (e.g., extended user functions in online dating communities) and ad sales.
- One of the main development goals is portal usability. All the core functions must be familiar and easily accessible for users.
- You can find numerous examples of online communities for techies (Ubuntu community), gamers (World of Warcraft forum), students (College Confidential community), travelers (Airbnb Community Center), and even people sharing the same goal (Smoking Cessation Forum).
Types of Community Portals
Community portals are created for users with common personal and professional interests. In an online community, users engage with topical content, interact in forums and chats, share the knowledge and learn, and participate in online events.
Community portals work equally well for different types of target audience.
As a rule, customer portals cover a broad functional scope (including necessarily customer support), and also target customer community building. Customers may be offered community membership benefits, non-promotional content (like a blog or lookbooks), online discussion boards, chats, and more interactive opportunities.
Corporate intranets aim to create a corporate culture, inform employees about what’s going on in a company and let them participate in formal and informal, public and one-to-one conversations, invite the team to take part in online and offline events.
Creating a sense of community among your business partners may help increase the number of end customers. You encourage better partners’ performance by offering them informative resources and creating a better understanding of your products, providing marketing materials and sales tools (like ROI calculators), launching training and certification, and more.
Functional Scope of Community Software
Depending on the community type and social engagement goals, ScienceSoft goes for different combinations of the following functionality.
- User self-registration.
- User profiles storing information consistent with the portal type/topic.
- Community membership programs, dynamic membership groups.
- Settable activity privileges granted to different portal roles: users, membership groups, administrators.
- Rules for automated membership level assignment and changes.
- Topically structured online forums, group discussions.
- Personal chats.
- Video chats.
- Online blogs.
- A possibility to comment on publicly shared materials.
- Online polls.
- Social media sharing tools.
Content creation and management
- Different templates for community users to create content (e.g., blog posts).
- Topic tagging for easy search around vast content.
- Widgets to mark trending topics and pieces of content.
- Community discussion moderation with a possibility to ban inappropriate content.
Knowledge transfer and training
- Employee onboarding.
- Professional development trainings.
- Partner training programs and certifications.
- Marketing materials for partners.
- Knowledge base for customers.
- Awarding points for activities in the community.
- Assigning reputational badges to users based on the activity points earned.
- Video streaming service to hold online events.
- Video sharing apps to record and broadcast video tutorials, lectures, podcasts and other materials in a video format.
- User personal calendars to schedule event participation.
- Ad templates.
- Different ad placement options.
- Ad scheduling.
How to Monetize Community Portals
Though community portals are intended, in the first place, as platforms for knowledge sharing and do not contribute directly to the company’s revenue growth, ScienceSoft knows the ways to capitalize on the idea of community building.
Portal creators use the feedback from fan communities to understand the likes and dislikes of their audience and ideate the evolution of their product, be it a TV series, an online game, or baby food.
In the communities where the discussion revolves around multiple topics, portal owners can sell advertising space to relevant brands that might be interesting to their audience.
Social engagement communities
Launching communities for social engagement like for online dating or social networking, a business can add paid services and convert free users into premium subscribers. An example of premium service package can be a possibility to upload more detailed personal information or see when other users were online.
How to Use Community Portal Integrations
By integrating a community portal with CRM and a ticketing system, ScienceSoft creates a possibility for a company to leverage the information generated by the community to its business advantage. The example below shows key integrations for a customer community portal, assuming that a business also has an ecommerce portal.
Community portal + CRM
When customers sign in to different systems of yours (community and ecommerce portals in our example), a CRM system creates a single profile and collects multi-sourced customer information. This helps you see your customers from different angles and advance in customer experience personalization.
Community portal + ticketing system
You will be able to build proactive customer support with sentiment analysis built in your ticketing system. A negative emotional tone of customer statements during forum discussions may entail automated creation of cases.
How to Make a Community Popular with Your Audience
Though the success of a community portal depends much on your ability to meet the interests of the target audience, ScienceSoft wants to help with several hands-on tips for making your portal more user-friendly.
- Take measures to prevent cyberbullying: introduce the role of a moderator who will oversee the communication activity and enable users to complain with a button click about disrespectful or aggressive attitude if they face it.
- Be prepared that users will often surf the community portal on mobile. Make this experience convenient by launching a mobile app or building the portal with a PWA technology.
- Rather than offering a general newsletter, let users subscribe only for the topics they are interested in.
- Use machine learning and AI to observe user behavior and serve repeat users with content updates most relevant to their interests.
- Don’t forget the core principles of a successful UI – keep the interface simple, not overwhelmed with interactive elements. The more functions you plan to offer to your users, the more thoroughly you should elaborate on a convenient UI.
Average Cost of a Community Portal
The cost components of community portal development are:
- The scope of the research and investigation stage: it may only encompass the collection of business requirements or may be expanded to the analysis of the target audience, and persona creation.
- Types of community engagement planned: online group discussions, personal messaging, event management, content types (blogs, learning materials, news releases, video format, more), document sharing, etc.
