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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.

GDI 09

Posted by Alex

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The University of Brighton has a nifty website up displaying the work of their Spring 2009 design and illustration graduates. I’ve placed some of my favorite pieces above, but there is a lot of impressive work to be seen. I think it’s great that the school puts this together for the graduates. While each student seems to be very web-capable (at least in terms establishing an online presence), this kind of collective resource allows each student to benefit from the aggregate buzz of the project. This institution-sponsored online portfolio presentation is something I think we will be seeing more and more of (in conjunction with, or probably as a replacement for, the onsite end-of-semester shows).

The work above is by the following designers, in this order: Kirsty Hole, Richard Carey, Edd Harrington, Kyle Bean. Those old school phones remind me of some of the work by Dan Mcpharlin.

via The Strange Attractor

A Weekend with Cargo Collective

Posted by Alex

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Cargo is a terrific web publishing platform built with creatives in mind. Like many content management systems (Squarespace, Indexhibit, Joomla etc), Cargo provides a backend that allows you to quickly publish and maintain a website without ever opening Dreamweaver. What distinguishes Cargo is a focus on simple and effective design. Consistent in all Cargo templates is a layout that is clear and simple; allowing the work to speak for itself without a complicated interface getting in the way.

Cargo evolved out of the system that runs the SpaceCollective community. We found it remarkably successful and efficient in creating visual content on the web, placing a strong emphasis on design, layout, image quality and typography. Our goal is to dramatically increase the accessibility and exposure of creative individuals on the Internet, while aspiring to build a networked context that will contribute to the culture as a whole.- Cargo Collective.

Noteworthy Features
- Free hosting with the ability to set up a custom URL. This is awesome. I have also played around with Squarespace, but their hosting costs are a little frightening — especially if you are also paying URL registration on top of that.

- Multiple template designs to build off. Each one starts with a great layout and it’s really easy to apply your own brand. Simple manipulations of color, font, and header images etc quickly distinguish your site from the skeleton template.

- Follow feature, similar to Tumblr or Twitter — allows you to keep tabs on your favorite Cargo pages.

- Developer forum. I had a small issue which I posted to the forum — received a response within 3 hours. Not bad!

- Slideshow and Fullscreen features for viewing images. This is exceptionally easy to incorporate (just a matter of clicking the buttons) and is a really great feature. Works flawlessly and adds an extra touch of unique functionality.

My Experience

I spent the last few days migrating my portfolio to the Cargo system. I had done a lot of the preparation work a while ago, when I put a portfolio up on Behance, so I didn’t have to spend too long sourcing my images and writing description paragraphs. I was thrilled to be moving to a more personalized portfolio space — as much as I love Behance, sometimes it can feel a little too much like a design Myspace.

The set up process was quick, easy, and remarkably enjoyable. All in all I would say it took about 6-8 hours from start to finish. Most of this time was spent designing the look and feel after the content was uploaded. Once I got familiar with the CSS at work, it was just a matter of figuring out exactly how I wanted to look — altering fonts sizes, small layout tweaks, and making sure everything worked properly. I only hit one or two speed bumps, all easily solved by a quick Google search.

I think it’s important to note that I am not a “web guy” by any stretch of the imagination — if I can handle it, this is a good sign for anyone intimidated by the words “CSS” or “target blank”. Having a basic understanding of CSS/HTML helps, especially if you are planning on tweaking the template significantly, but it is not completely necessary. Even with my limited knowledge, I was able to make the adjustments necessary to create a site I am happy with. As mentioned, the important part of a site like this is the work, and I didn’t really feel like I needed to brand the site too extensively.

As of now, Cargo is in the pre-release stage. I am really excited to see how this system evolves as more and more people get involved. I would highly recommend it to anyone debating which CMS to choose. If you would like to apply for an account, use the contact address on the website.

Favorite Cargo Sites
but does it float
superfamous studios (aka Folkert Gorter)
The Office of Feltron
Avant
Jory Dayne

Adobe Inspire #5: Julius Shulman

Posted by Scott


My fifth and final post as guest blogger for Adobe Inspire is up. In this installment I talk about the godfather of architectural photography, Julius Shulman. Read the full article here.

I just wanted to say thanks to Adobe for having me and to everyone for checking out the articles this week. I had a great time writing for Inspire, be sure to keep an eye out next week for guest blogger Joshua Davis.

And now for a few selections that didn’t make the Inspire post:

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Adobe Inspire #2: Kalle Gustafsson

Posted by Scott

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As I mentioned earlier, I’m guest blogging over at Adobe’s Inspire Blog this week. Today I talked about the work and process of one of my favorite photographers, Kalle Gustafsson. Read the entire article at Adobe Inspire

By the way, Kalle has a great new portfolio up with loads of new work to look at. You can check it out at www.kallegustafsson.com

Guest Blogging At Adobe Inspire

Posted by Scott

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I’ll be guest blogging over at Inspire — Adobe’s Experience Design blog — this week. The Experience Design Team (XD for short) is an internal group at Adobe who develop applications and interfaces, you’ve seen their work in the form of the Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom interfaces. This months Inspire is focused on photography so I’ll be pointing out the photographers that inspire me and also talking about the roles photography plays in my own work. I posted up a short introduction today with more to come throughout the week. Check it out here.