Squarespace 6: The Simplest Way to Make Beautiful Websites
I’m a geek. I love things like web development, design and blogging. I love writing and photography. I adore music. In fact, I love them so much that I take pictures, write and design for a living. In fact, despite the fact that I have my own blog and maintain other websites dedicated to personal interests, like music, I’m starting my own creative services company in the upcoming month.
Because I’m initially going to be the sole proprietor of this company, starting it is easier than you might think both legally and financially. But I do need a website. And even though I love coding and web development, I also hate it (not unlike many professional coders I know). So I’d prefer to leave the fine art of web coding to the professionals. That’s why I’m considering Squarespace 6. Things have changed a lot since we last looked at Squarespace. Let’s find out what’s new.
A Designer’s Dream Come True
It used to be that Squarespace offered hundreds of customization options and themes. Now, in the mindset of “less is more,” Squarespace offers a small number of pre-made customizable templates. The templates are perfectly prepared for both mobile and desktop views.
Not only that, but the templates are gorgeous. There are “only” twenty to choose from, but I say that begrudgingly. This is a case of quality over quantity. Choosing a templates is disgustingly difficult, because so many of them are so fantastic.
I’m slowly migrating my personal blog to Squarespace before I launch my company’s website. I pulled out a Moleskine and made extensive notes on my favourite templates (of which, fourteen of the twenty made my list). I was stuck. So I did what anybody in their right mind would do and called up a friend I have with a degree in New Media and a professional focus on design.
She and I sat in front of our laptops and iPads for about four hours, dissecting the qualities of each theme, finally narrowing down what was going to work best for my business and what was going to work best for my personal blog. And even after all that, I’m still tempted to explore some other options.
Playing Well With Others
After choosing a template, getting started with a Squarespace blog is pretty simple. You can choose to import your already-existing blog (Squarespace can import almost all the big name blog sites out there) just by punching in its domain, or you can start fresh. I wanted to experiment and test the system a little. I imported my personal blog, which is hosted on Blogger’s CMS, and my Tumblr.
I don’t have a WordPress blog to import, which is a shame because I hear that’s the system that Squarespace plays most nicely with. Regardless, I am very impressed with most of the import. Images were carried over with ease, as were text posts. The Tumblr import was nearly flawless, with the only noticeable visual oddities coming from Quote posts.
Blogger was a slightly different story, but that’s not Squarespace’s fault. My Read More tags weren’t imported, so I’ll have to manually adjust those later. And although images were imported just fine, links were not. A link looked great until I edited the post, in which case Squarespace automatically inserted line breaks around the link. Again, I don’t think this is Squarespace’s fault. Blogger’s platform is meant to lock you in. (That’s also another reason I need to get out of it.)
Speaking of escaping a blogging platform, I have to let you know that Squarespace easily lets you export all your important site material to WordPress, which I’m sure is a relief. While Squarespace is the best site builder I’ve used on the web, WordPress is the best option for people who want to code their own website or start a simple free text blog. It’s good to know Squarespace supports it.
Adding New Posts
It’s also worth quickly noting that Squarespace makes a great CMS in its own right. It’s easy to add posts, image galleries and other pages to the site with only a few clicks. The in-site Content Manager supports WYSIWYG and Markdown. When you write a post, you build it using Blocks, which allow you great customization as far as image and video support.
There are some differences between Squarespace and your typical HTML-based CMS. Instead of using a Read More tag, you can copy and paste excerpts into a special text box for quick blog previews. The plus side to this is that you can choose text from any part of your post for a preview, but the downside is that it’s different than what many of us are accustomed to.
Adding image galleries or pages to your site are also done within the Content Manager. To Squarespace’s credit, both processes are easy and the entire thing never feels too overwhelming. As far as blog functionality goes, Squarespace has got everything you’ll need and makes it accessible within a few clicks. Those of us who are used to writing in HTML, however, will have to adjust.
Customizing Your New Site
I know what you’re thinking, because I guarantee you I thought it too. Most of us don’t like website templates because they either suck or allow limited to no customization. We’re always worried our sites will look just like any other.
With Squarespace, that’s not the case. The site offers just enough simple customization that it doesn’t ever feel overwhelming for novice users. It’s easy to adjust things like typefaces or link your site to Typekit or Amazon Affiliates. The colour wheels are intuitive and I’m having very few problems making my site behave just how I want it to.
If you do want to make some simple customizations, it’s easy to add custom CSS to the site. I’ve added some CSS to make blockquotes look exactly how I prefer, and I didn’t find it difficult to search Squarespace’s community forums to find out exactly what code I needed to do that. (I’m definitely more of a novice than anything else.)
And if you want to build your own site largely from scratch, you can do that with Squarespace’s Developer platform. Signing up is free and gives you cart blanche to make your site exactly how you want it by giving you access to all Squarespace’s underlying code. I tried it and realized it was more advanced than what my needs dictated, so I ended up turning it off. But I’m glad it’s there for advanced HTML gurus.
Squarespace comes with three different annual or monthly payment options: Standard, Unlimited and Business. You can easily find all the details at the Squarespace site, but for the sake of time, I’ve come up with some conclusions for you.
For a personal blog, the Standard site is going to be perfect for you. For a small business, you can get by with a Standard site but expect to upgrade to to Unlimited as your site grows. And businesses that require an e-commerce solution will need the Business plan.
As far as pricing goes, I think the prices are extremely reasonable. Although you can get cheap web hosting from other sites, those cheap discounts are usually only effective for the first year. After that, you can likely expect to pay more on an annual basis for a hosted WordPress blog than you will with the Standard Squarespace plan. And the fact that your site comes with a gorgeous template doesn’t hurt.
You’re also paying for great customer service. I had a couple questions and got answers within an hour, even in the middle of the night. It’s 24/7 response time, and the Squarespace team will work with you to ensure your needs are met.
Squarespace is great. Squarespace 6 has eliminated many of the customization options it had before, but the site has a stronger focus on design than any other CMS out there. Not only that, but the price you end up paying is very inexpensive for what you’ll get in return. It even comes with free mobile apps, so you can take care of your business anywhere.
In short? It’s a great deal. You can give it a two-week trial, and if you ever find that you no longer enjoy the service, you can always migrate to WordPress and host your own website. Personally, I don’t think you’ll have to or want to do that, and I plan on sticking with Squarespace for quite some time.