Understanding Squarespace Templates & Choosing Your Perfect Fit
Picking a template is the first order of business when creating your new Squarespace website. When you register for a Squarespace account and choose either the free trial period or purchase a plan, the next thing you’ll be prompted to do is to pick a template.
While changing to a new template in the future is possible, know that picking a new template is basically the equivalent to re-creating your website. This means that changing once you’ve had your site up for a while is a time investment, as changing requires you to redesign and reset your style options. This is why it’s important to choose a template from the get-go that you will be satisfied with and will be able to grow with over time.
So, to ensure you fully understand what templates are and how to pick the right one, let’s chat about what exactly a template controls.
Templates control the basic structure of your website. Here are examples of some common aspects your template will control:
- Existence of a sidebar or not
- Navigation set horizontally to the top of the page, or being set vertically on the left or right
- Having or not having a secondary footer navigation
- Banner images spanning the width of the page or having no banner images
- Site content spanning the width of the page, or being banded by site borders
- How the blog page is designed and posts previews appear
- Having or not having a footer, or a differently colored footer
- Availability of parallax scrolling or not
Now, all Squarespace templates make use of a feature called the Style Editor. The Style Editor enables you to change say the size, color and type of font of your body text and headings. You also input your brand colours here, say colouring your newsletter block, your navigation background, announcement bar and site buttons to match your brand.
Then each template produces template-specific Style Editor options. The Montauk template is banded by borders on all sides and the footer doesn’t look like most, it doesn’t span the full width of the bottom of the page. As such, there is no option to change the footer color, whereas most templates would have this option.
The Style Editor lets you change the height of the banner images on pages and the width of borders on templates that have them. Again, if your template does not have banner images or is banded by borders, these options will not exist in your Style Editor.
In short, templates control the basic structure of your site and the Style Editor controls, of course, the style of the template that you’ve chosen.
So now you understand what templates do, let’s go through how to pick the one you’ll love to use for years to come.
There's 3 strategies I use to pick the perfect Squarespace templates for myself and my clients.
1. Template example browsing
A good way to template shop is to view the example sites each template has. Visit squarespace.com/websites and browse through the templates available. Once you find one that looks appealing, view the example sites.
Ask yourself, what do they all have in common? Does every/most example sites have their social media links in the top right corner? Does each template have scrolling full width banner images? Do the templates have a sidebar on every page, just on the blog pages, or not at all?
It’s easy here to get distracted by the content of the page and an example site having a similar aesthetic to what you’d like. It’s however important not to be distracted by the content and colors of the pages! You want to instead analyze the structure of the example pages, as that’s really what a template controls.
Are you heart-set on having a sidebar or parallax scrolling? Don’t let yourself get distracted by a non-parallax template because an example site that has exactly the same colours and style as what you'd like now!
Tip: It may even be beneficial to write or draw out what you would like your pages to look like/have and then search for exactly that in the templates available.
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2. Comparison chart
Before settling on a template I always consult comparison charts.
This Squarespace template comparison charts will tell you in an easily digestible format which templates have certain common features, and also Using My Head's chart will tell you on a scale of S – XL how customizable each template is.
If I’m working with a client that tells me they absolutely must have a side bar or a left aligned navigation, I can easily consult these charts and disregard all other templates that don’t have those features.
3. Squarespace's 'Using the X Template' Guides
Then, once you’ve narrowed down a few favorite templates it’s good to check out the Squarespace documentation. There’s an article on each template and these articles detail every feature and style option the template has. After reading through this you will be absolutely sure the template has what you need before settling on it.
There's a complete written guide to each template (found in the left hand navigation), including articles on using the template, the structure and style of the template, the pages and content options, troubleshooting and style editor options.
This is the process I go through when selecting a template for myself or a client and should provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.