For nearly as long as the Internet has been around, there have been website builders of all types. The earliest versions of these were decidedly far more limited than they are today, but even back then developers understood there is a huge market for DIY website builders.
As one would expect, the website builder market is a busy one with around 35 main vendors and numerous more that aren’t as popular. This is a steadily evolving and quickly growing market and, with all of these website builders to choose from, it can be difficult for business owners to decide on the right one for them and their brand.
This particular review is going to take a close look at one of the more popular website builders, Squarespace, which has been around since 2004. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of this tool, as well as offer some insight into who would be most ideal for.
An Overview of Squarespace
Squarespace was developed as a website publishing platform that makes it possible for users to have attractive, professional-looking websites without having to know how to code or having to hire an expert. Additionally, Squarespace is designed with a highly user-friendly CMS that makes it easy to update and edit your website.
There are numerous different types of templates to choose from, divided up by category.
The vast majority of these templates are eye-catching, attractive, and have a very modern feel to them. This is one thing that puts Squarespace ahead of the other popular website builders, and is a big reason why it has around 50,000 active users.
As a paying customer, you have access to all of these templates - around 80. They are all responsive, so customers don’t have to worry about them not working on mobile devices. Squarespace automatically generates a mobile-optimized version of your site, without the user having to do anything extra.
To go with these customizable templates, there is a wide array of different web fonts that can be used to make your website look and feel exactly the way you want.
Editing the Templates
While virtually all of the templates are customizable, the degree to which you can edit them mostly depends on which one you’ve chosen.
Some templates allow you to change pretty much all of the design elements, from font spacing to the page backgrounds. Others, however, are more “as-is” and are incredibly difficult to change without adding your own custom CSS to your website.
This is one of the main issues with this website builder. One of the main attractions of this platform is that it’s a code-free builder. Users having to resort to adding their own CSS defeats the purpose.
On a similar note, some templates let users add sidebars and others do not. Depending on the user and what they intend to do with their website, this can most definitely be an issue. However, there are still plenty of other templates to choose from.
Ease of Use
Squarespace is very easy to use, and does not require the user to have extensive technical knowledge in order to create a professional-looking website.
The page editor makes things very simple.
Simply click on the part of the page you want to edit, and the above menu will pop up. You can add everything from text to video, with numerous other options available.
Importing and Exporting Content
If you’re leaving another site, such as Wordpress or Blogger, there is an import tool available to help you switch all your existing content over to your Squarespace site.
Content can also be exported to a Wordpress format XML file. However, this only exports text and images, but does not export not products (for those who are using it as an online store). This could be a problem for many users.
Drag-and-Drop Content Blocks
When it comes to getting the layout the way you want it, Squarespace offers a lot of versatility within its drag-and-drop “layout engine”.
Simply click on the block of content you want, and then drag it to where you want it to go. This measure of flexibility is a definite pro when it comes to using Squarespace.
The types of content blocks that users can add to their pages include:
Images & image galleries
As an additional bonus when it comes to content blocks, users can choose from a whole host of pre-defined page layouts. This includes contact pages, team pages, and about pages. This can make it a lot easier - and faster - to get your website designed, ready, and live.
Squarespace makes it very easy to add and edit images. Users can resize, rotate, crop, and edit their images as much as they want. They can also be added to galleries, with multiple presentation options that include slideshows, grids, and carousels.
This makes Squarespace an excellent option for photographers and other creative professionals.
If you do not have enough images of your own, or having trouble finding available stock images, you can browse through and purchase Getty images directly through Squarespace. Once you’ve purchased them, you can insert them directly onto the page in the exact spot you want them.
Squarespace really stands out when it comes to its blogging platform. Unlike many other website builders, Squarespace allows its users to have as many blogs as they want on their website. Users can even add a drop-down menu (depending on the template) to their navigational bar, so as to not have things looking cluttered and chaotic.
Overall, the blogging aspect of Squarespace is a good one. However, there are some things that pose an issue.
There is no autosave, which is a BIG issue and a fairly huge thing to have omitted when designing this website builder. If you’re not careful, you will have to start all over again when adding a new blog post.
Blog excerpts are the meta descriptions for your blog posts, and this is unable to be changed.
The plans and pricing are easy to follow, with four monthly pricing options available. These pricing plans are divided up into two groups: Websites and Online Stores.
Any of the pricing plans allow you to sell products through your website, which makes this division a tad confusing.
The two Website pricing plans are:
Personal - $12 per month, billed annually, or $16 month-to-month ($144 or $192)
Business - $18 per month, billed annually, or $26 month-to-month ($216 or $312)
The two Online Store pricing plans are:
Basic - $26 per month, billed annually, or $30 month-to-month ($312 or $360)
Advanced - $40 per month, billed annually, or $46 month-to-month ($480 or $552)
Paying upfront for the full year would be cheaper, but the mont-to-month plan is a good choice for those who don’t have a few hundred to drop right away.
The key differences between the plans are in the features, all of which are listed under each pricing plan.
The pricing is more expensive than other website builders, and Squarespace does not offer a free plan. There is a 14-day free trial, but that’s it.
Squarespace is geared more toward professional websites, rather than personal ones, and it seems as though this is factored into the pricing. There are numerous features that would be unneccessary for someone who just wants a personal site.
Pros and Cons of Squarespace
Just as with any other type of website builder, Squarespace has both positive and negative aspects. These should be carefully weighed when deciding whether or not Squarespace is the right choice for you and your brand.
Templates: Squarespace offers a large amount of professional, attractive templates. Most of these can be customized, but the degree to which they can be altered depends almost entirely on the design. Most of the differences between the templates depend on which images are being used for the website.
SEO: Squarespace users don’t have to worry as much about the technical side of this. Squarespace helps you to get found on search engines, offering features such as custom page titles, custom URLs, meta descriptions, and 301 redirects.
Blogging: Users can have as many blogs as they want, and there is a wide variety of available content types. Users can even host podcasts through Squarespace.
Cover Pages: Visually-stunning, one-page websites. These act as great entry points for your website, or as landing pages for digital marketing.
Domain Hosting: Domains can be purchased through Squarespace, which will host your website.
No Autosave: The lack of autosaving when it comes to blog content is a huge drawback. One wrong click, and you have just lost hours worth of work.
Pricing: Squarespace is considerably more expensive than the other popular website builders out there. Even with its targeted audience of professionals and business owners, this is still an expensive builder.
Page Speed: Many of the templates load very slowly, which may adversely affect search engine rankings and user / customer experience.
Squarespace is one of the most popular website builders out there on the market, and it’s easy to see why. This one is best for professionals and business owners, but those looking for something to host a personal website would probably do better going elsewhere.