What is a client portal?

Thierry Maout • Updated on May 31, 2023 • 6 min read

If you’re managing data associated with clients, partners or a community, you need a client portal.

Whether you’re a small business, an investment firm, or a SaaS provider, you need to be able to categorize what your users can see and share, providing them with secure access.

If that sounds like something you want to build, look no further. In this article, we will answer the question "What is a client portal?", why you need one, as well as describe the key characteristics of a good client portal.

Let’s get into it!

Table of Contents

  1. What is a client portal?
  2. Why do you need a client portal?
  3. What are the must-have characteristics of a good client portal?

What is a client portal?

So, what is a client portal? Simply put, a client portal (aka “customer portal”) is a web app that can be accessed via a secure entry point (a login page, typically). The purpose of the web app is to let users access gated content or private information that is associated with them. 

“Client portals were the first technology to enable collaboration between the client and advisor without requiring a face-to-face meeting or use of overnight mail.”

  • Technology Tools for Today's High-Margin Practice 2nd Edition (Joel P. Bruckenstein, David K. Drucker -‎ Bloomberg Press, 2013)

Some examples of companies using client portals might be:

  • Investment funds, providing information and special access to portfolio and LPs;
  • Accounting agencies, giving customers access to forms, tax returns, and other financial documents;
  • Law firms, helping clients access details about their case, updates, and progress;
  • Non-profit, sharing specific access to their volunteers.

The list goes on, from online banking to insurance, SaaS platforms, and more. But it’s not all about big corporations. Think of some popular client portals people around you might use in their daily life:

  • Airbnb hosts keeping track of their apartments and related bookings;
  • Freelancer content writer working with an agency and checking current, past, and upcoming briefs and content. In the current modern world, freelancers can take advantage of using an AI text generator for content creation to save time.
  • Real estate agents organise and manage apartments assigned to them. 

Now, when it comes to you and your specific business, why would you need a client portal? 

Why do you need a client portal?

You might ask yourself: What are some of the benefits of these platforms for you and for your users? And what are some of the specific use cases for which they make the most sense?

Benefits of client portals

Implementing a client portal presents benefits for you and your users. Let's review some of the key advantages.


One of the key benefits of implementing a client portal is the ability to provide a secure platform to your customers.

Not only is the data completely safe thanks to server-side security and encryption, but you have the ability to set different levels of access. This means that some users will have more access rights than others, based on the permissions you decide on. This is great for platforms where a hierarchical setup is in place: managers and employees, or administrators and members for example.


Another major aspect of client portals is the ability to provide a unique experience.

After logging in with their selected username and passwords, users have access to gated content and personalized information, ranging from usage data to their own, private files. This in itself provides a lot of value and incentive to visit the portal regularly, serving as a powerful psychological trigger to consider it “their” space. 


For customers, having access to personal data and unique documents online through a client portal is a major benefit. Think about banking services. Would you sign up for a bank account in 2021 without online access?

Furthermore, client portals are practical. As long as customers have an Internet connection, they can log in to your client portals at any time and, for the most part, from any device. We’re a long way from having to physically visit your bank branch to schedule a transfer like it might have been the case years ago. 

Scaling operations

When starting out, most SMBs can manage their client base through emails, spreadsheets, and a healthy dose of DIY. However, as these smaller companies start to grow, a client portal will become necessary to scale and handle the growing requirements.

Can you imagine communicating by email with your banker every time you need a bank statement? As you grow, a portal is simply expected by users.

Saving time and money

Last but not least, saving time and money is a major reason for implementing a client portal.

Managing a portal for users is a great way to centralize communications and provide all user information in one place. It also results in reduced costs. From manpower efficiency to reduced operating costs, running a client portal can help businesses save a lot of money. Think about these examples of costly, ineffective practices that can be replaced:

  • Banks sending statements by snail mail; 
  • Software providers generating and sending reports to customers upon request.

One could argue that the upfront cost of setting up a client portal is high. But as we will see later in this article, new and innovative platforms allow implementing a portal at a much lower cost.

