If there’s one thing that stands out about Squarespace, it is its ability to cater to a wide spectrum of website needs. Although its main focus is professionals and small to large business owners, it also offers web developers, engineers and web designers a universal platform where they have full control over a site’s coding and functionality needs.
Since its inception in 2004, Squarespace has been steadily building a name for itself with quality design templates, extensive features, and comprehensive help and support resources to make it one of the leading web publishing platforms.
Some notable features include:
- The use of content blocks to easily accommodate different types of content, from videos to text.
- Automatic processing of images into multiple sizes so they look great on any device (e.g., PC, tablet, smartphone, etc.) that is used to access your site.
- The ability to seamlessly connect social accounts to your website.
- Built-in, extremely functional e-commerce tools for selling products on your website.
- Seamless third-party integration with services like Google Analytics, Shopify, etc.
Getting started on Squarespace is as simple as clicking the Get Started button from the home page. From there, choose a design template, create an account to log in to your site, and begin building in the Site Manager. For those who want more control over their website design, Squarespace does not offer blank templates like other website builders, but rather directs you to its developers section.
The Squarespace 6 platform is nicely organized into five areas, with everything necessary to build, modify and manage your website accessible from the site manager. Adding to the simplicity is the use of drag and drop to add components.
The five main areas of the site manager are:
- Preview Mode – This is where you can see a live preview of your site, or exactly how visitors will see it. It also contains the visual style editor for changing the fonts, colors and other attributes of your website.
- Content Manager – This is where you add all your site’s content, from pages, images and blogs, and organize the main navigation of the site. Squarespace went one step further with its page layout feature and created intuitive content blocks that are already formatted for commonly used content styles, such as contact forms, menus, newsletters, videos, etc.
- Activities – This section nicely presents statistics on your website, such as where visitors are coming from and what content is popular with visitors. This section is also used for managing site comments.
- Commerce – This provides tools for anything pertaining to setting up an online store, including adding products, viewing inventory, setting shipping fees and tax rates, and managing orders.
- Settings – This section is for setting or changing your website preferences, such as modifying its title or logo, setting up a domain name and utilizing SEO tools.
To demonstrate Squarespace’s simplicity, this is how easy it is to add a contact form to a website:
- Select Content Manager from the Site Manager.
- Select Add Pages and name the page by typing Contact in the pop-up text box.
- Select the Form icon from the content block menu by clicking on the insert point on the page.
- Drag and drop the icon where you want it on your web page.
While adding content into columns has always been an issue with site builders, Squarespace has managed to solve the problem by eliminating the need to create a column. Content aligns perfectly by dragging it to the side of an existing element on the page. If resizing is necessary, the content automatically snaps and aligns properly to the grid.
All Squarespace design templates have built-in mobile websites, so the style of your website looks its best when accessed by a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. In addition, all web pages are responsive when viewed on any type of mobile device.
A nice feature is the mobile information bar, available under Overlays in the Settings section of the Site Manager. It gives site visitors shortcuts to access key information, such as your business address and hours, email address, or phone number.
There is the option to disable the mobile view, although with the majority of people viewing websites from a mobile device, it might not be advantageous from a business standpoint to not use the mobile view.
In terms of accessing your Squarespace account from a mobile device, Squarespace is ahead of the curve here. It has numerous mobile apps for both Android and iOS that allow you to conduct various site functions, like viewing and tracking your website’s metrics and traffic statistics; displaying images and videos being uploaded to your site’s gallery so you can edit, configure, or email them from a mobile device; and editing, posting, or managing your blog.
Squarespace offers some really clean and professional looking template designs. They are easily organized into six themed categories: features, business, portfolios, stores, restaurants and personal.
A helpful feature is that each template, when selected, displays a paragraph of its best uses and features. For example, if you select the business template style Adirondack, the description explains that it is designed to elevate brands large and small, is ideal for self-starters and entrepreneurs, and has minimal navigation and full header images.
A plus is that you can install more than one template to a single website and work on multiple designs at once. This lets you compare which site presents the content better for your applicable business or personal site.
One of the advantages of using Squarespace is realized when your business grows. If you need to scale up to a different plan level, for example, from a Personal package to a Professional package, it’s a simple billing change that you can do from the Billing tab in the Settings section under the Site Manager.
The Squarespace platform automatically retains your site design, duplicating its layout and keeping all of its style elements and other attributes. It you have multiple Squarespace sites, you will be prompted to select which site you are upgrading.
Squarespace probably has one of the richest search engine optimization (SEO) platforms among site builders. The platform relies on proven best practices for SEO. For starters, its sites are already optimized for SEO by default. It also automatically generates a sitemap that lists every URL on your site and metadata of images for easy SEO indexing.
Squarespace also provides enhanced SEO tools under the General tab in the Settings area of the Site Manager. For example, there are three different title formats – home page, collection and item – for customizing search results and browser tab displays. These title formats allow you to control which content gets priority with search engines. Squarespace also makes it easy to set the site title, site description, search engine description and page description.
In addition, Squarespace automatically fills in the title, description and tags you previously assigned to your images. All social media post entries and images are also optimized and tagged for correct reference to descriptions and titles.
Blogging with Squarespace involves a streamlined interface blogging module accessed directly from the Content Manager in the Site Manager. This blogging module is pretty sophisticated and rich with features, including a bounty of templates that accommodate enhanced features.
When creating a blog page, the item, options, location and social tab options make it quick and easy to add content blocks, organize posts, set commenting, add external links, automatically share posts with social media accounts, and import content from your other blogging websites, such as WordPress and Blogger.
