Squarespace: The Apple iPhone of web hosting has its limitations

Nancy J. Delong

Seventeen-calendar year-old New York-centered hosting firm Squarespace has been dubbed by a person Wall Road inventory analyst “the Apple iphone of hosting.” 

That description is apt in extra techniques than a person. 

Like the Apple iphone, there is a slick top quality to quite a few aspects of Squarespace that is consumer welcoming, especially to people with limited specialized acumen, this sort of as picking satisfying templates for running a blog that present an immediately desirable visual sense.

And comparable to Apple items, the veneer of relieve can create a fake sense of stability. There are instances when Squarespace will never function the way you would would like, and when it can lead to irritation with features that abruptly split, with tiny recourse apart from to be individual till it is remedied.


And considerably like Apple, Squarespace is anything of a walled backyard garden. The service tends to focus on a curated checklist of characteristics, for which customization and growth by means of 3rd functions are seriously limited. 

Offered all those pluses and minuses, Squarespace is a device for all those who want primarily relieve of use for a fundamental blog or commerce site but who are extra adept than an complete newbie to deal with the inevitable gaps and shortcomings.

What follows is the initial-hand encounter as a consumer of Squarespace for virtually a calendar year in the enhancement of the know-how shares blog The Technological know-how Letter, which is hosted on Squarespace.

Who it is for

Squarespace is for the semi-specialized consumer who can grasp and do the job with some basic principles of how to established up a blog or a retail store. For illustration, you may need to familiarize on your own with how to established up a area, url that area from a registrar, this sort of as GoDaddy or Community Remedies, to Squarespace’s area options, although Squarespace does present integration with GoDaddy, Google, and Namecheap whereby you can add a area with no acquiring to tweak options.

It does assistance to know the ins and outs of managing content pages, template options, and social media engagement to get the most of the service. 

Each a person of all those aspects provides its own complications, so Squarespace is by no implies a force-button affair. At the identical time, scaling up a site implies managing into some restrictions to growth, this sort of as the absence of a central database from which to pull different content objects in a reusable manner. 

Squarespace has unique enchantment for all those who want to open up a storefront to market products and services, like own education, or market physical goods or digital downloads. Payment processing is effortless to add, as are delivery features. And the extra expensive Commerce offer gives intensive analytics about searching cart use and how shoppers move by means of the funnel of buying.

Just one Wall Road analyst covering Squarespace’s inventory, Christopher Merwin of Goldman Sachs, who has dubbed the system the Apple iphone of hosting, notes that Squarespace is a walled backyard garden. The system “maintained fairly couple integrations with 3rd-bash suppliers of other software package and products and services.” For illustration, Squarespace “gives 24 extensions on its internet site,” notes Merwin, “as compared to Wix, which gives 250+ extensions.” 

For illustration, Squarespace at a person time available social share buttons to permit people send out your article to Twitter and the like. At some position, the enterprise did away with that, forcing buyers to use header code injection from 3rd functions this sort of as Shareaholic and Sharethis.

The Squarespace experience 

Most of your time with Squarespace will be expended in the Dashboard, a uncomplicated column of menus like site options. At the prime of that column of sections is the Web pages Panel, which is the place you’ll your time making your site’s pages. All of this has a clean up, uncomplicated glance to it, so it is fairly effortless to navigate into and out of the different parts of the Dashboard, and to do the job within just the Web pages Panel.

The Web pages Panel is the place you control your site’s aspects.

The Technological know-how Letter

The Web pages Panel is further more broken into 3 sections. What’s named the Principal Navigation, at the prime of the panel, is the team of pages that generally display up in the site navigation backlinks on the home web site and on every single other web site that you set in this team. 

Further more down, you can find a portion for unlinked pages if you want to make a web site publicly obtainable but have it not display up in the site navigation. And if you invest in an add-on element named Member Places to market people subscriptions, you’ll see a 3rd portion of the Web pages Panel for all those member pages. The member pages also do not show up in the site navigation unless you deliberately develop a url in the Principal Navigation team to url to all those member pages.  

The greatest component about Squarespace is the focus on making from templates and blocks of content. By default, pages, like catalog pages for solution listings, and blog pages, are fairly handsome templates with a modicum of modifiable font and layout alternatives. You can quickly get a very skilled glance and sense with any of these.

There are two primary types of pages, “layout pages” and “collections pages.” Layouts are somewhat free of charge-variety, the place you are primarily assembling blocks of content as you like. Collections, like weblogs and solution catalogs, are pre-designed to team with each other objects, this sort of as blog posts. 

Composing pages is a system of incorporating content blocks from the menu that seems when you hover about a portion and see the tiny plus indicator.

The Technological know-how Letter

Regardless of which you pick out, making and revising pages is about incorporating blocks of content, this sort of as a text block, which is a rectangle with a text editor to input and format text, or an image container that demonstrates an image picker. You add each a person by clicking a plus button that demonstrates up on mouse-about, and you can drag these objects all-around the web site. The way blocks snap with each other is fairly slick. 