Now that we’ve gone over some of their benefits, let’s take a look at some practical use cases for client portals.

Examples of use cases for client portals

Sharing confidential information

The first and most common use case for client portals is security. 

A requirement in a lot of industries, protecting customer data with certain levels of encryption and providing a username and password login is a must. Real estate companies, for example, could require gated content for agents and buyers regarding listings and deals. 

Start and launch your client portal today!

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client portal example for sharing condidential information

Image Source: PropertyBase

Providing an advanced personalized experience

Client portals are a great way for companies to provide each user with a unique experience, based on their specific data.

Contrary to static websites, portals are populated with different information for each user, extracted from their software usage, input, or profile. This makes for a highly personalized experience, with valuable insights and data that will ensure customer retention.

client portal example for providing personalzied user experience

Image Source: Pipedrive

Managing clients and collaborators

Agencies, whether they provide recruiting, design, or marketing services, get to deal with a lot of collaborators, both internally and externally. 

While some coordinators might enjoy going back and forth with dozens of freelancers and different types of assets, a client portal can really simplify the process:

  • Providing freelancers with briefs, guidelines, or billing history;
  • Gathering deliverables in one place for easier storage;
  • Giving clients private access to track progress and give feedback.

What industries can benefit from client portals?

Client portals can be used across a number of industries, for a variety of use cases. For example, their benefits for accounting firms and independent accountants has been extensively documented in existing literature:

“One of the primary forces driving CPA firms to implement a client portal is to reduce the risk of a breach of privacy associated with e-mailing documents that contain personal information, such as tax returns, financial statements, investment information, and so forth. If you deploy an effective portal system, it can be one of the most secure ways to exchange and store information today”

  • 10 steps to a digital practice in the cloud : new levels of CPA firm workflow efficiency (John H. Higgins, Bryan L. Smith - American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 2012)

But that’s not all. Some other examples include:

  • IT and tech companies, to provide dashboards, quarterly reports and more to their users
  • Law firms, to communicate with clients privately and exchange court documents securely
  • Solopreneurs and freelancers, to manage all clients in one place and enter timesheets, billing details and projects
  • Investors and venture capital firms, to exchange reports, financial sheets and market insights with their portfolio
  • Non-profit and unions, to communicate with members, provide confidential information and more
  • Marketing agencies, to store campaign progress, share dashboards, submit creative ideas and decks

The list goes on. In essence, Client Portals are a great way to securely and asynchronously exchange information between an organization and its clients, making the experience both more practical for the company and user-friendly for the client.

What are the must-have characteristics of a good client portal?

You might have encountered the acronym “PISA” on the internet. It’s a useful abbreviation to keep in mind, defining the four main characteristics a good client portal should possess: practical, interactive, secure and accessible.


Client portals are designed to make things convenient, that’s why practical design is one of the first components you should focus your attention on. Besides, since they’re mostly designed to be used by your customers, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to navigate and find the right information at a glance.


From user onboarding guides to friendly chatbots, modern websites are loaded with UI and UX components for your users to interact with. Because this is expected and makes for a more please experience, interactive elements have to be considered for your client portal.

Enable your clients with contextual interactive experiences - from client onboarding to real-time support. Interactive experiences like in-app guided walkthroughs, embedded resource centers, and pop-up messages all provide support to clients, in the flow of work."


Client portals contain some of the most sensitive data your customers will handle in their journey. Beyond obvious personal areas like banking and health information, these portals are often ripe with data from job performance insights, finances or more. It is hence paramount that proper login and security structures are in place.


Finally, accessibility here means the ability to access your portal anytime, anyplace. The golden standard should be 24/7 access, with customer support available in case of an outage. Consider implementing a cloud based phone system to enhance not only the reliability but also the scalability of your communication infrastructure. For a seamless experience, add virtual business cards with relevant customer service personnel numbers clients can use when needed. This is also expected by customers in most cases, led by example by online banking. Remember last time you weren’t able to check your bank account balance? We don’t either!

