What is Squarespace? Intro tour for beginners
What is Squarespace?
Squarespace is, in the most basic terms, a website building platform. Squarespace has built a reputation on being an all-in-one system, that’s easy to use. Squarespace is well known for it’s designer quality templates, and modern features (all websites are mobile responsive, right from the get go).
Who is Squarespace good for? What about WordPress? Which is better?
There is no overall better, there is however, better depending on your specific needs and organization type.
Small businesses and creative professionals LOVE Squarespace.
This is because for your average small business owner or creative professional, they’re not backed by a full-time IT department. Building and maintaining a website is just a small portion of their role, and they don’t have the time or staff to dedicate to a website around the clock.
Squarespace is an all-in-one system, so the Squarespace team takes care of all the security updates, changing back end systems to update to current functionality and SEO best practices. You don’t need to do a thing! Not to mention, once you’ve gotten a good grip on how adding and moving around Squarespace blocks works (more on blocks below), you can create a new page and update information on a current page in minutes.
Now, that’s not to say other that website systems such as WordPress or e-commerce systems such as Shopify aren’t valuable too, they just target a different group of customers. I would recommend WordPress or Shopify for large businesses, or any organization that needs complex website functionality (eg. very complex booking systems, forums, online shops requiring individual client login accounts, etc.).
People love these systems because they have more complex functionality, but that also comes with it’s own set of headaches. A system such as WordPress relies on a lot of ‘plugins’ to get all the fancy functionality. When new updates are rolled out, sometimes plugins don’t all play well with each other and things start acting funny. Sometimes it’s possible to fix the problem with a quick Google, other times it takes a bit of back and forth with a paid WordPress developer to sort things out.
So, long story short. If you’re a solopreneur, creative professional, or small business owner that’s not backed by an IT team, Squarespace will be a dream come true for you.
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Beginner Intro Tour
Next I’ll show you around the back end of Squarespace so you can get a feel for what using the system is like.
Once you login, you’ll be brought to your home page, with the menu options on the left hand side. In the back end you don’t see a bunch of code, but instead you see the site almost exactly how your viewers see it. The exception is when you go to edit a page, you get some editing options that show up over top of your site that site visitors would never be able to see.
Squarespace websites update immediately when you edit things in the back end and click save, so you can also open your site in a new tab and hit refresh to see how things look.
By clicking in the top of the page, you’ll be shown 3 icons, a phone, tablet and desktop. Clicking on these icons will reformat the page content to display how a page looks like on that device, so you don’t need to pull out your phone or tablet to check things look good on those devices too.
Next, we’ll walk through the menu options on the left.
The pages tab holds, of course, all your website pages. To edit a page you’d click on each page title. You can also click the settings icon to change the page banner image, URL slug, page description, etc.
The design tab holds all the options for changing the look and style of your site. Within this tab you can change templates, upload your logo and favicon, among many other options.
The option within the Design tab you’ll likely use most is something called the ‘Style Editor’. The style editor allows you to change all the styles on the site to match your brand. You can change fonts, colors, button styles, the height of a banner image, the color of the footer, the color and style of social media icons, etc. This is just a small list of style editor options; my Style Editor for the Rally template has over 91 items that can be styled, and then each item has hundreds of combinations of styles available. You can also insert custom CSS in the Design tab to alter the look and style of anything that isn’t an option in the Style Editor. Generally, this is the place where you’ll make your website look really ‘you’ and ensure it doesn’t look like any other.
All your website statistics live, where else of course, in the Analytics tab! You can view your website visitors and page views by day, week and month. You can also view where your traffic is coming from (eg. Google, Facebook, Twitter, other websites, direct, etc), how many people are using your site on a mobile device or desktop, what words visitors typed into your site search bar, etc. This tab is great for a nice, quick view of how your website stats are going, and watching traffic grow over time!
In the Commerce tab you can add products, and product variations, add coupons and discounts, control stock availability, set up your payments to connect with either PayPal or Stripe, etc.
In the Comments tab you can view and respond to all comments left on your blog in one area. This is great because if you have a lot of comments, you don’t have to open each individual post that has a comment on it in a zillion different tabs. It’s a really fast an efficient way to view, approve (if you choose to), and respond to comments.
In the settings area you can connect third party programs (eg., Google Analytics, TypeKit & Disqus), purchase or change a domain name, add a business email address, change links default structures, and a zillion other things. You can also add in custom code here if you’re feeling ambitious.
Okay, so now you know what all of the tabs do, I’ll show you what these famous ‘Squarespace blocks’ are. When you go to edit any page, you’ll see little grey insert points pop up as you move your mouse around the page. When you click an insert point, the selection of Squarespace blocks appears. Adding and arranging these blocks on the page is what creates the content of your website pages.
For a full how-to video of using Squarespace blocks to create a page, visit this post.
So now you know a bit more about Squarespace, if you're considering using it for your website I have some must-reads for you!