Web solutions have become very common among various businesses. One can hardly find a company that won’t benefit from having a web portal. This type of software allows organizations to automate numerous processes and significantly increase engagement of employees, customers, and partners into the business. But how much money does a company need to develop a handy web portal that will satisfy its specific needs? And what factors will influence the price?
In this article, we’ll try to answer all these questions as well as provide you with some basic info about web portals, their types, and functionality. And, what’s more important, we will explain what differs web portal from a website, because people still keep thinking that these are just two different names for the same product.
Key differences between web portal and website
When it comes to custom development of web solutions, many confuse a web portal with a website because they have some common features. In particular, both are the internet solutions accessible via a unique web address (i.e. URL). Yet, these web products serve different purposes, have their distinctive characteristics, and are not interchangeable. Therefore we have prepared a comparison table for you to understand what defines each of those web solutions. Let’s take a closer look at it to clear everything out.
To sum up, a website is a platform that helps a business to digitally present itself to the world and convey messages to everyone who might be interested in its products or services. It doesn’t involve active participation from the users’ sides, it is rather highlights brand uniqueness and raises awareness of it.
As to the web portals, they have a narrower focus as their main goal is to provide particular people with specific information. Their content changes based on users’ input. While websites can offer static and dynamic content, web portals work only with the dynamic one and always require authorization from the users side. Now that you know all the key differences between web portal and website, it is high time to examine the first one in detail.
Common types of web portals
As we’ve already mentioned, web portals help businesses create a personalized experience, share documents, and streamline communication & processes. Since it’s something every company needs to operate effectively, web portals may be used in numerous different ways. In general, there are two main types of web portals:
And now let’s speak about more specific web portals that are oriented on various particular purposes and have different target audience.
By developing a customer portal, an organization can not only take its customer support and sales process to the next level but it also gets a chance to improve brand loyalty. Users of such a portal have an opportunity to place and track orders themselves, report problems, activate or deactivate services, get personalized recommendations, review the purchase history, and do many other things without the need to contact your company’s reps. This saves their time, increase satisfaction, and helps to build long-term relationships.
B2C customer portal
If you are selling goods or services then B2C customer portal is a must-have tool. Not only it helps to improve sales by offering better customer service, but also it helps companies establish long-lasting and loyal partnership with their customers. There are several features that should definitely be present in your B2C portal: account creation and editing, intuitive and yet advanced order placement, tools for checking and managing orders, several payment methods so that every customer can conveniently complete the order, personal recommendations of goods or services, reporting tools.
B2B customer portal
These days companies that offer the same services or goods are fighting for customers. That is why it is so crucial to have a competitive advantage like B2B customer portal. This product can help companies to offer well-organized customer self-service (meaning that personal touch and automation will be balanced), perform better post-order management, offer information to customers 24/7 and create a personalized approach to each customer, offer flexible and convenient payment options, implement advanced order management tools.
Membership management portal
This type of web portals will be helpful for any business that offers membership subscription, for example, learning platforms. Besides obvious benefits like self-service, such portals allow for greater accuracy of members’ data since users can update it whenever something changes. In addition, the management of a customer base becomes almost entirely automated. Members receive all materials, build training or any other plans for using a service, monitor the progress, payments, etc. with little to no manual administration efforts from your side.
Building an employee portal should be one of the first steps for companies going through digital transformation. It’s like an internal social network where users can communicate, assign tasks, update each other on important events, leave comments, log timesheets, request vacations, etc. On top of that, employee portals make it easier for new hires to overcome onboarding chaos and become a part of the team. As a result, people collaborate more effectively and stay more engaged.
Companies do not exist in isolation, they need to cooperate with many other businesses on a regular basis. This especially applies to such areas as real estate, travel industry, banking, healthcare, and logistics. To conduct their activity successfully, organizations from these business niches need to ensure an ongoing process of information exchange, two-way communication, and constant involvement of all parties engaged. A partner portal is a great tool to make interactions with other businesses reliable, effective, and results-oriented.
This type of portal is perfect for companies who need a powerful platform for communication and data exchange with many vendors. Vendor management is crucial, however it takes really too much time, so vendor portals are created to encourage self-service, reduce employee overload, and even save some costs. Vendor portals also make department cooperation easier and more effective, since your employees can collect vendor information and then use it whenever needed.
