Squarespace: Review and Expert Opinion
“Squarespace is a site builder I have enjoyed using for several years now, and delving deeper into the mechanics of it for this review certainly hasn’t changed my opinion. Yes, it’s more expensive than a lot of the other options, but you get what you pay for. From the advanced features to the money-making prowess; I think you are going to like what this website builder has to offer.”
August 22, 2020
Squarespace is a premium service. There’s not a free plan available. So, if you’re looking for a cheap, basic site builder, you may as well check out one of my other reviews, as you’re not going to get that here. In terms of monetization and professionalism, I rate Squarespace up there with the best. So, let’s delve a bit deeper…
Some quick Squarespace facts and figures
- Squarespace was launched in 2004
- The company is based in New York City
- There are more than 1,870,000 sites using Squarespace
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Is Squarespace Really Easy to Use?
Overall ease of use is always subjective. From my experience, I found Squarespace simple to use, yet I have experience with website editing and web design. I appreciate that there may be a little bit of a learning curve for anyone who doesn’t have experience and this is their first encounter with a site builder. However, I stress that this is just a small learning curve – it’s certainly not a complicated platform by any stretch of the imagination, and there are a lot of great tutorials about if you’re struggling. I will also tell you more about the support offered by Squarespace later in the guide.
In terms of getting started with Squarespace, the process is pretty straightforward. I’ll take you through it below. Firstly, you’re going to be asked a few questions about your site. You can skip them, but your answers help you to set-up your dashboard the right way for your needs.
Squarespace started off by asking me about my website goals…
Next, they want to know where my business is right now in terms of growth. This helps Squarespace to set up the features appropriately for me.
After this, I am prompted to select a template. The templates are easily categorized so you can find the right one for you.
Once I chose a template, there were five quick slides to go through, which ended with me being given the freedom of exploring on my own or starting with colours, fonts, and logos. I like that you have the option of a more guided approach if you’re just starting out. Or, if like me, you prefer to figure things out yourself, you can do just that.
After this, I was taken to the editor, where all of the fun really begins…
All-inclusive site editor
The editor has some drag-and-drop elements, yet it’s not fully drag-and-drop. When you first begin to edit a page, you will add content blocks or sections. These are pre-configured for easy use.
You can choose from image galleries, contact forms, food menus, simple text blocks, and much more. Some of the most complex blocks include e-commerce products, appointment scheduling forms, calendars, Amazon products, charts, Twitter feeds, RSS feeds, social media icons, and much more.
Quick Tip!When you go into the editor, Squarespace only allows you to customise elements on the page you are on. This can be a bit of a hassle. Work around this by creating a hidden page with all of your design elements; from large buttons to headers. On this page, edit the style settings then you can see how everything looks across your site on the one page.
Once you have selected the sort of content block that you require, you can then get going with the dragging and the dropping! Elements can be dragged to any part of the page you like, yet there are limits. It is not like Wix whereby you have complete freedom. This is good in one sense, as your site is going to be spaced properly and it will look consistent, yet you don’t have the full room to express your creativity. So, it’s all about what you really want and your own capabilities. Squarespace prevents you from creating a website that looks terrible, yet if you’re confident in your abilities, you may prefer a site builder like Wix that puts you in full control.
I should stress here that there is still a lot that you can do with your site and the layout of it. You can add blank content blocks, building a basic layout by adding your own content, spacing, and columns as you see fit. Alternatively, you can use the pre-set content blocks, which give you a layout that you can then tweak.
Quick Tip!You can add custom code to your Squarespace site. This includes Code Injection, CSS editing, and the Code Block. Squarespace support isn’t available for this, though.
I don’t have a lot of negative things to say about Squarespace, but one area I do feel like Wix outshines them in is the template department. There are over 60 preset designs for you to choose from on Squarespace, but I do wish there were some more!
