5.20 Web Portals

The term is overused, but portals are typically doorways on the Internet that bring together sites and services organized about some common theme — local community, interest group, commercial activity or market sector. Additional features encourage interest and repeat visits: discussion forum, surveys, expertise directories, etc. Income usually comes from advertising or listing fees.

Portal Types

Web portals are often grouped as:

1. Horizontal: cover many areas of interest.
2. Vertical: specialized entry point to a specific market or industry niche, subject area, or interest.
3. News portals: many online newspapers adopt this format.
4. Government portals providing information on departments and services.
5. Corporate web portals to manage data, workflow and policy issues.
6. Stock portals providing shareholders with latest prices, news and business reports
7. Search portals aggregating results from several search engines.
8. Tenders portals where proposals are submitted and assessed on line.
9. Hosted web servers offered by hosting companies as a service.
10. Domain servers grouped about a common interest, service or industry.

Portal Builds

In order of increased cost and difficulty in setting up, companies generally:

1. Add portal features to an existing ecommerce site, e.g.:

        targeted emails
        surveys
        newsletters
        discussion boards
        chat pages
        calendars of events
        resource directories
        free software or services

2. Rent an ecommerce portal. The package allows them:

        full control over appearance and makeup of site
        unlimited directories and subdirectories, with access control
        control over search-engine attractiveness of individual pages
        foreign language versions if required
        facilities for visitors to rate content
        facilities for banner ads, including rotation manager
        full control over facilities listed above, i.e. mails, surveys, discussion
        boards, chat pages, resource directories, free software or service
        libraries, newsletters

3. Use a commercial package to build an ecommerce portal with the features listed above. Host on their own or a dedicated server.

4. Use a commercial package to build a customer relationship management portal with these facilities:

        directory of customers:
        contact and company details
        customer feedback
        company turnover, history and terms applying
        purchase history
        employee handling account

        inventory control
        order tracker
        inventory control
        supplies tracker

        directory of suppliers
        contact and company details
        company turnover, history and terms applying
        supply history
        employee handling account

5. Use a commercial package to build an information portal providing these facilities:

        directory of customers as above
        inventory control as above
        directory of suppliers as above
        public relations and marketing     

        press releases
        annual reports
        faqs
        company events
        customer surveys
        marketing reports
        ad tracking
        customer services

        feedback
        surveys
        problem ticketing and management
        human resources

        employee details
        directory of skills and experience
        positions vacant

        office management
        responsibilities and company procedures
        room/meeting scheduling
        departmental faqs

        warehouse control
        inventories
        supply chain management
        order placement and tracking

6. Build from scratch (i.e. code themselves) an information portal with the features listed above.

Examples

It is also worth noting that:

1. 'Portal' has become a buzzword and the term can now mean almost anything.
2. Information portals often require major restructuring of company procedures, when benefits may be slow to appear.
3. Boundaries between various types (including vortal or vertical portal) are somewhat blurred, and there is little to distinguish information portals from corporation extranets or large content management systems.
4. AOL and search engine directories are often seen as portals: MSN and Yahoo, for example.

A few 'out of the box' packages:

Product

Platform

Currencies

Company

Size

Market

Database

IBM

Websphere

W U

$ + +

M L

Y

Liferay

 

$ + +

S M L

Y

Absolute Portal

W U

$ +

S M L

Y

DynaPortal

W U

(ColdFusion)

$ +

S M

Y

Oracle

W U

$ +

S M L

Y

Portal

Software (UK)

W

$ + +

S M

flat file

Questions

1. What is a portal? List the common types.
2. What, listed in order of difficulty, are the options in setting up a portal site?
3. What features would you expect from a commercial package?
4. Suppose you wanted the full facilities of a commercial portal, but also something with a 'human face' like social media. How would you find/develop such a system?

Sources and Further Reading

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