Types of portal

Unlike a centralized information system, a distributed system is made up of many independent components that are coupled to a virtual system that has no direct connection to the users. This puts the responsibility of presentation and graphical design into the hands of the associate sites that are hosting the portals.

The relationship between the virtual system, the portals, associate hosts and the clients is illustrated in figure 1.

System relationships

Figure 1- relationships between the components of a stigmergic system

The easiest way to structure a stigmergic system is to have a single portal design that is used by all the portals. Unfortunately, life isn't that simple. Every site will have a different idea as to how it should be designed - especially as it should match the design of the hosting site, rather than looking as if it is a link to another site.

This presents a problem because a fully customized portal requires a fair amount of technical expertise. The solution was to provide a variety of portal options that at one extreme would provide a boiler plate solution - a portal that is as simple to install as a link - and at the other extreme allow an associate website to have a completely free hand to design the portal any way they want.

Four options are available:

The simple option

This is the boiler plate solution, it allows an associate site to provide a semi-customized portal without the need for any design work at all. It is a link to an access portal that is located on a neutral site. These access portals are components of the system that are each dedicated to specific hosts and have a limited amount of customization.

All new associate sites will be provided with this option in the first instance.

The "easy design-tweakable " option

This is similar to the simple option, except the associate host can change the text sizes and fonts and alter the color schemes.

This requires no technical knowledge of CSS as the adjustments can be made simply by changing a few global variables.

The "full design-tweakable " option

This is similar to the "easy design-tweakable " option, except there are more variables available

The "fully customizable" option

This option is available for associate hosting sites that will want to have full control over the design of the portal. For this option, the portal will have to be located on the associate's own site. They will be provided simply with link access to the virtual system of agents. All design and presentation is then left to them.