Creating and maintaining a portal is often an entire project in itself, due to the multiple components that have to be set up and tied together in order for the portal to achieve its purpose. This article aims to provide a little more guidance for managing portal-related projects.
Start by clearly articulating the goals for the portal. Try to answer the following questions:
- What function should the portal serve?
- Can this function already be completed with other standard Slate tools?
- Who will be accessing the portal?
- What information should these users be able to see?
- How does this portal fit in with your other processes?
- What is the timeline for this portal?
- What are the priorities? What functions are a must vs. what would be nice to have after implementing the portal?
- Who will be the "owner" of this portal? The owner may be the one to build the portal, but more importantly, they are responsible for maintaining and troubleshooting.
Be sure to leave enough time in the project plan to allow for thorough testing of every scenario.
As with many other projects, portals have multiple stakeholders. Keep in mind that these different stakeholders can have different needs, wants, and priorities; all of these factors could significantly impact the amount of time and effort it takes to build, test, and go live with a portal.
If you are building a portal for the very first time, also leave in some more time to familiarize yourself with the Portal Editor and ease yourself into how the different components (views, methods, queries) work with each other.
In addition to basic web development or data querying knowledge, familiarity with specific Slate tools and concepts are necessary to successfully build out functional portals.
Web development and data querying
- Basic HTML and CSS
- Liquid markup
- Ability to add or edit custom SQL snippets
Currently, POST methods require entirely custom SQL queries. Technolutions staff can assist with setting up POST methods via the Service Desk.
Examples and Templates
These can be especially helpful for building portals for the first time, or for grabbing snippets of code that could be re-used in your own custom portals:
Add pre-built portals via Briefcase Import that could be further customized or used as reference.
Provision Slate Showcase (via Launch Clean Slate) to see examples of fully functional portals.
Provision Slate Base Camp (via Launch Clean Slate) to see content from Slate Innovation Summit 2019's Base Camp course "Expanding Your Portal-Verse," including lessons that walk through how to add portal components such as tabs, pop-ups, and more.
Dive into the different components and functionality that can be added with custom Applicant Status Portals.
Creating portals is a self-service process, which gives you the best opportunity to own and understand all aspects of your portal. The Service Desk is happy to advise and assist with specific issues that come up.
Because portal-related requests are often complex and take time, narrowing your request to the most specific questions possible will make it easier to receive help quickly.
Putting together a simple mockup or wireframe is helpful for staff who will be building and maintaining portals and for the Service Desk team members assisting with your request.
An illustration of what content your portal users must see, and how users should interact with specific elements helps to outline the scope of the project, how the different components that need to be built should be prioritized, and what resources or skills might be necessary. This also helps the Service Desk team understand your goals and provide the best advice for your portal build.
Set a Schedule
Portals serve targeted groups of constituents, and depending on the time of year or admissions cycle, it may be appropriate to add minor edits or apply major updates. Cycle Prep is usually a recommended period during which significant updates or changes to active portals can be planned. Keep in mind your processes and available time and resources, and aim to set appropriate times of the year for portal maintenance.
Views Are the Way
While XSLT-based portals continue to be supported, the ability to format the portal page using Liquid markup or drag-and-drop content widgets is not available. Some features, such as custom checklists, are only available with views. If you wish to replace an existing applicant status page using a status.xslt file with a portal, you must use views.
XSLT is also less straightforward to parse through and edit, compared to plain HTML. We strongly recommend using the newer Views functionality, as new features will mostly be created in views going forward, and if you are currently using an XSLT-based portal we would encourage you to prioritize migrating to Views.
Designate and Document
If you are working with an external consultant or Slate Preferred Partner to build a portal, ensure that you have clearly defined ownership and delineated all tasks involved with setting up and using the portal.
When building or updating a portal, take the time to document decisions made and other relevant details about functionality added or changed, how items were prioritized, etc. This should be shared with your Slate administrators and other relevant staff. When ownership of a portal has to be handed to another person, or if a colleague has to step in temporarily to troubleshoot or make a quick change, your documentation will help continue to keep portal processes running smoothly.
Eyes on Updates
Enhancements and new portals-related functionality are also added to Slate on an ongoing basis. Keep an eye on channels such as The Slatest News and Slate Scholar for updates and ideas for refining your portals.