Lifecycle of web portal development
Let’s say you’ve made the decision to build your own web portal for business. First thing you should know about the development process is that it is going to be quite difficult and rather time and cost consuming. People who are not related to the technical sphere often think that the development consists of 2 main steps – web portal building and creation of its design. But in fact it is way more complicated than that. The development consists of numerous stages and steps, and each one of them is crucial. So we have prepared an information that will help you to understand the web portal development lifecycle better. And, without further ado, let’s proceed to checking all steps right away!
Some people from business sphere neglect this step because they prefer not to waste their time on collecting the data. They are eager to proceed to writing specifications and starting the development as soon as possible. But this is a huge mistake that can lead to budget holes and unpredicted risks. The discovery phase is crucial for every project and especially for such complicated ones as web portals.
Preparations should include the following steps:
- Discovery of your target audience. Who are going to use your web portal? The answer to this question will hep you identify the kind of the portal you need. This will also help you to identify the major feature set.
- Competitors research. It is obvious that you have competitors who are probably using their own web portals. So your goal is to discover their strengths, approach to business, explore what peculiarities their portals have. This information will help you find your own strengths and end up having a unique competitive product.
- Defining key tasks and end goal. Your company has existed without web portal for some time. However now you feel that you need this solution. So what is crucial to discover is what expectations you put on it and how it should optimize your business. What tasks would you like to perform using web portal and what results its usage should bring?
After the discovery stage is over you will get a thorough report from a Business Analyst and initial project specifications. You will also be aware of the technology stack that is going to be used for your projects, the risks that can possibly appear, the development time and approximate project cost. With all that information you an start planning the development of your web portal. On this stage it is crucial to divide big tasks into smaller ones, set the deadlines, identify the scope of works for each stage, and build more or less accurate schedule of works.
You also need to start working upon more detailed requirements. Your specifications will become more broad as such details as design, content, authentication type and other tech requirements will be added.
The architecture of the web portal comes before the design and once it is ready, your team can proceed with creating the look of your solution. Speaking about architecture, it can be created in a form of sitemap describing the hierarchy of all pages that are going to be in your web portal. It is also crucial to define the connections between those pages and then think about their look.
When making your web portal visually appealing you should always keep your target audience in mind (and the type of web portal should also be taken into account). The selection of colors, icons and other elements will depend on it. For example, the partner portal should be more strict, without bright colors and hideous elements. While the portal for employees can be less rigid in style.
Once you and your designer reached the compromise, it is time to start prototyping. As a result you will be able to take a glance at your future web portal and alter something if needed. The design means no less than the functionality of your web portal. So it is recommended to pay special attention to navigation on your web portal, correct calls to action and their location, a font used on all pages, the header and footer style, and section that provides information about your company.
To begin the development stage you need a prototype and site map of your web portal. With these things your developers team can start coding and turning your idea into life. The main goal of this stage is get a product that looks, functions and feels exactly as you wanted it to. The first thing that is going to be developed is the home page of your web portal. Then the team will proceed to creation of all sections, buttons and other elements.
Here, at GBKSOFT, we have developed several successful web portals for our clients’ businesses. So speaking about the development part, we’d like to name some technologies that are going to be used for your future web portal:
- From scratch development will be performed on PHP;
- CMS-powered solutions can be built on WordPress or Salesforce.
As to the team, that you will need to turn your idea into reality, it should include the following specialists:
- Business Analyst;
- Software Architect;
- QA engineers;
- Scrum Master.
Testing and Release
Testing is crucial part of any project development since it helps to discover all errors, weaknesses and other bottlenecks of the solution and to fix them right away. So before being released your web portal will be thoroughly checked. Its performance, navigation, registration and creation of an account – all these and many other features will be tested. The goal of the testing is to make sure that everything functions fine and the user experience is on the highest level.
It is also important to check the compatibility of your solution with different browsers. SEO and plugin installation (if you have a CMS-powered web portal) are also a must. Testers will check whether all plugins work correctly, and whether your web portal is attractive to search engines (SEO-optimized). Once everything is tested and works as it is supposed to – you can launch your solutions.
Some business owners consider that once they get a perfect solution for their company, there is no need to invest in it further. After all it works fine and this can last for years. However, the reality is that you need to constantly improve your web portal and perform functionality checks. Some plugins with time may stop working correctly. or they will not be longer compatible and cause some functional issues.
