The best portal software is able to meet both the current and future needs of the organization. A portal is a specially designed website that provides a host of related services, typically targeted to the user based on his or her profile or preference. The term portal was historically used to describe a port or location of multiple loading and offloading activities. It is now used to describe a multi-function website that includes public and private sections, data retrieval and submissions tools, personalized content, and often links or connections to related systems or services.
The technology required to support this type of website structure became widely available in the mid 1990s, with the advent of user management functionality as part of a portal software packages. The ability to provide personalized, user-specific content is central to the core functionality of an Internet portal. The ease at which administrators can add users, create roles, and manage this process is very important when evaluating different portal software applications.
Content management is usually a feature bundled into the portal software. The ability to select material that is accessible to a specific type of user, and separate it from the public data is difficult to do without a content management feature. This tool should be designed with an administrative assistant in mind. Test the features with someone who will need to use it in his or her job to ensure it is intuitive to use. This is the only way to properly evaluate the usability of a tool.
Creating and maintaining an information portal is a new technological development and has resulted in the creation of new jobs and career paths. There are two skill areas required to support this type of portal: computer systems and content management. This type of website requires a dedicated web server that can support both public (http) and private (https) sections. There needs to be a mechanism or program to manage requests for user identification and passwords, and well as the ability to remind users of their passwords or allow them to reset the password.
Carefully check the skills required to manage and administer the portal software. Research the availability of these skill sets, and their relative value in the marketplace. The very best portal software may require staff who have rare skills and are extremely expensive to employ. Look for technology that is based on commonly used platforms, so resources are easier to find.