New Feature: Invite your neighbors to join

Our registration process is proven to get at least 50% of your neighborhood registered and using eNeighbors to communicate. While this is the average across all of our neighborhood websites, one neighborhood was able to get 98% of their residents registered. However, the process by which residents register is primarily driven by direct mail and word of mouth and we think we can do better.

We now have a third mechanism to help you get your neighborhood online with a new feature called “invite your neighbor” that relies on currently registered residents to invite other residents to join.

To check this out, sign in to your neighborhood website at http://www.eneighbors.com and click the “Resident Directory” tab. Then click “See who’s not registered”. This will return a list of all the addresses in your neighborhood that have not joined yet. If you know someone who lives in one of these homes, just click the link that says, “Invite them to join” and a box to enter their email address will display. Enter their email and click “Send Invite”. They will receive an email with instructions on how to register.

Another way to do this is to search for your neighbor’s street address. Let’s say Bill is a good friend and neighbor and he lives two doors down. Just enter his street address into the search field in the resident directory and click “Search”. If he’s registered, his name and contact info will display. If he’s not, you’ll see the “Invite your neighbor” link that you can use to invite him to join.

I believe that this feature will bump up the average registration well past 70%.

Screenshot is below.

screenshot_invite

New Homepage Deconstructed

We set out to improve the eNeighbors.com homepage in the following ways:

  1. Make it easier/quicker to sign in
    • We added a sign in module to the homepage in the upper-right hand corner. When you first load the page the cursor defaults to the email address field so you can just start typing.
    • We added a “Keep me signed in” check box. When you check this box, you won’t have to sign in when you come back to the site, unless of course, you click the “Sign Out” link or remove cookies from your computer
    • We increased the visibility of the “Forgot your password?” link so if you forget your password or it doesn’t seem to be working, you know how to quickly reset it
  2. Make it easier to find neighborhoods
    • Before, you could only search by ZIP code, but what if you don’t know the ZIP code or you would rather search by name. Now you can search by neighborhood name. Give it a try. Go to http://www.eneighbors.com/ and search for “Nottingham”.
    • Expanded the search box, put it in the center of the page
  3. Make it clear as to what eNeighbors does, in one sentence
    • Added short value proposition statement “eNeighbors connects you with your community.”
  4. Help first time users get to the sign up form
    • Added text near the sign in module with a link to Sign Up form
    • Added large call-out for users who received a PIN in the mail
  5. Make it more inviting
    • Added “Featured Neighborhoods” section to showcase neighborhood entrance photos, which gives it a more neighborhood feel
  6. Make it easier to read
    • We increased the page width and font size across the board

We wanted to do all this but at the same time, keep the design consistent with our old design so users would feel that it was familiar. One final note, we also added a link to “Email Support” in the footer of every page so users would be able to reach us quickly.

New and old homepage screenshots for comparison are below.

NEW

eN-new_homepage

OLD

eN-old_homepage

New Feature: Comment Notifications

We haven’t even finished the coding on this one yet but Kim (our coding rock star and secret weapon) tells me that she’ll have it ready for tomorrow’s upgrade. I’m really excited to see how this feature in particular increases participation from residents.

Briefly:

  • If you post a news article or make a comment on a news article, you will be automatically notified via email when someone else makes a comment to that same article
  • If you don’t want to receive these notifications you can just check they box that says “Do not send me comment notifications” when you post a comment
  • Every notification will have a link to stop that notification right in the email

Many of us have become accustom to these types of notifications. If you use WordPress (like this blog) or Facebook, then you know how this works. However, one cool thing that we are adding is the ability to follow the comments to an article even if you haven’t commented.

At the top of every comment list will be a link that says, “Follow comments to this article”. When you click it, you will receive an email when a new comment is made.

I believe that this will increase participation from residents and keep important neighborhood discussions going.

Screenshot below:

follow_comments

My Account Page

On Friday, when you sign in to your account, you will see a new link at the top of the page called, “My Account”. This page houses basic account information like your name, email address, password, date of birth and gender.

It also houses your profile photo. This is a new feature on eNeighbors that is a staple of other social networks and something that our users have requested.

To upload a photo of yourself, just click on the “My Account” link, then click the “Browse” button to find a photo on your computer. Click “Open” and the photo will automatically upload.

A screenshot of the “My Account” page is below.

My Account Page on eNeighbors

New Feature: Multiple Neighborhood Support

Believe it or not, many of our users need access to more than one neighborhood website. Like who, you ask?

  1. Landlords who live in one neighborhood but have rental properties in another
  2. Property managers who live in one neighborhood and manage 10 more.
  3. Developers who want to keep tabs on all their neighborhood developments.
  4. People with multiple homes, like a vacation home.
  5. Government officials like city council members who want guest access to the neighborhoods in their ward.
  6. Police officers who want to publish bulletins to specific neighborhoods within their districts.

I’m sure there are more examples, but we run into it more than you might think. And now, I am pleased to announce that you can manage all of your neighborhoods from a new page called “My Neighborhoods” with one account.

My Neighborhoods serves two basic purposes: (1) it allows you to navigate or toggle between the various neighborhoods that you have access to and (2) it allows you to manage the settings for each neighborhood. You can also search for new neighborhoods to join from this page. Like the other features that I’m announcing today, this will be available on Friday, November 13th.

(NOTE to current users: If you are currently maintaining multiple accounts and you want to merge them, send an email to support@eneighbors.com with the email addresses that you use to access your accounts and we will merge them for you.)

Screenshot of new “My Neighborhoods” page is below:

My Neighborhoods (eNeighbors)

Upgrade: New Registration Process Explained

The current registration process for eNeighbors aims to limit access to our neighborhood sites to residents only. This ensures that your neighborhood website is kept private and secure and you can share information freely, without being concerned that the “whole world” will see it.

