Squarespace Review: John Malkovich Is Using It – But Should You?
Squarespace is big. Not only is it serving millions of customers, but it’s also a workplace for over 850 professionals.
But is this website builder the right choice for you? Find out in my Squarespace review.
Squarespace at Glance
- Building Your First Site: *****
- Main Features and User Interface: ****
- Integrations: ***
- Customer Support: ***
- Pricing: Website plan 8€/$9 / month (if chosen the annual plan) ****
- Overall: 3.8
- Verdict: Go Get It!
- Simple website setup.
- Automated social media updates on blog posts.
- You can change the website template in the middle of the design process.
- No 24x7 chat support.
- No app store.
- Black and white theming of the UI.
My Initial Expectations
There is something different with Squarespace compared to other site builders I have seen. When I first looked at the platform some time ago, I wasn’t able to see the difference. But now I do.
I’m talking about the branding of the site and how it differs from the other platforms out there. The notion I got was that this platform was more or less suited towards creatives (photographers, writers, actors …).
When it comes to the company itself, I felt the trust towards them. Squarespace is a big, reputable company, continually developing its services and its platform.
Who Isn't This Sitebuilder For?
Even though Squarespace brands itself in a certain way, it’s still a site builder for anyone. Well, almost for anyone, unless you don’t like any of the following matters:
- You’d like to have 24x7 chat support.
- You don’t like any of the templates that the platform provides out of the box.
- You need as many Squarespace subscriptions as you have websites. For instance, two websites require to separate premium plans (by the way, this is not just a Squarespace-specific thing. It is a de-facto standard amongst the other site builders as well).
However, if none of these reasons matter to you, Squarespace could very well be the platform to build your next website on.
Building Your First Website
Building a website with Squarespace is straightforward.
First, log in to your account and then choose Create a Site button at the top-right:
Next, you’ll pick a template for your website. You can either browse through categories or search by a keyword:
Although these templates do look nice, they are perhaps too “artistic” for my taste. However, your case could be different.
Once you have found the right template for your site, choose it by clicking Start with Template Name or take a preview look at it first:
You are then set! Just click the Start button to see your website in the editor:
You can then continue by modifying the content according to your needs:
Creating an Online Store
You can also create an online store with Squarespace. The starting steps are the same as the website. What’s nice is that all the templates I looked at seem to work with eCommerce websites:
However, after picking a template, the steps may differ from here on.
Sure, you want to tweak the content and the branding to reflect your brand. But your store also needs to be configured until you can go live with it. To do this, click the Commerce menu on the left:
This brings you to the following menu:
In general, creating a website or an online store is pretty straightforward, and it is a very quick process. In addition, since all the templates can also be used with an online store, that simplifies the setup process.
There is one final thing I wanted to say regarding website templates. You can change the template in the middle of the design process if you wish. This adds great flexibility to building your website.
Building Your First Site:
It doesn’t take that many steps to build the basic infrastructure of your website or an eCommerce store with Squarespace. Also, there are no separate creation processes for websites or online stores; they use the same website wizard.
Main Features and User Interface
When you open the Squarespace editor, it looks very clean.
On the left side, you have the main menu which controls the majority of the actions on your website:
Some of the menu items lead to premium-level functionality (like Commerce), or to a feature where you need to have a live website (like Marketing > Email Campaigns).
While the usage of the menu is straightforward for the most part, I would add an icon (or something similar) to the menu to indicate the premium features. That way, you would not feel disappointed once you realize that this particular feature is indeed a premium feature.
You also have a link to the dashboard. I’ll cover the dashboard part later in this post, but in brief, it gives you the overview of your websites and access to some powerful management actions you can take.
Finally, you have the content part of the editor. This is where you fine-tune the layout of your website:
So far so good. Squarespace is not trying to add much functionality that just confuses you.
What could be confusing is that there is no element toolbar anywhere where you could just drag new components to the content area.
Instead, you choose a section on your page that you would like to edit, and Squarespace gives you the potential options you can choose from. These options change based on the element you choose on the page.
For instance, if you choose to edit the Site Title, the necessary options related to this action pop-up:
When you choose a section for editing, it is hovered with a grey area:
You can then add the elements you want by clicking the Edit link and the plus icon in the next screen. Once you do that, you’ll see the following menu:
While the majority of the elements are free to use, there are some which are premium. They are clearly marked to indicate that you have to pay for them.