The templates are split up into the following categories: launch pages, real estate & properties, personal & CV, restaurants, musicians & bands, weddings, events, community & non-profits, local business, professional services, blogs & podcasts, online stores, photography, and portfolios.
All of the templates are sleek, stylish, and professional in their appearance, but it would be good if they expanded their selection a bit so there were some more options to choose from. They all have that signature Squarespace feel to them; the minimalist, flat sort of style.
Once you have selected your design, you can alter it at any time. Once you go live, you cannot simply change to a new preset. However, you can do extensive edits to the point whereby it looks like a different template entirely.
Quick Tip!I would recommend creating your own 404 pages using a Squarespace cover page. The default 404 page leaves a lot to be desired.
I am glad to tell you that all of the designs are mobile-responsive, so you don’t need to worry about any troubles cropping up once you switch to a smaller device. I have tested a few of the templates on my mobile phone, and I did not run into any problems or glitches, as is the case with a few of the other website builders I have used. To see what your template is going to look like on a mobile device, simply click on the mobile phone icon in the top right-hand corner of the editor page.
Now, while I have made my wish for a bigger template selection evident, I can’t complain too much, as you’re able to use another design if you want to. You could have a template built for you, for instance. Of course, this is going to come at a price!
Are you ready to delve a little bit deeper into the mechanics of Squarespace? When Squarespace version 7.1 was released, they came with an important update that has really made a massive difference to the site builder in my opinion. This update meant that all of the templates were simply variations of the same template. You may think that this sounds restricting, but it’s actually not. It means that it is the same framework or pile of code; however you want to look at it.
So, why is this a good thing? Well, what it means is that the site builder is modular and highly flexible, which means you have the ability to create any type of layout you want, from any fonts to any colours. It also means the platform is so much easier to work with. With just a few clicks, the entire look and feel of your site can be changed. These changes can be as subtle or as radical as you want it to be.
Personally, I much, much prefer this system. However, if you don’t, that’s cool too because you are going to be able to switch to the older version of Squarespace with their old templates. In my opinion, old is definitely not gold in the world of web design and development, but the choice is yours!
Squarespace has a great balance of features in my opinion. I think that beginners will have everything that they need to build a website with ease. However, if you’ve got a bit more experience, you won’t be disappointed. I felt that I had everything I needed to build a site in the way that I wanted. Yes, it probably leans more to the beginner a little bit, yet I know a lot of advanced web designers that have chosen Squarespace as their go-to, and it’s not hard to see why.
I am going to begin by revealing more about the e-commerce features on Squarespace, as this is actually one of the best things about the site editor for me. All you need to do is answer a couple of questions and click the mouse a few times, and Squarespace will create the site for you.
In terms of adding products to your site, you can make this a lot quicker by uploading your products via a .CSV file. In terms of managing your products, the user interface is detailed, but it is easy to learn. Once you familiarise yourself with the system, you will find it’s not too much of a challenge!
There are lots of great features that you can expect with Squarespace’s e-commerce offering. This includes scheduling in-store pickups, creating shipping zones, getting an automatic shipping fee calculation, selling via social media, selling subscriptions, creating mailing lists, selling gift cards, offering sales and discounts, selling physical and digital products, getting an automatic tax calculation, and accepting payments in a number of different ways, including PayPal.
You do have the option of changing the layout of your store page, although the choices here are a bit limited. However, I would recommend keeping your store in the same general feel and style of the rest of your site in any case, as this will enhance the user experience.
If you are planning to sell products online, I definitely think Squarespace is one of the best solutions out there. It is fully featured, so you are going to have everything you need. While it is a bit more expensive, I personally think it is worth the money. After all, you have to spend money to make money, right?
Stock photography has a bit of a mixed reputation. Some people hate them, others love them! I think that they can definitely be used to good effect; it all depends on where you’re using these images. Squarespace has set up their builder so you can easily find both premium paid and free stock photos right in the site editor. I found this useful because it means you don’t need to resize or download anything. All you need to do is choose the photo you want to use.