To accomplish this we currently assign 4 digit PINs or Personal Identification Numbers to each resident and street address in your neighborhood. Then, we send this number to all residents in the mail. When you attempt to register on eNeighbors, you are asked to enter both your last name and PIN, which is then associated with your street address. If the combination of your last name and PIN is correct, you are allowed to register. This process works perfectly at limiting access to residents; however, there are two issues: (1) it places a burden on property managers to keep their database of new residents current with us and (2) it makes it difficult to register for users who don’t have their PIN readily available.

To alleviate these two problems while still maintaining our ability to limit access to residents only, we are removing the last name requirement so property managers don’t have to send us new resident notifications and we are allowing users to register using their street address if they do not have their PIN readily available.

As a result of these changes, a new role has been created called the “Gatekeeper”. The Gatekeeper can be any resident, board member or property manager who will approve access requests for residents registering by using their street address instead of their PIN. If no gatekeeper is identified, the request will be routed to eNeighbors for review.

These changes to the registration process will be in place after Friday, November 13th, 2009.

As always, if you have any questions, send an email to us at support [at] eneighbors [dot] com or leave a comment below.

New Design (Sneak Peek)

We are working hard to launch a new design for eNeighbors.com and plan to launch on Friday, November 13th.

IMPORTANT! If you are a board member or property manager, please do not send out any new registration mailings (PIN letters) until after the upgrade is complete as we are making some changes to the registration process.

Now for the sneak peek…

Below is a screenshot of the new design for the public neighborhood sign in page set to launch next week:

eNeighbors Public Neighborhood Page

Below is a screenshot of the current design:

eNeighbors Current Public Neighborhood Page

LionsGate Neighborhood Survey Results

The LionsGate Homeowners Association Board of Directors recently asked their residents to complete an online survey to help them to better understand what their residents are thinking. LionsGate is a community of nearly 600 homes in Overland Park, Kansas, 500 of which are registered on their eNeighbors website. The survey was distributed via eNeighbors and they received 296 responses.

From Mark Spraetz, LionsGate Board President:

“Suffice to say, we were very pleased by the level of response. Most surveys, on line or otherwise, generate a marginal response rate so achieving a 50%+ level shows a high level of on-line engagement within our community. There are many survey tools on the web that are very affordable and will generate a link that you can publicize easily with a “bulletin announcement” via your website service. We tried a variety of questioning formats and learned that some worked better than others so future surveys can yield even better results. There was an open ended option so residents gave us free-form feedback on a couple issues that we did not include [for a variety of reasons] when we published the results but many of those comments gave great perspective, too. I would encourage any Board looking to poll their community to think about this approach; easy and affordable and the tabulation and reporting was all handled by the survey service…just had to log in…”

If you are a board member on your HOA you will find the survey results interesting and perhaps even helpful.

Download full survey results (PDF)

Neighborhood Watch and Social Networking

From TechNewsWorld: Neighborhood Watch 2.0:

City budgets are straining police forces in many cities, and in some cases citizens have seized upon social networking technologies to help guard against crime in their own neighborhoods. It’s unclear whether neighborhood watch efforts actually make people safer, but statistics indicate that neighborhoods with high levels of resident cohesion typically have less crime.

This is another example of how better communication (or cohesion) in a neighborhood can help make it safer.

eNeighbors Traffic Reports vs User Feedback

I monitor the traffic reports for our website (eNeighbors.com) at least once a day and get caught up in the upticks and downturns in traffic. The data that we can track is really helpful like pageviews and visits, which gives me a measure of the health of our site, but it lacks the intangible perspective that you get from user feedback.

In the case of South Village, they have 318 registered users on the website from 287 homes. This is good to know, but what does it mean? Can they communicate with these residents effectively? How can we test this?

One way to test this is to simply ask your users, which is exactly what a communications committee member in South Village did. He simply posted an article to see if “anyone was out there”. (An ingenious and completely tangible way to track usage and response.) I posted a screenshot of the article with the comment string below so you can see. In total, he received 86 comments, which is pretty impressive considering that there are only 318 registered users on the website. Anyone who blogs knows that this is a tremendous response rate.

I think the response was awesome and it gave me a great feeling that their website was so frequented. The comments help to give better insight into our user’s attitude and feelings about eNeighbors that you cannot get from traffic data. The comments also solidify our feelings that our automatic email newsletter and other notifications are working to promote traffic and usage.

Some of my favorite comments include:

  1. I try to log onto eNeighbors at least once a day when I can, because I want to know what my fellow homeowners are discussing. I don’t always respond to postings, as I am just one Board member and don’t represent the views of the Board as a whole. What I do is try to find out what topics are generating high levels of interest among homeowners so that, if necessary, we can include these topics in future meeting agendas.
  2. we read weekly and sometimes more! love this!
  3. We read it regularly. Thanks for taking the time to do it.
  4. Wouldn’t miss it for the world. 🙂
  5. Yup, we read them as soon as something is posted..
  6. We’re tuned in. Thanks.
  7. Hello – I look at this quite a bit – especially since I get the alerts regularly.
  8. I read this site whenever the email informs me of new posting. I set my account to receive email daily from EN.
  9. I look up eneighbors every day when I am home (I was out last two days).
    I do read all the postings and the comments that follow and make notes on them, but usually do not make any comments. (Any comments I make are my own and do not represent the Board’s views). I do believe that all Board Members do read the postings on eneighbors.
  10. I read when I see new things that I want to hear more about. (Get the reminder weekly.)

 

Is there anyone out there?