Squarespace is one of the hippest DIY website builders around. It backs up its eye-catching style with loads of capabilities and integrations, including support for Apple Pay, Mailchimp, and PayPal. All sites built with it get free SSL and domain registration, too. That said, Squarespace’s move to version 7.1 splits the user base, which must make a decision to stick with the older version or rebuild sites in the new version to access fresh features.
Squarespace 7.1 vs. Squarespace 7.0
With Squarespace 7.1, the popular website-building service breaks a bit from its past. The update introduces new, streamlined options for adding content and styling your site. Though the changes are many, Squarespace 7.1 has many many with version 7.0. So much so, that Squarespace created a guide to give you at-a-glance insights into the new features.
If you’re new to Squarespace, the 7.1 build will be available from the jump. People using version 7.0, however, must rebuild their sites in 7.1 if they want to leverage the new features. That’s annoying. Thankfully, Squarespace offers a guide for this, too. Squarespace 7.1 is still a work in progress, so it exists alongside Squarespace 7.0, at the moment. We’ll dive into some of the version differences in a bit.
Although Squarespace offers no long-term free account option, as Weebly and Wix do, you can try it free for two weeks. That said, your test site won’t be live on the web until you pay for an account. Accounts start at $16 per month (or $12 per month, billed annually) for the Personal level, which includes a site of up to 20 pages. The plans run up to $46 per month (or $40 per month, billed annually) for the Advanced Commerce plan, which serves up unlimited bandwidth with real-time shipping integration.
Between the entry-level and high-end options is the $26-per-month business plan ($18 per month, billed annually), which lets you sell with a 3 percent transaction fee. Squarespace also offers the $30-per-month ($26 per month, billed annually) Basic Commerce plan, which removes that fee (as does the Advanced Commerce plan). The rates are reasonable if somewhat expensive when compared with the entry-level pricing of 1&1 MyWebsite ($9.99), Jimdo ($7.50), Weebly ($8), and Wix ($10).
The price includes website hosting. You also get one year of free domain registration if you’re on an annual payment schedule, but you can also connect a domain you already own to your Squarespace-built site. After the first year, the domain pricing varies depending on the desirability of the URL you chose. Monthly subscribers need to pay that right off the bat.
Interface and Web-Design Options
As with nearly every site builder, you start the actual design process by picking a template. Squarespace offers dozens of attractive options, many featuring full-photo backgrounds and some offering scrolling interfaces. In a nice touch, all Squarespace 7.1 templates share the same capabilities, including feature and style options. In fact, you should consider your selected template design as a starting point, because you can now customize everything. As a result, Squarespace nixed the ability to switch templates in version 7.1 (you can still switch templates in version 7.0, though). If you’re keen on manually customizing your site, the template-switching loss won’t be a detriment. Conversely, people who simply want to push one button to receive a new website look will lament 7.1’s inability to switch templates.
You next choose a category, such as Media, Music, Travel, and so on. Then you choose goals for your site, such as announcing events, showcasing art, blogging, or selling products. Next in this initial step-by-step startup is choosing whether your site is for yourself, a friend, a client, business, or other. You then enter a site description, and finally a title for the site.
Like the pages Squarespace designs, its editing interface is one of the most elegant things around, though perhaps not the most intuitive. You can’t just start editing the template site. Rather, you have to first create a page based on any template page. Furthermore, the lack of a sidebar for adding elements is disorienting at first. Instead of using a permanent toolbar along the side of the builder interface, Squarespace opens a dialog box of content items when you click on a spot on your page that can accept a new element.
You hover the mouse over an available content block (which appears as a sort of sideways teardrop icon) to edit or add more elements. This marker includes a horizontal line, and sometimes it can be hard to figure out which element two overlapping markers belong to. You edit in full-page view, and you just tap the Edit button at the top or on an element to start editing. The first time you do this, a help box pops up with an animation walking you through the process.
Prefab page layouts for things like About, Contact, and Team pages look great, and you may not need to modify their layouts at all. In version 7.1, Squarespace gives you the tools to add as many site sections as needed.
Squarespace lets you navigate your site using the navigation on the preview itself, rather than making you use a separate menu, as Wix does. There’s a healthy selection of page elements to choose from, one of which lets you enter markdown, a lightweight webpage-editing language. There are, of course, all the usual elements for text, images, galleries, spacers, buttons, charts, forms, and links. But you don’t get free-form shapes as you do in Wix, and you can’t precisely place things where you like on your page.
You need to be proficient at using and placing the Spacer element to position elements where you want them. Some useful integrations like SoundCloud, Flickr, and OpenTable are available, as is a new extensions gallery that add extra functionality. At the time of this writing, there are 14 Squarespace Extensions, including inFlow Cloud (inventory software) and QuickBooks Online by OneSaas (automated accounting). Though we’re happy to see Squarespace offer these third-party add-ons, Weebly and Wix offer much more.
You add pages from the side menu panel, with several choices (the number depends on your template), including Album, Blank Page, Blog, Cover Page, Events, Folder, Gallery, Link, and Products. You can move pages up and down in the navigation, but you can’t drag them onto other pages for a subordinate navigation level, as you can in Wix. Instead, you have to use the Folder type to effect nested navigation.
On the Design tab, you can add a logo and use the Style Editor while creating your website. The latter lets you change your template’s colors and fonts to taste. Squarespace offers a good amount of customization in this area, letting you choose from hundreds of fonts and colors using a gradient color-picker. Colors are adjustable for every type of button, header, and link, including social buttons. Note, however, that colors and fonts only apply to the content types. You can’t change fonts and colors for different instances of a header, for example. The Style Editor also lets you adjust spacing and padding for buttons, images, and titles.
