Squarespace Review

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Date Established
2004
Location
New York, Portland, Dublin

Overview

Squarespace was launched by Anthony Casalena in January of 2004. Using a $30,000 investment from his father, Casalena initially ran the company out of his university dorm. Squarespace has achieved enormous success since that time and now has offices in New York, Portland, and Dublin.

Despite its humble origins, Squarespace has reached powerhouse status in the CMS and website building industries and has been almost universally acclaimed by critics and customers alike for its highly flexible and style-oriented approach to drag-and-drop web design. The company recently released its newest platform, Squarespace 7, and continues to be one of the most popular web-builders available. Currently, Squarespace hosts millions of websites throughout the world. Some of the software’s most well-known users include Wired Magazine, Cisco, and Fast Company.

I wouldn’t quite call Squarespace the industry standard, but the mere fact that I considered doing so speaks volumes about its accomplishments. From a dorm room endeavor to a company with the heft to afford Super Bowl ads with Key and Peele, Squarespace’s rise to prominence has been remarkable. Can their momentum be sustained?

Pricing

Squarespace provides potential users with a limited 14-day free trial. After the trial period, users are given three paid subscription options, all of which come with 24/7 customer support, unlimited bandwidth and storage, a custom domain (free with yearly billing), and a mobile website/store.

The pricing and feature information for Squarespace’s website plans can be found here:

Personal

  • $12/month (billed annually)
  • $16/month (if paid month to month)
  • 3% Transaction Fee
  • 20 Pages/Galleries/Blogs
  • Up to 2 Contributors
  • Unlimited Bandwidth & Storage
  • Fully Integrated eCommerce
  • Sell Unlimited Products
  • Accept Donations
  • Powerful Website Analytics
  • SSL Security Included
  • Free Custom Domain for One Year (with annual purchase)

Business

  • $18/month (billed annually)
  • $26/month (if paid month to month)
  • All of the Above PLUS:
  • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Unlimited Pages/Galleries/Blogs
  • Unlimited Contributors
  • Professional Email from Google
  • $100 Google Adwords Credit

You can purchase custom domains and email addresses straight from your admin in Squarespace, though these are outsourced. Still, it’s nice that they make it easy.

Web-hosted or Licensed

Squarespace is an entirely cloud-based, browser operated service.

Hardware/Software Requirements

Because Squarespace is web-based, it requires only an updated browser (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge) and a reliable high-speed internet connection.

Note: As of May 2016, Squarespace is telling Safari users to “upgrade to the latest version of Safari (9.1), which includes a fix for the bug in 9.0.2 and 9.0.4 that caused browsers to crash while editing in Squarespace.” Further browser compatibility information can be found here.

Business Types Supported

Squarespace may have several big-name users, but the general point of this software is that it is accessible to anyone with a “do it yourself” attitude. It is most well-suited for the following markets:

  • Stores
  • Photographers
  • Bloggers
  • Artists
  • Restaurants
  • Musicians
  • Weddings

Even though Squarespace is targeted primarily at the above industries, the templates provided are highly customizable and could be tailored to fit nearly every business.

Ease of Use

From the beginning of the site creation process, Squarespace is there to guide you towards creating the site you had in mind. After you’ve chosen a template to work with, Squarespace will ask you a series of questions about the purpose of your site. You’ll be asked whether your site is for your business, just for yourself, or for a client and answer a few questions about the nature of your site and its content. You’ll then get a question concerning your goal in building your site. Lastly, you’ll be prompted to enter your site title. Using that information, Squarespace will tailor your template and steer it toward your stated intentions. If you’re like me, you appreciate all the help you can get. Kudos to Squarespace for giving us some initial assistance in the creation process.

squarespace

Squarespace is nothing if not easy to use, and has a strong emphasis on style and aesthetics. The editor has an admirably simplistic design that somehow manages to deliver complex results. That said, the features sit on a wide spectrum of user-friendliness. The photo editor, for example, is fairly limited, and the software itself is currently quite buggy and prone to frequent crashes (which can be both annoying and severely impede progress).

