For beginner web design students or people who would simply like to DIY their own website, I recommend Squarespace over any other content management platform for one reason: it is the most simple platform to use. Squarespace is a visual platform that allows you to build a website mainly by dragging and dropping.
Square is known for its premade and aesthetically pleasing templates. You can select a template and easily drag and drop to design an intuitive, curated and thoughtfully designed website! The templates offered include templates for blogs, photo galleries, scheduling, opt ins, etc. You can create a homepage and easily add other pages such as gallery and blog pages. You know I give my honest and brutal opinions.
Why I love Squarespace for beginners
- Beautiful premade templates for a professional look
- Best in class features which include blogging, e commerce options, etc.
- Editing is easy
- Adding content is easy
- It is reasonable priced and offers plans
- In house SEO
- The integrations
- You can set up domains and emails though the platform and don’t have to do these separately. This makes it easy!
- Customer support is fantastic.
- It is easy and fun to use!
Using the Editor
Now that we know that Squarespace is amazing and you’ve selected it to be your content management platform lets get right into it and learn about editing within the platform. Squarespace pages are made up of sections and content blocks. Templates have sections and blocks already placed. Sections stack vertically on a page and are predesigned containers of content blocks.
Content blocks are the building blocks and missing pieces, this includes text, buttons, images, maps, reviews and more. Although you can delete, move, and edit sections and blocks if you would like, usually the blocks and sections are arranged in a functional way and if you are a beginner it is usually easier to leave them as they are.
Every section can have a custom background. You may use stock images that Squarespace suggests or import your own images. Squarespace does allow collection pages. According to the Squarespace website “Collection pages are home to sets of content, such as blog posts or products.
You can add blocks in certain collection items, like blog posts, events, and products’ Additional Info tabs. This guide explains collection pages and the many ways to display your collection items.” (Squarespace, 2020). Having collection page types actually means that there are three options for creating content; 1. Section, 2. Content block, and 3. Collection. Although I would consider Squarespace fun and easy to use, the platform does not indicate to you which one of the three you should choose.
For example, if I chose a photo galler with a section but not a content block. This leaves room for error in your web designing endeavors. Squarespace has a lot of drag and drop features, but there are some features that can lead to confusion such as the issue listing above. Squarespace could have motivation for this “error”, the platform could be transitioning into a more customizable CMS with more room for modification and cooler templates! So maybe the trouble is worth a better future with the CMS.
Squarespace is known for its beautiful, interactive and easy to use templates. Its templates are one of the main reasons that it gets the seal of approval. The templates are cool because of the user interface mostly. The interface platform is lightyears above other user interfaces. Think of Microsoft Word, powerpoint, etc. Squarespace allows you to create beautiful websites. The platform truly offers the most visually pleasing and function templates. Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholding but there’s no other website building platforms that allow you to create such sleek and well organized websites with ease.
The templates offer a recognizable and cohesive put together look and feel. This bold typography, and room to highlight what you really want to highlight. Square is especially popular for online stores and photography websites for this very reason. The platform offers a cohesive way for users to showcase what they really want to showcase! The templates are created in such a way that you see the product first, not the other way around which would be counterproductive.
Templates within the platform all share the same features and propensity for modification. all templates have access to the same features and design options. One downside to this is that you can no longer swap between templates once you’ve chosen one.
Options for customizing the template are throughout the editor. You may choose to edit the website header, you may select different header layouts, colors, styles and even add social icons (which makes your website look more professional and legit!). Within the sections you may edit height, padding, background and colors all within the page editor, which is very easy! In contrast to sections, blocks are not styled within the page. To edit a block you must open the design option in the sidebar. This means you have to remember to take the extra step, but it’s still functional and doable.
Squarespace has arguably the best-in-class features. All features are thoughtful, designed and go together in a cohesive manner. The features and the usability of the feature go above and beyond that of its competitors. Features include but are not limited to the following; markdown, RSS, tags, categories, drafts, comments, moderation, customizable urls and more. The blogging feature and page options for Squarespace are superb, with only WordPress coming in at a solid second best for blogging capacity.
Another fun little feature that is often overlooked, is website management via a mobile friendly site! Squarespace offers 3 mobile apps: Commerce is for your online store, Analytics is for analytics and Squarespace let’s correct text, add images and manage your blog.
Although you cannot create a full website from the apps alone, you can definitely manage it from the apps, which is helpful and convenient. An additional often overlooked feature that Squarespace offers is a donation system. Most other websites offer an old school Paypal button that looks sketchy. Squarespace has a complete donation system that covers the fundamentals: custom email receipts, suggested contributions and custom checkout. This helps people making donations to be at ease, and have a handy receipt for tax purposes!
Marketing Features and Ecommerce
Squarespace offers many in house internal marketing features that you can and should take advantage of. You may easily integrate email campaigns that allow you to send automated emails and information about your products. And, in true Squarespace fashion, email templates are offered! Another marketing and just cool feature is that Squarespace has an online scheduling service that you can easily add to your website. This means that clients can schedule an appointment with you from their own computer, it is functional and practical.