All editing by default is WYSIWYG. If you want to do HTML markup, you can pick out from a useful block named a markdown block instead of the WYSIWYG text block. You can also modify your options to make the markup your default. In site options, within just the highly developed portion, you modify your default text editor to the “Markdown Editor.” 

Blocks of content are also offered for email indicator-ups. If you indicator up for Squarespace’s email campaigns, you can established up what’s named an “automation” to send out each human being who indicators up a observe-on email confirmation, which you can tailor in terms of content and look. You can also prepare email “blasts,” a concept to an whole mailing checklist, this sort of as, for illustration, a everyday e-newsletter of content. 

Like producing pages in the Web pages Panel, email automatons and blasts are geared up with a WYSIWYG, drag-and-drop process in the Advertising and marketing portion you accessibility from the Dashboard. Squarespace has finished a wonderful task of producing it effortless to construct from the identical content blocks you use although also producing it achievable to decide out blog posts from a menu if you want to make them component of your email. 

A fairly intensive established of hyperlinked documentation in Squarespace’s Knowledge Foundation does a fantastic task of conveying the different characteristics, like stage-by-stage instructions and online video guides.

You can get an exquisite glance for a blog web site, say, just by picking a template.

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A focus on selling 

Outside of the slick UI for editing, the primary differentiator of Squarespace is the emphasis on selling points. The fundamental web site templates are in a position to be established up for selling products and services, possibly on a spend-for each-use or a subscription foundation selling physical goods, with catalog layouts for solution pricing and descriptions or digital content, this sort of as files, for download. A fourth possibility is the Member Places pointed out previously mentioned, by which a person can market password-protected parts of content.

To get payments, a person can switch on both of those PayPal and Stripe, the latter for the objective of taking credit cards. The Dashboard has a url to all those products and services to established up or add an existing account.

Squarespace also enables a person to integrate with Square’s card reader to get payments at the position of sale (POS), which are then built-in into the Squarespace account using a separate iOS or Android application for Commerce. (In situation you have been thinking, there is no relationship amongst Sq. and Squarespace, they are fully separate companies.)

Squarespace provides a range of facts points to track how shoppers go by means of the searching funnel in the Analytics portion of the Dashboard, beginning with how quite a few people visited, who considered a solution, who additional anything to a cart, and who bought.

There is also intensive info on distinctive site visitors and visits, time expended on unique content, site search keywords, and the range of RSS subscribers. 

Even if you might be not selling stuff, you can nevertheless use analytics on Squarespace to see your targeted traffic concentrations. There is also integration with Google Analytics for a further dive into your numbers using Google’s own site crawling. In apply, Google’s analytics are likely to update extra regularly, although Squarespace’s designed-in crawling can have a delay of an hour or extra.

Email blasts also arrive with their own analytics, displaying how quite a few people opened an email and how quite a few clicked on a url in an email.

When effectively considered out, the curated checklist of industrial characteristics feels rather missing for the most component. For illustration, there are not capabilities for characteristics this sort of as chat or discussion boards or any other interactive aspects. Integration with a 3rd bash for this sort of capabilities would be a welcome addition. 

Email blasts will report metrics of how quite a few people opened an e-mail and how quite a few of them clicked on a url.  

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Strategies and pricing

Squarespace has four programs, with add-ons for more capabilities. The fundamental system starts off at $16 for each month, or $12 if you spend for the calendar year up-front. Company programs add extra intensive analytics applications and points this sort of as promotional pop-up capabilities for your site and other “high quality” characteristics.

There are then two versions of the Commerce system, the Simple and Innovative, at $35 and $fifty four. You have to have a person of these if you want the skill to give site site visitors their own buyer account login. 

An illustration of the variances amongst the two features the skill, with the Innovative system, to immediately estimate delivery charges by means of UPS or FedEx for buyer orders and to send out an computerized email reminder to a buyer when they have deserted the checkout processor their searching cart.

In addition to the four programs, you’ll spend further to add member parts if you want to market password-protected content, beginning at $10 a month and raising in rate as you add extra member parts. Sending email campaigns, as an option to, say, Mailchimp, charges further as effectively. Charges start out at $7 and rise to $sixty eight for each month relying on the range of email campaigns you want to send out and how quite a few recipients.

Squarespace has a pleasingly uncomplicated method to pricing. Bear in brain that points this sort of as e-mail campaigns and password-protected member parts will arrive with more month to month service fees. 


Squarespace constraints

At the rear of the relieve of use and the effectively considered out areas of Squarespace, there are constraints that a person will have to contend with on a everyday foundation.

Support for WYSIWYG editing is uneven amongst desktop and cell. For illustration, drag-and-drop aspects of web site style and design, the different text and image blocks, won’t be able to be dragged in cell browsers, only on the desktop. The limited layout is achievable in terms of incorporating or deleting blocks. 

That implies the web site layout has to be confined to the desktop. 

Squarespace has its own iOS and Android application, which has uneven performance. For quite a few fundamental tasks, the application is fantastic, like some web site development, mailing checklist routine maintenance and site targeted traffic analytics. 

