What Is Squarespace & Is It Right For You?
If you’ve looked into using a DIY website builder service to create a website for your business, it’s likely that you’ve come across Squarespace. Squarespace is a tool that allows you to create a great-looking and functional website without having to possess coding knowledge or hire a team of developers.
However, you may not be familiar with the particulars of how Squarespace works and how it stacks up against other website building software apps. That’s why we’ve set out to define exactly what Squarespace is and clarify how you can use it to benefit your small business. Read on for a full exploration.
Table of Contents
What Is Squarespace?
Squarespace is a cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) website builder. You can try it out for free for 14 days without being required to enter your payment information. To continue with Squarespace after your trial period is up, you’ll have to choose from between Squarespace’s four subscription plans, each of which is offered both on a month-to-month basis and on an annual basis. Because the annual option is offered at a discount and comes with a free domain for a year, we recommend it over the monthly option.
A Squarespace subscription includes hosting for your website, SSL security, and 24/7 customer support.
Perhaps the main factor that distinguishes Squarespace from the competition is its commitment to elegant design. Squarespace’s templates look and perform better than just about any templates you’ll find in a DIY website builder, making Squarespace a particularly good website solution for artists, photographers, and others for whom sharp aesthetics are of paramount importance.
How Does Squarespace Work?
Like nearly every other website builder, Squarespace uses the SaaS model, meaning the software is cloud-based and that you won’t have to install anything. As I mentioned earlier, Squarespace is a paid subscription service with four different subscription plans. These plans run from $12/month to $40/month with an annual subscription. For more details on the cost of using Squarespace, including hosting and payment processing fees, read our Squarespace pricing article.
Squarespace brings together a wide array of elements and features that give freelancers and business owners the ability to create gorgeous and functional websites. Here is but a sampling of them:
- Smart Image Handling: Squarespace gives you some nice tools to refine 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. Another feature photographers will appreciate is progressive image loading — enabling this will ensure that the images on the top of your website load first, speeding up loading times for visitors.
- Device View: Squarespace lets you check out your site in three configurations: desktop, tablet, and mobile. As you build your site, this feature means you can make sure your site performs well on each device type.
- Conversion Metrics: View your site’s performance, learn about your site’s traffic, and identify sticking points for your visitors.
- SEO Features: Customize image file names, product tags, and meta descriptions.
- Forms: Squarespace’s editor gives you access to a number of attractive prefab contact forms. You can easily customizable these forms to fit your business needs. Add as many form fields as you wish, along with checkboxes, radio buttons, and the like.
- Blogging: Squarespace’s blogging system is one of the platform’s highlights. From the ability to schedule posts to the option to have multiple authors posting to the same blog, Squarespace’s blogging capabilities are excellent. You can even host a podcast on a Squarespace blog. The commenting system is pretty sophisticated as well.
- Sell Physical & Digital Products: Squarespace’s capable eCommerce system lets you sell and deliver digital content as well as physical offerings. 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.
- Squarespace Commerce App: The Commerce App allows iOS and Android device users the ability to run their businesses from anywhere. The App includes an integrated barcode scanner, inventory management, discount creation, and the ability to process in-person sales.
- Squarespace Point Of Sale: Squarespace just introduced its new Point of Sale system, which allows you to connect your Squarespace Commerce App with a Square Reader for magstripe, contactless, and chip transactions. The system connects to your inventory management, making it easy to manage a store with both in-person and eCommerce elements. Square POS is included with a Basic/Advanced Commerce subscription, and no Squarespace transaction fees are charged beyond the base cost of Square’s payment processing.
The Benefits Of Squarespace
Squarespace’s appeal lies in the fact that it offers both accessibility and advanced functionality. While there are website builders out there that are even simpler and easier to use, just as there are circumstances that call for a more sophisticated solution such as a custom developer-built website or a WordPress site, Squarespace aims for the sweet spot that encompasses ease of use, sharp aesthetics, and utility.
What’s more, Squarespace is a relatively cost-effective website solution. While you will find website builders offering cheaper subscription plans, the differences aren’t huge, and the cost of hiring developers to build you a custom website with the kind of aesthetic precision Squarespace offers is going to be several orders of magnitude higher.
- Excellent templates
- Easy to use
- Great for photography and blogging
- Capable eCommerce system for online and in-person selling
- Free 14-day trial — you don’t need to give your payment information until you sign up for a paid plan
The Drawbacks Of Squarespace
As I mentioned above, Squarespace isn’t the cheapest website solution out there. Many other website builders offer a bare-bones free plan, while Squarespace only offers a 14-day free trial. However, this lack of a free plan shouldn’t trouble most business owners — the free plans offered by the likes of Wix and Weebly are quite limited in the features they offer.