In addition to the small but cool marketing features included within the platform Squarespace offers awesome Ecommerce features. Templates included! Squarespace has the best ecommerce of any website builder. Although there are website builders that have been built with the sole goal of Ecommerce, think Shopify. I still prefer the Squarespace platform.
Although I think Shopify cannot be beat for its Ecommerce capabilities (this is what it was built for). I still prefer to recommend Squarespace, mostly for its ease of use and the integrated features. I am writing this for beginners and DIY website builders. I would recommend Shopify for more advanced web builders who want to create a site solely for Ecommerce purposes. Squarespace offers many different types of website options, so it will naturally be less tailored towards only selling products and Ecommerce. I do not mean to indicate that Squarespace is too basic when it comes to Ecommerce capabilities, I only mean to indicate that Shopify is quite advanced. Squarespace offers the following features related to Ecommerce capabilities.
- Subscriptions: The platform allows you to sell subscription products that charge the customer on a recurring basis. You can sell subscription products that charge on a recurring basis. Ecommerce website builders are able to do this, but other website builders are not.
- Customizable Email Receipts: This is an overlooked feature, but so nice to have! Especially for selling products. Squarespace lets you customize the email receipts sent to customers following a purchase. Email receipts are a great opportunity to thank or get the customer back into your sales funnel.
- Excellent Product Variations: This feature is self explanatory. The platform allows ample product variations! Think tons of colors for customers to choose from.
- Digital Products and Services: The platform allows you to sell digital products and services and allows customers to pay for them.
- Apple Pay Integration: Squarespace lets you use Stripe as a payment system which integrates with apple pay. Apple Pay has been shown to increase successful checkouts on mobile. Easy payments means more people follow through with the purchase.
- Point of Sale: The Point of Sale system integrates with Square’s credit card reader and Squarespace’s Commerce app. Having easy ways to pay is helpful for conversion rates.
SEO Options within the Platform
Website builders are fairly equal when it comes to SEO. There are some technical things within website builders that can help or hinder SEO, but generally the platforms are fairly equal. Some web builders offer SEO packages that may or may not be useful or with the money. I always like to teach people how to do their own SEO. Squarespace doesn’t try to upsell customers on crappy, nonsense SEO upgrades. Squarespace provides the tools, add in my help if needed, to do your own SEO.
Squarespace offers the following SEO features:
- AMP Support: (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a Google initiative that creates lightweight versions of websites that load quickly on mobile devices. Using AMP doesn’t directly influence your rankings— but it certainly can indirectly help. Squarespace is one of the only website builders to support AMP pages.
- Meta Titles And Descriptions: Squarespace lets you customize meta titles and descriptions for pages and blog posts. These are what are displayed in the search engine results. Having your target keyword in the title tag is important for ranking while meta descriptions don’t affect your ranking (so you don’t need to customize it).
- Custom URLs: SEO Squarespace lets you customize URLs. This is important— simple urls with target keywords are good for SEO (notice the URL for this page? It’s simply /squarespace-review).
- Mobile Friendly: All of Squarespace’s themes are responsive which means they are mobile-friendly.
- SSL: All Squarespace domains have SSLwhich Google indicates as a ranking factor.
- Sitemap: All Squarespace websites have a /sitemap.xml that can be submitted to Google Webmaster Tools.
- Alt Tags: Squarespace lets you set alt tags on images.
More advanced SEO techniques are possible within the platform but you must know a bit of coding.
Pricing and Plans
Squarespace offers four different plans, two for general websites and two for ecommerce. Squarespace is priced modestly and competitively. Among other platforms, it is priced on the cheaper side with Shopify being most expensive. Squarespace also offers plans with different price points so you may choose according to your needs. Random happy tip: Squarespace is easy to cancel when and if you no longer need it.
Squarespace offers many integrations. Although they do not offer all that they could, they do offer the coolest ones! And the integrations that they do offer integrate nicely with Squarespace. In contrast some integrations offered on sites like Wix, so not integrate cohesively.
Amazon: Affiliate tracking.Mailchimp: Newsletter software.
Acuity Scheduling: Online booking.
Typekit: Web Fonts.
G Suite:Email for your custom domain.
Bandsintown:Tour dates listing.
500px: Photo galleries.
Instagram :Feed or your photos.
Zola :Wedding registries.
Chow Now :Order food for pickup or delivery.
OpenTable: Restaurant booking.
Apple Pay: Pay with Touch ID.
Xero Accounting: Accounting software.
ShipStation : Print shipping labels.
Domains and Email
Like most website builders, Squarespace provides a free custom domain name when you select an annual plan. Domain costs about $20/year. Although websites like GoDaddy and Namecheap may offer you a cheaper domain, it is less complicated to have everything in one place. And then you also do not have to connect the domain to the website manually. For beginners with an extra $5 to spare I recommend getting the domain through Squarespace.
The customer support on Squarespace is another reason why I recommend this platform. They offer live chat, and 24/7 email support. There are also forums where users can learn from each other, and you can even hire people to help you with design issues though the platform. And like I mentioned earlier billing and subscription changes are easy.
Squarespace is the all around best website builder, especially for beginners or DIY builders. With its ease of use, customer service, integration, templates and features, you can easily make a website. The CM is affordable and useful. It is my number one pick for a content management system, and what I will continue to use.