Life in the fast lane with the web portal

The Sunday Times of Malta Technology Supplement

The web portal’s overall function is to control how users experience a web resource through their web browser, by directing them to a chosen starting point from which all available resources become accessible.

At a very basic level, a portal normally contains a number of reusable components called portlets, which are used to deliver customised content according to the user’s specific needs, for example the three day weather forecast for Milan.

Protals can be categorised in a variety of ways, and can be varied according to the specific needs of their application context. Two such categoridations include vertical and horizontal portals. Vertical portals cater for a single field, product, or business, and provide a large source of related knwoledge, downloads and more.

Horizontal portals cater for a wider variety of topics and industried and are aimed at everyone. Their overall goal is to be the first point of contact for any visitor. An apt example would be MSN.

Other categorisations include information and content management portals. Portals used as an information source present a variety of information from different sources on one screen, according to what the user needs (for example, calendars, news feeds, and more). An example is the www.mygov.mt portal, which allows a user to access all services provided by the Maltese government, and automatically displays only the services the user makes use of ir is entitiled to use. Information can be accessed but not contributed by external individuals.

On the other hand, portals used for content managemment offer more of a collaborative experience. Users share information, mainly by uploading and downloading documents or media resources, such as an international development team collaborating on a project. Other users with hightened access rights, such as administrators, can modify contributions made by others.

A commercial portal would be Oracle’s Webcentre Suite 11g – one of the industry’s most comprahensive entrerprise portal platforms available today, increasing efficiency and productivity in this field. The portal offers a number of tools, including the Webcenter Framework. This is based on Java Server Faces, allowing it to embed Ajax components, portlets (and related functionality) and content to create context-rich, customisable applications.

Webcentre Social Computing Services are Web 2.0 services (including wikis, blogs, RSS feeds and much more), designed with user interaction in mind, and which can easily be injected into any portal. Webcenter Composer is an add-on environment to JSF that allows users and site administrators to personalise the look and feel and behaviour of the portal to meet their requirements. Finally, another another tool is the Webcenter Aynwhere, which is a set of wireless services that enable users to connect with Oracle Webcenter Suite from any connected device, including desktop and mobile applications.

KPMG Crimsonwing is an international IT solutions provider, developing and implementing leading-edge solutions. Besides providing the Oracle Webcenter Suite and having developed great expertise in this field, KPMG Crimsonwing is an Oracle Gold Partner and a member of the Oracle University.