Have you ever been on a consult call with a dreamy potential client only to discover that something on their list of ‘website wants’ is wayyyy outside the scope of what Squarespace can natively do?

Maybe you know that what they are asking for is *technically* possible, but it’s going to take a whole lotta lines of custom code to make it happen!

So…should you do it?

Let’s look at those pros and cons!

P.S. We’ll start by talking about designing custom one-off websites for clients in this post, but if you’re hoping to build a business selling Squarespace Templates instead of designing 1:1 for clients, we’ll be sure to cover that in next week’s post!

Should I use CSS or code to customize my client’s Squarespace site?

PRO

You will be making your clients happy

Say your client comes to you wanting a super fancy accordion/drop-down style FAQ area on their site.

So rather than a massive long page of Q+A, they want their visitors to be able to click a specific question, and have that section expand to show the answer, and then hide or minimize when clicked again.

This is not a built-in feature that Squarespace offers, but you know it’s possible with custom coding, so you decide to make their FAQ dreams come and say “yep! I can make that happen!”

Fabulous! Your client is going to be genuinely pleased when you are able to give them exactly what they want, and you’ve probably got a pretty solid 5 star review headed your way!

Con

Your client will be reliant on you for all future troubleshooting & updates

If something breaks or your client simply wants to refresh a bit of content on the page that was added using code, they won’t be able to rely on Squarespace’s giant library of help articles to get answers, since they only cover the features and functions that native (A.K.A built-in) to the platform.

So something like swapping out a photo that should just take 2 minutes for them to handle on their own, now turns into:

A) A confusing Google search where they are not even sure what they should be Googling and end up feeling frustrated by the lack of support you’ve left them with, or…

B) 24/7 support tickets submitted straight to the source (you) every time they want to update their site.

But isn’t Squarespace customer support/chat included with my client’s paid Squarespace subscription?

It is!

But they won’t be able to take advantage of it, because unfortunately Squarespace isn’t able to offer troubleshooting or support for designs created through the use of custom code.

Even if the issue they are contacting customer support about is non-code related, they may be required to remove any and all code from the page or even the entire site to see if the issue is truly being caused by a Squarespace glitch, or if there’s simply a mistake somewhere in the code that is messing with the built-in functionality.

All it takes is one semi-colon out of place to seriously mess things up!

Squarespace won’t be able to comb through that code with your client to be able to spot the issue, and suddenly your client is up the virtual creek without a paddle, unable to use a service (that helpful chat feature) they are paying for!

Pro/CON

You will need to make yourself available to maintain their custom coded site (A.K.A retainer services)

So I mentioned above that when you use custom code, you are basically making it so that your client will be relying on you or another developer in order to be able to update their site in the future.

(Unless they are crazy-tech savvy, and are willing and able to follow a tutorial video you create for them on how to maintain that coded aspect of their site!)

So if offering retainer services/packages and having a guaranteed minimum income for future months sounds good to you, then this whole “needing you down the road” thing could actually be considered a pro!

I personally didn’t offer retainer services, opting for setting my clients up for success to maintain their own site post launch!

I loved working with just one client at a time, and being able to completely hand it off once finished.

It allowed me a lot more freedom with my schedule knowing I could go on vacation or take a couples days break without being worried someone would be emailing me in a panic saying they needed me to update a bit of content on their site by tomorrow!

It also freed me up to be more productive when I was working, since I didn’t have 7 different past clients I was still under contract with, all contacting me in a mad rush for site updates, when I really needed that week to design my current client’s site.

So I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether this one is a pro or con!

Con

Constant updates to the platform could mean your creative coding solution no longer works

Squarespace is constantly on the move, working day and night to make changes that will hopefully improve the user experience!

But those improvements can’t happen without Squarespace having to make some behind the scenes changes!

And since everything you see in Squarespace land (even those built-in features) had to be coded into existence by super coding geniuses, any new features or updates they roll out could mean a change in the way you use code to refer to that same element on your site.

So suddenly the code you used isn’t making sense to the Squarespace robots, and that fancy navigation menu you created isn’t looking so hot!

