Portfolio management is a dull ache for any creative. While presenting your work online can give you a career leg-up, it can take WEEKS to build, design and hone a platform for your portfolio. In order to make the process easier, we’ve selected three website builder platforms that we think are perfect for writers looking to quickly cultivate an online presence – we’ll be pitting Squarespace vs Wix vs online writing portfolio specialist Clippings.me.
Each platform offers intuitive functionality that strips away the need for technical expertise, helping you set your site up faster and make your content pop with great presentation and layouts.
So, what platform is best for your specific needs and what should you know before you put your portfolio online?
What should I expect?
When it comes to website builders, you should always look for functionality, usability and useful value-adds that make your work truly sing.
Most successful modern hosting platforms are templated site builders which allow you to quickly construct your portfolio site from pre-made ‘blocks’. These can then be added to your site-pages as if you were moving files around on your desktop and letting you add text, images, or a range of other attractive options with little fuss. This lets you avoid the learning curve that comes from building a site from scratch and can see you make your content available for viewing in days, if not hours.
After going back and forward and drawing on the experiences we had putting our portfolios online for the first time (which was tremendous fun for all concerned), we whittled our long-list down to a final three.
We decided that the chosen website builders had to be suitable for:
- New professionals looking to build their first professional site and increase the visibility of their quality portfolio.
- Seasoned writers that want to improve their online presence and draw benefit from additional functionality.
- Busy professionals who want to showcase their content but are unwilling to waste time on grappling with tools and formatting.
But before you decide to take the time out of your day to trial a platform, it’s important to ask a few key questions about how your needs map onto a website builder. These include:
Q: Who is my audience?: Are they members of the public, industry professionals, and how do they expect your site to appear? Should it be friendly, professional, and how much time do they have to spend reading it?
Q: How do they navigate the site?: Will your audience be browsing on computers, or using their phones and other smart devices? How will your layouts and design look across multiple platforms?
Q: What is an ideal site structure?: Do you want to have a simple ‘one-page’ design that gets straight to the point, or are you offering a professional service that needs to be fully detailed to your audience?
Q: How much does it cost?: What is your budget for putting your portfolio online? Many of the sites offer tiers and advantages at different price points. What one works best for your needs?
Pros and Cons: Squarespace vs Wix vs Clippings.me
We think that all of the three website builders are suitable for professionals, but before we get started on our deep-dive, it’s important to get a sense of the broad advantages and disadvantages of each. Starting with:
A real stand-out in the market that’s currently ranked #2 across the industry and uses a templated format with an extensive range of functionality.
- Competitive pricing: Squarespace has a competitive pricing structure starting at $12 per month for a personal site and $18 per month for a professional page. While this may a little more than the other sites on this list, the company also has a number of discount codes for first-time users that can help take some of the sting out of your initial build.
- Ease of use: The system is designed to be simple to get to grips with and comes with a range of official and community tutorials online that quickly help address even the most specific of queries.
- Comprehensive support: Squarespace has a large searchable knowledgebase and dedicated support page and a built-in support bar available once you have registered with them.
- Familiarisation time: While the system is easy to get to grips with, Squarespace does have a wide range of features and functionality that will require effort from you to understand when best to use them and how they work on each page.
- Not for complex designs: One of the costs of having a simple interface is that your navigation panel, which allows you to move from page to page, only has one level of depth. This makes creating complex sites with multiple pages and sub-pages difficult and could create maintenance issues if you make styling or branding changes.
- Cost: While Squarespace pricing is competitive, it does carry a hefty price tag if you are only looking for a single, double, or triple-page site. While this may give your portfolio the chance to grow in future, it may end up costing you too much for what you actually need.
A cost-effective competitor to Squarespace that also follows a templated design model. While it doesn’t enjoy the same market share as Squarespace, the open nature of the platform and generous choice of functionality does make it an attractive option for portfolio work.
- Free plan: Registering with Wix automatically awards you a free, full-access account that lets you start building instantly. If you are happy with the platform, you can then choose from a range of premium plans starting at a reasonable $4.50p/m:
- Attractive and intuitive site-builder: Wix’s tool panel lets you build a site within an hour, combining depth of functionality with a high degree of usability.
- Welcome aboard!: Wix has received a lot of positive press from pages like Websitebuilderexpert for providing a comprehensive onboarding plan for new customers coupled with a with a free training program delivered by email.
