In this post I will review the SquareSpace Website Builder. Since launching in 2004, SquareSpace has grow strength by Strength and is one of the most Popular website builder around. It offers a collection of beautifully designed themes and a lot of advanced features. In this post, I will look at this platform bit by bit.
Is Square Space easy to use?
The Squarespace editor is arranged into two logical section. The Settings Sidebar and the Website Canvas
The Settings sidebar lets you access various settings related to Pages, Blogs , Color Typography etc. The editor uses a block approach. You can add and rearrange blocks. The blocks can be edited inline. To edit a block to simply click o it and a settings panel is displayed from where you can insert / edit content in the block.
There is a comprehensive settings panel to change the styling of your website. You can easy change color, fonts , site logo, site title , background colors etc.
Adding New Blocks / Widgets
As I mentioned before, SquareSpace uses a block based editor. It means that you can insert widgets / content in pre-defined blocks.
SquareSpace offers a vast collection of interface elements / widgets. It offers widgets like Buttons, Galleries, Carousels, Sliders, Instagram Gallery, Calendar, Chart Widgets , Google Maps etc.
It is possible to switch the website theme during the website building process. You can search a new template form the settings sidebar, preview it and install it.
You can also add your own custom css rules to the website. Squarespace also allows you to inject custom java script code to header and footer area of your website.
However, It is not possible to edit the code of your theme. Neither it is possible to create and upload your own theme to SquareSpace. If you want to do it, then you will need access to SquareSpace Developer platform.
SquareSpace has a decently powerful image manager. It lets you upload, crop, resize and store images for later use. It also integrates with third party image providers like Unsplash and Getty Images.
You can search for uploaded Image , however it is not possible to arrange and categorize images into folders.
I find the media manager a bit limiting, specially when you compare it to other platforms like Wix and WordPress. Given that Square Space is heavily used for building image rich websites, I expected the media manager to be more polished and feature rich.
Squarespace has a great collection of modern looking , responsive web templates. The templates are neatly categorized into different categories like Portfolio, Business, Blogging, Restaurants, Online stores etc.
All Squarespace templates are responsive by default, it means that your website will display perfectly on devices like tablets and mobile phone. All Squarespace templates make heavy use of imagery. So when building a website with squarespace, make sure you have a decent collection of images to use on your website.
Is Squarespace SEO Friendly?
On the first look, yes, Sqaurespace appears to be an SEO friendly platform. In-fact I would say that these days, most website builders are SEO friendly.
They support most of the SEO features out of the box and Squarespace is no exception.
Here is list of SEo features baked into SquareSpace.
- Meta Tags and Description – You can easily edit the meta descriptions and titles on every page. However it is not possible to setup a custom meta description on blog post. SquareSpace displays blog excerpt as the meta description for the blog post. This is a rather strange decision on SquareSpace’s part. This is a rather strange choice on Squ
- Custom Url’s – Short and readable url structure like (mysite.com/this-is-a-post) are recommended from SEO perspective. While Squarespace automatically generates urls’ for your pages and post, you can easily edit them by navigating to the settings panel. It is also possible to setup a standard url structure for the blog posts. This structure is applied globally to all of your blog posts across the website.
- SSL – Google recently confirmed ssl as a ranking factor. SquareSpace has this covered as all plans have SSL enabled by default.
- Redirects – If you update you website quite often, then chances are that you might modifying some of the urls on your website. In such cases, you must 301 redirect the old url to new url to preserve the seo juice need to change certain urls. Squarespace has a dedicated Settings panel to create redirect rules. You can easily create and update rules without digging into code.
- Image Alt Text – SquareSpace supports adding alt text to the images. But adding and editing alt text to an image is not a straight forward process. The process of adding alt text depends upon the type of image you want to add alt text to. If you add an inline image, then the image caption server as the alt text, if you add a poster type image, then file name will serve as the alt text. This is quite strange. Image Name , Captions and Alt Text serve different purpose and interchanging them is not a good idea. However when you add a product image, you can easily edit the image meta text which serves as the alt text. So at-least they got it right for the product images.
