A web portal is a web-based interface that allows various participants in a business to access data according to their requirements and positions. An institution’s data and information traffic may be better handled with increased efficiency using a web portal.
Creating a web gateway reduces reliance on traditional means of transmitting critical information, such as phone calls, faxes, and even emails. Depending on the objectives you want to achieve, several iterations of portals can be developed to serve your specific functions, spanning varieties like customer portals, vendor portals, partner/associate portals, affiliate portals, and more.
Although the terms “website” and “web portal” are sometimes used interchangeably, there are important distinctions. Building a web portal differs from developing a website.
We will talk about developing web portals, as well as varying types of web portals, to understand not just their purpose but also the potential applications for a variety of users.
What Are the Types of Web Portals
There are several types of web portals with different purposes. Each purpose defines how we build web portal functionality and the result. Let’s talk about the most recurring portals:
B2B and B2C eCommerce portals are created to make interaction and payments between merchants and buyers easier and faster. These portals are sales, marketing, and customer/client support tools. They are incorporated into the company’s digital infrastructure and supply chain process.
B2C portals are popular and quite common. In contrast with simple online stores where customers can browse the product categories, buy something, and go, B2C portals give users more features to promote customer retention and improve the user experience.
The extra features include e-Wallets, offers, discounts, an account to manage aspects like rewards and order history, among other eCommerce-oriented tools.
A B2B eCommerce portal is a self-service portal that allows businesses to purchase and buy items while also managing connections with suppliers and associates. Wholesalers, manufacturers, distributors, and other firms wanting to minimize costs, improve the purchase process, and boost efficiency are increasingly turning to vendor and partner portals.
eHealth portals for patients and physicians have had a significant impact on healthcare performance, particularly in terms of patients’ satisfaction and outcomes.
Patients can use patient web portals to gain safe access to their data, including test results, medical history, appointments, and more. It also enables connection and communication with healthcare practitioners such as physicians, clinics, and hospitals. Making appointments, checking medical history, communicating, and refilling prescriptions are the most prevalent patient portal services.
Doctor portals serve as an online hub for medical practitioners to access vital information about their patients and business functions. It is frequently combined with web EHR (EMR) and practice management systems as part of a wider healthcare management system.
Banking portals are some of the most commonly used portals these days. They provide users with an account to manage their banking services and facilitate fast and efficient transactions. The portals may be made in different ways to cater to different parties in the financial business.
For instance, investors and brokers have their own portals for tracking the markets, news, and analysis.
Student portals are among the most common web portals used in online learning. Colleges and universities use them to offer students important information regarding curriculum and academic programs and assist them in organizing the educational experience and monitoring their progress.
Employee portals allow employees to quickly access employment information (such as skills training, calendars, and process data), as well as project management and collaboration tools. B2E portals, like other forms of web portals, are often incorporated into a company’s infrastructure and, in some situations, are only accessible through private corporate networks.
Community portals are not all the same but are built with the same intent for different purposes. They can organize the community, inform members of crucial developments, manage assets, and more.
Across the world, governments have transitioned from using paper processing to offer services or enable access to public resources. They can be used for accessing and interacting with essential information like employment, taxation, law, immigration, and more.
Common Features Included in Web Portal Design
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it contains features that are often part of the web portal development process regarding design.
Personalization is critical to the web portal’s effectiveness and the delivery of pertinent information to users. Personalization enables users to view just the information that they require in a web portal when access is restricted according to their function.
Any program, including a web portal, has to have intuitive or easy-to-use navigation. By including this functionality in your web portal development, you can encourage individuals to interact with the portal more frequently by making it simple to understand.
Push notifications act as reminders that show up on a user’s desktop without opening up the portal and checking constantly. It assists the user in receiving or knowing about the most recent changes or information given in the web portal while the user is not actively using it.
The web portal should be able to respond to changes in the environment. The user may not utilize it if it takes too long to load. It should be fast and easy to use. This isn’t a fad but a requirement in any portal.
Step-by-step process for Web Portal Development
As we have seen from the types of web portals available, what they can do, and why they’re built, it is time to talk about how to develop a web portal. In the development world, templates work just fine, but only up to a point. Developers are well-placed to remove these limitations.
When building a portal, we have an exhaustive process that can be condensed into the following steps:
Web portal planning
Like any other development process, we start by planning out the project. The process has to consider several crucial things to properly cater to the target audience and serve the objectives for which the portal is built.
