Digital Transformation

Horizontal vs Vertical Portals: The User Interface

So I started a series on whether you should take a look at vertical portal solutions for your industry or whether you should just go with a horizontal portal vendor.   Today I want to take a look at the user interface.  In many ways, the UI provides some of the highest value to end users and can take significant amounts of time and effort to get right.

Vertical  Portal and UI

In my original post, I ranked vertical portals dark green or pretty good with UI.  In the case of vertical portals, it doesn’t mean perfect.  It does mean that most vertical portals provide an interface and cut down on the time it takes to get the portal running.  In the healthcare world for example, many Electronic Medical Record (EMR) vendors also provide a portal that interfaces to their EMR.  It’s out of the box.  They have lab results, history, prescriptions, etc.  Frankly, that provides a lot of value.  It’s far better than starting from scratch.

One caveat, a lot of these vendors may have a pre-defined UI but it’s up to you to determine if that UI provides a decent user experience.  I’m not going to name names but there’s a reason why a horizontal portal services firm like us get called to create a front end for an already existing site…………….

Horizontal Portal and UI

Let’s face it, if you start from scratch, you will spend more time and money on defining your interface.  In the short term, it can be more expensive.  The horizontal portal vendor has a few things going for them and that’s why it’s not a dark red ranking:

  1. When you start from scratch, you can create a better interface.  Your UI can also incorporate things not originally in the vertical portal.  If you need additional content, no problem. If you need to put up a portlet from another data source, no problem.
  2. The UI can be more clean.  Horizontal portals are meant to be modified.  You can make more modifications with less effort than a vertical portal.  That means if you want to do more than match logo, background, and fonts, then the extra flexibility might push you towards a horizontal portal.

Combined Portal and UI

A combined portal provides a pre-built UI on top of a horizontal portal vendor.  This combines the benefits of the vertical portal with a pre-defined UI with the benefits of a horizontal portal. I  know of some vertical portal vendors that basically license the horizontal portal and then build it for their needs.  CareFX does this with WebSphere Portal, Covisint does this with Liferay.

Of course, if the User Experience still stinks, then you haven’t gained much except for a little more flexibility.


Bottom Line?

No portal provides the perfect solution.  When comparing the UI for different horizontal and vertical portals be sure to ask yourself:

  • How important is the user experience?
  • Can I modify the portlets or features?
  • How easy is it to change the look and feel of the site?
  • How do I manage the content on the site?
  • How easy is it to make changes from the baseline UI?


The answers to these questions will push you towards a vertical, horizontal, or combined vendor.

Thoughts on “Horizontal vs Vertical Portals: The User Interface”

  1. Pingback: Horizontal vs Vertical Portal: Search | TechieOye

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Michael Porter

Mike Porter leads the Strategic Advisors team for Perficient. He has more than 21 years of experience helping organizations with technology and digital transformation, specifically around solving business problems related to CRM and data.

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