The following are some of the features which most prominently contribute to the overall ease (and difficulty) of using Squarespace:

  • Responsive Image Loader: Images you upload are automatically scaled to various sizes so that they will show the optimal size for any size of display- phone, tablet, or full web browser.
  • Progressive Image Loading: Images at the top of your website will always load first, ensuring that your visitors can hit the ground running with your site, no matter their internet connection speed.
  • Automatic Metadata Detection: Digital content (such as images) and audio files filled out with metadata will automatically display on your website and lend themselves to your SEO efforts.
  • Templates: Squarespace offers 58 templates to choose from, all of which are customizable and allow the user a great deal of flexibility and creative control. Squarespace’s templates have a reputation for being the most visually spectacular templates in the industry, and it’s not hard to see why.

squarespace review

squarespace review

squarespace

  • Developer Platform: The Squarespace developer platform allows experienced users to design their own website using CSS and HTML coding. This method is not recommended for beginners.
  • Style Editor: The style editor lets users tweak all of the visual aspects of a site, including text fonts and sizes. With this editor, it’s also possible to add underlines or asterisks and arrange the color pallet of site headers and buttons. While relatively simple in design, this tool allows for intricate adjustments and can really help to increase the visual appeal of a website.
  • Blog: In general, the blog feature operates smoothly. The posting process itself is seamless, and the whole element is enhanced by integrated comment streaming. There are a few hangups, however, especially with thumbnails, which are only displayed on specific blog posts and cannot be seen from the main page.
  • Shop: The Squarespace shop is impressive, both easy to understand and easy to use. One of the most unusual and interesting features allows users to completely alter the name of what is traditionally called the “Add To Cart” button. There are a few limitations to the shop, however, and it can be a bit buggy at times.

Features

Squarespace provides a good variety of different tools and features, many of which work in the background (such as Responsive Image Loader, scaling your images for optimal viewing in any device,) freeing your hands to manage your business, rather than your website. Features include:

Smart Image Handling: Loads of features come standard for your custom images, such as optional Image Zoom, Set Focal Point (to ensure the best part of your image will be centered in any mask,) galleries, automatic image scaling, automatic text wrapping, and display effects (such as on mouse hover, and image transitions.)

Device View: Resizing the browser window to a smaller format automatically enables the “Device View,” a feature which allows users to see how their websites would appear on a mobile device.

squarespace

Apps: Squarespace has provided an array of mobile apps (mostly for iOS users) which can be used to manage blogs, notes, metrics, and image portfolios. These apps come in pretty handy, especially for users who are often on the go and may not always have access to a desktop computer. It would be nice if Squarespace would go further and offer an actual mobile editor, or at least design the apps to manage more of a website’s features, but what is available is already pretty impressive. Android-specific apps are currently in the works and should be released in the near future.

Commerce: The eCommerce system works very well and is extremely thorough. The only limiting factor is that this feature is integrated with Stripe payment processing and requires users to establish a Stripe account (no other 3rd-party integrations are allowed, though users always have the option to add widgets that link to other payment processors, like Shopify). Squarespace enables users to track and manage entire inventories, sort sold items into different categories, track payment activities (refunds, payment failures, charge-backs), keep an eye on donations, and create coupons and/or promo codes. Personal and Professional users are given two different shipping options (flat rate, or priced according to weight), and Business plan members can additionally establish USPS shipping charges based on weight, distance, and package size.

Announcement Bars: An interesting bonus feature, announcement bars let users stream news or post shop deals, greetings, and/or video links on the top of a website’s homepage.

Commenting System:

  • Likes/Upvoting: Users can anonymously show their interest or appreciation of your products and blog posts.
  • Commenting: Users can log in and comment, or comment anonymously.
  • Moderation: Send all comment to a queue for approval, disable comments after a certain amount of time, block spam, and perform bulk actions.

Some excellent features you may recognize from other software developers, including:

  • Integrated Aviary Image Editing: Aviary, a popular image editor for mobile devices, is integrated right into your website. Offers basic controls (like brightness, contrast, saturation) and gobs of filters for tweaking your images on the fly. It’s not a terribly sophisticated tool, however.

squarespace review

  • Dropbox Integration: Images you load into your linked Dropbox account are automatically available to your website.
  • Getty Images: Squarespace recently partnered with Getty Images and now provides its entire client base with over 40 million high-quality stock photos. These may be licensed for $10 per image.

Other 3rd party integrations include:

  • Flickr
  • OpenTable
  • Lightbox
  • Disqus

Web Design and Editing

Templates: There are 58 template options to choose from, all of which are impeccably designed and fashion forward. These templates are very customizable (assuming proper utilization of the Style Editor) and allow users to have a good deal of creative control.

Developer Tool: For those with previous coding experience, the Developer Tool can be a real boon and has almost limitless potential. Provided the user has a good grasp of CSS and HTML coding, the sky is the limit, so to speak. Because developers are starting from scratch and there is no template to follow, there are very few restrictions.

