By Nathaniel Mott
People like to bandy around the term “walled garden.” Apple is a walled garden, Amazon is a walled garden – any company that restricts how a user or developer can interact with its product is immediately tarred with the evil! paranoid! closed-minded! brush.
Squarespace, a blogging engine that was updated to version six a few months ago, was a prime example. Unlike open-source rivals like WordPress or Drupal, Squarespace restricted developers to a small portion of the system’s underlying code. Now though, the company has removed those restrictions with a public beta of its Developer Platform, Squarespace’s first attempt at melding its Apple-like product philosophy with the let a thousand features bloom approach of Android.
Developers can access the platform for free, allowing them to kick the tires and figure out if this new-fangled freedom is all it’s cracked up to be. Squarespace has bundled a number of goodies – such as the LESS stylesheet language (see: the thing that makes Web pages look like something more than Times New Roman on a white background) and the Git versioning system – and the ability to use any code libraries that take a developer’s fancy.
Jason Barone, a developer who uses Squarespace for all of his projects, welcomes the launch of the Developer Platform with open arms. He says that the new tools allow him to combine Squarespace’s ease of use with the openness of WordPress.org or other content management systems. Squarespace version 5 had some problems, he said, but Squarespace 6 “lays a foundation to solve all of these issues plus more, while innovating with incredible creative tools for building websites.”
As someone that spends most of his time in WordPress and used to use Squarespace for a personal blog, I’m inclined to agree with Barone’s assessment. Even though my blogging needs were relatively simple, Squarespace version 5 felt claustrophobic at times. Squarespace 6 seems to solve many of those issues, and, in my opinion, has a better user experience than WordPress or a handful of other blogging systems (Tumblr, Posterous, etc.) I’ve tried. (Full disclosure: I have begged Sarah to move PandoDaily over to Squarespace multiple times in the past. So far it’s a non-starter.)