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Building a Site with Squarespace

Posted by Alex


I’ve written posts on Content Management Systems before (Cargo Collective, Indexhibit) and I figured it was time to round out my overviews with a look at Squarespace. My personal site runs on Cargo, but I’ve built a few client sites with Squarespace and find it to be a really enjoyable and extremely easy way to design a website.

Squarespace is a fully hosted, completely managed environment for creating and maintaining a website, blog or portfolio. Since its inception, Squarespace has blossomed into a product that powers tens of thousands of sophisticated websites for businesses, bloggers, and professionals worldwide and currently serves hundreds of millions of hits per month.

Noteworthy Features

-Building a site with Squarespace is very intuitive. You can easily go through the whole process without ever catching a glimpse of any code. Like Cargo, if you know even the slightest bit of HTML/CSS you can easily tweak the site to look unique and not easily identifiable as a Squarespace template etc. The basic design view allows you to edit everything in real-time; so if you change the point size of the “body copy”, you will see it update immediately after you slide the little font-size slider. Feels a lot like Firebug in this way, except you aren’t manipulating code, you are manipulating clearly laid out values for all of the page elements. You just have to remember to hit “save changes” after every change you make. I constantly forget to do this.

- Fully functional blog platform. Like many CMS sites, Squarespace works really well as a blog or portfolio site. It’s very easy to post entries, edit old ones, etc, everything you would expect. Once you have the design of your site locked in, it’s just as easy to maintain and update as it was to build. The interface for blog editing can feel a little clunky sometimes, though I think this is because I’m used to WordPress where each open entry gets its own page. Squarespace editing happens as an overlay to the page which feels slower (whether it actually is or not I don’t know).

- The backend of a Squarespace is very well done. Not only do you have access to just about every statistic you could hope for, you are also able to edit some of the more tricky part of your site design. Things like search engine parameters, meta data, and security permissions are all easily editable. It also looks nice, which is a plus.

- Helpful forum. I’ve had many issues (usually due to my own failings with attempts to customize my weird CSS) which I’ve posted to the forum and in each case, the problem has been solved quickly and correctly. I’m always pleasantly surprised.

- They have a slick iPhone app that allows you to post blog entries and check out site statistics (among other things) on the go. And it’s free!

- One important difference to note is cost. Many CMS platforms are free, Squarespace is not. They have a simple pricing structure, but like many sites, the cheaper options are essentially useless. For example, any option where you can’t use a custom URL is immediately off the table in my mind. I’ve found the “Business” option to be the most useful (the form builder is the main reason for this). The crucial thing to note is that Squarespace is hosting your site, so you’re not just paying for the CMS, you’re also getting server space. When you look at it like that, it’s a lot easier to justify a monthly charge. (Of course, you will also have to pay for domain name registration elsewhere. Kind of annoying to have to split this up.)

My Experience

As I mentioned, I’ve built a few sites with Squarespace. The most recent of which I hoped would be finished in time for this article, but unfortunately we are waiting on some of the final content to come through before launching. The one I will mention instead is aeolas.net, the website for the fake/real aeronautical research firm Aeolas International.

Basically I needed a quick site that could host a blog and quickly display information about the company. The construction of this particular site took about 6 hours. I attribute the speed of the creation to the ease of the Squarespace interface (as well as low page count and small amount of total content). I didn’t move terribly far from the initial template, but I felt like I was able to give the site a unique feel. The most fun aspect has been the contact form; I would have had no idea how to actually make one of these with code. The fact that I could just insert it into the site with the click of a button was pretty cool.

There were some hiccups here and there early on, but nothing too frustrating. The need to ‘save changes’ after every alteration you make can get pretty annoying, but you get used to it after a while. Usually if I had an issue, it was because I was trying to do something either A) impossible or B) the completely wrong way.

I’d highly suggest taking Squarespace for a spin. They offer a free 14 day trial, so at least get in there and muck around. Take the tour here.

