Website Builder Comparison for Small Businesses and Nonprofits: Squarespace

Stephen_1 (1)Welcome to the first post of Evermore’s series on popular website builders. Over the next several weeks I’ll be taking you through Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, and WordPress. While Evermore hosts our sites on WordPress, we know that it’s not for everyone. This series will help you learn which website builder suits your needs today, and what you may want to look into as you grow. Let’s get started with Squarespace.

The following events are based on a true story.

My Experience with Squarespace

I first set up my Squarespace site shortly after my move to Atlanta when I was looking for fulltime work. My Squarespace site was a resume and portfolio site.

I knew what I needed right from the get-go: a custom domain (no more stephen.blogspot.com for me) and a clean simple layout. I didn’t need much else. All I wanted was to control the info people found out about me when they Googled me before an interview.

Squarespace is great for that and it’s a great place to begin looking at website builders.

Squarespace Makes a Great First Website

My internet experience began in the late 90’s. Dial-up connection at home, my parents let me have a few hours online per week. Geocities was still a thing, and to get spaces between paragraphs you had to type <p> </p>. You had to pick up at least at little HTML just to survive.

When it came to choosing Squarespace over the other platforms, I was making the choice not to have to deal with HTML anymore. This is a blessing and a curse and the best way I can think to summarize Squarespace.

The team at Squarespace has done a brilliant job of creating a website platform that is simple to use. If you have zero experience with the technical aspects of the internet, you can still handle Squarespace.

A far-cry from the days of Geocities, Squarespace has put a workable layer between the site designer and the code. In the 90’s you would have had to define something like center alignment by modifying the code directly. Squarespace allows changes like this with the push of a button. More importantly, the entire design of your website is built for you using their premade templates. Squarespace lets you preview a template on a real, working website and make that template your own with a few clicks.

For me, when looking for a fulltime job was a fulltime job, this was a great solution because I didn’t have to do any work to get something to look good. And it’s a good solution for you to if you have pretty straightforward plans for your site. One simple page about who you are and what you do is great for Squarespace. An additional page here and there with contact info, pictures, all good on Squarespace.

Squarespace might not be the best choice if your needs get more complicated.

Squarespace Lacks the Options to Customize and Grow

Eventually, I felt like branching out my cute portfolio site a bit. I wanted to start displaying and selling some of the photographs I had taken over the years. So I added a pre-made gallery page and store page. All easy as a few clicks, true to Squarespace’s nature.

Google Analytics Issues

Since I was getting into ecommerce, obviously I was getting into SEO and that meant adding Google Analytics. No problem. True to Squarspace’s click and drag model, there’s a box where you copy and paste your tag. Easy. Until I ran into something known as “referral spam.” Referral spammers are bots that crawl your site hoping you notice the referring link in Google Analytics and click over to their site. In short, they’re fake visitors that make it impossible to tell if you really have 1,000 views a day or not.

You can get rid of them by making some changes at the code level, and make some filtering changes in Analytics. Unfortunately, the filter changes were not enough, and I was not able to change the code on my Squarespace site so I always had to subtract the spammers from my Analytics. Not ideal for a solution that’s meant to be easy to use. Squarespace isn’t lying when they emphasize the ease of setting up Analytics. The issue lies in needing to customize your Google Analytics feed to cancel out the “noise.”

The Trouble with Templates

I also began to notice that my site looked boring. Not that I am one to advocate for complicated sites, I just wanted my site to reflect me. If you’re a business or nonprofit, it’s important that your website be a depiction of your organization. When I attempted to make changes to the layout I had settled on, I found I couldn’t get deep enough into the HTML to do what I needed so I was stuck with my vanilla website.

One of Squarespace’s proudest statements is that you can set up an entire site by just dragging images, selecting fonts and putting in text. It’s all true if you don’t mind your site looking like dozens of others. Much the way your organization looks a little better with an email address that doesn’t end with “@gmail.com,” your website looks a little better when it’s built around your audience. As soon as you know what that needs to look like, you may find Squarespace too limiting. Additionally, Squarespace notes that their templates are built around modern browsers and current best practices for CSS, HTML and Javascript. From my day job as a mild-mannered web performance dude at a software company, I can assure you that these are some of the most hotly debated pieces of any website. Everyone has an opinion on how to make them better and faster. It’s great that Squarespace has a focus on building these well, but because you won’t be able to access them, you’ll have to wait for them to be updated as soon as a new hot practice hits the CSS streets.

Key Takeaways about Squarespace

At a high level, Squarespace is a great place to start if you need a simple, clean website that provides key information.  If you don’t have much internet language knowledge, Squarespace will still be easy for you to use. As you grow, you may find that Squarespace’s pre-made catalog of features is no longer enough for your business. Squarespace does not offer the ability to add any plugins or tools that they did not build for you. Perhaps the biggest advantage of Squarepace is the price. Most websites can spring to life on the platform for under $200 per year (that includes a personal domain). And since it’s all simple enough to do on your own, there is no need to pay a developer or designer. When you decide it’s time to stand out, you’ll need to hire a designer and move to another platform. Choose Squarespace when you need the simplest website possible, if your needs are more complex, you most likely need to look elsewhere. More on that soon. Until then, have fun!

  1. Website Builder Comparison for Small Businesses and Nonprofits: Squarespace
  2. Website Builder Comparison for Small Businesses and Nonprofits: Wix
  3. Website Builder Comparison for Small Businesses and Nonprofits: WordPress.com
  4. Website Builder Comparison for Small Businesses and Nonprofits: Weebly
  5. Website Builder Comparison for Small Businesses and Nonprofits: GoDaddy

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