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Format review: Inside the portfolio site builder

How much time do you think you have to do you have to make an impression? People tend to form an impression within the first 7 seconds of meeting – and you can expect that is the average amount of time your website has to draw the attention of a viewer.

That’s a ton of pressure, especially for creative professionals that want their website to represent their work in an effort to garner more business. That is where Format steps in. In contrast to all-purpose website builders that you can use to build a site that works for anything from agencies, freelancers, restaurants, product launches to blogs, Format is specialised in the niche of online portfolios or showcases. It was founded in 2010 and has its offices in Toronto, Canada. Even if it’s a niche-tool and not as widely known, Format is still used in over 190 countries.

Pros and cons of Format


  • You can change the themes anytime and it reformats your site for you
  • Balance between ease of use and customisation
  • The templates include stock images and text that you can edit
  • Beautiful designs that are responsive across all devices per default
  • SEO features for blog posts and products


  • Format’s visual editor can be slow at times
  • Vendor lockin
  • No import/export and backup function
  • There is no app store to extend the functionality of your site
  • Limited tools to scale

Who is Format for?

Format works well for the creative professional, be it a photographer, illustrator, or designer (these fall into the category visual artist), musician, or anyone who wants to promote their skills, products, and services. Projects built with Format can have blogs and ecommerce stores, allowing the creative to also sell their work.

How easy is Format to use?

When you sign up, Format asks you a few questions so that it thinks works best for your needs. After the registrations process, you are taken to the dashboard with a checklist to help you with building your portfolio. The dashboard itself displays shortcuts to Pages, Design, and Settings.

Format’s visual editor

If you come from another website builder, you should feel familiar with Format’s visual editor. Its layout is similar to other tools like for example Strikingly. On the left-hand side is the sidebar with all the options. When you want to build, edit, or extend your project, you do that in the section Pages. You will see your current page in in the main part of the screen, once you have clicked the Edit button. The visual editor lets you move the sections and elements on your pages with drag-and-drop. You edit the text elements directly in the layout. The interface itself is quite intuitive since its elements have understandable titles and are well-positioned.

Although Format has pre-built sections to help you create your website, it still offers many options in the settings as well as a code editor for HTML and CSS for you to customise the design. You have a preview mode to see all changes before saving, and desktop or mobile device view mode.

Format design and themes

All themes set the customisable gallery as centre of attention. They are all beautifully designed to work both on a desktop and on mobile devices. Some themes are only available on a basic plan. At the time of writing, you can choose from 75 themes.

Format themes are all modern and attractive

Very convenient is that you can change the template any time and Format will reformat everything for you – instead of just resetting.

How to manage your ecommerce store in Format?

To run an online store, you need to first enable Format’s Store feature. You will manage your inventory, orders, and discounts in this section. You can sell physical and digital goods as well as services. The store is more suitable for services or digital products since it doesn’t offer returns and refunds managing functionality.

The product page in Format

If you need variants like colour or size, you can add it directly in the product page.

Format integrations

There is no plugin or integration store so that you can’t extend your site. Format offers 3 applications to help with running a site.

You can manage your Format site on the go with Format’s iPhone app, unfortunately, there is no Android app.
With the Format Publisher plugin, you can upload your media directly to your site from Adobe Lightroom.
For Capture One, there is also a Format Publisher plugin with which you can upload your media directly.

You can custom embed code, so you can add any service that offers an embedded code to your site.

What marketing and SEO tools does Format have?


You can edit your overall meta tags in the settings of Format. Exemplary is that you can edit meta tags of each product and each blog post in their respective settings. It even shows how the SEO product or post description will show up in the search engine results. It also generates the sitemap.xml.


The blogging function is very simple to use. You can not structure your blog post with different levels of headings (that is h2, h3, etc). It also doesn’t offer an RSS feed.

Sign up forms

Depending on the plan you choose, Format has the option to allow people to sign up to your mailing list that you then manage directly in the settings.

Social media

Format lets you embed your Instagram feed into a section on your site. You can also link your social media.

Payment options

The only gateway available in Format is Paypal. Format itself doesn’t slap on a transaction fee.

Format security

Format includes an SSL certificate for all plans. There is no backup, import, or export function.

Format customer support

If you’re working ahead in the Format’s visual editor, you can chat 24/7 with the support team. They usually reply in a few hours. If the wait is too long, just below the messaging, you will find that you can key in your question and it will query their help database. Otherwise, hop over to its help page.


Format offers 4 plans with Basic at $7 per month being the lowest. This plan has a limited set of features and themes. When you sign up, you can benefit from the 14 days free trial of the Unlimited where you can try out all the features without having to enter your credit card details.

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Is Format the right tool for you?

As a video specialist, model, artist, or in general a creative individual, you’d want your online presence to showcase and also sell your work. Format panders exactly to this specific need.

If you’re growing or have more general needs but still prioritise design, you’ll want to look at multi-purpose website builders like Squarespace.

Since Format offers a free 14-day trial, why not see for yourself if it’s a good fit for you?

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