So, you’ve developed a WordPress site for a business and they’re excited to start connecting with prospects and clients online. Or perhaps you’re looking to equip your own business with streamlined communications.
As such, you’ve equipped the website with a few different contact forms, a live chat pop-up, and you’ve even included a click-to-call and click-to-email for good measure. That should cover all the communication bases, right?
Not so fast.
Does your client’s business provide clients with support once they’ve signed onto the service or registered with the website? While a contact form is helpful for handling initial inquiries and a live chat can take care of certain parts of the conversation with clients, that’s likely not enough if your client intends on offering customer service and support to registered users.
This is where a secure client portal becomes helpful in WordPress.
A client portal is a special space on a website where users log in and get privileged access to private information shared between the business and them. This is something businesses use to enable clients to control their profiles, review transaction histories, send secure messages, upload files, and so on. This is also something you could use for client management with your own WordPress clients.
In the following guide to building a secure client portal in WordPress, let’s take a look at why and when a website needs a client portal as well as tools you can use to build one to ensure optimum security and site speed.
When You Should Build a Secure Client Portal in WordPress
There are actually quite a lot of use cases for WordPress.
For instance, a blog or news site might need one if you accept contributed content and you want to give writers/commenters an easy way to upload files and communicate with you regarding questions or issues they might have. eCommerce sites would also benefit from client portals by giving customers a way to manage their billing and shipping profiles, process returns, track shipments, etc. 👥 The biggest use case for the client portal is for businesses that provide services to clients or registered users. Giving clients access to something like this gives you a ton of klout! #WordPress Click To Tweet
eCommerce sites would also benefit from client portals by giving customers a way to manage their billing and shipping profiles, process returns, track shipments, etc.
Membership sites would do well to include client portals, too, as this would enable their users to manage their user profiles, review and change membership plans, subscribe to new services on their own, and so on.
The biggest use case for the client portal is for businesses that provide services to clients or registered users. With these, the client portal would be most beneficial in terms of providing support--and this could include self-support as well as ticketed support.
Here are some examples of secure client portals from WordPress sites:
Bloomberg LEI issues Legal Entity Identifiers (LEIs) to businesses.
Through this client portal, users can manage registration for their corporation’s LEI and submit questions/requests to Bloomberg as they arise.
Laughing Squid is a managed hosting company that provides support through a number of means. There’s a “Request Support” live chat box in the bottom corner of the site. The Support page links out to a Knowledgebase where clients can help themselves if their questions are common enough.
There’s also a help desk they can access through the same page.
In the top-right corner, users have a choice of submitting a ticket (which requires them to enter all their information every time there is an issue) or to sign in to their help desk account. Here is what it looks like inside the portal:
The purpose of this client portal is two-fold: to submit support requests to Laughing Squid and to manage comments left on one's content in the Laughing Squid blog.
Rackspace provides hosting and colocation services to enterprises. Upon visiting the main website, users will find a “Login” link in the top-right corner (which is where you’ll usually find access to a portal, if there is one). When you click on it, you’ll see a number of options for logging into a Rackspace account:
As you can see, Rackspace has neatly cordoned off each part of their hosting management areas here. By selecting the MyRackspace Portal option, users will arrive at the client login screen:
United Capital is a company that provides financial management and planning services. With an easy-to-find “Client Login” link in the top-right corner of the site, clients will arrive at this page:
One more click and clients can visit the GuideCenter tool and client portal where they can manage their account and profile with United Capital.
If you look at the bottom of the WP Buffs website, you’ll find a link to “Login” in the footer. Click on it and you’ll be taken to a support ticket page.
Now, you can choose to fill out a ticket here or you can sign up/log in using the buttons in the top corner of the site page.
Once you are signed up as a WP Buffs Teamwork member, you get quicker access to the support portal.
From here, you can manage your profile, submit a new support request, and review open and closed tickets.
WPMU DEV is another WordPress business that has a client portal on its website. This one can be accessed from the “Login” button in the top navigation.
When a customer signs up for a WPMU DEV membership, they, in turn, gain access to “The Hub”.
This is where WPMU DEV members can:
- Link their WordPress site to their account.
- Seek support for questions they have. Self-support documentation and blog posts are available, WP Academy courses can be watched, and tickets can be submitted if trouble persists or the matter is urgent.
- Take part in community discussions around WPMU DEV products or the WordPress community at large.
As you can see, every client portal differs somewhat from website to website. What you include in yours really all depends on what kind of support and data you should be providing end users with.
Why You Should Build a Secure Client Portal in WordPress👔 Client portals are great for businesses that want to enable clients or users to manage their profiles, account settings, and communications from an internal portal. Everybody likes when you make it easy for them! #WordPress Click To TweetIndustries in particular that this would work well for would be ones like finance, legal, insurance, and other service-based businesses. Even hospitality and retail could find some use for them.