Another drawback: Although Squarespace can host a good online store and can even facilitate offline commerce with its new POS system, it still doesn’t quite measure up with the likes of Shopify when it comes to eCommerce. You simply won’t get access to as many merchant features as you would with Shopify. Furthermore, Squarespace only offers two payment processing options for online sales (and only one — Square — for offline sales).
Squarespace’s customer support comes in for its share of criticism as well, with many users noting the lack of phone support.
- Limited integrations
- Limited eCommerce features
- No free plan
- Limited customer service options
Who Should Use Squarespace?
Squarespace’s capabilities match up very well with the needs of artists, photographers, podcasters, bloggers, and freelancers in general. The software allows you to create a professional, elegant website without breaking the bank. It’s as simple as that.
Likewise, Squarespace’s eCommerce features make it a good choice for smaller eCommerce outfits as well as certain types of brick-and-mortar establishments. Larger, high-volume eCommerce businesses are better served by dedicated eCommerce services like Shopify or BigCommerce, however.
How Does Squarespace Compare To Wix, WordPress, & Others?
As I’ve said, Squarespace’s eCommerce chops don’t quite compare with the likes of Shopify. Read our Shopify VS Squarespace piece for more on this comparison. While smaller sellers will find a lot to like about Squarespace, more ambitious merchants will find even more to like about Shopify.
Another Squarespace competitor you’ve likely come across is Wix, which is currently the most widely used website builder on the planet. As we wrote in our Wix VS Squarespace comparison article, we give Wix the overall edge; it’s even easier to use than Squarespace, and it offers a much greater range of add-ons and integrations through its Wix App Market. However, that’s not to say that Wix is better for everyone. Squarespace’s superior aesthetics still make it a more fitting choice for art, photography, blogging, and podcasting.
Another Squarespace alternative we should discuss is WordPress. WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS), not a DIY website builder, so this isn’t quite an apples-to-apples comparison. However, a WordPress site can integrate with a much wider range of products and services than can Squarespace and is almost infinitely customizable. If you need a business website with more advanced functionality than Squarespace can offer and/or you want to retain the option of taking your site to a different web host should you grow dissatisfied with your current one, you should look into creating a website with WordPress instead.
That said, WordPress is nowhere near as user-friendly as Squarespace, and unless you possess some serious web development skills, you’ll likely need to outsource the creation of your site to a team of web developers and designers, thus making a WordPress site cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses and freelancers.
How To Get Started With Squarespace
Getting started with Squarespace is a cinch. First, you sign up — you don’t need to enter your credit card information at this stage, just your email address and a password. If you want to continue using Squarespace for free, you can do so for a period of 14 days. If you’re ready to purchase a subscription plan, you’ll be able to immediately buy a domain for your site from Squarespace. If you get an annual subscription, you’ll pay nothing for your domain for the first year. Domains cost $20-$70 each subsequent year when purchased through Squarespace. And if you opt to use Squarespace for free for the free trial period, you’ll get a temporary Squarespace-branded URL.
After answering some basic questions about the purpose of your site, you’ll be able to choose a template. You can narrow down your search by selecting a category (templates are organized into categories based on site purpose) or by simply typing your site’s purpose into the box provided (“To sell my artwork” for example). After choosing a template, you’ll be taken to the dashboard to start editing your site.
At this point, you’ll be able to add pages to your site and edit them to your heart’s content. Squarespace’s site editing system is fairly self-explanatory, and to the extent that it isn’t, Squarespace provides a knowledgebase, tutorial videos, webinars, and more to help you understand the editor.
At this point, you can edit your site and integrate some of the more basic tools on offer. For access to the more advanced features, including many of the eCommerce tools, you’ll need to sign up for a paid subscription. For a look at some of Squarespace’s best feature add-ons, read our post detailing Squarespace’s 8 best integrations.
Is Squarespace For Me?
Squarespace is an excellent tool for those who want to create a design-forward website for their business without spending a boatload and without having to learn code. Artists, photographers, bloggers, podcasters, and owners of smaller online stores are particularly well-positioned to take advantage of what Squarespace has to offer.
If you’re curious, give Squarespace a try and explore it thoroughly during your 14-day trial period. See if the template designs are to your tastes and if the editor works to your liking. If you find Squarespace to be a good fit for your business — or if you don’t — drop us a comment and let us know about your experience!
If you think another website builder might better fit your needs, check out our article on the 10 best Squarespace alternatives.