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Portals, Gateways, Content Portals

Sandra Prior
Jul 8, 2008
Most people know how frustrating Internet searches can be, frequently returning thousands of irrelevant results and making it seemingly impossible to find what you're looking for. This is a huge and expensive work. Companies have recognized this problem and are formulating solutions to aggregate information so that less time and effort are spent online, resulting in increased productivity and better utilization of human resources.

How do you provide instant access to knowledge in context to the user requesting the information without them having to perform a search, look at the results page for relevance, refine the search, page through more results, and finally source the information or simply give up? You develop a portal that has links to relevant sites.

The traditional definition of a portal site is a 'gateway' - a site that offers hundreds of links to new and exciting sites on the Internet. Portals developed as a service to people required assistance in getting to their destination sites.

Portals are meant to be transition pages that help web surfers find what they're looking for. Portals typically function as in-and-out sites, not destinations. They hope people will come here several times per day, or week.

The content on a site aims to keep visitors at that particular site for as long as possible. The longer they stay, the higher the page impressions, the more subscribers they can register, the more advertising they can attract and the more they can grow and develop. One of the potential traps into which content portals frequently fail, is trying to be 'all things to all users'. They attempt to be gateways, but try to keep users on their site for as long as possible. The result is a site trying to function as a news service, auction house, recruitment agency, travel agency, and entertainment guide, all in one.

Trying to supply abundant content as well as multiple 'value-added services' independently and not as links to specialized sites, results in the site offering insubstantial content and tenuous service, which can push users away.

If local content providers are to truly compete in the same space as Yahoo or AOL, content portals will need to select one or the other, but not both. The content on the site must be focused. One of the biggest decisions that a site developer needs to make is: 'Am I a portal with some news and services, or am I a destination with a few links?' Once that decision is made, the focus of the site should be identified and pursued.

Portals must also offer other essential features to keep visitors coming back, such as email, personalization, and favorites. Without these added extras, the risk portals face is that visitors can go straight to the destination sites of their choice once they are familiar with the way the web and their browser works.

The real content portals are the ones that deliver knowledge in context - content that is valid - as well as services that are required by visitors to the site.

Great Looking but Useless

A visitor will choose a particular portal based on three criteria - ease of use, services offered and performance. Similarly, a visitor will opt for the content sites based on the relevance of content, performance and ease of use. Although sites should be aesthetically pleasing, the most important factor is the relevance of the content and the ease with which information and links can be accessed.

Content portals should focus on accessibility of information and links rather than loads of style and funk but no practical substance.
About the Author
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