Building an online portfolio is an essential step for any creative professional. Your portfolio showcases your skills, experience and unique style to potential clients or employers. With so many website builders to choose from, how do you pick the right one for creating your creative portfolio? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the top website builders for creative portfolios and how to use them to build an effective portfolio that highlights your best work.
Key Features for Creative Portfolio Builders
When evaluating website builders for creative portfolios, there are certain key features to look for:
- Customizable design and themes – You’ll want lots of options to make your portfolio visually unique. Look for drag and drop builders that make it easy to customize.
- Media galleries – The ability to beautifully showcase photos, videos, illustrations or other visual work is a must. Media galleries optimized for creatives are ideal.
- Minimal templates – Start with a clean, minimal template instead of flashy pre-designed themes. This puts the focus on your work.
- Easy navigation – Make sure it’s simple for visitors to browse between portfolio sections and view your different projects or creative capabilities.
- Mobile responsiveness – With so many browsing on phones or tablets, your site needs to look great and work seamlessly on all devices.
- Contact forms – Include easy contact forms so potential clients can reach you to discuss work opportunities.
- SEO optimized – Your site should be optimized for search to help you get discovered. Look for SEO tools or sitemaps built in.
- Analytics integration – Track visits and portfolio views with integrated analytics like Google Analytics.
Now that we’ve covered the key features creative portfolio builders should offer, let’s take a look at some of the best options out there.
Squarespace – The All-in-One Favorite
Squarespace is likely the most popular all-in-one website builder for creatives looking to build a portfolio. The flexible platform combined with Squarespace’s elegant designs make it our top choice for many creative professionals.
Here are some of the key advantages Squarespace offers:
- Gorgeous minimal templates – Squarespace offers minimalist, contemporary webpage designs that put the focus on your media.
- Easy customization – The drag and drop builder and wide range of customization settings allow you to put your own creative stamp on pages.
- Responsive galleries – Showcase your visual work in Squarespace’s optimized, responsive galleries that look stunning on all devices.
- Built-in eCommerce – Squarespace makes it easy to sell your creative work through the integrated eCommerce tools.
- Powerful blogging – The advanced blogging engine is great for creatives who also want to blog about their work and process.
- SEO tools – Built-in SEO tools like sitemaps and metadata help your portfolio get found in search engines.
- 24/7 customer service – Get anytime help from Squarespace’s renowned customer service team.
Squarespace starts at $12 per month for their basic plan. It’s a complete platform that can take you from initial portfolio setup all the way up to running an entire creative business if your needs grow.
Wix – Drag & Drop Design Freedom
Wix is another very popular website builder with creative designers thanks to its powerful drag and drop tools and near complete design flexibility.
Here’s an overview of Wix’s strengths:
- Truly customizable design – The Wix Editor gives you pixel-level design control for unlimited creative freedom.
- Drag and drop elements – Easily drag and drop images, icons, shapes, videos and other elements exactly where you want them.
- Media galleries – Create stunning grids, masonry layouts, slides and more to showcase photography or other visual media.
- Animations – Add animated elements like text or buttons to make your portfolio interactive.
- Dedicated portfolio templates – Wix has templates made specifically for creative portfolios you can customize.
- Built-in blog – The Wix blog integrates seamlessly when you need journaling or writing to complement your portfolio.
- Mobile optimized – All designs and galleries adapt automatically for mobile.
- SEO Apps – Extend functionality with SEO and analytics apps from the Wix App Market.
Wix pricing starts free for basic sites. Premium plans start at $14 per month if you need eCommerce or advanced functionality.
Format – Portfolio Power
Format is a website builder created specifically for professional creative portfolios. While not as full featured as some competitors, its portfolio focus makes Format a great choice for showcasing creative work.
Here are the main benefits of using Format:
- Portfolio-centric templates – All of Format’s portfolio templates put your projects front and center.
- Minimal designs – The portfolio themes are elegant, minimal and let your work stand out.
