Best practices for portals

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Once you’ve set up your first portal, you may find yourself staring at a blank page with no idea what to put there. In this article, we’ve collected some tips and best practices for building portal content. Every portal is different, so always go with what works best for your site. 

Ask your community

Your organization is unique, and your portals should reflect the unique needs of your users. A great way to kick off a portal project is to solicit feedback from community members and website visitors. What information do they come to your site for? Which pages do they visit all the time? Have they ever looked for something specific that they weren’t able to find? Are there any features from other websites that they would like to see on yours? You can gain valuable insights and inspiration from the answers to such questions, and your community will appreciate having a voice in the process.

Public or private?

One of the first questions to consider is whether you want your portals to be private. If your constituents don’t have accounts, and none of your content needs to be behind a password, you can build a highly effective portal using public pages. 

On the other hand, one of the great benefits of portals is the ability to include content that’s restricted from view for anyone who isn’t a constituent, including private resource galleries, messages archives, and directories

Tabs and accordions 

Most organizations think of their portals as a one-stop resource for all the important information for their parents, staff, students, alumni, or other community groups. That means there may be plenty of competition to get certain information on the front page! When you’re dealing with content-heavy pages, Tabs and Accordion layout elements help you organize a lot of information without overwhelming your users by showing them too much at once. Just keep in mind that all that content still has to load, whether you see it or not! It’s better to have multiple pages in your portal than put so much on one page that it impacts your site speed.

Protected galleries 

Portals are a great place to make use of private resources and galleries, as well. Whether it’s a list of documents for your board or a slideshow of photos from the latest classroom activity, you can rely on the extra level of privacy to make sure only authorized members of your community have access to certain resources. 

Keep in mind that there’s a wall between public and private files in Resources, so you can’t put both types in one gallery. You may want to use two Resource elements to display public and private galleries together.

External links

Chances are that your website isn’t the only site your community has to go to, or even log into, for information related to your organization. You can minimize the hassle for users by making a readily accessible collection of these links in your portal. 

Instead of a boring link, you can add these links as external resources to include thumbnail images, titles, descriptions, and even organize them with tags.

If your site has a single sign-on (SSO) with another site, you can even include the links to automatically sign into their other accounts. You can find these links in Integrated Services Manager under Link List

Messages element 

Email is still one of the most effective ways to reach your constituents directly, but what happens when they’ve deleted the message or claim they never received it? With a Messages element in your portal, your users can access the archived versions of any of your messages. You can filter the messages included based on lists and tags. You can even display administrative messages, and users will only be able to see them if they were part of the group that originally received it. 

In addition, you can display a Subscribe button on the Messages element and make the bulk mailing experience opt-in instead of opt-out. Change the privacy settings for each list in Messages to Everyone or Constituents Only, and your users can see and subscribe to the lists in the Messages element or from the Notifications link in their portal menu.


Forms are another popular portal feature, and you can take advantage of prefill settings if users are logged in when they fill them out. Go to Advanced Settings for the Name, Email, and Short Answer fields to toggle on Prefill Field and save users’ time entering information that you already have stored in Constituent Manager.

Role/group display in Posts 

Using Posts is a great way to keep content on your portal fresh, so users have something new to see whenever they visit. While it isn’t a privacy setting, you can use the Role/Group display settings to target specific posts to certain audiences. This is a feature that only works when your users are logged in, so a private portal is the perfect place to take advantage of it!

Send out account credentials

Last but certainly not least: you’ve created a beautiful portal, but how are you going to invite all of your constituents in? The best option will depend on whether you’re using Messages or another bulk communication tool. 

With Messages

If you’re using Messages, the tools to distribute credentials to all your constituents are located in the Text block. Compose an email informing recipients about the amazing new portal, then add placeholders for their username and a password reset link.

To insert the username, click on Merge Tags and scroll down to find Username. Make sure you’re sending this email only to your constituents who have portal accounts, and they’ll each receive their own username.

Messages text editor merge tags menu expanded with Username highlighted

It’s not recommended to send plaintext passwords through email, for security reasons. Instead, you can send a password reset link, located under Special links in the Text block editor. Portal users can click this link to set up their own secure password for their portal account. 

Without Messages 

If you aren’t using Messages, it can be a bit trickier to get the word out about your constituents’ new accounts. We still don’t recommend sending out passwords in an email, but you can direct users to click the Forgot Username or Password link on your login page. If the email address they provide matches the one in Constituent Manager, they’ll receive their username and a link to reset their account password.

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