Having said that, holes crop up immediately. For illustration, when editing text in any regular text field on a web site in the application, the formatting pop-ups that show up on the Website web site variation are absent, forcing a person to go back to the Website to do formatting.

Among the the severe constraints highly developed buyers will run into is that content aspects, this sort of as blog posts, are tied to the pages with which they are developed. There is no way to, for illustration, has a blog write-up be connected across a number of pages. The identical goes for solution listings they dwell within just the container of the web site in which they have been fashioned. 

That is less than perfect, and a person starts off to would like for what you might phone a database, in other terms, a repository from which to attract aspects as you like for any specified presentation web site. 

A workaround is to style and design a collections web site, this sort of as a blog web site that is not connected to the primary navigation, and then use a content field on the primary web site that is named a “summary” field. That summary field can be populated with objects from the collections web site, this sort of as the blog posts. The assortment web site gets the fundamental database, and the summary field gets a type of Find assertion in SQL.  

The absence of a database of content is especially hanging thinking about the architecture of content blocks. In idea, content blocks must be not only templates but also stateful objections that can be repurposed. If, for illustration, a blog author results in a text block on a specified blog write-up, it is conceivable the author might would like to re-use that content block, not the template, but the true custom made block, someplace else on the site. Alternatively, you have got to scrape what you can, this sort of as the text content, and re-develop the hard work in a new object.

Squarespace’s back-end content administration has glitches. Just one can face on any specified working day a number of mistake messages on Squarespace when committing a modify to a blog write-up, say, or an email campaign draft, and when you see the mistake concept following clicking save, the outcome is normally a hung web site, and the need to reload the web site, which normally clears the most the latest adjustments made. 

The outcome is that sometimes a person can sense like a person is strolling on eggshells, managing a very fragile CMS. When not a deal-breaker, possibly, be careful to save your do the job typically when acquiring elements of your site or even when you might be updating a blog write-up so that you will not end up shedding your do the job.

A lot more significant problems come about when points will not hook up. For illustration, when building an email campaign, a person may want to url to an existing blog write-up. That process is made very effortless, with the identical useful blocks that can be combined and matched in possibly an email template or in a blank Website web site. 

Having said that, it can all arrive crashing down when the latest blog write-up abruptly doesn’t show up in the blog write-up picker from within just the email draft. Appeals to aid may be achieved the answer that the issue is unclear, and further more analysis is necessary. This, of course, can shut down the whole advertising and marketing function for a Website site that relies on email blasts. 

That is the place it pays to be less dependent on Squarespace’s slick templates, or, at the very least, to have an understanding of that dependency. When a blog write-up fails to display in the blog write-up picker in the email campaigns draft, a person can nevertheless retrieve that blog write-up by basically making the email draft from scratch, and assembling text and image and then attaching the URL for the blog write-up. 

In other terms, there are instances when you’ll have to forego some of the pre-designed conveniences you normally depend on.

Finally, the curated checklist of characteristics on Squarespace, and the absence of extra intensive integration with 3rd functions, implies that you may have to depend on code injection in Website web site headers. Which is fantastic, apart from that it can multiply the complications.

If, for illustration, a issue will come up with some aspect of one’s site, this sort of as when blog posts will never load in an email blast blog picker, Squarespace aid will ask for custom made header code be removed briefly although they look into the issue. The rationale is that adjustments to Squarespace’s system can lead to custom made header code that had been doing work fantastic to abruptly not do the job fantastic, and so the custom made code wants to be quarantined in order to isolate the issue. 

The outcome is a tug of war, with buyers seeking to insert code to make up for Squarespace’s deficiencies but Squarespace acquiring to force back from time to time on code they won’t be able to management. 

Support is offered by means of email and by means of chat, the latter getting all through typical the time period four am to 8 pm, Eastern time, Monday by means of Friday. In common, the aid workforce manning these chats will shell out time taking a glance at the issue and are fairly professional about the service. Having said that, when bugs crop up, this sort of as the email blast problems pointed out previously mentioned, the resolution will normally get some time, occasionally 24 to forty eight several hours, to take care of. 

The most egregious aid challenge is that the focus on characteristics by Squarespace sometimes implies that basic capabilities are still left as a secondary priority. 

For illustration, early in my enhancement of The Technological know-how Letter, blog write-up URLs, which are meant to mirror the title of a write-up, instead appeared as strings of garbage figures.  Which is negative if you want URLs that display up nicely in, say, a tweet. I notified Squarespace and was informed that they recognized the challenge, but that resolution would have to hold out as there was a whole lot of other do the job to be finished. 

My workaround was to make confident to manually edit the URL of every single write-up in the options panel for the write-up. Squarespace finally fastened the challenge, but it wasn’t till months later on.

In summary

In summary, if you have a modicum of specialized skill and you want to immediately set up a shop or a blog that looks fantastic for not considerably funds, Squarespace is a fantastic preference. 

Be geared up, nonetheless, to have to do the job all-around quite a few constraints, most likely soon following you go dwell and on a perpetual foundation. That features both of those the useful constraints and also the recurrent service gotchas that basically will have to be endured. 

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