15 Comments Leave A Comment

1

Christof says:

January 28, 2010 at 12:34 am

Alex, your post on CargoCollective was so intriguing that I set up my own website through the Cargo platform that very day! Blogging with Squarespace sounds interesting, I might just have to check it out. Cheers!

2

janice says:

January 28, 2010 at 2:23 am

Thanks for the review. I almost always use ModX for CMS purposes but i can see that SquareSpace could have a place with certain scenarios and i’ll certainly give it a trial.
Modx just allows so much flexibility for the designer which is why i like it although there is a learning curve to the implementation but once you’ve cracked it it’s pretty much plain sailing.

Cheers

4

Leonel says:

January 28, 2010 at 6:43 am

I used SquareSpace to build my personal site and it was perfect. The fact that I didn’t need to touch the code and still be able to design my own site was enough for me.

6

Anthony says:

January 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm

So in your opinion, do you think it’s beneficial to have a blog and portfolio wrapped up in one package, like you have here with Squarespace, or do you prefer a setup like Cargo where you would link to your blog, set up elsewhere?

8

Jay Williams says:

January 28, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Speaking of sweet Content Management Systems, you should definitely try out Stacey (staceyapp.com). It’s a PHP based system which you upload to your own server, and really makes setting up a portfolio a piece of cake.

Oh and did I mention it’s free and open source?

9

vlad gorshkov says:

February 2, 2010 at 8:13 am

I love Squarespace! I just made my site there too. It’s the only tool on the web that’s very well done. It’s really good to have your blog and your portfolio in one place so that Search Engines like Google will pick up on keywords and rank the site higher.
Happy that graphic designers think alike.

11

mike says:

February 4, 2010 at 8:54 am

I’ve set up 2 sites so far using Squarespace, my main portfolio site (www.mike-moreno.com) and also a separate blog site (www.deptm2.com) and plan on setting up a portfolio site for my girlfriend who’s a print designer. I found it really easy to use and get up and running without knowing much HTML/CSS although I do admit that helps if you want to tweak settings adn design of your site. The FAQ area and the developers forum of Squarespace is really helpful for this type of stuff if your not a HTML/CSS wiz.

If Squaregirl is correct about the “auto save”feature that’s in beta testing right now, I’ll be stoked! Because that’s the one thing I forget to do alot of the time when tweaking settings.

12

Tammie Gilchrist says:

February 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I created a website and blog using squarespace. I don’t have a lot of money, and the money I do have was not going to go to a high-end designer for creating a website for me. I love the fact it is so versitle and they support staff is amazing! It did take me about three or four days to create and whenever I had a problem or a question I sent in a ticket for help and in no time flat I got a reply – I swear it was nearly midnight and I got a reply back within the hour. You can’t beat that service with a stick…I know I can make it better – I’ve seen a squarespace site with flash, and I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to incorporate that on my home page but at this point in time I’m happy with where it’s at. I do miss my old blog though and really need to tweek the one I have now a whole lot more but that will come in time. {tammiegilchristphotography.com}

13

LightPress says:

February 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm

SquareSpace is an AMAZING platform for so many reasons.
Most notable of these is the scalability of it’s complexity.
On the surface level, rapid building of a simple, straightforward site is very intuitive. As one delves deeper however, the possibilities become apparent. Underneath the slick, zen-like exterior, there is a beast of an engine purring away, waiting to be tinkered with.

LightPress takes it to the next level by implementing fully customized layouts and design elements for SquareSpace users who need a little more professional punch on their website.

14

DX says:

February 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I’m having serious issues accessing any Squarespace website. None of their main site or blog site will actually load at all, my home broadband seems to think the *.squarespace.com sites do not exist at all. I’m baffled as they have been working elsewhere. And this is the only website that I have ever come across that has this issue. This leaves me doubting the site and their servers.

If anyone has a solution, please let me know!