Step by Step: How to Build a Portfolio Website with Squarespace

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I recently had the opportunity of testing out Squarespace’s website builder. I was floored by how simple it is to create a portfolio website on this platform, which is great for designers and creatives looking to establish an impactful web presence—and it’s easy enough that someone with zero web design experience can still create an impressive site.

I’m not a designer myself, but I do occasionally dabble in photography, so I decided to create a tester website to show of some of my work.

How to Build a Squarespace Site for Your Design Portfolio

1. Choose a Template

This is probably the hardest part, just because the options are pretty vast. I looked for a template that would enable me to create individual articles about the work I’ve produced, while also showing off hi-res visuals. I needed something flexible and chronological, but also with some decent image features, so I went with Forte. According to Squarespace, it’s a “bold yet minimal template that features full-screen images and precise typography. Its landing page pulls visitors into your portfolio, showcasing the range of projects for your restaurant, portfolio, or business in beautiful high-resolution.”

I like the high-impact landing page and the simple side-scrolling feature that can be used to showcase individual photos. Note that you’re not pigeonholed into the same look as everyone else on the same template. The platform offers a ton of functionality for making design tweaks, including uploading custom logos, adding lock screens and announcement bars, and adding your own custom CSS.

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Once you’ve chosen a template, select “Start with this design” to start building. If you don’t have a Squarespace website yet, you can start your 14-day free trial at this point.

2. Create an outline and add pages.

Personally, when I’m creating a website, I like to lay out the hierarchy on pen and paper before I get moving. You don’t have to do this, but it may make your process simpler so you don’t have to backtrack and change pages.

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The best part about using Squarespace is that you get a live, 100% accurate preview of what your site will look like while you’re working on it. You can drag and drop elements, tweak styles and fonts, and add new pages—all while you see what it looks like in real time. To view it full-page, just click the eye icon in the top left corner.

It’s super simple to change the titles and menu labels—you just hover over the element you want to change and select “edit.” I kept it pretty basic: “Zafarris Photography.”

To create the pages, I hovered over the nav bar and selected “Edit” to work with the pre-set pages of the template. You can also go to the “pages” option in the left-hand menu to modify your navigation and add pages. When you add a page, you can choose to create a gallery, a basic page with a custom layout, a blog page, an events page, and even add an album of music. I created a few iterations of the scrolling gallery in the demo to showcase different photography styles.

3. Upload portfolio content.

Since I was creating a photography-based portfolio site, I created galleries in several different categories. Again, this is all drag-and-drop, so you can upload photos and designs in batches and add captions and credits as you go. Just click on each element to edit it, add text, add metadata, etc.

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4. Add supporting information and optimize.

Be sure to add your bio page so visitors know a bit about you. Each page allows you to add different blocks for text, images, and other elements and arrange them however you please. Make sure to add social media icons so that visitors can follow your work anywhere.

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As an SEO professional, I’d also encourage you to add and maintain a blog. Google tends to rank websites higher in search results if they include news and updated information. If you’re a designer, include case studies about your work, tips for your fellow designers, and projects you enjoy from other creative professionals. Sharing your experience makes your site discoverable, engaging, and attractive to employers who are looking for an expert in your discipline. Fortunately, tracking this in Squarespace is easy. Its robust Analytics options include traffic overviews, mobile usage, referrals, popular content, search data and more.

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If you plan to sell your work, you can also add ecommerce elements. Adding a shop expands your audience to shoppers and design enthusiasts, not just art directors. Add photos of your prints and products, set prices and configure advanced settings to make sure it functions smoothly. The eCommerce manager is super easy to use—you can manage your orders, inventory, customers and discounts all in the left menu.

Finally, connect your social media accounts under Settings > Connected Accounts.

5. Create a domain and publish.

Once your site is ready to meet the world, select the “upgrade now” button to get a free custom domain when you sign up for the annual plan. Squarespace has three different service plans to meet your needs.

And there you have it! A completed, beautiful website.


There are many platforms that can help you craft portfolio sites and websites for clients, but we particularly like the versatility and user-friendliness of Squarespace, which includes a vast array of drag-and-drop features, impressive all-in-one templates, online store options, 24/7 customer service and more. Give Squarespace’s 14-day trial a shot to test out the platform and experience its web design options for yourself—and use coupon code HOWDESIGN at checkout for 10% off your first purchase.
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