To be honest, I still prefer using the traditional approach in editing, by having the necessary elements located on the left, and then just dragging them to the content area. For me, this is clearer than the current workflow that Squarespace currently offers.
This section of the management area gives you an overview of the sites you manage:
The dashboard area is pretty plain. You can edit a few parameters of your websites or register new domains.
I think that the minimalistic UI approach works in this case because you can do only what needs to be done and nothing more.
Your website is not automatically shown at the top search engine results. Therefore, you’ll have to take some steps to improve your rankings. With Squarespace, the SEO settings can be found under the Marketing menu:
Here, you can do some basic SEO like setting your page titles or meta descriptions.
Obviously, you should do a lot more than this. And for this reason, Squarespace has documented the steps that you should do and how they help your SEO.
Amongst all the SEO features, these come out of the box:
- SSL Certificates: When you enter a website with the https prefix, you then know that they are using SSL to secure the browser communication. Google has announced, that using SSL gives a minor boost in their rankings.
- Clean URLs: Clean web addresses (or URLs) are easy to read, and you can even include your keyword in them.
- AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages is a Google initiative to speed up the loading times of web pages. Squarespace also supports this functionality (which is not enabled by default).
- Mobile-friendly templates: All the templates are compatible with mobile devices. According to Squarespace, Google gives mobile-optimized pages higher priority.
Squarespace provides plenty of templates, mostly included with beautiful photography. These templates are divided into multiple categories:
For my taste, these templates are perhaps “too” beautiful (if you are into big photographs and artistic styles, then you are just fine).
Picking and changing a template is simple enough, even in the middle of the design process. Also, if you are not sure about how a template looks, you can also click the preview button, to get a better idea of how the site looks after the new template selection.
Here is the catch I talked about earlier: a template could look just fine when you look at it on the template directory. But as soon as you install it to your website and start making the necessary changes to it (your content, images …), your site doesn’t necessarily look so good anymore.
Just remember that a template is only a designer-made version of the layout (often with professional photography), but your website doesn’t necessarily look like that after all the changes you have made.
Squarespace has a variety of apps. Currently, the selection is as follows:
- Analytics: View key statistics of your website.
- Blog: Run a blog.
- Commerce: Manage your store.
- Portfolio: Display and browse your galleries.
- Squarespace: Manage your websites (according to customer support, this is just an early version of the app).
I think that it’s interesting to see all these apps which focus on one certain aspect of running a website. On the other hand, one app would be perhaps more convenient, so that you don’t have to install so many apps to your phone.
Also, for some reason, Squarespace only offers some of the apps for Android. Right now, Portfolio and Squarespace apps are only available for iOS.
Translating your content into multiple languages is possible with Squarespace. This is good news if, for instance, your business needs to expand its reach to other language markets.
I’m not going to repeat the steps that you need to do to translate your website. Instead, I’ll link directly to the Squarespace documentation on how to do it.
Features and User Interface:
Squarespace provides a pretty standard set of functionality. The platform is easy to use, although getting used to the editor might take a little time.
Integrations and Extendibility
For some reason, I’m a lot into app stores. They make finding the extensions to your website easy and fast.
Unfortunately, Squarespace doesn’t have an app store. However, they have integrations. In other words, everything that your website could be expanded with is already integrated into the platform - without having to install anything extra.
This is, of course, nice because no additional installation needs to be done. To see the list of available integrations, you can check out the document on their knowledge base:
Not all the integrations are free, though.
For instance, to integrate your site with G Suite (the Basic plan is supported), you’ll have to pay 5 USD per user per month (that is approximately 4 Euros per user per month at the time of writing this post).
What a shame … no app store! Even though Squarespace does have integrations, I’d still like to see all the expansions in a Wix-style App Market, laid out nicely, rather than having to browse through a link list.
Currently, Squarespace provides the following customer support channels:
- Knowledge Base
- Community Forum
Out of these channels, you can access Knowledge Base, Email and Twitter 24/7. However, the most important channel (at least in my opinion), the chat, is not 24/7. Currently, it operates five days per week.
This is a shame because I think that a company this big should definitely provide support through chat during all the hours.
There is also Twitter support, which is a true 24/7 operation. However, I didn’t test this channel.
Finally, there is also the community forum. It’s funny that they didn’t mention this channel in their knowledge base article as one of the ways to get support. On the other hand, the community is more or less users supporting others, so I think that the rationale is understandable.
When I tested the email support, the answer came in promptly. I sent a request to them on December 24th, and I got an answer back an hour later, even though the request was made during the Christmas period.