Integrations and AddOns

Squarespace itself does not offer much in the way of 3rd-party integrations, but via Squarefront, “the largest Squarespace resource on the web,” users can integrate with Google Apps, various shopping cart mechanisms, online payment processors, and much more. Squarefront also has a variety of add-ons in the works, including a Bitcoin payment processor, a one-click Skype call button, and Google Play Store mobile-ready buttons, though these have not yet been released to the public.

The full list of Squarespace integrations is given here.

Payment Processing

As it stands, Squarespace only offers one payment processor that runs with a user’s online store. Stripe has a good reputation and is secure and reliable. This processor collects $0.30 + 2.9% of every successful transaction (and 0% of every unsuccessful transaction, one assumes!).

Customer Service

Squarespace’s customer service is either terrible or exemplary, depending on who you ask. Personally, I sent off questions to the email support team regarding a few technical glitches and have yet to hear back from them. I was also unable to get through to the live chat team.

In light of my own experiences, I recommend consulting the Squarespace Q&A Community site  when confronted with an issue that requires any amount of technical support. It is a good resource and easily accessible.

As for what they advertise, they say they offer:

Negative Reviews and Complaints

Most user-reported problems surrounding Squarespace concern the following issues:

  • Terrible Customer Support: Some have complained that once you start paying for your Squarespace website, you’d better be ready to say “bye-bye” to any legitimate customer support provided by the company themselves.
  • Frequent Bugs and Glitches: Squarespace works well when it actually works. Unfortunately, there are all too frequent bugs and glitches in the system, possibly due to the recent launch of Squarespace 7. One would hope that these bugs will be ironed out soon; for the time being, they can be fairly annoying.

Others have complained of pretty but inflexible templates, along with an interface lacking in intuitiveness and usability. Frequent complaints along these lines have dragged Squarespace’s average customer rating on Trustpilot down to 2.2 out of 10. Not good – though there are a few satisfied customer reports in there.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials

Users are most impressed with these characteristics:

  • User-friendliness
  • High level of customization
  • Excellent style editor
  • Robust eCommerce feature

Final Verdict

Squarespace can be best described in two words: functional beauty. It doesn’t take much effort to create a striking and visually appealing website with this software. Squarespace makes it possible, easy, and fun to build websites that are both effective and memorable, and that says a lot about the program’s overall thoughtful design.

This software has its own share of issues, of course. The customer service leaves a lot to be desired, and the photo editor is mediocre at best. You’ll also have to deal with the occasional bug and technical glitch, though these have become less frequent with time.

Glitches and customer service aside, Squarespace has the makings of an excellent web builder. It somehow manages to marry beauty and utility, combining practical features like eCommerce and a developer’s platform with gorgeous templates and a fabulous style editor. Squarespace isn’t for the faint of heart and is certainly not the most appropriate choice for inexperienced users who require more help and a bit of hand-holding. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this product to those who seek a high level of creative control when designing a website.

Jason Vissers

Jason Vissers

Jason Vissers is a writer, cereal chef and Netflix aficionado from San Diego. A native Californian who enjoys the beach, Jason nonetheless prefers to do his surfing on the World Wide Web, the raddest wave of them all. Jason can't eat raisins.
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2 Comments

    Jason Barone

    Hey! Nice in-depth wrap up. I wanted to touch on the mentions of Squarefront as I’m the one building that. In terms of the Addons/Plugins, what I’ve tried to do here to provide simple-to-follow how-to tutorials, with copy and paste code snippets. Unfortunately at this time there is no built in method to allow deep, deep integration into Squarespace like you would see with WordPress. So the goal here was to just make it very easy for users to add simple things using the default template selections. In terms of the Integrations on Squarefront. I’ve worked with many systems to get things working as seamlessly as possible and there is still much to do on my end to where I’d feel comfortable recommending other users do the same. In the past I’ve largely used Zapier.com and other apps to make connections between apps, and it’s a great solution. For other integrations I’m trying to build our own app which makes the connection for you. All Squarespace data is available via a JSON API, meaning there are ways to grab it and manipulate the data. For instance, with Forms, it’s easy to grab the form data and pipe that into an app, then feed it into a number of other apps. Much of this would be made easier if Squarespace allowed us 3rd party developers to build plugins and apps like Shopify and WordPress do. My hope is that they’ll open it at some point.

    Thanks for the mention!

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

    Momoko

    Squarefront has been “on maintenance” for some time. It’s been saying everyday,
    — “We’re making a few updates today. We’ll be back online shortly.”

    What’s up with that?

    This comment refers to an earlier version of this review and may be outdated.

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