Question

What's a good way to build a client portal?

I manage events with exhibitors and speakers. We've generally managed the information we need from them, and that which they need from us, with a stream of emails in the year leading up to the event. I'm not satisfied with the friendliness of this system.

I think there ought to be a way for each exhibitor and speaker to be given a private area that would do a few things:
- Display the information about their session or exhibition booth. This information currently lives in Stackby, though we could migrate to AirTable. I want to be able to update it once in the central database and have it update at the front end. The trouble is that each speaker/exhibitor must only have access to the relevant information, not everyone's information.
- A file sharing space.

I have SuiteDash but I think this is a bit complicated. I haven't gone through all the steps of setting it up.

Any solutions come to mind?

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SanatSethi's avatar
6 months ago

This is a very interesting question, and a surprisingly difficult one to offer. You could continue the route you're currently on, and basically use an Acess-esque tool to spin up a front-end for your Airtable/ Zoho Creator/ etc back-end. Another approach would be going the lite-CRM with portal built on top route (eg Zoho CRM has portals built-in- https://www.zoho.com/crm/portals.html). You could minimize normal CRM activity and focus on providing just enough functionality to offer something worthwhile to your clients. The advantage of going this route is that the application is built specifically for this purpose, and gives you additional functionality (eg create that vaunted 360 Customer view with deals, projects and activities being tracked).

Let me know what you end up doing, I'm very interested in this topic. Would be happy to chat more, because customers portals are increasingly on my mind.

5 points
_jimmyrose's avatar
6 months ago

My first thoughts were to add some password protected pages to a WordPress site with AirTable views embedded for each person. Requires creating all the views manually though.

Our product Content Snare is used by a bunch of event companies to collect info from speakers & exhibitors. But it's kinda one direction at the moment - collecting info not sending it.

We're getting more and more requests to create portal-style features to give clients access to info as well.

Reading your use case has given me a couple of ideas so thanks for that.

3 points
pineslope's avatar
@pineslope (replying to @_jimmyrose )
6 months ago

Thanks, @_jimmyrose. I like the WordPress idea. However, the snag I'm seeing is giving folks edit access to that view, then syncing that view up with the main database...
I've seen Content Snare and been intrigued with it. It certainly seems to meet a need.

1 point
_jimmyrose's avatar
@_jimmyrose (replying to @pineslope )
6 months ago

Yeah that's true. I was thinking after I wrote this, and I'm not sure how it would work anyway - you'd really need to give them a detail view of one record, not a bunch of different records.

Coda has a detail view but I know nothing about how permissions work for them.

It might be something you need to knock up in Bubble or Adalo.

1 point
_jimmyrose's avatar
@_jimmyrose (replying to @pineslope )
6 months ago

Yeah that's true. I was thinking after I wrote this, and I'm not sure how it would work anyway - you'd really need to give them a detail view of one record, not a bunch of different records.

Coda has a detail view but I know nothing about how permissions work for them.

It might be something you need to knock up in Bubble or Adalo.

1 point
kyrilku's avatar
6 months ago

Hey @pineslope,
It seems the product I'm currently working on might help. It's Beau. Feel free to share your email or ping me via kyril@beau.to if you are interested to try our solution. I'm happy to help!

3 points
Oshyan's avatar
@Oshyan (replying to @kyrilku )
6 months ago

Yay, I'm glad you saw this! I haven't used Beau, and don't have a need for it myself. But I saw you mention it in another thread recently and liked the idea. I immediately thought of it when I saw this topic! πŸ‘

1 point
nicksimard's avatar
3 months ago

A great solution I found recently is MiniExtensions. It offers portal functionality and a LOT more extras for Airtable. Check it out here: https://miniextensions.com/airtable-search-page. It’s a decent price for all of the features, with unlimited everything.

2 points
pineslope's avatar
@pineslope (replying to @nicksimard )
3 months ago

That looks really good. Had I seen that earlier, I would probably have sprung for MiniExtensions.

1 point
davemalhotra's avatar
6 months ago

Quite an interesting use case. I had a similar need for our virtual conference and exhibition Iast year where we can manage speakers and exhibitors at scale as they have access and can change their own info, upload profiles photos, or logos, assign teams by logging in to the platform. We eventually decided to build it into our own event platform solution.

2 points
pineslope's avatar
@pineslope (replying to @davemalhotra )
6 months ago

Interesting. Did you create your event platform from scratch or customize an existing solution?

1 point
maguay's avatar
6 months ago

This is likely not the best option, but the easiest route that came to mind for me was to use a project management app that has a built-in client mode (of which, I know Basecamp offers that, as do often more invoicing-focused project apps like Harvest or And.co). Those are built to let you share specific things with specific clients, and thus would simplify the sharing.

On the more manual side, Notion or other similar note-focused tools would take a bit more work to pull everything together, but would give you an easy way to share data with specific people.

Airtable would definitely work for this, and would let you build in more app-style features and automations. You would need to create a separate table per client, and only share that table with them ... or possibly, make new databases per client. It'd take a bit of duplication of work, but would keep the data the most separate.

2 points
kailovel's avatar
@kailovel (replying to @maguay )
6 months ago

Tapping onto this, you could use Stacker with Airtable to turn the database into a web app for them to use - https://www.stackerhq.com

3 points
pineslope's avatar
@pineslope (replying to @maguay )
6 months ago

This is helpful! I was thinking about the project management route as well. Thanks for the names. And maybe the best route is duplicating tables in Airtable or Stackby. I've also just started using Notion, so that's an intriguing option.

2 points
SanatSethi's avatar
@SanatSethi (replying to @maguay )
6 months ago

I like this approach a lot - pick a visual relational database tool like Airtable as your back-end and either use native or extension-based functionality to open up the relevant parts to your customers.

1 point
akantjas's avatar
6 months ago

The hard part is individualizing the content. Besides what @maguay mentioned which is imo the easiest way to get started, you could think of adding a frontend to your Airtable using a tool such as Stacker, where you have more control over views and user rights.

2 points
landonray's avatar
6 months ago

(Srry, selfish pre-comment: I love that this is so hard.)

We have thousands of customers building customer portals like this all day. Currently, you could do all of this in Ontraport in minutes, with the exception of the 'file sharing space'.

For customers who need that, we currently advise users to integrate Jotform via Zapier. But we've got file upload on the roadmap as well.

You'd need our 'plus' version to get the features for this project, and it would come with everything from email and SMS to membership/pw management, payments and more.

We've got some stuff cooking right now - out in July - that's going to take this all to the next level. Exciting times!

1 point
pineslope's avatar
@pineslope (replying to @landonray )
6 months ago

Wow. That looks pretty well built out. It's probably out of reach for where we're at right now, but we may come back to it later.

1 point
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