It can take weeks to find new solutions when previous coding methods stop working, and in the meantime, your client’s site may not be usable.

One of the perks of relying on built-in features to build out your client’s site is that when Squarespace makes major updates to the platform, they do it with your existing content in mind. Your clients (and their visitors) will be none the wiser, and the content will carry on looking the way it should, without having to scramble to update it.




So what if a web client asks for something that I don’t know how to do?

There’s no getting around needing to know how to build great websites as a designer.

If you want happy clients, you should be able to confidently deliver on 95% of the things they are asking for.

This is why in my Square Secrets™️ Course, I made sure to include all the secret hacks for creating the most highly requested special features using Squarespace’s built-in functionality.

This allows you to achieve as much as you can using only the native design editing settings, while still satisfying what your client!

Clients love it, because they are getting what they want while also being able to update their own site without relying on a designer and paying expensive retainer fees in the future!

But what about the other 5% of what your client asks for that just isn’t possible without code?

It’s 100% normal for clients to ask for 1-2 things that are outside what your design platform can natively do.

So when this arises, you have a few options!

Option #1

Explain to your client when something is not natively possible

This is a good idea to do no matter which route you decide to take, since the majority of the time, your client has zero idea what is and is not possible inside Squarespace.

It’s all Greek to them, and if their idea relies on code to be able to implement, sometimes hearing about the extra upfront cost and future maintenance help them quickly realize that feature wasn’t so important to them after all.

Most of them want easy, done-for-them, one-and-done solutions! So they are happy to compromise on the things that are going to end up causing extra fuss!

It’s also a great time to educate your client on site-building best practices!

Squarespace knows a thing or two about building websites that convert clicks into actual sales, so if they didn’t include some feature or function natively, there’s probably a reason for it!

The complex they are requesting could just end up creating major distraction or confusion for visitors on their site, instead of being the cool, customer-winning feature they were hoping for!

Option #2

Outsource to someone who specializes in custom coding

If your client is dead-set on having that custom coded feature, and you simply don’t know how to make that happen for them, or don’t want to spend the time figuring it out, there is nothing wrong with outsourcing!

It’s honestly encouraged!

So how do you do this? Just let your client know:

“With my XYZ web design package, I offer everything that Squarespace can achieve with its built-in functionality. Anything requiring custom coding is outside the scope of our project, but I’m happy to direct you to this person who can do that for you!”

So basically you are writing it into all your packages and client contracts that you work within the scope of what Squarespace can do, and are happy to refer to a trusted third party for the rest!

Storytime:

I recently had a student go through my Square Secrets Business™️ Course that had actually studied computer languages in college (this is not the norm, FYI! We have students join us from every experience level and go on to build wildly profitable web design businesses!)

Even though she knew design like the back of her hand, her education had never prepared her for how to take those skills and turn them into an actual business serving clients!

So after taking Square Secrets Business™️ she was debating whether to base her business around designing complex sites for clients, or focus on serving other designers who needed coding help instead!

She chose the latter, and now designers constantly outsource their coding needs to her instead of trying to figure it out themselves.

So that is your second option when a client comes to you wanting something that requires special coding!

Option #3

Buy a pre-made Squarespace plugin

There is a tonne of Google-able copy-and-paste code up for grab on the internet, and if it brings you joy to first hunt it down, then figure out how to make it work for your client’s unique site, then that’s wonderful!

But if you don’t want to be devoting hours and hours to finding free solutions every time your clients request something custom, it can honestly be so worth it just to purchase a paid plugin!

Many of them allow you to use them over and over again for future client’s sites (just be sure to check the licensing!) and often the cost is so minimal compared to how much time it would take you to figure it out yourself!

So do I need to learn to code at all?

Nope! Not if it’s not what excites you!

You can if it’s your jam and you would look forward to learning several new languages (because that’s basically what coding is) but it’s absolutely not necessary in order to build a profitable web design business.

Wondering if you should use code when creating Squarespace templates to sell in your custom Template shop? Check out this post!


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Should I use code on my client’s Squarespace site?