- An approach chosen for mobile experience design: no standalone mobile development, native or hybrid mobile development, or PWA.
- The possibility for customers to submit support tickets included or not.
- Tiered community membership introduced or not.
- Portal integrations with other business systems required to provide the planned functionality.
Best Community Software Used by ScienceSoft
Power Apps by Microsoft
Best for: quick low-code community portal setup
- Provides a development environment (a suite of apps, services, connectors and a data platform) to build custom web apps and portals.
- Portals can be built from a template or from scratch.
- Portals built with Power Apps have responsive design to adapt web pages to differently-sized devices, which allows you to achieve decent mobile experience while saving on mobile development.
- The workflow of portal creation is the following: you create the required business logic with a drag-and-drop interface and connect your app to the data sources that will supply the information (a data platform, CRM, CMS, etc.).
- Deeper solution configuration and customization is also possible if you need to set up functional components not included in the portal builder.
- Offers drag-and-drop AI builder (mostly used for smart predictions).
- Power Apps ranks at the top among low-code application platforms (according to Gartner).
Request individual estimation of a community portal built with Power Apps
Best for: content-heavy community portals
- An enterprise open source and API-driven platform for managing user experiences and digital data, can be customized into the solution you need. Main business areas covered by Pimcore functionality are web content management, product information & digital asset management, and ecommerce.
- Serves 100,000+ companies around the world, with such clients as Audi, Pepsi, Dr. Oetker, and Yamaha.
- 1,500+ certified developers across the globe (ScienceSoft is one of the companies providing Pimcore development services).
Request individual estimation of a community portal built with Pimcore
ServiceNow® Platform Communities
Best when: a portal is a part of enterprise-wide customer experience optimization
- Available as part of the following ServiceNow products: Customer Service Management (CSM) and HR Service Delivery.
- Customer Service Management application is a recognized leader among Customer Service Management solutions.
- Gartner sees ServiceNow HR Service Delivery as the only solution on the market that ticks all the boxes for solid HR service management.
- Among the most prominent community management features, ServiceNow Communities creates possibilities for proactive customer support. For example, it enables manual or automated escalation of unanswered forum questions to cases.
Request individual estimation of ServiceNow costs
Custom-built community portal
Best for: a community portal with extended functions (e.g., + ecommerce)
Custom portal development is your choice if your portal concept doesn’t fit into any strictly specific portal type. It may be the best solution if you want to provide extended functionality allowing portal users, for example, to apply for support to your customer service team, explore and buy your products and services, sign up for your trainings or other events, and maybe even more. In this case, you can’t hope for a boxed portal application and will need a team of web developers to analyze your business needs and plans, propose and implement a corresponding solution.
Individual for each project. Request a proposal for a custom portal
Let’s Discuss Important Questions
How long does it take to create a community portal?
From ScienceSoft’s experience, the development of a community portal takes 3-6 months.
Custom vs. ready-to-go solution: which is the right choice?
We need to analyze a great deal of factors to advise on a future-proof choice. However, we are ready to provide high-level guidance to explain key difference between the two approaches.
Choose a custom community portal if:
- Market-available platforms are either too simple or too complicated for your needs.
- You need an extensible product and want to try new features regularly.
- You want to add unique competitive advantages to your product.
- You expect high traffic and a large number of simultaneous users.
Choose a ready-to-go platform if:
- Your portal is designed with standard functionality for community building.
- You want to develop a portal fast.
How to Hire ScienceSoft for Community Portal Development
ScienceSoft has been involved in web portal development since 2005. Currently, we have 750+ employees on board experienced in different technology stacks and programming language. If you are planning a community portal project, please select the service option best-suited to your current needs. Don’t worry to choose wrong and miss some service options – the service scope needed to meet your business needs will be fully defined only after the investigation stage.
Community portal consulting
We will help you nail down the needed functionality and elaborate a community portal concept by:
- Analyzing the needs and challenges of end users (community members) that can be met/solved with a community portal.
- Choosing an optimal technology stack while keeping in mind the business management software you already have and planning useful integrations.
- Estimating project cost and timeframes.
Branded community portal development
We are resourced to deliver a community portal (from concept elaboration to implementation and launch) by means of our in-house team or in collaboration with your team:
- Interviewing your stakeholders and compiling functional specification for a to-be portal solution.
- Creating user interface in accordance with UX best practices.
- Configuring and coding a portal solution, be it platform-based or custom.
- Integrating the portal with existing business systems.
- Testing the portal for compliance with technical and usability requirements.
Community SaaS software development
If you are a product company planning the development of a community SaaS product, we can help by:
- Shaping a product vision and planning the functionality targeting your desired audience.
- Providing the development resources and tech expertise.
- Mapping user experience and user interface.
- Designing multi-tenancy software architecture.
ScienceSoft is an international software development and IT consulting company, in the industry since 1989. Experts in different aspects of customer experience management, we help businesses launch customer-facing portals that are easy to use and engaging.