A Thought Exercise on Subscriber Portals

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Subscriber portals typically provide users with the means to self-manage their services. This includes activities such as purchasing add-ons and reviewing usage. In some deployments, the subscriber portal can also configure and troubleshoot devices without having to log into a separate control panel that usually has a completely different user interface. This single interface approach keeps things tidy and done right, a subscriber portal can play a major factor in improving Quality of Experience. In this blog post, we look at some core considerations needed in a subscriber portal.

Set-and-forget is an important trait to have in device management and configuration. Having to constantly log in to tweak settings will lead to frustration and possibly another support call. Modern devices are very good at this, and eventually they go incognito in the home as the Internet just works. It’s the best scenario — devices connect without issue, Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) automatically handles complex network needs, and speeds match what the brochure says.

However when users are rarely on the subscriber portal, they also tend to forget how they performed an action or where to find an item in the portal. The learning curve for configuring a gateway or router is already very high for the average user. Often times they are bombarded with a dozen or more choices for each option they care about. Sometimes, I find myself clicking through each panel just to find the one particular setting. Subscriber portals need to be accessible and intuitive from the get go. People don’t want to spend their time there, they want to resume playing.

In addition to forgetting parts of the interface, the user could also forget how to access the subscriber portal. Was the URL one-nine-two dot one-six-eight dot zero or one? What is the default password for this login, or did I change it to something else last time? Subscriber portals that use a user’s account to log in benefit here from not having some odd combination of “admin”, [blank], and “password” found in some firmware-hosted control panels.

While we don’t want users to have to log in all the time, could we encourage users to stop by? Not because they have an issue to resolve, but perhaps to engage and even gain meaningful insight about their network. Not just connected devices, but even how much each device is consuming, or the signal strength coming from each individual device. In turn, information can be used to help justify a promotion — move up a tier to satisfy bandwidth needs, or lease a WiFi extender to help with dead spots. There is a lot of potential to be gained from building the subscriber portal correctly.

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