- Overwhelming: While Wix has a solid welcome package, the freedom to add content anywhere can initially feel intimidating. While Wix offers more leeway with your build, other sites enforce limits to prevent design mistakes – which can help you save time in the long run.
- Advertising: Wix may be initially free but an unpaid membership will add advertising to your portfolio page and use a default URL which can appear unprofessional to some viewers. This effectively forces you to pay more to ensure reader confidence – potentially making the ‘free’ version an extended trial by another name.
- Migration: If you want to move your site to another website builder or back it up, Wix does not allow you to migrate your site in a universal .xml file format. While your portfolio can currently be migrated to sites like WordPress it is a “rather complicated process” that could be prohibitively difficult for many writers.
Streamlined and efficient, Clippings.me is the world’s most popular option for creating dedicated professional written portfolios for writers and journalists. This can make it a perfect choice for portfolio work but leave it lacking when compared to the bells and whistles of other sites.
- Fit for purpose: If you are a professional writer looking to showcase your work, the site is designed for writing work and nothing else. This focus makes it streamlined, efficient, and easy to read for visitors.
- Free: The platform is free by default but a premium membership costs $9.99pcm, allowing you to access features such as custom domains, detailed analytics, and SEO optimisation.
- Quick setup: The login process allows you to capture key details about you and your work and quickly start uploading your profile content. If you have your material to hand, the process can take little more than an hour to create a fully realised portfolio page.
- Limited functionality: If you are not a journalist or writer, the site runs the risk of being a little too good at its job; offering a simple, navigable database for your work. If you are looking to extend the remit of your site page, this may not be the right choice.
- Supporting content: While the site may be easy to use, there are fewer supporting materials available online, compared to Squarespace and Wix. Running into obstacles with the site will mean contacting customer support directly to resolve them.
- Customisation: Once your site is created, your formatting will remain constant and cannot be changed. While this may not be an issue for professionals where design or aesthetics are not important, it can be difficult to create a genuinely eye-catching design.
The Deep Dive
With the overview out of the way, it’s important to take a more critical look at each site.
During our review we asked:
- How easy is the site to use?
- What does a finished portfolio look like?
- How much you can add to your page?
- What extras make a subscription truly worth it?
Usability: Squarespace’s block-based design makes site-building intuitive and allowed us to put together a competent first-draft relatively quickly. While the system is initially easy to use, it does take a little time to get used to – especially when it comes to deploying spacer blocks to manage your readability and layouts. Adding these to your pages without forethought can cause formatting issues and can mess up carefully considered designs. Mistakes like these can take time to fix which can quickly add up due to the system lacking a dedicated ‘undo’ button. The platform also enjoys a range of other helpful block types that can help present your content in a punchy way but will require research to get the most from them.
Appearance: Each Squarespace page is templated by default and is arranged to emphasise readability. However, if you do want to deviate from the standard format this can prove extremely difficult, with almost all site-builders struggling with ‘edge cases’ that do not conform to the site’s standardised design. If you do want to go ‘off piste’ premium templates can be bought from the online store and are highly customisable. It is also worth remembering that complex designs will require code changes such as CSS manipulation or extensive custom formatting which can be difficult to maintain and have a high risk of breaking if you change your template again.
Capacity: Squarespace allows you to easily add a number of pages and content types to your site. If you are concerned about the traffic coming to your site (congratulations by the way), Squarespace is more than able to handle your speeds, as they famously host their site on the same servers as their clients. Each Squarespace site allows for 1000 distinct pages and lets you set up multiple sites for personal or professional use that can be managed though the same admin panel. However, the system is currently limited to 20mb per file when it comes to internal storage, which may cause problems for high-quality pdf documents for catalogues of extensive work.
Additional features: Squarespace comes with a wide range of options when it comes to customising your site. This includes automatically optimising your page for mobile and smart devices and includes an invaluable tool that allows you to see how your portfolio would appear on devices:
The platform also allows you to fully export your data and connect with social sharing sites including Tumblr, Insta, Twitter and many more. Add in the ability to fold in ecommerce, email campaign functionality, and SEO content and you can quickly find yourself spoiled for choice.
Usability: Wix deploys a straightforward ‘drag-and-drop’ interface from a dashboard menu loaded with options. But, while these are comprehensive, we found that they can prove a little difficult to navigate. If further customisation is needed, Wix code can be used to add additional functionality or stylistic elements, though this is something that only the most dedicated or tech-savvy should consider.