Here are some things you can do with a client portal when it’s in WordPress:
- Manage clients and details regarding services, products, or projects in one centralized location.
- Clients manage all their details and services in the same place.
- Clients use the portal to submit support tickets -- for a single department or broken up based on project, product, or department.
- You and clients can use it for finance management (i.e. sending and paying of invoices, updating billing information, etc.).
- Any files that need to be sent between you and the client--like logos, style guides, freelance contracts, etc.--can be uploaded and transmitted through the portal.
- You can use it for general project management needs, based on how much information you want to store there, like project status updates and the uploading of deliverables.
But let’s focus now on what the actual benefits are for building a client portal in WordPress. After all, you could always use an external tool to build your portal or grant your client access to manage his or her account.
Here are 11 reasons why you should be building client portals in WordPress:
- You can ensure that it’s secure since you’ve already done everything possible to fortify security on your website.
- Your business will look more legit with an on-site portal available to clients.
- Client portals offload some of the work from you and back onto the clients.
- Self-service options allow you to provide customers with answers to common issues and questions without them ever having to contact an agent.
- They’re also great for customers as portals increase convenience and brand visibility, so they don’t feel completely disconnected from the business they’re working with and also don’t have to wait too long for a response to issues.
- When finance management is integrated into your portal, you can reduce the likelihood that a client won’t pay on time or in full, or that invoices will be sent to the wrong location.
- Customer service, in general, can be handled more effectively and efficiently through a portal as you have the time and space to respond properly.
- Save yourself the hassle of handling requests by phone, which can put you on the spot or disrupt your workflow. This also means customers don’t have to wait too long for a response to issues.
- You can also save yourself the trouble of lost support requests in your email inbox or spam folders..
- You control exactly what information clients send, which means no more incomplete or vague requests for help.
- You can handle much more of your business right from within WordPress, giving you fewer tools to worry about.
There are a variety of use cases for client portals. But if you want to empower clients or customers to manage their profiles, preferences, account settings, and communications more, a client portal is a fantastic solution.
At the end of the day, you want your client portal to make your life and the lives of your clients easier. By building it inside of WordPress, you’re off to a good start.
Free WordPress Security Checklist
[4 Pages] The 21-Step Checklist to
Ensure a 99.9% Secure WordPress Website
14 Plugins for Building a Secure WordPress Client Area
When building a secure WordPress client area, you have to think about what kinds of information and services you want to make available through it. That way, you can identify the WordPress client management plugins that will save you from having to use multiple solutions to accomplish what a single end-to-end client management plugin can handle.
So, before we review the best WordPress client management plugins for creating a client portal, first identify what you need to get out of it so you can better narrow down the choices:
- File upload/download
- Support tickets
- Client profile management
- Services, subscriptions, or reservations management
- Client onboarding management
- Project management
- Project-related communications
- Workflow checklists and scheduling
- Team management
- Time tracking
- Invoice management and payment processing
Let’s get started:
1. Awesome Support
Awesome Support is a free WordPress plugin that can be used to build a help desk solution right from within WordPress. If you are already subscribed to a help desk service (like Zendesk), you can integrate it with this plugin and pull the portal into your website.
The free version of Awesome Support is a great one to get started with if your needs are simple and you want to test the waters. With this plugin, you can:
- Add a support portal to your WordPress site.
- Create different portals based on selected department or product.
- Manage tickets in WordPress or other help desk solutions.
- Allow for file uploads.
- Assign tickets to different agents and keep communications secure by only allowing active agents to see ticket details.
- Track time spent handling tickets.
- Integrate with WooCommerce.
As your business grows and you develop a need for more robust support, you can upgrade to a premium plugin and get unlimited tickets, agents, and deeper control over your private communications.
2. Client Portal
Client Portal is a premium plugin that helps individuals like yourself place a project management system right within WordPress.
With Client Portal’s plugin, you can do the following:
- Create a dedicated project hub for each client through your website.
- Share details of your availability as well as ways in which clients can reach you with questions.
- Manage sensitive communications related to proposals, contracts, invoices, and more with your clients.
- Set up checklists and intake forms to account for every step of the onboarding process and project workflow.
- Provide a high-level overview of project statuses, upcoming milestones, and project due dates.
Really, this plugin is great for anyone that’s tired of communicating with clients through a number of productivity apps and task management systems. They might all be trusted, secure platforms, but it’s a nuisance not having everything in one place.
The clientResponse plugin helps you build a simply designed client portal that makes it easy for clients to monitor project statuses as well as communicate with you regarding projects.
