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Fast Company Co.Design

November 3, 2016 View Original Article

How Squarespace's Users Inspire New Product Ideas

Squarespace has been democratizing good website design for more than a decade, but it's only recently that the New York City-based company has started to really connect with users and figure out what they want out of the platform—which lets consumers to purchase a domain name, build a website, and sell their wares in one place.

"When we do our marketing and creative, we almost always use real customers because we think these real stories are going to be more authentic and more true than fabricated ones," said chief creative officer David Lee at the Fast Company Innovation Festival this week. "We can spend a lot of time and a lot of energy making up these stories, but the beauty of this is that we have so many of these right in front of us and these amazing things that people are already making on our platform."

The movement began nearly two years ago with breakout soul singer Leon Bridges, who collaborated with Squarespace on an ad depicting his early days as a dishwasher in Texas and newfound fame. Bridge's dapper style catalyzed an internal decision to create a new body of typography and layout and to connect with other distinguished users to brainstorm new Squarespace tools. This has played out in the form of another collaboration, this time with wartime photographer David Guttenfelder: Through this collaboration, Squarespace developed a new presentation format that allows photographers to share their work and add an audio file to the page so they can share the story behind a specific image.

"We tend to think we have all the answers, all the expertise, but it's funny, when you work with different people, it opens up all these doors," said Lee.

Through these collaborations and marketing opportunities, Lee hinted that Squarespace is hard at work on everything from a next-gen presentation platform ("We might be working on it, we might not be working on it," he says) to a reimagination of the site as an ideal place for liveblogging (see: the company's hilarious Super Bowl collaboration with Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key)
to novel templates created for and inspired by everyone from Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso to film auteur David Lynch.

"We're a product company at the end of the day," said Lee. "We live and die by our product."