In our planning stages of how to create a portal website, we consider:
The primary purpose of the portal
It is critical to analyze the underlying problem and fix it for your web portal to deliver the most value and achieve its purpose. While your motivation for developing or purchasing a gateway may arise from a specific problem, this is likely a side consequence of a larger problem.
When dealing with this ‘symptom’ on its own, you wind up with an inflexible solution that may have trouble merging with other components or operations.
Delving to the root of the problem allows you to see what other aspects of your company are affected. This increased visibility will enable you to develop functionality encompassing the whole problem, lowering the danger of neglecting any associated challenges.
The desired outcomes
Setting goals is a crucial part of creating a successful web portal. Ultimately, your solution’s results should be in line with your goals. You want to be as straightforward as possible when establishing your build goals, comparable to how you would achieve those goals for your organization.
First, identify the essential measures that will be used to assess the project’s performance. Using quantifiable qualities ensures that your solution directly tackles challenges.
Polling users is a great way to find out what they expect to use frequently, to form a baseline of features and functionalities to include. It’s crucial to remember that not all of your users will require the same features from your online portal. Take notice of these distinctions to ensure that your functionality is accessible to your whole user base.
A major benefit of using online portals is combining data from many sources. The smartest approaches take into account essential systems and your whole data landscape.
Mapping all of your company’s current legacy systems, apps, data warehouses, and technologies will aid in determining integration needs beforehand.
Web portal architecture
At this point, we have learned how to make a portal site through careful planning and determined your business and technical needs. After that, we detail the high-level and low-level portal design stages.
An overview of high-level and low-level portal architecture
The high-level portal design explains the system’s architecture and the foundation for the solution’s low-level design. Furthermore, the high-level design must explain a logical architecture that fits the specified business and technological requirements.
The logical architecture is divided into sections based on the different applications that make up the system and how users interact with it.
The high-level design is the initial iteration of an architectural strategy to satisfy business and technological needs. The high-level design considers issues like:
- Is the suggested architecture capable of meeting both commercial and technological needs?
- Is there any way to improve this design?
- What is the system’s physical structure?
- What is the relationship between the components and their interconnection?
- What is the logical definition of the various kinds of users and the systems and applications they have access to?
- Are there any other architectures that could achieve this?
- Is there room in the architecture for more hardware to be added to the system as web traffic grows over time?
The low-level design specifies the methods and standards we’ll use to develop the portal as well as the solution’s actual hardware and software components, such as:
- The portal complex’s connection to the “outside world.” We also look at security concerns, protocols, bandwidth, and links to other programs or external sites.
- User interfaces, content presentation and categorization, data sources, feeds, and all parts of the information architecture.
- Organizational, sub-organizational, role, group, and user strategy and design crucial to long-term success.
- The portal’s integration approach, including how it works as a hub for aggregating and integrating different types of data and bringing people together in innovative ways.
In simple terms, this level entails laying out the design of things like a contact form, a search bar, fonts, images, colors, and more.
Web portal development
Developers concentrate on creating a web-based platform that consumers may utilize to control various functionalities as needed. There are several tools and platforms used in the development of portal solutions and apps, including:
- MySQL (SQL), Cassandra (NoSQL), Oracle (SQL), and AWS are examples of databases (cloud).
- Amazon Kinesis, Azure Stream Analytics, and RabbitMQ are examples of real-time data processing solutions.
- Back-end technologies like Node.js, Python, and.NET are supported by cloud platforms like AWS, Rackspace, and Digital Ocean.
- Mobile platforms such as IOS, Android, Flutter, and Cordova.
- Front-end technologies such as HTML5, Meteor, and Angular CMSs such as WordPress, Magento, and Salesforce
Your needs and our previous experience developing effective portals will determine the tool or platforms we work with. Our development focuses on proper UI & UX, image placement, optimizing for all devices, intuitive navigation, offering relevant information, and more.
Testing and maintenance are the last stages of the web portal creation process. Testing aids in the detection of flaws created during the development phase. Conducting a variety of Quality Assurance tests helps to work out minor flaws and faults, resulting in bug-free portals.
Load testing, software testing, integration testing, and other tests can be performed while building a web portal. These tests will determine whether or not your portal is ready to go live and be used.
Before launching a web portal, we do:
- Documentation testing. The process reviews the documents provided to see the final layout of the site and make plans for further tests.
- Functionality testing. Functional testing ensures that each website feature works as expected according to the required definition. Testing the operation of the website demonstrates “What the system does.” It focuses on checking things like:
- Testing links – Outbound links, internal links, self-referencing links, email links, pages referenced, and broken links.