- SiteMaps – SquareSpace automatically create a sitemp for your website. It is updated in realtime. So whenever you make any changes to your website, the sitemap gets updated. There is no way to edit the xml sitemap . In fact no hosted website builder provides users access to the xml sitemap file.
- AMP– SquareSpace provides an inbuilt AMP feature. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile pages and if mobile traffic is important to you, then you will find the native AMP useful.
Overall, SquareSpace is an SEO friendly platform. It supports all important SEO features out of the box. A few features are implemented in a convoluted way but it is not a blocker. I dont see any critical SEO feature missing with Squarespace. What SquareSpace is missing is a collection of third party SEO apps which can help users in very advanced customization.
Can I use Squarespace for blogging?
Squarespace a decent set of blogging features. On the first look it appears that Squarespace has an above average blogging functionality . A good blogging solution lets you add and create blog posts , categories etc. Lets see how it stands
Creating a Blog Post.
In Squarespace you create a blog post just like you edit a page. A new blog post is added right from the editor screen. This is quite different from the way post creation works in wordpress.
To create a new post you simply navigate to the blog section from the sidebar panel. From there you can easily create a new blog post.
You can easily embed rich media blocks like image galleries, youtube / vimeo videos in your blog posts. It is also possible to schedule blog post for publication in future.
Squarespace support all standard features like categories, tags, featured images , featured posts, post status, post excerpt , pretty permalinks etc.
Squarespace offers a native commenting feature. It lets you enable / disable comments on per post basis. If the comments are enabled, your readers can easily post a comment on your post. The readers can post the comments anonymously or your can require a login before a comment is posted.
Blog authors can moderate comments from the back-end and post replies to the comments.
If you find the native commenting system basic for your needs, you can replaced squarespace comments with Disqus.
Squarespace allows you to add multiple contributors to your website. The contributors can be assigned different permissions like Administrator, Content Editor, Comment moderator etc. So if you want to run a multi author blog, you can invite multiple contributors and let them create blog posts under their author name.
It is also possible to create a view based on author filter, In other words, you can create a page which lists all the blog posts created by an author.
- User can create custom permalink structure for their blog posts. It is an important feature for creating SEO friendly url structure.
- Comments can be disabled / enabled on a global basis.
- Native AMP support. You can easily enable AMP page for your blog.
- You can setup feature post and style it differently from the rest of the post.
- Excerpts can be setup from the blog post creation screen.
- You can create password protected pages and posts
Overall, Squarespace has a decently rich blogging features. The feature are being improved all the time. If you want to add a blog to your existing website, then Squarespace has you covered. However if you want to take up blogging as a business / career, then WordPress is the only game in town.
Can I run an ecommerce store using SquareSpace
SquareSpace has a decent variety of features for running an eCommerce store.
Squarespace has an intuitive interface for adding products. There are 4 types of product available.
- Physical – As the name suggests, Physical products have to shipped to the customers.
- Digital – Digital products do not require shipping. They are downloaded
- Service – If you sell appointments/workshops then you will use the Service type product
- Gift Cards – These can be applied to purchases.
While selecting a product you will need to choose the type of product you want to create. Once you do that you will be taken to product creation screen and you proceed from there
When you create a physical product, you can easily add images, variants, pricing, inventory and additional information for the products.
It is also possible to sell subscriptions via Squarespace. You can take a physical product and add subscription to it. The subscription feature is in built into the platform.
It is also quite easy to sell digital products via Squarespace. The file hosting and file delivery is handled by SquareSpace itself.
Product Display and Organization
In order to display the product, you will need to create a Page and assign a product collection to it. Different pages can be assigned different product collections.
