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What's the Difference Between a Website & a Digital Portfolio?

People frequently ask, “What are the differences between a website and a digital portfolio?” There are many, but here are the top five, so you can decide when to use a website or a digital portfolio, or both.

1. Annual Cost

The cost to build and maintain a website varies dramatically. Some of the variable costs associated with websites include:

  • a custom domain name (annual fee)

  • hosting/server space on the internet (annual or monthly)

  • plugins, and editors (one-time or monthly)

A digital portfolio has a one-time annual payment to use the platform. There are no additional domain fees or apps to purchase.

Bottom line: It costs less per month to maintain a digital portfolio.

2. Ease-of-use

While you can customize the design of your website, it usually requires prior design knowledge and experience. For those without the knowledge or experience, the endless design possibilities can be overwhelming, mistakes can be easily made, and some design functions require coding. For those who are looking to customize their website and are okay with functionality restrictions, there are helpful website builders, such as Squarespace, that can be used for a monthly or annual fee.

Digital portfolios are less focused on the design elements and more focused on the content. Coding is not required at all. After signing up, your digital portfolio profile is instantly set up and ready to be filled with your work. You can customize your work through the use of multimedia content embeds and a cover image.

Bottom line: Digital portfolios are easier to use out of the box and to maintain over time. However, they are limited on customization options.

3. Easy to Edit

Website builders, like WordPress, have a back-end interface where you edit your work. Making edits instantaneously is often difficult since it requires the use of a laptop or a desktop. Depending on the changes, coding may be required too.

Making edits to a digital portfolio can happen on any device. Adding text, photos, videos, and audio to a page can easily be done on a cellphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. No coding is needed for any change, ever.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a tool that you can edit anytime, with any device, digital portfolios are the best choice.

4. Customizable

Website builders come with thousands of plugins and themes to help you achieve the look that you want for your website. Because they are extensively customizable, they have the potential to be a better representation of your brand image.

Digital portfolios have limited ability to customize the aesthetic. However, they are still personal and personalized. Each digital portfolio tells a different story. Your passions, interests, skills, and hobbies lead the conversation.

Bottom line: If you’re looking to easily personalize your content, as opposed to customizing a user experience, digital portfolios are the way to go.

5. Sharing & Privacy

Digital portfolios have advanced privacy settings. For students, schools can set privacy restrictions so no one outside of an organization can view published work. For individual users not tied to an organization or school, you have the option to publish your work to specific users, create private share links, or make it visible to anyone who has access to the internet. All of this is done with a click of a button.

When publishing a website, the content is visible to anyone who has access to the internet. While websites allow you to set specific pages to private, or create password protected pages, this process is not simple when compared to a digital portfolio.

Bottom line: If privacy is a top priority, digital portfolios have more options when it comes to sharing and publishing your work with others.

Examples of Student Digital Portfolios:

Examples of Educator Digital Portfolios:

Examples of Professional Digital Portfolios:


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