- Forms testing – Forms are used to interact with users and should be checked for input data validity, allows values for the field, invalid inputs for the field, and option for deleting or modifying form data where applicable.
- Cookies testing – We test the portal when it has enabled and disabled cookies, verify cookie encryption before writing it on the user’s machine, check security aspects when cookies are removed, and check cookies with a duration of action on whether they are active for the time indicated.
- HTML/CSS Validation – This phase tests HTML syntax issues, verifies the portal is visible to search engine users, and makes sure the page has an accurate map in HTML and XML format.
- User experience (UX) usability testing. Usability aims to check that the portal works as intended by availing it to test users who will look at navigation and content, for the most part. For more usability evaluation, check if the portal is understandable and convenient, what impression it may leave on a user, and if it has bloat that needs removing.
- UI (User Interface) testing. User interface tests to ensure that the graphic user interface achieves the intended effect on the users. We check to ensure that it complies with the best practices, the design elements (layout, font, text, label, colors, font size, buttons, captions, icons, links, etc.) serve the portal, and that different screen resolutions display the portal properly across tablets, PCs, and smartphones.
- Compatibility testing. Compatibility testing checks for software and hardware configurations, including operating systems, browsers, and databases. This phase includes cross-platform, cross-browser, database, and printing compatibility checks.
- Performance testing. Performance testing checks how responsive and stable a portal is under various loads. The portals undergo stress, load, stability, volume, concurrency, endurance, page load speed testing.
- Security testing. Security testing focuses on the surfaces exposed to find and fix every vulnerability that may lead to leaking personal data. For this, testers do penetration testing and vulnerability testing to try and breach the site to identify any cracks.
- Change-related testing. After all the testing mentioned above, changes to found bugs may not stick and may produce new problems. To hedge against the damage this could cause, the developers do re-testing (confirming fixes) and regression testing (checking for new defects).
- Mobile-friendliness testing. More people use their mobile devices to check things online than use PCs. For that reason, the portal has to be optimized to work as fast and efficiently as possible on mobile devices. The experience must be checked to ensure that it does not have limitations or cut features and conveniences that PC users enjoy.
- Beta testing. Beta testing means availing the portal to users who are not part of your team to evaluate it for weaknesses that your team members may not have noticed. It also allows the developers to get feedback on what may need changing in the portal to ensure that when it gets to the users, they have the intended experience.
Web portal management
When it comes to web portals, you can opt to pay a third party to do it for you. However, if you do it yourself or use an in-house team, you’ll need to know a few things about managing web portals.
Let’s go through some of them for your checklist of how to make a web portal work for you.
Choose a favorable solution
Ideally, you want a solution to give you a custom experience tailored to your specific needs. Customization allows a business not to compromise on its processes, customer engagement, or stated objectives since it creates a portal that follows your requirements, with the ability to change to accommodate its own evolution over time.
Ensure you have drag and drop functions
Drag and drop functions allow you to manage the items in the web portal with simple clicks. Changing elements to fit a specific layout require only drag & drop. The function allows the dragging of any CRM field to a form, using point and click editing tools.
Page templates allow the admin to apply styles and branding on all pages easily. It also allows for the creation and addition of widgets and other elements to a page, using very little time from start to finish.
Security is a big part of the process, so permissions and roles have to be clearly defined from the beginning. For easy management of authentication and data access, use tools like dynamics CRM and Dynamics 365 to control which contacts can see the information and what information it is.
The appropriate tools can also allow you to reset passwords when an account seems suspicious, define user names, define security roles and apply changes to specific pages or individual page elements in the portal.
Creating and editing forms is a significant aspect of web portal management. Ideally, you should have a drag & drop function to create new forms for purposes like facilitating the creation of user profiles. You should have easy control over the layout and field placements on the forms. The fields on the form and items should also be easy to add or remove.
If the portal is intended for business, adding capabilities like payment gateways is crucial. Along with that, you should build pages for the checkout and product listings. For commerce, you need to define shipping options, automatically calculate the shipping costs calculation and configure payment choices with payment processors.
The process is undoubtedly a long one with many challenges to overcome. When followed correctly and by professionals, the process should be helpful and serve to expand the portal’s usefulness.
If your KPIs and criteria are met, you can expand the portal’s user base and track performance in real-time. Working with a good portal application development firm may help you design a portal that runs well without losing time, money, or damaging your user reputation.
When it comes to developing web portals, we recommend using the services of professional developers with the experience to get it right.