Be Gone Captive Portal…well almost. There is no denying that the captive portal deployed by most public WiFi networks is a source of annoyance to users. Grabbing a quick coffee, and you get a pop up asking you to accept terms and conditions amongst other things. They have a purpose, but it can get a little annoying when you are repeatedly asked to navigate the portal.
Before going into more detail on the captive portal, it is important to first understand the concept of a walled garden. This is not the country estate version, but rather a list of websites that you are allowed to visit before the WiFi Hotspot provider lets you into the internet proper. When you are in the walled garden, you can happily explore anything you want, as long as it is in the confines of the websites listed by the provider.
What is it used for?
The captive portal is used for several reasons, primarily to make sure that guests are aware of any terms and conditions but also to capture data for marketing purposes, carry out surveys and general brand awareness. For venues that decide to charge for WiFi the captive portal is the place where they can capture payment details. It is also worth remembering that while not desirable from a user perspective, some venues are required by law to retain user records.
Once is Enough
And this is where we at MyPlace Connect believe that one visit to the captive portal should be enough. The first time a user visits a venue they should be required to go through the captive portal to agree to terms and complete any registration as required. Once a user has been verified then they should not go near the captive portal again as there should be no need. Any reputable WiFi access point, UniFi as an example can gather all relevant data in the background without requiring users to go through the portal on each visit. Data retention will still be required, and now even more so by incoming GDPR legislation in Europe
A good WiFi hotspot user experience should minimise effort by the guest and maximise value for the host venue. In other words, make it as easy as possible to get online and capture as much relevant and actionable data as possible. Capturing WiFi users email should be a primary objective as well as other value added services like integrating with TripAdvisor Review Express to increase review volumes received. Subsequent visits by a known guests should be as seamless as using WiFi at home.