In today’s world of new Media, the Internet is the best medium to reach out to target audiences and getting the message out there. The World Wide Web has proven time and time again that it is a wining factor and success story for many businesses, campaigns and reach out programs from EBAY to the U.S Presidential Elections.
But what is a Web Portal and what makes it special one may ask. A Web Portal is an information medium that allows people to know more; be it a product, an organization or community. It is very much like a book that describes itself. Books come in different flavors such as Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Atlas Maps or Fiction etc. Just like Books, Web Portals are no different; they come in all sorts’ perspectives and designs. Just to name a few:
- Intranet Portals
- Internet Portals
- Online Magazines
- Collaborative Portals
- E-Commerce Portals
- Informative Portals
- News Portals
- Game Portals
- Community Portals
But what make a Web Portal Successful? Just like a Book, a Web Portal must cater its content to its readers and be designed to captivate their attention. The focus is not only on the features and technology but rather on what the users want and how they want it.
How do you achieve a successful Web Portal? Creative Design is the key to a successful Implementation. However, the key word in that statement is Design, a misconception many people have. On a facial level, design is what you see and how it looks, however, this only the graphical design and if that is the perception of what design is then it is merely a deception.
Take Ferrari for example, it is an object of great visual and captivating design; it really looks good and is the object of desire for many. However, what makes a Ferrari great is its Architectural design, it packs a powerful punch on the road and the controls are as elegant as its looks and have I even mentioned the Interior yet?
A successful Portal design looks into several design factors; the Information Architecture Design, the Interface Design, the Functional Design and the Technical Design. Information Architecture looks into how the Information is structure and organized; just like a book if the content page is a mess you can expect no less from its content. The Interface Design refers to how the Users will Interact with the Portal, just like the Ferrari if the controls are not intuitive or smooth one can only expect a result of ‘crash and burn’. Functional Design looks into the Design of the Functionality or Features to be implemented; if the functional design is not usable people will just walk away. The last design criterion is not really a design that one looks at but affects everything and that is the Technical design. The Technical design puts the entire Design requirement in place and makes everything happen. Some would refer to this as technology. It is heart and soul of the Portal, like roads that cars drive on; if it is carefully planned and well maintained one can expect avoiding the chaos that prevails the streets of Bangkok.
This article looks into the Web Portals of today and what you as a Portal Owner or future Owner can expect. Section below looks into typical Web system and their features as well as what current Web Technologies has to offer and their purpose.
Common Features of Websites
To start off on your journey to creating a Web Portal, you’ll need to decide on a baseline system or in this case a Management System. In today’s industry, we call this a Web Content Management System or WCMS. The objective is to select an all-in-one or full featured Web Content Management platform that enables you to rapidly create, deploy and manage an Interactive web, intranet or extranet Portals using robust out-of-the-box functionality or having the ability to create custom applications.
Having such an easy-to-use and cost-effective system, organizations can do what they want on the Web, including developing rich, dynamic content, with personalization to enable two-way communication with their visitors. Thus building their brand and online presence or fostering community and attracting repeat visits to increase activity and boosting online presences
The following are some features that should be available out of the box from the solution.
Allow business users and non-technical personnel to add, author and update and manage their Web content anytime and anywhere. Apply workflows with approvals and permissions processors as well as maintain a complete history of the changes are key features which are required for any enterprise level CMS. The Editing of content should be as easy as editing a Microsoft® Word document
Increases site "stickiness" by giving visitors their own place to create an online persona, establish groups and invite their friends to join. Participation in site’s social network encourages the type of interaction and viral marketing that has real business value. Social networking is also a powerful collaborative tool for your business’ portal. Allowing for activities such as coworkers creating project workspaces through which others can efficiently find information and work together.
Search and Search Engine Optimization
Always find the document that you need quickly and easily with complete built-in searching. Searching is faster with the help of complete content indexing and results will be more accurate with powerful options such as synonym and suggested results. A CMS that includes the tools for creating a Web site that is fully optimized for search engines with complete metadata support for all Web site content, images, assets and even multimedia will be the key for the search engine criteria.
Blogging and Forums
Ability to build an online community of your own with forums and bring your forum alive with powerful enterprise-level enhancements like taxonomy integration and permissions are requirements to look out for with regards blogs and forum features.
It should have support for all browsers with cross-browser editing support. Ability to apply workflow to blog entries or use structured content for consistent blog postings as well as allow commenting to calendars and RSS feeds with no additional code is a key functionality that should be available in the CMS.
Memberships, Subscriptions and Web Alerts
The Membership model is the key to building inter- action and relationships with your Web site visitors and members. Visitors can register to become a part of your membership base. Once registered users’ can subscribe to content on your site, personalize Web pages and even have HTML forms auto populate their information.
The system should support hierarchal taxonomy that allows classification and structured web pages and managed documents into logical groupings based on their content. Using any number of taxonomy trees predefined by CMS administrators, content can be categorized into structured parent-child navigation. The system taxonomy should also provide the option of tagging one piece of content with many different category associations; the benefit is to provide the ability to repurpose content in many areas of your site. In addition, taxonomy can also be used to limit the scope of a search to reduce the amount of irrelevant content returned, providing a very powerful site navigation tool.
Wiki Directory Content
By adding Wiki capabilities to the public website, encourage site visitors to participate in online community and promote openness in reading and authoring content. Start sharing information through an online encyclopedia, a site for frequently asked questions, a knowledge base or a simple message board where visitors contribute to articles and content. Anyone visiting the site’s wiki-defined pages can edit, update and add web pages quickly and easily and with no knowledge of HTML or wiki syntax.
Personalization and Portals
Let your site visitors to build their own customized view of your web pages with a wide array of content options. You provide and manage the options, ensuring the allowed customizations are easy and straight forward for your site visitor experience. Controls, such as threaded discussions, blogs, forms, calendars, content lists and polls. Users can drag-and-drop these control frames into template-style “drop zones” to personalize their website experience.
Advanced HTML Form Builder
An easy to create a two-way dialog with site visitors by enabling them to submit information, data and questions via Web forms is a useful feature for system administrator. With wizard-like tool this lets the owner build forms and form-based applications, and route the data collected to the right individual or group for processing.
Polls and Survey
Encourage interaction with your Web site visitors with online polls and surveys. Questions are generated easily with built-in form wizard. Overall results can be displayed instantly when submitted. Use for market research, customer satisfaction and other feedback.
Having a Document Management System (DMS) engine allows users to interact with the system within a familiar folder structure on their local machine, navigate the information architecture folder structure from their Web browser. Map network drives right to the Web, apply permissions, workflows, and approvals and maintain a complete history of changes over time are key benefits of a robust DMS. The result is improved performance and user experience, reducing the learning curve and increasing user adoption.
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