- Project presentation – Format offers numerous options for showcasing pieces like galleries, slides, titles, videos, tear sheets, and more.
- Navigation – The navigation, sorting and filtering makes it easy for visitors to browse your projects.
- Responsive – Designed for optimal viewing on any device.
- Built for creatives – Format caters to photographers, designers, videographers and other creative fields.
- Easy customization – Tweak colors, fonts, and layouts with just a few clicks.
- SEO optimized – Format builds in best practices like alt text and metadata for better SEO.
Pricing starts at $12 per month for the Standard plan that includes unlimited projects and pages.
Cargo Collective – For Interactive Portfolios
Cargo Collective is geared toward interactive, multimedia creative portfolios. The advanced platform makes it easy to incorporate interactive elements for dynamic, engaging portfolios.
Here are Cargo Collective’s top highlights:
- Interactive media – Embed interactive prototypes, 360 content, audio, video and more.
- Animations – Build animations and parallax scrolling effects between pages.
- Developed for interactive fields – Ideal for showcasing interactive design, prototyping, development and other dynamic work.
- Minimalist portfolio templates – The portfolio page themes keep things clean to let projects shine.
- Customizable – Tweak site design with custom colors, fonts, and CSS.
- Responsive display – Portfolios look great on all screen sizes.
- Password protection – Password protect private portfolios and manage access.
- Detailed analytics – Get insights into portfolio visitors and engagement.
Cargo starts with a free plan then offers paid plans starting at $12 per month. It’s best for creatives with highly visual, multimedia or interactive portfolios.
Dunked – For Visual Impact
Dunked is a newer website builder gaining popularity with visual creatives like photographers and graphic designers. It makes it easy to create full screen visual websites perfect for impactful imagery.
Key advantages of Dunked include:
- Fullscreen visual sites – Images and media take center stage with full screen scrolling galleries.
- Choose vertical or horizontal themes – Pick templates optimized for vertical or horizontal visual layouts.
- Designed for visual fields – Perfect for photographers, designers, illustrators and other visual creatives to showcase work.
- Gorgeous galleries – Present images or videos in compelling, full screen galleries.
- Image optimization – Images are served fast and optimized for top quality.
- Intuitive customization – Easily customize colors, fonts, text and navigation.
- Responsive – Sites look stunning across devices.
- Contact forms – Collect inquiries from potential clients.
Dunked starts with a Limited free plan then paid plans from $8 per month. It’s ideal for bold, visual creative portfolios.
Milkshake – For Creatives Needing Ecommerce
Milkshake is a website builder that combines simple design tools with powerful eCommerce features – perfect for creatives who need to sell their work.
Here is an overview of Milkshake’s offerings:
- Easy to customize – Quickly customize template designs and layouts with the intuitive editor.
- Integrated eCommerce – Built-in shop tools make it easy to sell physical or digital products.
- Product galleries – Showcase products in engaging, interactive galleries.
- Responsive – Shop and products look great across all devices.
- Design tool integrations – natively integrate with tools like Figma, Canva and Adobe Creative Cloud.
- SEO optimized – Strong SEO helps your portfolio and shop get discovered.
- Blog and newsletters – Engage your audience and promote your creative work.
- 24/7 support – Get help anytime from Milkshake’s Customer Happiness team.
Milkshake starts with a 14-day free trial. Paid plans start at $12 per month for core features up to $22 per month for the full Business plan.
Portfoliobox – For Creatives on a Budget
If you’re a creative on a tight budget looking for an affordable portfolio site, Portfoliobox may be the perfect choice. Key highlights:
- Low cost – Plans start at just $4.99 per month, making Portfoliobox one of the most budget-friendly creative portfolio builders.
- Easy to use – The editor is very intuitive with drag and drop simplicity. Easy for beginners.
- Good customization – Has great options for custom headers, colors, fonts and layouts.
- Responsive – Portfolios look good across desktop, tablets and mobile.
