4 Things to Consider When Structuring Your Portfolio of Websites

An illustration of nine computer monitors displaying different websites

Whether you’re a healthcare provider, university, government agency, or retail conglomerate, figuring out how to organize a portfolio of websites can be challenging.

With multiple business units serving diverse purposes, it can feel like an overwhelming task to organize them all online. We created this guide to help with just that.

Think of this as your road map and these four areas of consideration as your pit stops along the route to a sound web strategy:

  1. Brand Identity
  2. Flexibility
  3. Scalability
  4. Security

1. Brand Identity

As a large organization, you’ve likely spent a lot of time and energy crafting your brand identity. You might have curated style, voice, and tone guides. At the very least, you’ve selected colors, created a logo, and identified values. You certainly don’t want that effort to go to waste.

Each of your websites should scream your brand. You want people to know it’s you because arriving at your site already trusting your brand means it’s that much easier to drive a conversion. 

It’s important to create a consistent look and feel across each of your sites. After all, consistency is a key building block of a successful brand experience. 

One way you can create a consistent experience is by including common elements across all of your sites. Let’s dive in to some industry examples.

Higher Education

Whether a person is visiting your home page, your billing portal, your athletics schedule, or the college of arts and sciences site, you want each page, each site to feel unified. You want to maintain a look and feel specific to your university so that visitors can trust all of the content shared on those sites.

Outside of using university emblems and colors, another way to build consistency is with a module that displays university announcements in the same place on each site. 

Your central web team could include such a module in the same location on every page template and university-affiliated website, and updating one master list of announcements would result in the announcement displaying on every page the module is present.

This makes it easy to update with new information, lessens the chance that information across the sites will contradict itself, and makes the information readily accessible no matter which site a user is on.

Related content: Case Study: The Universities at Shady Grove | Digitally  Uniting a Family of Universities 


As a manufacturer, your products and campaigns are hyper-focused; way more so than a typical ecommerce site. You may be creating a lot of one-off sites to highlight specific lines, but you still want them to be easily associated with your brand and the reputation you’ve cultivated as a reliable producer. 

If you’re creating sites for different products, try creating product pages that look similar across the different sites. Maintaining the same header and footer style across sites will also help maintain that consistent look and feel we’re going for.


Hospital systems and medical groups are comprised of a variety of different providers, from major hospitals to small local doctors' offices. If a patient has trusted you with their well-being, you want your credibility to extend to other providers within your network. 

Using a consistent scheduling module, or the same structure and design for all doctor and office profile pages will create a standardized experience. By making it easy for the patient to find a new doctor and schedule an appointment, you’re encouraging them to stay loyal to your system.

Related content: 5 Tips for Consistent Design (Despite Your API) 

2. Flexibility

If you have numerous websites, chances are you also have several different teams, all maintaining those different sites - and all wanting to be in charge of their individual web presences.

And that’s okay! In fact, if different teams are willing to help maintain their own sites, it takes some of the burden off of your web team to do so.

This brings us to the tenant of flexibility. If you make it easy for your teams to access the tools needed to maintain a conformant site, it will make their lives a lot easier (and yours, too). 

Set up your backend website structure and permissioning systems so teams can create new sites, but your central web team still has access and monitoring abilities. You’ll be able to ensure the site is compliant while granting the team the freedom to customize the content to their sub-brand, department, or sector. 

By giving them the flexibility to update content on their own as often as they’d like, you are shifting more of the burden off of your team. You’ll be working with your teams to maintain that consistent web presence, rather than against them.

If you are going to share editing capabilities, you’ll want to check out what permission settings your platform has and abide by the principle of least privilege. More on that in the security section below, but in short, it means only granting users the editing permissions absolutely necessary to perform their duties.

3. Scalability

At some point, you’ll likely have to add a new site to your group. Your university might create a new department, your hospital system could acquire a new doctor’s office, or your retail group may purchase a new brand. Regardless of the industry, you’ll want to get a new site up and running as soon as possible. 

A scalable website is one that can cope with an increase in workload and can handle added resources. Website scalability means that you’ll be able to spin up additional sites quickly. It also means that the added workload from a new site won’t cause the others to crash. 

You’ll want the hosting for each site to scale individually. Why? So that an increase in traffic to one of your sites doesn’t take down the others. 

Let’s use a couple of examples to clarify why this is so important.


Say you run a Superbowl ad announcing a new product line for one of your brands. After the ad, you see a massive spike in traffic. If your hosting isn’t individually scalable, the increase in traffic to one of your sites could cause your other sites to crash, resulting in unhappy users who are unable to purchase any of your other fine products.

Related content: Hosting Your Own Website vs. Using a Hosting Platform: Pros  and Cons 

Higher Ed

Here’s a real-world example for you. When the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) pulled off a historic upset against Virginia in the first round of the 2018 NCAA March Madness tournament, UMBC’s athletics website was suddenly slammed with traffic. 

People from all over wanted to learn more about the UMBC Retrievers. 

Unfortunately, UMBC’s website wasn’t able to handle the spike in traffic, and the university’s entire site crashed. Yikes.

Had their infrastructure been configured to scale automatically, new resources could have become available almost instantaneously to handle the spike in traffic - without sacrificing the performance of the rest of the university’s website.

4. Security

In 2018, the average cost of a cyber attack surpassed $1 million and could be as much as $1.67 million. Anytime you’re creating a website, security should be a priority.

The level of security needed will, of course, vary from site to site. Different sites will need more protection based on their content and the type of traffic generated. 

However, you don’t want someone breaking into one of your less secure websites, and from there being able to access information or controls from your other, more secure sites. 

In healthcare, for instance, your list of doctors and office locations will not need to meet the same security requirements as the portal where patients log health information and communicate with doctors. 

That doesn’t mean you should skip securing your directory, but rather you should take precautionary measures to prevent someone from hacking into a less secure area of your site and using that access to gain entry into other areas - like a patient’s medical information.

Related content: Outdoor Speaker Series Recap | Cybersecurity in the Public  Sector 

You’ll also want to make sure your web team is able to monitor, maintain, and access each site. 

Consider a centralized hosting dashboard, where your team can see all of the sites at once. At a glance, you’ll be able to tell which are running the latest version of your content management system (CMS). You’ll be able to see in one convenient place which modules or plugins are outdated or vulnerable, and you’ll be able to act swiftly. This will help you to keep your online presence secure.

Circling back to the principle of least privilege, you’ll want to consider who gets access to each site. It’s nice for individual teams to be able to update their own content, but you want to make sure you aren’t granting permissions at the expense of security.

Ideally, your platform will have built-in permission settings according to the principle of least privilege, meaning each user can have very specific capabilities, and will only be granted access to the tools that are absolutely necessary for them to perform their job. 

For example, you may want the head of marketing for one of your divisions to be able to upload or update the content on the division's home page, but does that person also need the ability to add other backend users or update the standardized header and footer? Probably not.

You’ll want to have strict rules in place for who is able to do what, and you will want to be vigilant about turning off access should a user change roles or leave the company.

To recap

When you’re part of a complex, decentralized organization, structuring your web presence can feel like an overwhelming task - but it doesn’t have to be. 

Focus on these four things, and you’ll be well on your way to a cohesive portfolio of websites.

  • Applying your brand identity to ensure a consistent look

  • Granting teams the flexibility to make necessary updates to their sites (and reduce your team’s load)

  • Planning for website scalability to handle traffic spikes and new sites

  • Doubling down on security to prevent attacks


Looking for assistance with your web project? Our experts have consulted with clients from a wide variety of industries on their website overhauls. Let us help you next.