Squarespace provides support through my favorite support channel, the chat channel. Unfortunately, it’s not 24/7 operation and hopefully, Squarespace will change this soon.
Email support works promptly, but I didn’t test other support channels like Twitter or the Community Forum. You also have a knowledge base option available and that should be your first stop when seeking support.
Plans and Pricing
I have written a comprehensive post about Squarespace pricing elsewhere on my blog. So, check that post out if you want to learn more about Squarespace pricing.
Also, please note that the prices mentioned here were effective at the time of writing. Make sure to check the latest Squarespace pricing through their website.
There are four premium plans that Squarespace offers. They are divided into two categories: Websites and Online Stores.
When you sign up with Squarespace, you start a 14-day free trial. This phase helps you to decide whether the platform is for you or not. Your credit card is not billed during this time.
The Personal plan is for running a personal website. With 11 Eur (12 USD) per month (with annual billing), you get unlimited bandwidth and storage, 24/7 support and SSL certificate to enhance the security of your site.
This plan gives you the proper functionality to run your business online.
Currently, the monthly costs (if the annual plan is chosen) is 18 USD (17 Eur) per month which gives you everything that the Personal plan has, but also a fully integrated eCommerce option.
The Basic plan contains all the features of the Business plan. On top of that, you can sell unlimited products or get integrated accounting via Xero (available only in US).
Currently, the Basic plan costs 24 Euros (26 USD) per month with annual billing.
This plan is the best eCommerce plan that Squarespace can offer. It contains all the features of the Business (websites) and Basic (online store) plans.
The advanced plan costs 40 USD (36 Euros) per month with annual billing. It gives you, for instance, a subscriptions feature which enable you to sell subscriptions to products or services, gift cards or abandoned shopping cart recovery, where you send email reminders to those customers who have abandoned their shopping cart before making a purchase.
Squarespace pricing is pretty simple when compared to some other site builders. You have four plans to choose from, and the pricing page shows the prices in major currencies.
You can also choose the currency to display, and the pricing table updates accordingly. This feature is something that other site builders should adopt as well.
You can purchase domains through Squarespace or attach your existing domain to your Squarespace account.
The latter option is cheaper, as the domain purchased through Squarespace costs more than through an external registrar (like NameCheap).
For instance, if you register a .com domain through Squarespace, it costs 18 Euros per year (that’s approximately 21 USD per year).
However, when you purchase a domain (like a .com domain in this case) through NameCheap, it costs only 8.88 USD at the time of writing (approximately 8 Euros per year).
Of course, you have to remember that if you get a premium plan from Squarespace, they give you a free domain for one year. However, the price jumps after the first year, and it still becomes cheaper to register a domain through an external registrar.
Squarespace doesn’t offer email accounts out of the box. Instead, you’ll have to register a service like G Suite to get an inbox to your website.
Currently, the G Suite pricing is 50 USD / 40 Euros per year if you choose the annual pricing.
Accesing and Cancelling Subscription Information
So, you want to access your billing information, even cancel your subscription if necessary? This can be done easily by going to the billing information section through your site’s settings.
I have written step-by-step instructions on how to do this. Based on these steps, it’s relatively easy to cancel your subscription.
Plans and Pricing:
There are “only” four plans to choose from: two premium-level plans on Websites and two on Online Stores. Yet, these plans provide enough features to run a fully-powered website or an online store.
The pricing is simple to understand, and Squarespace even has a currency switcher on the pricing page where you can change the pricing between currencies.
Is This the Right Tool for You?
This could very well be the platform for your next web project. Squarespace provides everything you need to run an online store or a website.
Personally, what bothers me is the black/white theming that they are using on their UI. Also, I’m not into their templates that they are currently offering.
Squarespace also lacks the app store option, which some of its competitors have. Of course, there are the integrations, but I’d still like to see the store approach instead.
Finally, there is no 24/7 chat support, which, in my opinion, is a huge downside.
Whether the platform is for you or not depends on your personal preferences. This is not my favorite platform (hint: check out my Weebly review, but it could very well be yours.
Squarespace is not the only site builder there is. In fact, there are plenty of platforms which could offer great user experiences and features for you. Here are some of my favorite alternatives:
- Weebly: Probably the easiest-to-use site builder there is at the moment. Great functionality, continually developed.
- Voog: Solid internationalization features. Some nice functionality to build your website in no time.
- Strikingly: Awesome, well-thought-out features. My recommendation for building one-page websites.