It is also possible to display product blocks on different pages of your website. Say for example, you have written a blog post announcing the availability of a new set of products. You can easily embed the corresponding product block in your blog post.
Payment Gateways and Transaction fees
As of now SquareSpace only supports three payments gateways
- Apple Pay (only works on Apple devices)
So effectively SquareSpace only supports 2 payments gateways. This is a bit of a downer. Stripe has limited availability across the world. So if you are in a country which does not have Stripe, Paypal is your only option.
SquareSpace charges a 3% fees if you do commerce on the website billing plan. The transaction fees is waived if you upgrade to a higher plan. So if you do a large volume of transactions, upgrading might be more cost effective.
Squarespace offers a variety of shipping options to choose from. You can easily create shipping zones based on regions. You can also offer in store pickups for local customers.
3 type of shipping rates are available. Flat Rate, Rates based on weight and carrier calculated shipping rates. You can also add markup to the carrier calculated rates.
The shipping options appear on the cart page and the customer can select from the available shipping options
Apps and Integrations
Currently, SquareSpace directly integrates with PrintFul, TaxJar, ShipBob, and ShipStation. You can enable these integrations by going to your settings panel. These integrations are available in Commerce plan and above.
Dropshipping with SquareSpace
Currently, there is no native dropshipping app/features available on the Squarespace. If you plan to run a dropshipping business, then Shopify and Woocommerce are your best choices.
App store for third party apps
Currently there is no app store for enhancing your ecommerce store with third party apps. All third party integrations are provided by Sqaurespace only.
It is possible to run a small to medium sized E-commerce business on Squarespace. If you are small business with simple e-commerce requirements then you can very well use SquareSpace. You will love the simplicity and beautiful interface.
If you want a beautiful website with ecommerce functionality , then you will find SquareSpace useful.
However, if you are an Ecommerce first business and have complex Ecommerce requirements, like supporting additional payments gateways, Dropshipping, Marketplace integrations, POS, then you will have to go with dedicated E-commerce platforms like Shopify or Woocommerce.
Marketing Tools Available in SquareSpace
Squarespace offers following Marketing tools
- Popups for Email Capture
- Announcement and Notification bars
- Email Marketing
- Social Sharing Tools
SquareSpace offers an inbuilt Popup Designer tool. You can customize the fonts., colors and add images to the popup. It also supports basic timing and targeting rules. If you want precise and advanced targeting then there are a lot of popup tools available in the market, however if you are looking for something simple, the inbuilt tool will suffice.
Announcement and Notifications bars are quite basic. they cannot be customized on per page basis. So the same bar is displayed on every page.
Squarespace also offers an integrated Email Marketing tool. It has all the standard features like Email Editor, List Creation and segmentation, Email blast and activity tracking. It also offers basic automation rules. For example you can send automatic email after purchase of certain products, similar you can send automated campaigns based on subscriber activity. As of now the automation rules are quite basic and is best for beginners. If you want advanced automation , look at dedicated email marketing services like Mailchimp, Convertkit orGetResponse
Squarespace offers basic marketing tools. There are no extra charge for accessing and using the marketing tools. So, in my opinion, they offer a great value.
If you are a marketing beginner then you will find the integrated toolset sufficient. If you are new to email list building and automation then Squarespace offers a great starting point. However if you are looking for something advanced then you can always try out third party marketing tools.
SquareSpace Pricing Plans
SquareSpace offer 4 pricing plans. The pricing depends upon if you are on monthly payment of annual plan.
Annual pricing is 25% cheaper than the monthly pricing
- Personal – $12 / month when paid annually
- Business – $18 / month when paid annually
- Basic Commerce – $26 / month when paid annually
- Advanced Commerce – $40 / month when paid annually
- All plans offer unlimited bandwidth and storage. It is different from other website builder like Wix and Weebly where the cheaper plans have limits on bandwidth and storage.
- All Annual plans include a free domain for the first year. The domain renews at standard rates from the next year.
