What is a portal website and how do you build it?

Build a portal website with ease using this guide with information on key elements to include and how to attract traffic to your site.

Author:

Optimizely Team

It’s an exciting era for ecommerce. Businesses with portal websites are having much success with trends showing a 4.4% yearly increase in online shoppers. With such statistics, you can expect an increase in demand for tech resources that will facilitate consumer engagements and offer reliable digital customer experiences. 

Key takeaways

Portal websites have eased organizational processes by facilitating secure access to critical data and enabling short- and long-term workflows. Also remember:

  • Building a web portal will require an easy-to-use interface, informative content and access control mechanisms.
  • Companies experience internal and external benefits from web portals. Internal benefits include processes that streamline and make internal operations easier. External advantages involve improved management and tracking of customers’ activities.
  • Optimizing your content will help you rank higher within the SERPs.

So, what is a portal website? This is a web-based platform that gathers data from varied sources like search engines and emails into a single user interface, customizable by the user through a portlet. 

Portal websites are responsible for transforming the online business ecosystem. Interactions between organizations, suppliers and customers have become more effective as collection and sharing of information has become easier. 

How portal websites are transforming digital experiences

Web portals provide a web-based system that yields key organizational processes, including secure access to critical data and enabling short- and long-term workflows. Organizations find it easier dispersing information to relevant parties without relying on physical mails or emails, which usually have strict attachment limits. 

With that said, companies experience internal and external benefits from web portals. Internal benefits refer to how portal websites streamline and make internal operations easier. Meanwhile, external advantages mostly include the gains that portal webs bring about, in terms of management and tracking of customers’ activities on the site. The three major internal and two external benefits from web portals include:

Internal advantages

  • Integration – Web portals allow for organizations to integrate corporate data and customers in the backend of a single platform, which in turn eases data administration. According to the WebFX report, organizations lose close to $2.6B in revenue yearly due to slow loading sites. To curb this, it's prudent to consider high-end plugs that will enhance the functionality and speeds of your website to ensure seamless integration.
  • Personalization – Personalizing web portals for specialized access lets organizations contextualize the digital experiences of clients and the staff. 
  • Consistency – Uniting backend data across platforms through the cloud allows a company to have consistent and reliable data it can share and act upon. 

External advantages

  • Marketing management – ecommerce businesses have the flexibility to customize web portals based on the behavior of the clients. It allows the in-house marketing personnel to tailor the marketing campaigns and manage them better through the backend system. 
  • Access control – Organizations can utilize authorization and verification mechanisms to control access to certain cloud repositories. It ensures only allowed parties have access to sensitive applications or information that would otherwise put the operations of the company at risk.

Building a portal website

Building a web portal is a strategic process that requires planning and experienced engineers familiar with the comprehensive web applications. With a well-structured plan, your website should maximize online visibility while minimizing risk. 

Outsourcing developers will give you time to evaluate the competence of the prospective engineers. It will allow you to work with experts having reliable knowledge to develop and customize portals that suit the needs of specific organizations. It will also relieve the internal staff of maintenance responsibilities and give them time to focus on other roles.

Regardless of your preferred choice, it's recommended to follow along with each process to ensure the developers don't miss out on important details.  Key elements your website needs to have include:

1. UI and UX

Your impression is everything to customers unless you want to have a high bounce rate. According to recent data, simple search and navigation contribute up to 61% of sales in ecommerce. Such statistics should be an eye opener to any aspiring web portal builder on the importance of having an easy-to-navigate interface relative to the conversion rates. 

Consider the form of your portal, that is, what the user sees when they log in. Form can be a dashboard or a gateway.  Both can support personalization of information, but the gateway designs tend to have standard portlets that allow for automatic content automation within apps. They require minimal maintenance and are easy to develop. Below is a good example of a gateway portal from grants.gov.

The layout is simple regardless of the wealth of information it is combining from several programs and systems. Content within each section is changeable, either manually or via audience targeting software. 

Meanwhile, dashboards allow for the personalization of content while limiting access to applications and services based on the user's role within the organization. 

The dashboard above is more focused on helping users find information rather than getting tasks done. Each of the six portlets is collecting and aggregating data that will be utilized in making important business decisions or solving issues.

Some of the portals that a user is interested in might change, requiring consistent integration and attention to the changing user needs.

2. Content that engages and informs readers

What is a website portal if it cannot help users resolve issues on their own? You need to provide customers with content in the form of FAQs, manuals or how-to guides. 

Onsite blogs are a good way to update customers on the latest company products, events or other relevant industry-specific information. Ensure the information is fresh, as it not only encourages customer loyalty but also earns the organization some credibility. 

The more specialized an organization is, the more specific the information will need to be. For example, a student will not expect to find hospital data on their university portal.

3. Access and permission: external and internal

Portals are not a marketplace that anyone can access. They usually require a login that can be external or internal. Whereas a customer portal can display almost all the website information, an employee portal mostly provides access to an anonymous user's page.

Access will significantly determine the structure of your web portal because it will influence maintenance and the general design of your portal. An internal customer service portal that needs all users to log in has extra control over the individuals that access the site, letting them concentrate on easy and effective search, easy navigation and updates on pending orders.

A customer portal on a public retail site will need to focus on integrating user-specific features, hiding sensitive information, SSO integration and customer loyalty management.

Make your portal website SEO friendly

Four factors are important in providing insights into the user-friendliness of your website. They include the bounce rate, time on site and page per session metrics and website visits. 

An SEO-friendly website needs to have relatable and valuable information as highlighted earlier. It will help attract new visitors and engage them on the web for long periods of time. You can also optimize your site with target keywords based on the search volumes or keyword efficiency index to improve your ranks among the search engine result pages (SERPs). 

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