Need a better shipping solution?
- Date Established
- New York, Portland, Dublin
- Excellent templates
- Easy to use
- Free 14-day trial
- No free plan
- Limited integrations
- Limited ecommerce features
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 it has been almost universally acclaimed by critics and customers alike for its flexible and style-oriented approach to drag-and-drop web design. The company’s newest platform, Squarespace 7, 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 Idris Elba and Keanu Reeves.
From a dorm room endeavor to a company with the heft to afford Super Bowl ads, Squarespace’s rise to prominence has been remarkable. But is the software worth all the hype? Find out in our complete review.
Table of Contents
Squarespace provides potential users with a limited 14-day free trial. After the trial period, users are given four paid subscription options, all of which include 24/7 customer support (via email and live chat), unlimited bandwidth and storage, a custom domain (free with yearly billing), and a mobile website/store.
Take a look at our breakdown of each of these four plans. Keep in mind that online store features are only available on the Business plan and above.
- $12/month (billed annually)
- $16/month (if paid month-to-month)
- Unlimited bandwidth and storage
- Mobile-optimized website
- Website metrics
- Up to two contributors
- SSL security included
- Free custom domain for one year (with annual purchase)
- $18/month (billed annually)
- $26/month (if paid month-to-month)
- All of the above PLUS:
- Unlimited contributors
- Fully integrated ecommerce
- Sell unlimited products and accept donations
- 3% transaction fee
- Professional email from Google
- $100 Google Ads credit
- Promotional pop-ups
- Mobile information bar
- Premium blocks and integrations
- Announcement bar
Commerce – Basic
- $26/month (annual)
- $30/month (month-to-month)
- All of the above PLUS:
- No transaction fees
- Mobile-optimized website and checkout
- Powerful commerce metrics
- Inventory, orders, tax, discounts
- Label printing via ShipStation
- Integrated accounting via Xero
- Checkout on your domain
- Customer accounts
- Products on Instagram
Commerce – Advanced
- $40/month (annual)
- $46/month (month-to-month)
- All of the above PLUS:
- Abandoned cart auto-recovery
- Advanced shipping
- Flexible discounts
- Gift cards
- Orders API
You can purchase custom domains and email addresses straight from your admin in Squarespace. And, if you choose to purchase a yearly subscription with Squarespace, you’ll get your domain for free for a year. My advice is for merchants to always start on the monthly plan. If after a few months you decide for sure that Squarespace is the software for you, feel free to sign up for the annual plan to get the discounted rate.
Squarespace also offers a discounted rate (50% off!) for students.
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. Chrome and Firefox are your best bets, as they are supported on Mac, PC, and Linux.
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 best suited for the following markets:
- Small businesses
Even though Squarespace is targeted primarily at the above industries, the templates provided are customizable and can be tailored to fit nearly every business.
Ease Of Use
From the beginning of the site creation process, Squarespace guides you towards creating your perfect website. When you sign up for a 14-day trial, Squarespace begins by asking you about the purpose of your site.
The software then displays a smaller selection of templates that best fit your site’s purpose. I created two different sites during my trial: One was a blog, and one was an online store. I like that Squarespace helped me narrow down my options of templates. All 70 options are still available if you don’t like Squarespace’s tailored suggestions.
Once you’ve chosen a template, you are redirected to your dashboard. The toolbar to the left of your dashboard depends on the type of website you’ve decided to build. My blog site had significantly fewer features in that toolbar than my online store. I was, however, able to access ecommerce features on my blog’s dashboard — it just took a little more digging.
Below is the dashboard for my blog:
And this is the dashboard for my online store:
It makes a lot of sense that these two dashboards look different. I suspect that if I were paying for a plan, my dashboard would also look different, with features depending on the plan that I had selected.
I will discuss ease of use in terms of customizing my sites in the web design section below. For now, I’ll talk about the ease of use regarding the features that do not relate to design.