- Business, Basic Commerce and Advanced Commerce plans offer free 100$ Google Adwords credit.
- SquareSpace does not offer a free plan. It only offers free trial.
There are some serious limitations with the personal plans.
- It means that you cannot install Google Analytics or integrate your website with third party tools.
- It also means that you cannot apply custom css to the website.
- There is no Ecommerce feature available in the personal plan.
So personal plan is only good if you plan to have a basic web presence. If that is the case , then website builders like Wix and Weebly are better options.
If you want to build a professional webs presence, then you have to choose a Business plan and above. Here are some features offered by the Business Plan.
- Access to premium blocks
- 1 Business Email account. Offered via Google Apps and free for 1st year.
- Complete customization of JS and CSS.
- Popups and Banners
- Basic Ecommerce with 3% transaction fees.
By professional web presence, I mean you plan to monetize your web presence sooner or later. The business plan offer integrated marketing tools like email capture popups and email marketing feature.
It also lets you inject custom js code in your website, this opens the door for integration with third party marketing tools. So if you dont want to use in built marketing tools, you can integrate third party tools while on the business plan.
There is a very limited set of ecommerce features available in the Business plan. On top of that there is a transaction fees of 3%. So in my opinion business plan is not suitable if you plan to sell products.
Business plan is suitable if you plan to build a website and grow an audience. If you want to do Ecommerce then Basic Commerce and Advanced Commerce are better.
The Basic Ecommerce plan adds additional ecommerce features and waives off the transaction fees. Here are some additional features provided by the Basic Ecommerce Plan.
- No Transaction fees
- Customer Accounts
- Checkout on your domain
- Label Printing via Shipstation
- Xero Integration.
The Basic Ecommerce plan is best if you want to sincerely pursue ecommerce. It is suitable for young and small sized stores.
This is the most expensive Squarespace plan and it is designed for growing online stores. Here are the additional features offered by this plan.
- Gift Cards
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Advanced Discount Module
- Sell Subscriptions
- Advanced Shipping
- Access to Orders API
Advanced Ecommerce plan offers a set of additional marketing tools. Features like Gift Cards, Discounts and Abandoned Cart Recovery are must if you have a growing online store.
It is also possible to sell subscriptions with the advance plan. Also you get access to Orders API, so you have a possibility of hiring a developers and coding custom workflows specific to your ecommerce business.
So all in all, Advanced Ecommerce plan is for growing E commerce Business.
SquareSpace is not a cheap platform by any means. But it is by choice. It is clear that Squarespace is only after users who are serious about building their online presence.
The Business plan costs 196 USd / year which is costlier when compred to platforms like Wix and Weebly. But when you take into account the integrated marketing tools, it offers a very good value for money.
The Ecommerce plans are feature rich and are quite affordable when you consider dedicated Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and Bigcommerce. I would say that if you do not have complex Ecommerce requirements, you will find great value in SquareSpace Ecommerce plans.
Review Summary and Conclusion
Overall SquareSpace is a stable and feature rich website building platform. They are heavily investing in feature development and I am sure there will be more feature updates in coming time.
While it is not cheap by any means, it is certainly good value for money. For example there is no limit on storage or bandwidth.
The Squarespace editor will take a little bit of getting used to but once you master it, websitye editing will be quick and painless.
Squarespace is ideal for :
- Creating beautiful looking brochure style websites
- Creatives looking to create a portfolio website
- If you want to add a simple ecommerce tore to your website
- Creating a website with a decent blogging functionality.
SquareSpace is not suitable:
- If you want to take up blogging as a business. For that go with WordPress
- You are an Ecommerce first business. In that case use a dedicated eCommerce platform like Shopify , Woocommerce or BigCommerce
- You want to integrate with other payments gateways that Paypal and Stripe.
- You want to create a complex website with powerful CMS features. WordPress is best option for such projects.