If you are looking for a blogging platform, Squarespace offers some good features. It probably wouldn’t be my number one pick, but there is a lot to like about it.
You can categorize blog posts, add tags, schedule posts, and save drafts with Squarespace. You will also be able to set it so that posts are reviewed by colleagues prior to being published. This is great if you have a big content team or you have a guest blogging policy at your business.
Quick Tip!Some blog templates don’t have a sidebar, but you can definitely fake it until you make it! Simply use various content blacks to add social links, your bio, and so on. For every new post, just duplicate the previous one and change out the main content. You will end up with a faux-sidebar that remains consistent.
The editor itself is fun to use. I like the fact that you are going to be editing your blog posts in the same manner as you would edit any other page, i.e. directly on the page. This means that what you see when you’re putting the blog together is what people will see when they view your website. This means you do not have to keep going back and forward in between different pages, which makes it a lot easier and more efficient.
In terms of social sharing and SEO tools, you have everything that you would expect. This includes being able to send blog posts out as newsletters when published, setting up how your blog post is going to be previewed on social media websites, and setting meta descriptions and titles for search engines.
SEO and marketing features
I enjoyed the selection of in-built tools that Squarespace has in order for you to market and promote your personal website or business site without requiring a lot of effort. There is everything from promotional pop-ups to social share buttons.
Quick Tip!To create a button, try using the ‘poster’ style image block. This will automatically re-size on a mobile device. It’s also much better for SEO than adding an image with text on it already.
It is also worth noting that Squarespace has its own email marketing platform. If you pay for one of their packages, this is included without any extra fee. Mailchimp integration is available, though, if you would prefer.
Another tool that I enjoyed using was the scheduling tool. If your company relies on in-person appointments, I think you will find this feature very helpful. Not only can you take appointments using it, but you can create intake forms, send automatic reminders to customers, and manage your available time.
Squarespace App Market
Squarespace does not have an ‘app market’ per-say. There are many different websites and external services that are integrated with the site builder. This means you can expand the functionality of the website builder, which is always an important element that I look out for when choosing a site builder. After all, you want a site builder that enables you to achieve more, right?
There is an abundance of integrations available. This includes every social media platform under the sun! You also have Flickr, Mailchimp, Google Analytics, Google Ads, Amazon affiliate tracking, Dropbox image sync, G Suite, Adobe Fonts, Google Fonts, UPS and FedEx shipping rate calculation, Disqus Commenting, Apple news integration, Google AMP, SoundCloud block, OpenTable block, Google Maps block, and much more.
Security of Squarespace Websites
With all of the Squarespace plans, SSL is included. This makes sure that the connection between the site you are using and your browser is secure.
There are a number of other things that you can do to make sure your website is secure, including adding Google reCAPTCHA to forms.
I would also recommend enabling two-factor authentication on Squarespace. Combine this with a strong password, and you will have a much better line of defense for your Squarespace account.
In terms of support, there are a number of different ways that you can get in touch with Squarespace, and this is what I always like to see. This includes social media, live chat, and their email/ticket system. There is also a community forum, which is great for connecting with other Squarespace users.
Their live chat feature is extremely efficient if you are only during their operating hours, which is only from Monday to Thursday, with varying hours, as you can see from the screenshot. You can get a response within a matter of minutes. Their email ticketing system was great too, with replies taking anything from a few hours to a day in my experience. I have never had to wait longer than 24 hours for someone to get back to me.
Of course, Squarespace is not responsible for the community forum, but this is a feature that I always personally enjoy. It is great to connect with like-minded people who use the platform. You can answer their questions and they can answer yours. It is great for picking up some tips along the way.
Is Squarespace Right for You?
