First, let me say that the following text is not from me. This is an exerpt from MSDN at:
I put this part overhere becaise it answers questions we need to answer when we design a portal. When we start to explain the difference between a portal area and a WSS Site to a client, it does not take very long for the client to be lost (Even if he says everything is alright ;-) ).
By going through this test you will get a better knowledge of what the differences are or at the least, some nice sentences to explain and maybe use in your documentation ;-)
When planning for corporate environments such as an intranet portal or SharePoint site, you need to consider some of the differences between a Windows SharePoint Services site and a SharePoint Portal Server portal area. An area is a means of publishing and aggregating content using a navigational taxonomy, whereas a SharePoint site facilitates collaboration of team members using collaboration objects and custom lists. Users have unlimited view and editing access to the portal areas; by contrast, SharePoint sites are only available to members. Individual users can personalize a portal area in more ways than a SharePoint site.
Moreover, areas are based on the Windows SharePoint Services framework and offer a set of unique templates. You can determine whether to use a portal area, or a SharePoint site by deciding first what you intend to do with the site. In general, use areas and portals for information publishing, and SharePoint sites for online collaboration.
Create SharePoint sites when you want to collaborate across projects in
the following ways:
-Sharing and retaining versions of documents
-Delegating and sharing tasks
-Handling presence and messaging
-Sharing and targeting information
Create areas when you want to publish information such as the following:
-Content for publishing
-Managed spaces for users or subject-matter experts
-Areas of subject expertise
-Subsites for a categorized set of documents
With the union of SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services, you can integrate SharePoint sites and areas to create custom environments that target a particular interest group. For example, you can publish related content created from collaborative projects on several SharePoint sites to an area, encouraging information sharing and easy access to relevant information.
Customizing a SharePoint Site
SharePoint sites are designed to be flexible. You can tailor a site to fit your users’ needs by adding or removing pages, changing the appearance of pages, changing the site navigation, and making other customizations.
To customize SharePoint sites, you must have the following rights, which are included in the Web Designer and Administrator site groups:Manage
-Add and Customize Pages
-Apply Themes and Borders
-Apply Style Sheets
Other users of your site cannot gain access to the pages required to perform these tasks unless you specifically assign them to a site group that contains these permissions.
Customizing Web Sites From Within the Browser
You can perform basic customization from within the browser, using links from the Home, Create, and Site Settings pages of the Web site. From the browser you can perform basic customizations such as the following:
-Add a list
-Change the layout of the home page
-Change the picture on the home page
-Add a Web Part to a Web Part Page
-Change a site’s display name (not the URL)
-Apply a theme
For more information about customizing Web sites from within the browser, see the Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services Help.