Adding products to my online store was a simple process. I was able to upload images, write product descriptions, and set product variants.
Creating these variants (such as size and color) wasn’t quite as automatic as I normally expect (I had to create each separate combination of variants individually), but it works.
I also accessed Squarespace’s tax settings, and I manually set tax rates for a couple of states. You can also set tax rates for international shipping destinations. These are good basic tax settings; however, they don’t account for the complex tax situations that come with ecommerce selling. Unfortunately, Squarespace does not offer any integrations with tax software.
Squarespace’s dashboard is nothing if not easy to use, and Squarespace puts a strong emphasis on style and aesthetics. The editor has an admirably simple design that somehow manages to deliver strong results. I found Squarespace’s usability perfectly adequate for building a blog.
When it comes to building an online store, I also think that Squarespace is a simple solution. I see that simplicity as being great news for many small businesses and online stores that are just getting off the ground. However, I also think that in terms of its usability as an ecommerce platform, Squarespace is overly simple and lacks many of the features that mid-sized sellers need. More on this in our Features section below.
Squarespace provides a good variety of different tools and features, many of which work in the background, freeing your hands to manage your business. I’ve divided the features into two main categories: those that you need to build a website, and those that you need to sell online. Here’s a quick breakdown of my favorite features:
- 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 is centered in any thumbnail), galleries, automatic image scaling, automatic text wrapping, and display effects. You can also enable progressive image loading so that the images on the top of your website load first, speeding up loading times for visitors.
- Device View: Squarespace lets you toggle between three viewing options — desktop, tablet, and mobile. See what your site looks like on every device.
- Announcement Bars: Announcement bars let users stream news or post shop deals and greetings on the top of a website’s homepage.
- Conversion Metrics: View your site’s performance. Learn about your site’s traffic and identify sticking points for your visitors.
- CDN: Take advantage of Squarespace’s content delivery network (CDN) to enable faster site loading times for your visitors.
- SEO Features: Customize image file names, meta descriptions, and product tags.
- Commenting System:
- Likes/Upvoting: Users can anonymously show their interest or appreciation of your products and blog posts.
- Commenting: Users can log in to comment or comment anonymously.
- Moderation: Send all comment to a queue for approval, disable comments after a certain amount of time, and block spam.
Squarespace’s online store features are compatible with all templates. However, if you are planning to use your website primarily to run an online store, Squarespace does have a few recommended templates. Here are the ecommerce features that are available through Squarespace:
- Sell Physical & Digital Products: Sell and deliver digital content. You can also use your Squarespace store to accept donations.
- Inventory Management: Track inventory for products and product variants.
- Shipping Calculator: Use the real-time shipping calculator to charge precise shipping rates for USPS, UPS, and FedEx.
- Subscriptions: Sell recurring and limited subscriptions.
- Sell On Instagram: Tag products in your Instagram posts. When customers click on those tags, they are redirected to your site to complete checkout. This option is only available for sellers on the Commerce Basic and Advanced plans.
- Marketing: Collect customer emails and build mailing lists for your marketing campaigns. Users on the Commerce Advanced plan can also send abandoned cart notifications to bring back potential customers.
- Tax Tools: Use built-in tax tools to calculate taxes for each order automatically.
- Discounts & Gift Cards: Promote your store with site-wide discounts.
- Squarespace Commerce App: Run your business from your phone. The App is available for iOS and Android and includes these tools:
- Integrated barcode scanner (scan shipping labels)
- Manage inventory and product images
- Create discounts
I mentioned before that while these ecommerce features are good for small sellers, they aren’t sufficient for serious online retailers. Squarespace lacks some of the features that I expect from ecommerce platforms, including multiple payment processing options (I typically like to see at least 20 options) and built-in integrations with a wide variety of shipping and marketing software. Without these integrations, it’s hard to imagine Squarespace as a workable option for many online sellers.