As much as I love Squarespace, I would be lying if I said it was the best site builder in all situations. The area whereby I feel that Squarespace really comes into its own is e-commerce. If you are looking to set-up an online store and make money through your online presence, I think that you will struggle to find better than Squarespace. There are so many great elements and features. You have everything that you need, and the transaction fee is waived if you go for one of the e-commerce plans.
Squarespace is also a good choice for business websites, as well as design and photography sites. In terms of blogging and journal websites, it is sufficient and there are some excellent features, yet you may find some of the other site builders that I have reviewed more appropriate.
Unlike other website builders that I have reviewed such as Weebly and Wix, Squarespace does not have a free plan. The good news is that you can trial their service for 14 days before committing to anything. After this, you are going to have to pay for the service, though.
The four plans that are available are as follows: Personal, Business, Basic Commerce, and Advanced Commerce.
If you pay annually for Squarespace, you can save as much as 30 per cent, so I definitely recommend doing this if you can afford it.
So, let me take you through the different paid plans, and what you can expect from each.
With the personal plan, you are going to get a free custom domain, SSL security, unlimited bandwidth and storage, SSL features for site visibility, and the full range of templates to choose from. Aside from this, you will get Squarespace extensions, basic website metrics, 24/7 customer support, and your site will be mobile-optimized. You will be allowed to have two site contributors with this plan.
With the Basic Commerce plan, you are going to get everything you would in the Business Plan, yet the three per cent fee is waived, so you won’t pay anything in terms of a transaction fee. You will also get a number of other e-commerce features, including products on Instagram, powerful merchandising tools, powerful e-commerce analytics, checkout on your domain, customer accounts, and point of sale.
Finally, we have the most comprehensive plan of them all. Of course, you are going to get everything you would from the Basic Commerce plan, yet you will get a number of other features as well. This includes limited availability labels, commerce APIs, advanced discounts, advanced shipping, sell subscriptions, and abandoned cart recovery.
Unfortunately, you cannot. Unlike Weebly, Constant Contact, Wix, and SITE123, you’re not going to be able to use Squarespace for free. There simply is not a free plan. However, there is a 14-day free trial so that you can try before you buy. You are not going to need to input any payment information in order to give it a go.
Yes, you are able to change your Squarespace website plan and cycle whenever you wish to do so.
This really depends on the complexity of your project and the features you are making use of. It can take you anywhere from two hours to two weeks to really create a functional site. In fact, if you have so many different levels of categorization of products and different layers on your site, it may even take longer! Unfortunately, it’s a “how long is a piece of string?” kind of question!
Yes, Squarespace does offer all of the features you need in order to get an affiliate program up and running for your store. However, there is not an in-built affiliate management program, so you will need to use a third-party tool to manage your efforts.
Wix and Squarespace are two of my favourite website building platforms. It’s not that one is better than the other. It is about figuring out what is going to be right for your needs. Squarespace is excellent in terms of e-commerce and a lot of people prefer the blogging features on Squarespace in comparison to Wix. Wix, on the other, is definitely more versatile and it has a wide range of features.
The content you upload to Squarespace is your own. However, Squarespace has stated that uploading content means you give them permission to use it in ways that are vital for providing, improving, promoting, and protecting their service. For instance, should you upload an image, Squarespace then has the right to display it on your website at your direction and save it.
Yes; Squarespace has been known to extend the trial by seven days. Once your trial has expired, you will receive an email from the customer care team at Squarespace. They will inform you that your trial has expired, and in the email, they will present the option of extending your trial by a further seven days. Of course, I cannot guarantee that you are always going to be able to extend your trial, but this is what has happened in my experience.
All in all, I am sure you can tell that I am certainly a big fan of Squarespace. I think it is an excellent choice for anyone who is looking to make money from their website. However, if you don’t want to make money from your site, you may find the expense a bit too high.
Squarespace also does not give you as much creative freedom as other website builders. Yet, if you want a professional-looking website without getting lost in a sea of options, Squarespace is the option for you!
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