Tools & Tabs: Squarespace

 
 

I notice that I start most reviews by stating how skeptical I am of a program or product, and then with an open mind and some time spent learning the interface, I gain some appreciation for it... if only for certain aspects.

This tells me two things: first, that I should probably be less skeptical of the latest and "greatest" technologies, and second, that my blogs are probably a bit redundant. I want to depart from my past ways in writing about Squarespace because it (1) proves that I'm not the biggest pessimist on the face of the planet and (2) potentially explains my generally skeptical nature.

Squarespace was one of the first programs I encountered in my work for Talos, second only to Adobe Illustrator. I carried very high expectations for the mega monster of website design templates. After seeing Squarespace's sleek, minimal subway advertisements and reading comparisons to Wix, Weebly, etc., I was sold. And kudos to their marketing department because they had me thinking they were the dreamland of web design, the solution to all my website problems. 

To be fair, having spent little time working with other programs (besides a short lived stint with Wix and some consulting work on Shopify), Squarespace may indeed be the dreamland of web design. It's just not the dreamland I had imagined. Hence where my great plague of skepticism began. 

As a designer, I often feel trapped by the great-looking templates, rigid in design to optimize reactivity and mobile capacity, that Squarespace provides. The templates work great until the content you want to display doesn't quite fit a cookie-cutter mold, and my frustration grows in my inability to easily customize the design. With adjustments hiding in the pages, design, some options are still lurking behind the settings on the pages themselves. While there may seem to be a plethora of ways to customize your webpage, access to adding a logo or changing a background color sometimes is hidden in the maze of the Squarespace sidebar. In all, the platform is not always so intuitive to work with. 

I would be remiss, though, if I didn't mention that Squarespace includes CSS injections (or, in other words, custom coding capabilities) to allow for more advanced changes to templates. This has certainly enabled me to make a border 2pt instead of 1pt. However, I have easily broken templates which creates a clusterf@%& when the site is resized for different screens.*

Essentially, going very far beyond the templates often means the equivalent of thousands of dollars of web design work and a permanent detachment of your site from the ease of use that is Squarespace's strongest selling point.

While we continue to use Squarespace, I have two requests that would elevate it to the dreamland of my dreams for websites: a more clear, concise place to edit all things style, regardless of it being a cover page or the main site, and an option to save a version of a website. This second request is a huge flaw I see with the service. While my boss and I are working on web design it would be such an immense time-saver to have the ability to save a version of a website (style, color, and content) instead of changing everything only to decide that the earlier version was the better one. When collaborating, saving versions of the website for reference would be an amazing asset--not to mention how critical this becomes when working with clients to be able to show options, progress, and, of course, comparisons. 

Hopefully, and surely, Squarespace will evolve and so will my skillset with the program, but for now, it's a solid 4 out of 5 in my book, thanks to its modern, clean templates and the fact that we have some great looking websites. My optimism turned skepticism turned optimism is just par for the course.

You can create a modern and engaging website in 15 minutes if you simply stick with the defaults, which is both the immense power of the platform and a symptom of how far Squarespace has to go before it truly breaks into the realm beyond templates. We can't wait for the Squarespace team to keep working their voodoo magic on the web design world, and we fully believe that, if anyone is going to fundamentally change how we build websites, it will be Squarespace, the people who made templates web designers actually love to work with. 


* Coding is admittedly not my forte and I am currently taking courses in html and CSS in order to turn my ranting into raving.