- Contact forms – Collect inquiries from the built-in contact form.
- Image galleries – Showcase images and videos in customizable image galleries.
- Blog – Share your creative process and perspectives through the integrated blogging engine.
- SEO optimized – Strong out of the box SEO so your portfolio gets found.
- Support team – Get questions answered from Portfoliobox’s customer support team.
The Starter plan is just $4.99 per month and removes Portfoliobox branding. It has all the core features needed for building an effective creative portfolio site on a budget.
Best Portfolio Builders for Specific Fields
While many website builders work well for multiple creative fields, some cater to specific specialties. Here are top picks for specific creative focuses:
- Best for Photographers – Format, Dunked
- Best for Graphic Designers – Dunked, Adobe Portfolio, Cargo Collective
- Best for Illustrators / Animators – Cargo Collective, Tumblr
- Best for Interior Designers – Houzz, Squarespace
- Best for Architects – Format, Squarespace
- Best for Fashion / Art – Format, Squarespace, Cargo Collective
- Best for UX/UI Design – Cargo Collective, Behance, Krop
- Best for Performing Artists – Wix, Squarespace
While not an exhaustive list, these portfolio builders stand out as top choices based on the features and functionality most beneficial for each field.
Key Elements of an Effective Creative Portfolio
While you need the right portfolio builder tools, the content and presentation of your work is even more important. Here are key elements to include for an effective creative portfolio:
- Feature your best work – Be selective and only include your strongest, highest quality pieces that showcase your skills. Less is more.
- Tailor content to your niche – Curate projects specifically relevant to the type of work or clients you want to attract.
- Show off your style – Let your aesthetic and creative style shine through in the styling, overall look and feel.
- Tell the story behind projects – Provide background on challenges, your process and solutions for each project highlighted.
- Include project details – Share key details like project type, client, timeline, deliverables, and your specific role for context.
- Make it easy to navigate – Allow visitors to easily move between different portfolio sections and view details on each project.
- Optimize images – Images and media should be high resolution, compressed for fast loading, and well cropped or edited to look their best.
- Keep portfolio updated – Continuously update your portfolio as you complete new projects and evolve creatively. Archive old projects that are no longer relevant.
With a well crafted portfolio that effectively showcases your skills and style, you’ll be sure to impress potential clients and move your creative career forward.
Turning Your Portfolio Into a Website Business
While starting with just a portfolio, many creatives eventually turn their portfolio site into a full website business. Here are some tips on turning your portfolio into a money-making creative business:
- Add an online store – Use built-in ecommerce tools to easily sell your work like graphic design templates, prints, merchandise or other products.
- Offer services – Highlight your service offerings like photography sessions, design projects, speaking engagements or creative consulting.
- Build out a blog – Share your knowledge, perspectives and process through blogging to attract new followers.
- Send newsletters – Engage your audience and promote your latest work and offerings via regular email newsletters.
- Get search traffic – Use SEO strategies and content to get found by potential customers searching for your type of creative work online.
- Promote on social media – Market your site and work through social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. Leverage hashtags and tagging.
- Look for partnerships – Partner with complementary brands for brand awareness and cross-promotion opportunities.
- Attend events – Attend or speak at local events related to your industry to network and directly connect with potential clients.
- Offer workshops or classes – Generate income through virtual or in-person workshops, masterclasses, or teaching focused on your creative expertise.
With the right business strategies combined with an eye-catching portfolio, you can turn your creative passion into a thriving and meaningful business.
Building a standout creative portfolio is foundational for promoting your skills and talents to prospective employers or clients. While you can’t go wrong with popular platforms like Squarespace and Wix, be sure to choose a portfolio builder with features that best fit your specific creative focus.
Strip away templates down to a minimalist design so your projects take center stage. Showcase only your best work tailored to your niche and be sure to tell the story behind each piece. With these tips in mind, you can produce an engaging portfolio that moves your creative career forward.