The Client Portal Infographic

Finally, here are some key insights and takeaways we gathered about client portals:

  • 90% of global consumers expect brands and organizations to offer an online portal for self-service;
  • 98% of consumers have tried a self-service solution, including searching for a company FAQ section, help center, or other online resources;
  • 60% of U.S.consumers say that their go-to channel for simple customer support inquiries is a digital self-service tool.

customer portal stats


You should now have a clearer understanding of client portals, what they entail, and whether your company needs one. From banking institutions to insurance companies and SaaS platforms, client portals have become a staple of the digital world.

To start building your own client portal, check out our guide on building a client portal.

Frequently asked questions about client portal software

A client portal is a cloud-based web app accessed via a single, secure entry point, like a login page. Client portals are used by organizations to provide a professional service, communicate securely, and collaborate with customers, teams, partners, or community members. Users are granted permission to view, edit, share and collaborate only on documents and tasks that are relevant to them. So a client portal is more secure than giving all users access to your database.

A client portal should include the following: - Security: Secure cloud-based file storage, access, and management. User-controlled password management, and secured storage in our SOC 1, SOC 2, and ISO 27001 certified data center located in Germany, with 24/7 operations and enterprise-grade security.Learn more about our security commitment. - 24/7: Around-the-clock access for all users. - Permissions: Flexible, granular permissions management for individual users or groups. - Communication: Real-time communication, collaboration, and project management tools, like Dropbox, Google Docs, group chat, instant messaging, discussion boards, and notifications. - Billing: Ability to integrate with payments applications such as Stripe, Paypal, Buy Me a coffee and Gumroad - Integrations: Integration capabilities using our powerful API and native integrations with analytics, email, advertising, messaging tools, and more. Learn more about our available integrations - Personalization: Customizable user interface and back-end that are interactive, intuitive, and easy to navigate with embedding capabilities. - User-friendly: Everything users can expect - from real-time, dynamic search, and listings to dashboards and analytic tools, as well as note-taking and comment management between collaborators.

Softr's client portal software puts you in control of your data. Among other things, Softr can help with: - Allowing your end-users to login via web app - Segmenting database access permissions - no more direct access to your entire database - Ensuring secure access with relevant audiences using permissions and enterprise-grade security - Creating a tailored experience for a more personalized, engaging UX boosting your professional image and customer experience - Enjoying self-service for clients and team members to access their information 24/7

Depending on your specific business model and industry, there are several reasons why you should consider implementing a client portal. But the most common reasons include: - User experience: The ability to login and access a client portal is particularly valuable for your users, and a much better overall experience than email, traditional online storage and other cumbersome solutions. - Security: Providing a secure client portal allows you and your clients to rely on sound security practices and to keep control over the files and data you can exchange. - Personalization: Client portals allow for advanced personalization, from the appearance to reflect the look-and-feel of your brand, all the way to permissions settings allowing you to control who can access which set of data - Convenience: A client portal is simply much more convenient for all parties involved, whether it’s your own team that can work and update asynchronously, or your clients that can benefit from 24/7 access to important information. - Branding: Finally, a high-quality client portal is a differentiator that helps set your organization as an enterprise-grade, modern business, providing a thorough, end-to-end user experience.

Client portals are safe if they use server-side security and encryption, and users log in with a unique username and password. Owners and admins can also set user access permissions, so each user can only access the content and sections made available to them. This offers greater protection against data leaks and unwanted data manipulation.

Anyone can use a client portal if they are granted access by the owner. Client portals are commonly used by large and small businesses, startups, law firms, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and online communities, among others.

Client portal features available with Softr include: - Interactive UX. - 30+ dynamic list layouts. - 100+ pre-built drag-and-drop blocks. - Custom form builder. - Video, social media, and business tool embedding. - Native Stripe integration. - White label option to add your custom branding to Softr templates. - Membership management. - Granular user group permissions, and tiered access to sections and gated content. - On-page profile and listings editing. - SEO optimization, and responsive, mobile-friendly pages. - Real-time, dynamic search, filtering, and sorting. Smart pagination. - Embed your app in any webpage. - Transfer ownership. - Server-side authentication and enterprise-level data encryption.

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