Some really good capabilities are publishing podcasts within a blog post and syndicating them, adding tags and categories that link to similar content on your site, adding a sidebar within the blog page, adding a share button for visitors, and configuring for multiple authors.
Squarespace automatically assigns a customizable URL for each blog post and embeds RSS in every post for RSS syndication. The blogging module also handles scheduling of posts and posting by email, and has Google author rank built in. There’s also a blog app for managing, previewing and posting your blog from a mobile device.
The Squarespace Commerce system, accessed from the Site Manager, allows for a full breadth of e-commerce activities, including setting up a storefront for physical or digital goods and services, integrating products or services into other web pages or blog posts, and managing orders.
It should be noted that before setting up a Squarespace e-commerce site, a free account from its payment processor, Stripe, is needed. A bank account and a tax identification number are required. Stripe charges 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per successful transaction.
Since it uses Stripe, Squarespace does not offer PayPal integration, however, you can embed a PayPal payment button by using the code block.
Squarespace’s e-commerce system, which is SSL enabled and PCI compliant, has too many features to mention, but some of the top ones are:
- A comprehensive order management interface that easily tracks outstanding orders, sends customer updates and tracks customer activity;
- Functionality to apply coupons to orders or accept donations;
- Automatic syncing with Xero’s cloud-based accounting platform;
- Unlimited SKUs in its inventory management interface;
- ShipStation integration so shipping labels can be printed in batch for all major carriers;
- Real-time shipping estimates based on an item’s dimensions;
- Third-party integration through Google Analytics to analyze commerce transactions.
Despite a full range of e-commerce tools and features, Squarespace probably wouldn’t adequately serve businesses selling hundreds of products that require a heavy amount of images per product. You can still use Squarespace since Shopify makes it possible through a widget to embed your online store into your Squarespace website.
With its global servers, page speed should never be a problem. Furthermore, Squarespace uses progressive image loading so images on the top of the page load first, making your website faster and more responsive.
The website builder also improves load times with its content downloading protocol. All your content, including that from social media platforms, is downloaded into Squarespace so your website can load faster from a single location.
Squarespace offers a 14-day free trial that comes with 24/7 customer support and does not require entering credit card information. After the free trial, three price packages are available. All Squarespace packages include fully integrated e-commerce, a mobile website and store, free custom domain and 24/7 customer support.
Here are the differences between the three packages:
The Personal Package is $8 a month billed annually or $10 month-to-month. It includes: 20 pages, galleries and blogs with 500 GB bandwidth, 2 GB storage and 2 contributors to your site’s website manager, the ability to sell 1 product and accept donations.
The Professional Package is $16 a month billed annually or $20 month-to-month. It includes: unlimited pages, galleries and blogs, unlimited storage, bandwidth and contributors, sell up to 20 products and the use of the developer platform.
The Business Package is $24 a month billed annually or $30 month-to-month. It includes unlimited pages, galleries and blogs, unlimited storage, bandwidth and contributors, sell unlimited products, real-time carrier shipping, label printing via ShipStation, integrated accounting by Xero and the use of the developer platform.
Top 3 Pros and Cons
- No plug-ins are required. Everything is built in and automatically optimized.
- Before taking your e-commerce store live, you can disable the store and create test orders to avoid charges from the payment processor.
- The search block tool so visitors can quickly find what they are looking for.
- The lack of a blank design template to customize your own design. Overall, Squarespace’s design templates are short on theme options and variety. Each theme offers only about seven design templates. The templates are similar to those offered by other website builders and editing CSS codes to modify them is limited.
- Unable to import data automatically from OpenCart to your Squarespace website.
- Limited to pasting remarketing campaign codes only in the header and footer.
Since Squarespace is rich in functionality, allow some time to learn all about its features. Towards that end, Squarespace offers an extensive help center, complete with detailed, yet easy to read guides, video tutorials and workshops. The help center is accessible from the Help and Support section of its website.
You’ll also find answers to your questions in the community Q&A site, where you can also leave a question to be answered by other Squarespace users.
There’s also 24/7 email support, with responses typically sent within one hour of receipt. Live chat support is limited, but only offered weekdays from 3 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
Whom This Website Builder Is Ideal For?
Squarespace promotes itself as a website builder for all and it pretty much covers its bases with the tools, features and functionality it provides. It probably leads the pack in the industry niches of portfolio, personal, photography, boutique businesses, restaurants, design and blogs. If you’re looking for a website builder with image-rich, minimalistic design templates, this is the one for you.
More importantly, the platform allows those with no coding experience to build a well-functioning website, while at the same time offering advanced tools and capabilities for those with design and coding experience.
Squarespace is especially ideal for those who know what they want in a website and how the design should look, but lack the technical skills to build it from the ground up. In other words, if you’re looking to get a website up quickly using a cookie-cutter template, this probably isn’t the web builder for you.
Squarespace also accommodates those who want complete control over their website to change or modify its look and monitor metrics and site analytics themselves rather than go through a third-party.
Unlike other website builders, Squarespace is chock full of features, so it might not be as easy to use from the start as others. But, if you take the time to explore the platform and utilize its many help and support resources, it does become easy to use and well worth your investment of time.
No doubt, Squarespace is a very powerful website builder and one that will benefit its users, no matter the type of site they create. Squarespace’s goal was to provide a website building platform to meet all needs and it appears it has succeeded, as the platform is continually updated as more needs arise or technology changes.
Through the use of Squarespace, you can be assured of an attractive and polished website that gives you the flexibility to customize the features and functionality that you need.