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Secrets of Portals: Unlocked

A ‘portal’ might sound like a magical doorway into another realm.

But it should not feel like one.

Despite the word’s connotations with faraway lands, in business a portal should be a doorway to the practical and accessible. They’re places of questions quickly answered and processes calmly completed.

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There is an element of magic however. It comes with the scope of processes that one portal can handle. From HR to IT and procurement, one portal is often home to multiple departments. Not to mention it can support large workforces, sometimes working globally and remotely. From the same homepage, any employee might book their annual leave, access their paychecks or fix a faulty work laptop.

But as with anything, a bump back to reality calls. With portals, it’s their ease of use. There is no point creating a multi-tasking beast of a platform if no one has a clue how to use it. And when one system performs many operations, simplicity can get rapidly and horribly lost. In trying to clean up processes, portals can risk making them messier.

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This is especially true if we take a hands-off approach as soon as a portal is launched. Yes, in an ideal world the platform will function intuitively. But no, not in any world, will people automatically know how to use it. Or even want to use it. Which means launching a portal doesn’t just consist of making it live, it consists of managing great content and educating users. Employees will have hard-forged habits of phoning or emailing various departments, which means training them to self-serve online is a big transition. As soon as a portal becomes an extra tool, instead of a replacement communication method, it stops doing its job. We need it to be a first port of call.


Sadly, even with willing users, guided by helpful tuition, messages in portals can get lost. People can still end up screaming at screens. Or holding a meeting to book leave which they could secure from their desk.

Say we get Dawn in accounts using the portal, and say she needs to order a new calculator. If that process takes her twenty-five clicks and results in Alice being sent a calculator instead, Dawn is going to be livid. And she isn’t going to use the portal to order a calculator, or anything, ever again. Before we appeal to users, we need to ensure we have a solid working system. For us, that always begins with sound content.

Even if a portal is an unnavigable maze, in a digital world we can smoothly untangle it. Our specialism at Adexchange is in analysing customer (or employee) journeys, process streamlining and careful redesign. All of this can straighten out the most mystical of portals. So even if your portal looks like it’s falling apart, we can pretty much guarantee you don’t need a new one.

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Clear signposting makes a portal look and feel better, but only good content will make it work. An in-depth review of the information a portal hosts is vital. A strong starting point is to assess the most common reasons for contact. What do people actually need help with? Once we’ve identified this, we can mould our answers into the right shapes. Articles, video tutorials, webtext, whatever. They will be answers that are instinctively found, and easily understood.


Only then do we need to sell the portal idea to our employee base. We have to convince Tracy to delete HR’s email address, which autocompletes whenever she opens Outlook. We have to persuade Steve to take the IT department off speed dial. But as soon as the portal answers their questions more quickly and efficiently, old habits will bow out softly.

If your portal is feeling more like an abstract rabbit hole than a functional gateway, don’t fret. We love a maze. Here at Adexchange, we won’t leave a portal alone until it’s pulling its own weight. Drop us a line if you’re considering a launch or relaunch. We’ll make sure it lands firmly in the real, functional and helpful world.

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About the Author
Helen Thain
Author: Helen Thain
Senior Account Manager

Helen works closely with clients to improve their content performance and customer experiences. With excellent organisational skills, analytical thinking, and technical abilities, she cuts through the waffle to give users what they need – real results and tangible benefits.

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Adexchange Media Limited
Company number: 04344957

The Old Garage, Great Milton, Oxfordshire, OX44 7NP