Digital Transformation

Horizontal Portals vs Vertical Portals,Supporting Multiple Sites

Ranking of vertical portals and multiple sites

This is part of my ongoing series on Horizontal vs Vertical Portals.   It’s the fifth post and fourth specific topic in the series.   Here’s the other:

  1. Series Intro
  2. UI
  3. Backend
  4. Search

What do you mean by Multiple Sites?

So almost everyone I talk to has a need for more than one site.  Many hospitals for example, have multiple hospitals. In many cases, these hospitals are separately branded.  The health care world represents only one of many possibilities.  Take manufacturing for example, they may want several different portals based on their users and include consumer portal, customer portal, and partner portal.

All of this drives the need to create different sites that still share some common set of tools.  Those common set of tools might include:

  • The same theme
  • shared portlets or web parts
  • hooking to the same or mostly the same user repositories

What I’ve seen across many different clients is that they consider multiple site support important.  Portals in general don’t provide value for just one web site. The value comes from leverage and much of that leverage comes from multiple site support.

Vertical Portal and Multiple Sites

Ranking of vertical portals and multiple sitesIn general, vertical portals have focused more time on creating specific value on the UI and integration to industry specific systems.  I cannot guarantee that every vertical portal won’t support multiple sites but you should ask the following questions:

  1. Does your portal support the creation and hosting of multiple sites?
  2. How easy or hard is it to create another site on your product?
  3. Will the creation of another site require new hardware or a new instance of your product?
  4. Will I be able to use a configuration approach or admin console to create the new site?

I believe that many vertical portal vendors will score badly in this respect.  It’s really a matter of math and economics.  These companies invest where the biggest needs lie and for their portals, it’s not supporting multiple sites.  Horizontal portal vendors like Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Liferay, and Redhat who have a much longer history with their products and more time to develop it will be able to supply a different answer.

Horizontal Portal and Multiple Sites

Ranking for Horizontal and Combined portals for Multiple Site SupportHorizontal Portal vendors have a few things going for them when it comes to support of enterprise level features like multiple sites.   Namely, they’ve probably been around for years and have had customers pound on them that failure to let them host multiple sites on one portal infrastructure will result in no customer.   Every major horizontal provider I know of supports this feature. Some do a better job of it than others but all of them support it.  Of course, with these vendors you should ask the same questions as I ask above and then add on a few questions:

  1. What can you share across sites?  Can you share web parts or portlets?  Can you share themes without having to copy files?
  2. How do you support different user repositories?  Can I point to one customer ldap for one site and point to a partner ldap for another site?
  3. Can I share content across these sites?
  4. Can I share personalization and other features across the sites?

In general, a horizontal portal vendor will score better in this category.  As noted before, they do this because of a longer product history and a wider range of customers who demand this feature.

Combined Portal and Multiple Sites

Ranking for Horizontal and Combined portals for Multiple Site SupportI may be starting a theme here.  It’s obvious that for many ranked categories, a vertical portal based on a horizontal portal product will rank equally as well as the horizontal portal.  I have only one caveat, this is true as long as the vertical portal vendor has implemented the horizontal portal correctly. I’ve seen way too many clients and vendors recreate the wheel for content integration, user repositories, and even simple portlets to assume it will just work.  But yes, in general, they should be able to satisfy this requirement rather well.

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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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