In version 7.1, Squarespace lets you make broad site changes without tweaking every individual element. For example, you can apply sitewide font, color, and style changes to quickly change your site’s entire look and feel. You can also customize section-specific design tweaks to update any part of your site.
Working With Images
Not only does Squarespace offer integrated Aviary online photo editing for your uploaded images, but it also lets you search for, preview, and buy licenses to use Getty Images professional stock photography on your site. The licensing cost for our test images was $10—pretty reasonable. Unlike Wix and 1&1 MyWebsite, however, Squarespace doesn’t save a repository of your uploaded images for use elsewhere on your site(s). Instead you have to upload an image every time you want to use it.
You can add a gallery to any page, or add a gallery page, which takes its design from your template—there aren’t any customizations to the gallery’s appearance if you go the page route. On-page galleries can appear as carousels, grids, slideshows, or stacks, and they offer behavior customization choices, such as showing the title and description when the mouse is over an image, transitions, and a lightbox for the grid gallery type. You can also adjust spacing, but you don’t get the degree of control over the appearance of your galleries that some other site builders offer. This enforces good design, but at the cost of creativity.
Blogging With Squarespace
Squarespace lets you add nearly content type to a blog post that you can add to any other page you build. Squarespace also lets you save and schedule posts for publishing later—an important feature that 1&1 MyWebsite lacks. Posts include a heart icon for liking, comments, and a share icon. You can enable an RSS feed for your blog and use email to write new posts when you’re afield. iTunes podcasting integration is available, too.
Making Money From Your Site
Squarespace has robust selling options, even for its Personal-level accounts; both Personal plans and Commerce plans let you sell unlimited products. The difference is that Personal accounts carry a 3 percent transaction fee, while Business accounts are charged just 2 percent. Adding a Product page lets you start selling, whether you’re offering physical goods, digital downloads, or services. You can enter SKUs, regular and sale prices, tags, categories, dimensions, and custom options (for color and size, for example). Your site visitor gets a shopping cart, and each product has its own page, for which you can make a custom URL. You can also create a form to collect information from the product’s buyer, and you can set a stock number to keep inventory.
Squarespace has tools for selling online, including gift cards, monthly and annual subscriptions, customer account pages for users to see purchase history and save payment info, and new conversion metrics showing exactly where users engaged with your site. Both of the last two are now part of the Business, Commerce Basic, and Advanced plans.
Formerly, Stripe was your only choice of payment processor, but now you can also connect Paypal. A simple one-tap option lets people use Apple Pay from Safari (on iOS devices or Macs) to buy your site wares processed by Stripe. You can also embed PayPal buttons and Etsy stores. You can set up express checkout, publish terms of service, and privacy agreements, and set up a return policy. USPS and ShipStation integration facilitate sending your merch to buyers. Xero integration gives you accounting support starting at $9 per month.
Squarespace has its own email marketing service: Squarespace Email Campaigns. This lets you automatically import your logo, social media icons, mailing lists, and other content into your email notifications. Squarespace also integrates with Facebook for site promotion, letting you sync a page and gallery on your website with your Facebook Page. Commerce-level plans can tag Instagram posts to direct viewers to their web stores.
Squarespace Scheduling, an optional online assistant, works 24/7 to manage your business appointments. Starting at $14 per month (billed annually), Squarespace Scheduling lets you create and sync calendars; create gift certificates, memberships, or subscriptions; and let customers book appointments. Squarespace Scheduling isn’t a standalone product, as you must have some form of Squarespace hosting to go along with it.
Building a Mobile Website
This is a short section, because Squarespace generates a mobile site from the site you built for desktop browsers completely automatically. And Squarespace sites look great on mobile—the whole reason its templates limit the placement and sizing of objects. There is one mobile-only setting: Mobile Information Bar. This is the menu that appears across the bottom of the mobile site view showing contact, location, and business hours, if you’ve enabled those. Squarespace shows buttons along the top of the editing interface that let you preview your site as it would appear on a smartphone and tablet.
Measuring Site Traffic
All Squarespace accounts include a Analytics section that shows hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly traffic statistics for visits, page views, and audience size. It also shows mobile site activity, referrers, popular content, and search engine queries. Included is the Google Search Keywords panel, a tool that lets you view keywords, click-through rates, and search positions after connecting your account to the Google Search Console. There’s also an Other Search Keywords panel that shows terms used on Bing and other alternative engines.
An Activity Log can show your visitors’ IP addresses, but there’s no view of what technology—platform and browser, for example—they are using. Commerce-level accounts get an extra Metric option—Sales Overview, which shows revenue and units sold by hour, day, week, or month.
Customer Service Support
Squarespace offers 24/7 email support and live text chat support from Monday to Friday 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. Sadly, there’s no phone support. A customer service representative fielded the question that we keyed into the chat box seconds after we hit the Enter key. Moments after that, the person on the other side of the screen linked us to the answers we sought regarding third-party extension support.
The support experience is good, if lacking the comfort of speaking with a human in person. By comparison, Wix offers telephone support, even for free accounts. At the other end of the spectrum, WordPress.com offers a only knowledgebase to free users; live chat is only for paid accounts.
There’s Nothing Square About Squarespace
Squarespace is a flexible way for individuals and small businesses to set up an online presence. It also produces great-looking, mobile-friendly sites and offers lots of commerce growth potential. That said, Squarespace’s move to the recent 7.1 build means that people using 7.0 either miss out on new features by remaining with the current version or must rebuild their sites in the new version. For better cohesiveness, look to our top picks for DIY website builders, Gator and Wix.
For tips on getting started building your site, you can read our primer, How to Build a Website.