The demo shows how this can be used to manage web design-related projects, though there are other tools you can integrate into the system to expand its capabilities. For example:
- Clients receive their own login credentials and personalized dashboards.
- You can add the most important features to the navigation of the dashboard, so clients have quick access and don’t have to search for them.
- Communication, file uploads, milestone creation, and so on are easy to add for both you and the user with an intuitive interface.
- The event calendar feature will keep you and your clients accountable for project deadlines.
- You can use different reporting systems to track billable hours on projects, payments received, and more. You can then use this information to generate invoices.
- Portal integrates with PayPal for quick and painless payment collection.
If you’d like to streamline your workflow and centralize all project-related communications, this easy-to-use client management plugin is a nice choice.
4. Freelance Manager
Specifically built for freelancers, Freelance Manager is a great tool for any creative professional trying to get a better handle on client projects, communications, and billing for their business. With this client portal plugin, you can create a beautiful-looking portal that gives you greater control and your clients better insight into what’s going on.
Here are some of the features to pay close attention to:
- Client profile management (for you and the client)
- Every step of the workflow can be documented and tracked in the system with to-do lists
- A workflow approval system that ensures you never move on to the next phase without client permission
- Smart calendars for scheduling projects, assigning tasks, and following up on late deliverables/approvals
- Contact forms to provide clients with quotes
- File uploading for you and clients
- Support ticketing system
- Invoice management (which is made even easier by internal time-tracking)
- Private messaging system between you and your team
- Report generation
- Secure payment gateway integration (e.g. Authorize.net, PayPal, Skrill)
- Database backup-and-restore
- Special permissions configuration for staff to keep data extra secure
If your business employs a number of team members and you want to ensure that all project-related communications and payments remain secure, Freelance Manager is a good choice with its built-in security and backup features.
5. Help Scout Desk
Help Scout Desk is a WordPress plugin/integration developed by Sprout (perhaps better known for its invoice management solution). What this plugin does is enable anyone to accept support tickets from their WordPress site.
Here are some other things you should know about Help Scout Desk:
- Create as many support pages and contact forms on your website, based on the departments or products you want to support.
- Customize the look of your help desk.
- Ajax helps speed the transmission of data, so you don’t have to worry about it slowing down your site.
- Create customer records, so that you and your clients/customers can see a record of their support tickets.
- Use this plugin on ecommerce websites and automatically pull in customer purchase information to speed up assistance related to something recently bought.
- Allow for file uploads.
- Customers can close their own support threads when satisfied with your assistance.
What’s especially nice about this plugin is its integration with top ecommerce plugins like WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads. Because of this, it would serve you well to use this if you want to provide support to ecommerce customers (though it’s just as viable an option for everyone else).
As you’ll notice in this list, there are a number of reasons for adding a client portal to your site and a variety of plugins that help you accomplish the various goals you have for it. LearnDash is a highly niche plugin for anyone looking to educate users through their website. This would be good for:
- Educators that want to create a learning hub for logged-in students.
- Trainers that want to hide their content behind a portal and only grant access to those who are logged in (and perhaps who have paid).
- WordPress developers who want to provide additional learning opportunities for clients and want to merge it with other client management tasks.
- Enterprises that have employee training they want to store in a centralized and secure place.
Because all of this educational material exists on your site, much of it really can become self-guided. This frees you (or the educator) from much of the hand-holding involved in education since there’s a portal through which users can access it all on their own.
MemberMouse is a simple membership and subscription solution for WordPress. With it, you can configure your site to generate recurring revenue through these types of ongoing services. You can also quite effectively manage your customers from it while also giving them a dedicated customer portal to work from, too.
Here are some of the things that make MemberMouse’s client portal configuration special:
- In the member’s only area of your site, you can serve custom home pages based on the membership level they have.
- Customers can manage their own profiles and accounts. However, in the off-chance they attempt to cancel MemberMouse automatically helps you try to downsell them and save the recurring revenue.
- It also includes upsell and cross-sell features so customers can upgrade their services as they see fit.
- Customers can manage their own payment information from the portal, which is great since MemberMouse will notify them when a card declines or is about to expire.
- This plugin is PCI compliant.
In sum, this plugin will help you capture more revenue from your memberships even as you put more control of them into your customers’ hands.
MemberPress is a robust WordPress membership and client management plugin. With it, you can quickly set your website up with a number of membership packages that grant users special access to content, profile management, subscription management, and more.
In particular, pay attention to these features of the client portal:
- MemberPress developers have taken extra care with security, following WordPress’s rules for best coding practices as well as prioritizing PHP security.
- Your portal allows members to take full control over their memberships or subscriptions: creating new ones, updating or upgrading current ones, as well as cancelling them altogether.
