|Important Factors in building a Portal|
What are the most important factors when building a strong portal community?
What are the key elements that make up a strong portal.
What is the best portal and why?
Any suggestions are appreciated.
I'm a bit confused, as "portal" and "community" is not exactly the same in my world. Perhaps you could clarify a bit?
My initial answer would be "relevance" though - this applies to both. Do set a target group for the site and focus on the needs of this group.
In your opinon what do you think a portal is?
I look at it this way, a portal is a starting place for people (a destination site). In which it will provide many alternatives on and off the site.
Also, with many services and features included, communication tools are in place to facilitate building community faster.
With all of these services, features and community tools in place to a demographic what makes it or breaks it?
Branding, Marketing, Customer Support, Software, Needs etc?
hmm.. it can get lenghty and off topic, but i'll try to be brief...
>> portal is a starting place for people (a destination site)
Now, let's say you like having a few beers with your friends, chat and discuss a bit at the local pub. When leaving your home, that pub would be your destination. One pub may be filled wit Search Engine fanatics, one with fishing fanatics, one with football fanatics, and so on. Let's say this was on the www, then this "destination point" might be a place like WebmasterWorld. That's a community to me.
If you were new to the country, or just new to the pubs of that particular area, you might try going to the tourist information office or something similar to that. This office might have some info on pubs, and some info on theatres, cafes, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, etc. as well. That would be the portal to me.
On the web, it might be a place like MSN, Yahoo, Lycos. This adds a level of confusion, as there are such things as the Lycos chat, and the MSN/Yahoo groups, that are communities and not portals (although they are part of a portal). I think my view sums up to these two points:
1) A portal can have some community elements, but a community rarely has portal elements.
2) A community is a destination site (you want to go exactly there and nowhere similar) while a portal is something you visit when looking for a broader set of alternatives.
Take a "Search Engine / SEO" Portal as an example. Of course it would have links to WW. And it might have members and a discussion forum as well. But it would also have links to pure informational sites, and to other forums than WW. And it would have editorial content, articles and the like about the subject. Some people would go both places and some would prefer just one of the two, as they have different perspective and are relevant for different purposes.
Hope this clarified my perspective.
|Hope this clarified my perspective. |
Yes you clarified, in your opinon, the differnece between the two but my question is what makes it or breaks it?
Let's say that WW was to expand to become the world largest webmaster portal. In developing a portal I mean adding many services. Instant Messenging, clubs, webpage tools etc.
Is it just the community that makes or breaks a portal? What would the portal have to do for the community to expand. What is Y! or MSN doing to keep their people?
If there was 10 webmaster portals how would WW become number one.
P.S. I agree with you that you can have a community without a portal but not a LIVING portal without community.
[edited by: RobbieD at 12:14 pm (utc) on Aug. 11, 2003]
I agree with Claus.
|I look at it this way, a portal is a starting place for people (a destination site). |
That's a contradiction.
A portal is indeed a starting place, but it's not a destination. A "portal" is a something that takes you elsewhere.
A lift takes you from the ground floor to the first floor. The lift is not your destination, the first floor is. The lift is a portal.
Are you talking about the combination of the two to be something similar to Yahoo! (with geocities, Yahoo! groups etc.)?
|Let's say that WW was to expand to become the world largest webmaster portal. |
OK, I think the risk with that is WebmasterWorld to become a portal would have to start linking to other sites but that can have an effect of "splitting" the community and spreading everyone out too thinly - we all end up in other places.
Can you give a basic description of what the site you want to build has?
|A portal is indeed a starting place, but it's not a destination. A "portal" is a something that takes you elsewhere. |
I disagree. While I think what you are saying has truth to it, it is not the full truth.
Yes, a "portal" can take you elsewhere but I think the long term goal of most portals is to retain a loyal following to most of their In-House services. Most people that use portals on a daily basis also use one or more of the services quite often if not daily.
My question is still what makes or breaks a portal?
Why are Y! and MSN so popular? Just the brand? Most people? If the answer is yes to either of them, then what is the secret to building a new portal?