In addition to these missing integrations, I found Squarespace’s built-in ecommerce features to be pretty basic. For example, you can only create discounts that apply to your entire store. You cannot create product-specific discounts or conditional discounts (such as buy X get Y free). It seems like Squarespace’s ecommerce features are more of an afterthought. You have to do all of your store management in the toolbar and pop-up boxes. It isn’t the full-blown dashboard that you’ll find with dedicated ecommerce platforms. That can make managing the store side of your site a bit clumsy in day-to-day use, especially if you’re processing several hundred orders each month.
All that is to say that Squarespace is a great tool for designing websites. And if you need to tuck a small store into that site, by all means, go for it! But if your purpose in setting up a website is to sell online, you’re probably better off subscribing to a dedicated ecommerce platform such as Shopify. Their software is more likely to fit your needs.
Web Design & Editing
Squarespace specializes in design. They offer users 71 template options to choose from, all of which are impeccably designed and fashion-forward. Here’s just a sampling of those templates:
Once you’ve picked a template, you can make it your own using Squarespace’s easy to use drag-and-drop editor. With this tool, you can add content blocks to your site (such as images, buttons, text, and video). Then, you click the “Edit” button to write your copy and input your media.
As you create your site, you can toggle between the preview options to see your site on desktop, tablet, and mobile. You can also edit your site in all of these modes. The changes you make on mobile will also appear on desktop and vice versa.
However, designing my site wasn’t always the smoothest experience. I experienced a few difficulties with the drag-and-drop editor. In particular, I had a hard time changing the sizes and locations of blocks. For example, in the screenshot below, I wanted to move the Spanish language quote lower down on the page. It appears that I would have to insert some empty “spacer” blocks above. This wasn’t immediately apparent to me, however, and I was frustrated that I could not simply drag the block to the spot that I wanted it in.
If you have experience with code, you can also customize your site by changing the CSS and HTML. I have read that there are some limitations to this method of customization, but I have not uncovered what those limitations might be.
Squarespace is the perfect website building tool for users with beginner to intermediate web design skills. More experienced users, however, might feel differently. For some, this drag-and-drop tool may feel like riding a bike with training wheels on — good for a beginner, annoying for experts.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Squarespace offers 58 integrations built into the platform, which means that you automatically have access to almost all of them. The only exceptions are the integrations that you have to pay for, such as ShipStation and Mailchimp.
Integrations come in two different forms. The first category of integrations is Squarespace’s Blocks. Blocks allow you to add features to your website in the form of a widget. A few examples of these blocks are:
- Appointment Scheduling Block
- Flickr Block
- Instagram Block
- Map Block
The second category is integrations with external software. Here are a few of the noteworthy connections available, divided up by purpose:
- AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
- Apple News
Commerce (Online Store)
- Apple Pay
- Multiple shipping carriers
- Adobe Fonts
- Google Fonts
Domains and Email
- G Suite
- Getty Images
- Google Ads and Google Analytics
- Share buttons
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest)
Squarespace also has an integration with Zapier. Zapier is a service that lets you connect with over 1,000 additional apps. This significantly expands Squarespace options in terms of integrations.
Finally, Squarespace has APIs available for users on the Business and Commerce plans. You can use these APIs to build integrations with other third-party software.
Squarespace offers two payment processors for use in their online stores: Stripe and PayPal. You can accept multiple payment methods through these processors, including Apple Pay (if you have a supported device).
Payment processing fees vary based on your country of operation, but they generally won’t stray too far from the 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction that Stripe charges in the US. Both Stripe and PayPal are PSPs (payment service providers), which means you won’t have the same level of account security as you would with a dedicated merchant account provider. However, all in all, Stripe and PayPal are solid options for accepting payments.
I am disappointed to see that you only have two options to choose from when it comes to payment processing. Squarespace’s leading competitors in the ecommerce space (such as Shopify and 3dcart) typically offer around 40 options for payment processing. With Squarespace, your freedom of choice is much more limited, which may result in you having to make do with a less-than-perfect payment processing situation.
