Review: Squarespace

Website Builder: Squarespace
Pros: Very elegant interface; elegant design templates; basic functionality is easy to reach and use.
Cons: Not a very large selection of templates to chose from; once you get beyond basic use, learning curve steepens quickly
Price: packages range from $8 to $50 a month
Ideal for: serious blogging, community or interest-based group sites

Squarespace is a hosted website builder solution that has traditionally received strong support from bloggers.
The service was started by Anthony Casalena in 2003 when, as he says, he could not find a way to elegantly publish his personal website. Seven years later, an elegantly designed user-interface and a strong focus on blogging are still among Squarespace’s strong points.

Most of the work maintaining a Squarespace-hosted website is done in one of the three editing modes that Squarespace uses; Content Editing, Structure Editing or Style Editing. The names of the modes are pretty self-explanatory.

Switching between different modes shows and hides different parts of the editing interface. Content Editing mode for example, shows links that let you modify, remove or organise existing content and post new entries. In Structure Editing mode you can configure pages or add, edit and remove pages and widgets.

Switching to Style Editing mode slides a large panel into view along the bottom of the screen. The panel gives access to available templates and lets you modify the template’s default colours, backgrounds, typefaces and so on until you get the look you want for your site.

Types of content
The default homepage of any Squarespace website is the so-called Journal, which is really just another word for a blog.

Adding a new entry to your site is fairly straightforward. Clicking on the Post new entry link at the top of the page opens the Create a Post window. The interface looks almost deceivingly simple; one large box for the new entry title and another, with some formatting options, for the entry content. Three links at the bottom of the window, however, give access to as many additional screens full of advanced options.

Besides a Journal, Squarespace sites can have a range of other pre-set types of pages, ranging from picture galleries to Amazon item lists, discussion pages and Google map pages.

Each of these pages has its own configuration panel and the learning curve for some of these requirements can quickly get pretty steep. The Map page, for example, requires a Google Maps API Key. This may be trivial for most bloggers, but it might be where someone with less experience starts looking for a service that is a little easier to use.

Final words
Some things, like just posting a simple blog entry or adding a photo gallery, are extremely easy in Squarespace. Others are complicated or hidden. When we tried to set set anything other than the Journal as our homepage, it took us some time to find the option (it is in Website Management > Structure > Architecture, then hover the mouse over the page you want to make the homepage until the Configure link appears and click Configure. The link is one of the buttons at the bottom of the window that opens.)

The amount and depth of options make it a potentially powerful platform, but be prepared to spend some time learning the ropes!

All in all, Squarespace’s strong focus on the Journal, its social media integration, along with the depth of some of its advanced settings, makes it an ideal platform for serious bloggers and those not afraid of some of the more technical complexities of running a blog or website.

In July 2010, Squarespace raised $38.5 million in venture capital funding and announced its next version of the software, version 6, would be out in about 9 months.

To sign up for your free Squarespace trial, click here.

If you use or have used Squarespace, we would like to hear your experience in the comments below.

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