- You can also add a password-protected forum to the list of your offerings if you like the idea of your community supporting each other.
In addition to being an all-around great solution for setting up member portals in WordPress, it also integrates with tools like Stripe, WooCommerce, and Help Scout (also featured on this list). So, if your goal is to add a portal onto a membership or e-commerce site, start by looking at this one.
9. Membership 2 Pro
The Membership 2 Pro plugin is less about selling memberships and giving users access to a client portal for support, invoicing, or basic profile management, and more about creating members-only access to different parts of your site. That, of course, doesn’t take away the fact that you can still offer support and membership control with this plugin. It’s just that it’s a more robust solution than your typical client portal plugin.
With Membership 2 Pro, you can also create a variety of membership levels and create differing views of your site (with access to different pages and content) based on which one they sign up for. And this could be as simple as free versus paid. It’s up to you to shape what exists behind that login screen and/or paywall.
10. Paid Memberships Pro
Paid Memberships Pro is a plugin that makes the setup of a membership site a cinch. In addition to including the key features you would need to accept paid memberships, it also comes with a nice set of template pages that cover every engagement you may have with members on the front end of your site, including:
- Membership checkout and confirmation
- Account details management
- Upgrade or change level
- Membership invoicing
- Enabling recurring payments
- Membership cancellation
And because it has so many bases covered, you could realistically use this plugin to create any membership site and corresponding client portal for anything: services or product-based memberships, news subscriptions, e-learning access, listings websites, content upgrades, and more.
Technically, SuiteDash isn’t a client portal plugin. What it is, instead, is a combination of all the business tools you’re likely already using to run your business. Specifically, this is what you get within the single dashboard of SuiteDash:
- WordPress client portal (using this SuiteDash login plugin)
- Project management software
- Invoice management
- Time tracking software
- Email marketing
- Live chat
In addition, this is a white label solution, so you can brand it with your logo and colors so that clients aren’t distracted by the name of another company as they work within your secure client portal area.
This would be great for businesses of any size. Pricing is affordable and the comprehensive set of tools will encourage you to be productive while inspiring you to do more with your business.
12. Ultimate Member
Ultimate Member is a free WordPress plugin you can use to build memberships for your website. For the purposes of getting a simple client portal on your site that’s connected to these memberships, the free version should suffice. With it, you can give members the ability to update their profile while gaining access to special content around the site.
The premium version, of course, will unlock many more integrations and features you need for a more enhanced membership experience. With it, you can create online communities, connect to social media, reward members with various levels and credits, and so on. And, with that, will come more options for building out customer portals and what you enable them to do through them.
13. WP-Members Membership Plugin
For those of you wanting to create a simple client portal solution for readers of your blog or news site, WP-Members Membership Plugin might be a good choice. With it, you can add a simple registration process to the frontend of your site, enabling members to access upgraded content. The user profile page will then allow them to update personal details as well as change their password.
14. Zendesk Client Portal
If you look more closely at the Laughing Squid client portal example from earlier, you’ll notice the link pointed to a Zendesk subdomain. That’s just one example of how you can use the Zendesk Client Portal plugin software with WordPress.
Of course, if you’re already familiar with Zendesk’s help desk software, then you know what a great tool this is for business, in general. But knowing that you can integrate it with WordPress makes it even better. With this software, you’ll greatly simplify communications with end users by:
- Building a branded help desk portal for clients and readers.
- Configuring the help desk to allow anyone to use it or only logged-in users to submit support requests.
- Including a searchable knowledgebase, so users have the option of self-support.
- Creating a community forum where other users can help each other out.
- Allowing logged-in blog readers and clients to use the same credentials for support.
- Providing yourself with a quicker means of turning support-related blog comments into support tickets.
Zendesk’s integration is nice since it works great for a number of industries and use cases. There’s the obvious business-to-client service-related support. But you could also use this for things like giving customers the ability to manage profiles, reservations, billing/shipping preferences, and more.
As we talk about the need for client portals in WordPress and how to quickly configure them with the assistance of a plugin, it’s important to keep security top-of-mind. If you haven’t yet taken measures to fortify your WordPress site’s security from every angle, then you’re going to need to put that in place before you start asking clients and other users to submit sensitive information over your website.
If you haven’t read WP Buffs security guides yet, start with:
- The ultimate WordPress security guide
- An explanation of WordPress security keys and salts
- Tips on how to improve Apache security
- Adhering to a PHP security checklist
And, of course, don’t forget to connect with WP Buffs, a leader in WordPress security and performance. If you’re unsure of your site’s security in preparation for your new client portal, get in touch with WP Buffs now.
Want to give your feedback or join the conversation? Add your comments 🐦 on Twitter.