While every organization’s “customer” is different – be it buyers, citizens, clients, partners, or another end user – they all share this in common: the need to deliver high-quality digital experiences in a way that is secure and cost-effective.


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The demand for exceptional customer experiences – and self-service digital options in particular – is high and continues to grow. In fact, it’s the method 85 percent of customers prefer when they need to sign up for new services, find information, or submit support requests to resolve an issue.

To achieve this, organizations are increasingly relying on their IT teams to deliver customer portal software that enables better customer relationships and a superior self-service experience for their end users. A few common examples might include:

  • Customer onboarding and acquisition portal
  • Customer self-service portal
  • Customer support portal
  • Vendor and partner portal
  • Client self-service portal

Despite the clear message from customers, more than 75 percent of organizations are struggling to create these types of unique and optimized journeys their customers — or buyers, citizens, clients, partners, etc. — have come to expect. Why?

Your organization may lack the internal development resources, and it’s expensive to hire highly technical specialists who are knowledgeable about mobile and cloud tech as well as great UX. There’s also the issue of speed.

Customer portal development requires frequent iteration in order to keep up to date with end-user needs.

5 Customer portal development considerations

There are several approaches you can take to portal development – traditional coding, low-code development, or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS). Before diving into your first (or next) customer-facing web portal, let’s take a look at five important considerations:

1. Custom or COTS web portal?

The first thing to consider is whether or not to go with a custom approach or a more generic off-the-shelf solution. For organizations without competition – such as nonprofits – and for instances when the web portal’s goal is very specific, COTS solutions may be the preferred solution.

However, the downside of these pre-packaged solutions is that they limit expressiveness and lack flexibility.

Today, we know that web portals not only strengthen customer relationships, but also help you stay ahead of your competition. Successful organizations absolutely rely on designing for a stand-out customer experience and the ability to customize and differentiate customer-facing digital products at every touchpoint.

That growing pressure has led many companies to prefer custom solutions offered by traditional development or alternative development approaches like high-performance low-code.

2. Prioritize use cases

As mentioned above, there are a lot of potential customer touchpoints and numerous different use cases that can be delivered through your web portal.

So, what services should IT prioritize first?

A good place to start is working closely with the CXO to ensure what’s being created is aligned with what your customers expect and need. According to Gartner, organizations that follow a “fusion team” approach – multidisciplinary digital business teams that blend technology and business expertise – to launch their digital products accelerate time to value and are better able to manage risk.

3. Avoid integration headaches

As you go down the customer portal path, you’re likely to have existing applications and systems that will need to seamlessly connect to your web portal for a variety of reasons (data management, CRM, etc.).

When selecting your approach for portal development, it’s critical for existing systems to integrate easily. This can be a time-consuming task if you’re dealing with legacy systems, and off-the-shelf solutions often struggle to integrate when you need them to.

Instead, consider a platform that simplifies complex integrations with pre-built connectors to most popular systems, web services, and APIs.

4. Emphasize exceptional omnichannel customer experience

Your web portal is the key to improving customer interactions and enabling your end users to manage these interactions no matter where they are or what device they’re using.

Whether it's mobile, web, chat, or voice, it is important to deliver a user-friendly experience that is consistent, frictionless, and a connected customer journey across every channel.

This requires creating pixel-perfect interfaces that reflect your unique brand or organizational identity, as well as the right architecture to enable fluid animation and fast loading times.

As you consider your portal development approach, look for a tool that allows for exceptional UX/UI and that enables your team to quickly deliver your desired customer experience.

5. Make continuous change easy

Customer experience is not a one-and-done initiative. Launching customer portal software fast — and updating them even faster when things change — is difficult.

Off-the-shelf solutions don’t allow you to incorporate customer feedback immediately, and traditional development can’t keep up with the speed at which organizations require apps to change and meet customer needs.

High-performance low-code solves this problem with built-in testing tools and analytics that measure the user experience and bottlenecks. A one-click deployment feature means no specialized skills are required to move apps into production.

A single click delivers automated scriptless deployment. Plus, developers benefit from receiving user feedback right in the portal itself, enabling development teams to deliver continuous innovation in nearly real-time.

If you’re embarking on building a web portal, you need a development approach that gives you the freedom to create applications directly aligned with your exact business objectives without sacrificing speed or quality.

Pre-packaged SaaS solutions severely limit the customization often required to create stand-out customer experiences. And traditional dev is too slow and especially difficult for lean development teams.

For those reasons, companies are increasingly turning to high-performance low-code to build these custom web portals.

The benefits of high-performance low-code for customer portals

A high-performance low-code platform uses visual development, pre-built responsive UX/UI templates, easy integration, and reusability of components across touchpoints to enable organizations to build high-quality portals and apps that are fully customized in a fraction of the time.

OutSystems is the only platform that meets all the criteria of high-performance low-code. It combines the productivity of low-code with the essential capabilities — such as customization and integrations — required for building strategic customer-facing web portals.

To see the OutSystems low-code platform in action, watch this on-demand webinar, Leveraging Low-Code to Deliver Digital Services, to learn how the Faroe Islands successfully built its web portal to deliver digital self-services to its citizens.