Also web portals should offer high usability level, that is why it is necessary to improve some options, add something new and engaging. Based on our experience, we can say that maintenance is no less important than the development itself.
Our experience and approach to web portal development
To begin with, we’d like to mention a couple of great web portals we’ve worked on. One of them was for aircraft brokerage business and the second one – for the company that provides services for deaf or hearing impaired children. Both companies have some productivity issues. Their employees were overloaded with tasks, the order and requests management was quite complicated. Both businesses needed a digital optimization to boost productivity and client service, and to improve communication and cooperation between their employees. So we’ve developed functional web portals powered by the best technologies for them.
The solutions we’ve released work like a charm and we’ve already received positive feedbacks from the business owners who entrusted us their web portals development. To provide you with the real example of some web portal functionality, we’ve prepared a couple of screenshots of one of our projects.
As you can see from the example, the web portal has advanced functionality. Not only a person can register, manage an account and get information about necessary services and payments, but also it is possible to manage invoices, school years, children lists and many more. There is a variety of options collected in one solution that make services more transparent, organized and convenient. Every necessary detail is right at users hands. A couple of mouse clicks and you get all information.
Now as to our approach to web portal development, we deliver not only high-quality products, but we also think of their integration into the working environment of our clients. So let’s say our client already uses CRM or ERP, we have to make sure that the web portal can be successfully connected to them and transfer or receive all crucial data.
We also pay special attention to APIs since they can make a web portal even more functional. Security and convenience of the end product is our priority. We always make sure that the web portal is easy to use, its functions are intuitive and useful and design corresponds not only to all latest trends but also to the needs and requirements of a company we work with.
Factors that influence the costs of web portal
Like with building any other bespoke software solution, there is no fixed price for web portal development. Many aspects may impact the budget that is required for a project. So let’s take a look at the most significant of them.
It’s up to you to decide what functionality to include in your web portal. But, naturally, the more complex you want it to be the more money you’ll need. Here are the most popular features of web portals:
- Document management
- Knowledge management
- Advanced search
- User profiles
- Collaboration tools
- Data feeds
- Self-service tools
- Task management
- Performance tracking
- Analytics & Stats
- Data aggregation
In addition, it’s important to ensure a system integration with third-party solutions as well as make a web portal powerful, maintainable, and scalable.
Outsourcing Company vs Freelancers
It’s another choice you’ll have to do at the very beginning. As a rule, freelancers charge less but there are a lot of risks associated with this type of cooperation model. For instance, independent programmers frequently fail to meet deadlines or can quit the project in the middle of the road. So a low price usually comes at high costs. That’s why it’s better to trust the development of your web portal to a reliable IT outsourcing partner.
Developers’ seniority levels
Senior engineers have higher hourly rates than their junior colleagues, but the latter ones usually work more slowly. Ideally, you would have a coding team comprising programmers of different seniority levels. If you envisioned a complex and long-term project, hiring a dedicated team might be the best option.
Programmers’ geographical location
It’s not a secret that developers’ rates differ depending on the region of the world. Programmers from the US are believed to be the most expensive charging about $100-200 per hour while Asian engineers may cost you just $15-40 per hour. However, developers from Asia have a reputation for delivering low-quality products. So it’s better to choose Eastern European programmers who offer a supreme price/quality ratio with hourly rates ranging from $25 to $40.
The costs of building a web portal
If you decide to work with a coding team from Ukraine, the custom development of a web portal will cost you on average $30,000-80,000. Of course, there is no a top threshold and the final price may be much higher, for example, in case you want to build a very complex solution with many user groups having different rights and permissions.
For your better understanding of the final price and the amount of time that can be spent on the development of a web portal, we have prepared a table. This table is relevant for the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of a web portal, so the price of a full solution can be higher as well as the total development time.
|Dev stages||Dev hours||Total cost|
|PHP Development 4||425||$11475|
|PHP Development 6||128||$5248|
Today’s business world is driven by technologies so developing a web portal is a must for any company that wants to stay competitive. In general, portals can be used in many areas of an organization’s activity, for instance, customer support, business partnership, or internal collaboration. The exact costs you’ll need for the project will depend on numerous factors such as product complexity, developers’ seniority levels, as well as their geographical location. Our recommendation is to choose a coding team from Ukraine to get superior quality for a reasonable price.