[edited by: RobbieD at 12:11 pm (utc) on Aug. 11, 2003]
Building a portal:
1. Search - make it good for finding sites and other stuff. Portal means doorway so it needs to be that.
2. Make it essential to people to return to and recommend to others. People do not discard what is useful to their needs.
3. Make it timely, so they will return often.
Those three things can apply to nearly anything from a general portal like Yahoo to a topic specific portal like "Widgethoo."
What can make it or break it depends on what you want to make.
If it's a portal, the key word is versatility.
If community - it's comfort (like in that very pub example).
While "Branding, Marketing, Customer Support, Software, Needs etc" are nothing but the tools that might help you to reach the goal.
|Can you give a basic description of what the site you want to build has? |
We are becoming the largest portal for our demographic in a very competitive market. We offer many services and features. A short list includes:
Website building tools (geocities)
While most of our competition has been online for 6-7 years we are moving up fast for only being online for 2 years.
My question is what makes or breaks a portal?
Thanks for all the comments so far :)
|Yes, a "portal" can take you elsewhere but I think the long term goal of most portals is to retain a loyal following to most of their In-House services. Most people that use portals on a daily basis also use one or more of the services quite often if not daily. |
Yes, I take your point.
|What makes or breaks a portal |
- Speed of servers.
- Quality and speed of search results.
- Ease of use and layout. Customisable layout done in a way that makes sense (yahoo! is rubbish at this). So chat, forums etc are fully integrated into the site in a way that I can take the information that I want and shove it on the main index page. Latest postings on the forums I watch, latest news in my town, weather etc.....
*Make me want to make you my home page.*
Brand awareness is critical, but that only gets people to your site, you have to make them stick.
|Customisable layout done in a way that makes sense (yahoo! is rubbish at this). |
Can you expand on this?
I would have to re-iterate something that's already been said as the make or break of a portal.
>> 3. Make it timely, so they will return often.
I can't say I use any "Portals" quite in the way you define them here aside from maybe WW though it doesn't seem to quite fit the definitions being bounced around here. However my girlfriend does regularly use MSN and from time to time she sends me some of their interesting articles. What keeps her going back is the content (beating that old dead horse again).
However with your specific layout in mind, considering the ream of topics and features your portal seems to be covering I don't think you will have any silver bullet that will make everyone enjoy everything. I would suggest focusing on one or two or three of your components and making it better than everyone elses. If each one of your services is only mediocre compared to the competition, people will not come. People will rather seek out the best of each of your categories and visit those. Again to my gf, although she reads the articles for MSN, she never goes there if she's searching for something on the web. Google loads up a lot faster for her.
If you're the best (or near best) at something you will draw an audience that will probably stick around to check out what else you have to offer.
I myself am building a portal as well, though it's for a captive audience so I'm fortunate enough not to have to deal with many of the issues you're wrestling with.
Fluid layout that I control - so I want maybe three columns with search and perhaps directory information in the middle and I want to be able to fill the left and right columns with blocks of information from your site in the manner that I decide.
So maybe I would want regional weather at the top left and news underneath that (your services) and at the right I would like messaging facilities (SMS or instant messaging) and underneath that a block showing the latest postings in any forum threads (or other "community" related stuff) that I'm keeping an eye on.
Yahoo! have attempted to do this, but it doesn't offer you a great deal of control. However you try it, the page ends up looking messy (a reason I don't use a portal, I just built my own "homepage" using a couple of iFrames).
I want complete control - if I just want a blank white page with a search box in the middle (like google for example) and maybe a link to a couple of your services, then I should be able to have that.
I like a homepage that's clean and simple. Others will want to be bombarded with stockmarket quotes and news stories. So the more customisable it is, the wider audience you would attract.
I guess a facility to achieve the same result as if you had built your own homepage from scratch (like I did), importing the content you want from your selection offered and placing it where you want. Oh, and I don't want any adverts I'm afraid!
And it goes without saying that the quality of content that you offer is critical.