Also, Squarespace charges sellers on the Business plan a 3% transaction fee, which they’ll have to pay in addition to their payment processing fee. Most website builders and ecommerce platforms are moving away from these transactions fees, and I don’t like to see them here.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Squarespace’s customer service is either terrible or exemplary, depending on who you ask.
All Squarespace users will have access to 24/7 customer support through email and live chat. You can also reach out to Squarespace through their dedicated Twitter account. Squarespace does not offer phone support on any plan, which may be a frustration for some users. Fortunately, Squarespace also offers a wide variety of self-help resources. Here are a few of the problem-solving resources available to you:
- 24/7 email support
- Live Chat: Monday to Friday 4 AM to 8 PM Eastern time
- Service Status: Check-in on Squarespace’s historical uptime.
- Forum: Join Squarespace’s active forum to get help from other users.
- Help Centers: Squarespace has two help centers, one for Squarespace 7 (the current version) and one for Squarespace 5. Both help centers include user guides and video workshops that you can use to learn more about the software. Or you can use the search bar to find answers to your questions quickly.
- Hire A Designer: Find a Squarespace partner to help you design your store. These partners charge their rates.
- Webinars & Workshops: Join one of Squarespace’s hour-long webinars that discuss building your site and launching your online store.
- Blog: Read the blog for industry tips and Squarespace product news.
- Dev Center: Find resources for developers, including API docs, the developer platform, and Squarespace Circle (Squarespace’s guides and forums to help developers launch a design business).
My own experience with Squarespace’s support was positive. I received a response to my web ticket by the next day (even though the next day was a Saturday), and the representative I contacted by live chat was able to answer all of my questions.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Squarespace has garnered hundreds of reviews online, both positive and negative. I found that one review site might be dominated by negative comments, while another site might be filled with positive reviews. Overall, the positive reviews outnumber the negatives. However, you should still consider the negative feedback.
Here’s what Squarespace users dislike about the software:
- Limitations In Customization: Users are frustrated by the limitations they encounter with Squarespace. These comments mostly referred to limitations in web design, but some of them referred to the limited options for integrations.
- Inadequate Customer Support: Many comments mention poor customer support. It seems that this complaint stems from Squarespace’s lack of phone support. It is easy to have miscommunications over text, and customers are frustrated that they can’t just call in to resolve their problems.
- Expensive: Some Squarespace users think that the pricing plans are too expensive, and they’d like access to a lower-level plan. Other users complain that they did not know about Squarespace’s annual auto-renewal policy, and they were billed for the next year when they were planning on discontinuing their account.
- Limited For eCommerce: Although you can certainly run an online store on Squarespace, it isn’t the best option for many online sellers. There are only a few payment processors to choose from, and you will not have access to as many ecommerce features as you would with dedicated ecommerce software.
While all of these negatives might look intimidating, you should keep in mind that positive reviews vastly outweigh the negative. The reason that we’ve included four bullet points here and only two bullet points in positive reviews is because the complaints about Squarespace are more diverse, not because there are more of them.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Squarespace’s many positive reviews name two things to love about the software:
- Easy To Use: Squarespace is highly usable. Anyone can learn the basics of the software in just a few hours.
- Aesthetic: Squarespace is well-known for helping users create beautiful websites. The base templates are clean and elegant, and you can easily add your content to make it look even better.
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 share of issues, of course. The customer service leaves a lot to be desired, and the software has some limitations, which can be frustrating for more skilled users.
These issues aside, Squarespace has the makings of an excellent web builder. It manages to marry beauty and utility, combining practical features with gorgeous templates and a solid style editor. If Squarespace sounds like the right fit for your business, sign up for a free trial. You can get started without inputting a credit card number, so there’s no risk in testing out the software.
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