Appearance: Wix holds its own against the competition here by giving users over 500 free design templates to choose from for free. This also comes with a voluminous library of professional images and the ability to directly pull content from your Shutterstock account if you have one.
Generous? Yes, but it is worth pointing out that once you have chosen your overall site template you are forced to stick with your design or start your build again as your overall layout cannot be changed. The site also offers lots of visual extras with feature animations, cool parallax effects and embedded video available by default on the platform.
Capacity: While a Wix website is great for hosting content, users can quickly run into trouble if they chose one of the basic subscription packages. The default free package comes with 500mb storage and the same amount of bandwidth, with the cheapest clocking in at $4.50 per month and coming with 1GB of bandwidth and only 500mb of on-site storage. While you can choose more generous domain types, this hidden cost can prove to be a genuine obstacle when it comes to making the most of Wix as a portfolio page.
Additional features: Each Wix site comes with its own image editor that allows you to quickly add filters or adjust images without having to resort to third-party programs. The stand-out piece of functionality for the platform is the Wix Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) program. If selected, this starts your build by asking a series of questions and autogenerating your initial site layout based on your business requirements. While the program isn’t complex enough to do all the heavy lifting for you, being able to start your design without the tyranny of the blank page can incredibly useful – especially for writers who are a little less tech-savvy than others.
Usability: If time is money, this site will save you a fortune. Clippings.me’s super-streamlined design lets you set up a first-draft portfolio page in less than five minutes, allowing you to quickly upload and link to your portfolio work once your page is in place.
Appearance: One of the biggest strengths of the platform is its commitment to a no-nonsense clean design that makes your portfolio and CV readily readable. The downside of this is that this design can come across as a little sparse and full care should be taken to pursue a minimalist aesthetic and focus on the content over the presentation. This layout can be quickly tested by signing up for a free trial or following their comprehensive range of online tutorials and style guides.
Capacity: A free account currently imposes a hard limit of 10 articles by default, with a professional account allowing for unlimited multimedia content uploads to the site. Custom domain support (being able to choose your own unique URL for the site) is currently only available with a premium registration, in effect making the default membership a ‘trial’ account. While this can provide an effective on-ramp for writers who are starting to find equilibrium in their careers, it will force writers with a large portfolio to instantly pay out for professional status.
Additional features: As with most web platforms, Clippings.me allows you to efficiently integrate your social media to your portfolio page and vice-versa – letting you quickly publicise your work. Aside from this, Clippings.me does not come with anything close to the additional advanced functionality of Wix and Squarespace… because they simply aren’t needed. Deciding to sign up for a professional account allows you to capture key analytics and retain visibility of how many times your content was viewed and how many sites have backlinked to your work. There is also the option to appear on the sites’ professional journalist directory which can be useful for pursuing future work or looking for networking possibilities.
When it comes to external reviews, we knew that word of mouth was the best option for each one.
This includes the following testimonials from professionals currently using the system.
“The great thing about Squarespace is you get a month’s free trial so you can ‘play’ before committing…but once I’d practiced and followed the video guides they provide; things fell more and more into place.”
“Wix is pretty great, it’s simple to understand, menus and all they need to be, no fancy stuff to get in the way, it’s great for blogging, easy to navigate around too.”
“This is the most professional of the group — and is specifically designed to help writers organize their work…[though] there is a small monthly cost if you want a little more than basic services.”
In Conclusion – Squarespace vs Wix vs Clippings.me for Writers
While each of these sites is different, we think your choice will boil down to one question: Do you have the time (and willpower) to assemble and fine-tune the perfect site or are you more interested in spending as little time on your design as possible?
If you’re looking to invest a little time in your website buiding, we would wholeheartedly recommend Squarespace for professionals. While Wix may hit the ground running faster, Squarespace steals the show with a raft of straightforward functionality and a comprehensive support program; letting you grow your site from a single page or display an attractive, unique portfolio that can be regularly updated.
But if you’re looking to efficiently showcase what you can do, we have to put our vote behind Clippings.me. While it may not have the range of functionality of other sites, the system offers a clean appearance, simple functionality, and exactly what you need to build your portfolio. No more, no less.
Musings and updates from the content management team at Clippings.me.