This is of course, only my personal view on it, but does that help?
|I myself am building a portal as well, though it's for a captive audience so I'm fortunate enough not to have to deal with many of the issues you're wrestling with. |
I would say that our audience is very captive, loyal and enthusiastic about our site. My question was raised to find other peoples thoughts on how to continue with this trend. We are growing at a good rate but without a huge advertising budget I would like to know the competative edge we should be focusing on. Most of our competition have deep pockets and they are not happy with what they see with this "little fish". A few have approached us with a "possible acquisition" mindset but nothing has materialized. (trying to find out our secrets)!
Our brand is great, search engine saturation is good and word of mouth is phenomenal! What do we do to take it to the next level?
We are always watching the big boys like Y! and MSN and just thought there were "secrets" they were using and would like ideas to do the same.
Thanks for all your feedback.
Well it sounds like you're doing all of the right things, and I don't know that there's any real roadmap to move from where you are to where you want to go. If you feel that all that's keeping you from breaking in to the larger market is the deep pockets or larger advertising budget, then maybe you need to approach this from the business side rather than the technical. Find bigger/better sources of income to help drive your growth. Other than that there are just two ideas left in my mind that might not be that useful; make one of your features the best in the business or develop something new that none of your competitors have. I realise who you're trying to compete with here and those last two ideas are probably unrealistic, but maybe not...
I think most of us here agree with the definition of “community”, but a web portal is more difficult to define.
Some members say it is a place that takes you to other places (usually outside the portal), other members say it is a place that offers some kind of web-services (email, news, weather, search, chat, forums, entertainment, etc.). In the second opinion, the goal of the so-called portal is to get a number of constant users, people that would constantly visit the website to use its services. In the first definition, the goal of the so-called portal is to be the “gateway” and starting point to visit other websites (kind of a directory?). The goals are not the same, and it would be good to really define what a portal is. The problem grows when we see “portals” that take both approaches (they offer different web services and a directory of related websites).
And what about a place like about.com? It is to me like a portal, because it’s an starting point to get information about many different topics, or a very related topic, but the information is always provided by the website, it surely offers outbound links to other relevant resources, but you are encouraged to “keep” inside the site looking their information. They don’t precisely offer web-services like email or chat, the importance is that they offer a lot of specific information about a lot of topics (related or not). Add to this news and interesting articles delivered in a regular basis and you have a website that people will be visiting constantly; could this be another “type” of portal?
Very interesting thread!
I wouldent go so far as to say a portal isn't a destnation. I agree that a portsl is an entry point but more often than not the large portals are offering the services within their own branding.
My take on "what is a portal?" would be an internet crossroad where you can get to many online services, either offered by the portal as one of their offerings or another site.
Thought I would mention that we currently run a few products that are 100% exclusive in our market. This is good but for how long? Once our competition "moves" by developing their own products like ours then what?
Also, remember at this time these products and services are free but we will be moving to optional advanced paid memberships very soon.
Sure we have first move advantage in a few areas but is $$ the only way to be at the top?
We have seen many portals die. What did they do wrong?
Again, back to the original question...
What makes or breaks a portal?
Thanks for the continued thoughts expressed in this thread.
One more point.
You can have a great search engine without "community"
Some people here are thinking of a portal as just a search engine. I think the word "portal" on the web has developed far beyond the original meaning...
>> My question is still what makes or breaks a portal?
I run 4 "portals" in a B2B environment. IMO, the key to any portal is a compelling reason to visit - one that is over and above those of your competition.
Yes, this goes for any site, but is so vital for portals that offer a wide range of services/information to a specific sector.
We went from a free site to paid; this move made us focus even harder on the "compelling reason" issue. We have continued to add new features to the site, usually at the request of members. Only by doing this have we kept ahead of the competition.
For us, the most important reason why people visit is the quality and quantity of news/articles/research in our 4 vertical areas. The news will involve material not seen elsewhere and all the content we own - it is not syndicated material.
Oh - and finally, good customer service to the members. Make them feel valued.
well... said it would probably be OT didn't i?... anyway, MSN has their hotmail, groups and games, plus they have lately made arrangement with a lot of interesting content providers (i mentioned espn in another thread a while ago), so they actually have something to go there for. Oh, and then there's the MSN Search page incorporated in IE.
Yahoo's also got mail, news, finance, as well as personals, groups etc. - again, it's the content.
So a big reason for growth of portals is the many services?
Just keep added more and more?