Since the 1990s companies and other organizations have created so-called “idea portals” for their customers and employees. These websites are aimed at gleaning new ideas and feedback for new products and services, new features and ways to improve processes. They are to all intents and purposes the online equivalent of the “suggestion box”. In recent years, the likes of Twitter and Facebook have perhaps overtaken such portals that originally allowed users to publicly discuss new ideas, offer solutions to previously announced problems or effectively complain about problems they face with a given product or service.
Despite the advent of social media, and perhaps with the help of social media, Facebook pages and the like, more and more companies are getting the social side of the virtual suggestion box. In a research paper in the current issue of IJTMkt (reference below), computer scientists in Germany have assessed a large number of standalone commercial and non-commercials idea portals. They found that companies such as Starbucks and Dell recognize that building and managing an online community is a time and cost intensive affair but can offer an excellent return on investment in terms of improved customer relations and sales. However, many other companies who have simply thrown together what they claim to be an idea portal have failed miserably in their efforts.
Jan Finzen and Maximilien Kintz of the Fraunhofer IAO in Stuttgart together with their colleague Stefan Kobes of the University of Mannheim found that many of the portals suffered from large numbers of inane and spammy comments, but also lacked essential features such as thorough classification or tags for efficient content browsing, they had confusing layouts and unreadable fonts and many did not operate RSS newsfeeds that would otherwise allow users, or members of the community if you will, to be automatically informed of new ideas and responses to their suggestions and comments. “Our evaluation concluded that many portals offer a rather bad user experience,” Finzen says.
The team has made available a complete list of the idea portals they reviewed on their website – http://www.innovation-mining.net They also created a sophisticated rating spreadsheet that allows you to set and weight various filter criteria. For instance, you can show only those portals that provide an archive with at least 1,000 ideas and offer an RSS feed on new ones. They are currently working on a way to convert the spreadsheet into a web app as well as investigating how several idea portals might be used in parallel to obtain deeper insights about products, services, and ideas in other realms.
In the meantime, Sciencetext can provide a list of the 73 idea portals in alphabetical order below.
Jan Finzen, Maximilien Kintz, & Stefan Kobes (2011). A comparative study of publicly accessible web-based idea portals Int. J. Technology Marketing, 6(1), 85-98
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