Squarespace: The Complete Guide

squarespace the complete guide

You don’t need to be a tech wizard to design your own website – not in 2020.

With a web building platform such as Squarespace, if you have a pulse and have ever opened a Facebook account, then rest assured you’d have learned how to create a fully-functional website by the end of this blog post.

Squarespace is 100% beginner-friendly. Just pick a domain name, choose a template from the options provided, and voila! You’re now ready to rock and roll with a visually stunning, fully functional website that you designed from the ground up without laying down a single line of code.

 How cool is this? But first,

What’s Squarespace?

Squarespace is a cloud-based website building platform for non-technical users. It offers the right balance of under the hood flexibility and ease of use.

That is, all you have to do is sign up for an account, after which you’ll be asked to choose a pre-made template, and ta-da! You’d have successfully created a fully functional website.

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Squarespace is preferred for its simplicity. Anyone with a pulse can sign up and create a website on the platform without fiddling codes unless they want to.

A Brief History of Squarespace

Squarespace was founded by Anthony Casalena in 2004, in his dormitory. He was still a student at the University of Maryland and the only employee of the company until 2006, even after the company hit $1 million in revenue.

The company only had 30 employees in 2010, and by 2015 had managed to employ more than 550 workers.

Anthony has stated that he started Squarespace because he wanted a modern, well-designed website for himself. He had no idea of what would become of the site. In fact, it took him nearly a decade to focus on its explosive growth.

Pros of Using Squarespace

As with any other web-building platform, Squarespace has its share of strengths – like reliable support, uptime, features, free SSL, and more.

Here are all the details:

Robust Hosting, 99.98% Uptime

Squarespace has a very respectable uptime compared to that of many other web hosts. At 99.98% uptime, you can have your peace of mind knowing your website will be online all through.

Hostingfacts decided to test Squarespace’s uptime for twelve consecutive months, and the results were as shown in the table below:

Month

Average Uptime

January 2020

100%

December 2020

100%

November 2019

99.89%

October 2019

100%

September 2019

100%

August 2019

99.99%

July 2019

100%

June 2019

100%

May 2019

99.94%

April 2019

100%

March 2019

99.96%

February 2019

99.97%

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As you can see, they didn’t experience any downtime in the 12 months.

Comprehensive Customer Support

Squarespace has extensive customer support, backed up with a community forum, searchable knowledge base, and webinars.

They also have a live chat for real-time conversations and inquiries – and before they connect you to any of their service agents, Squarespace automatically trawls their knowledgebase articles for some possible solutions.

If the solutions provided don’t work for you, you have the option of sending an email to the company or live chatting with one of their agents.

These live chats are usually open from Monday to Friday, from 4 pm to 8 pm EST.

It usually takes an average of 15 minutes to be connected to an agent. Before then, you’ll be notified in case the agent is still engaging with other customers. You’ll also be assigned a queue position for a rough estimate of how long the wait will take.

Their Annual Plan Comes With a Free Domain Name

Squarespace’s annual plan comes with a free domain name. The only condition is to choose a yearly billing, and you’ll be allowed to register your domain name for absolutely free.

In case the domain name is already registered with another registrar, you’ll have to incur the extra transfer charges.

The amount you pay to transfer your domain name to Squarespace will vary depending on the TLD used. However, everything ranges between $20 and $70. Also, after you’ve transferred your domain name, you’ll be required to pay for one-year domain registration.

Free SSL and WHOIS Privacy

Any time you register a new domain name, you’ll be asked to provide your personal information – name, address, email address, and phone number.

All this information can be viewed publicly on WHOIS. If anything, that’s one of the ways spammers find this information.

However, you can hide all this information with WHOIS privacy, which tries to mask all your personal details.

Luckily for you, this feature is completely free with Squarespace every time you register a new domain name, and so is an SSL certificate, which adds an extra layer of security to your site.

So instead of your domain name beginning with an unsecured http, it will begin with a more secured https, thus putting all your site visitors at ease.

Modern Templates

Besides hosting sites and registering domain names, Squarespace is a fully-fledged web building platform.

With this platform, you’re provided with tons of visually stunning website templates. No HTML or coding skills are needed.

More interestingly, Squarespace allows you to install multiple templates at once and run them simultaneously.

Plus, each template is customisable. You can play around with colours, fonts, and page configuration for an off-the-wall design. It’s worth mentioning that every single one of their themes is responsive, and will load totally fine regardless of what devices someone uses to access your site.

Squarespace still works great for an online store. You can use it to create an e-commerce website, where you can add product catalogues, merchandise, and even manage your inventory or remind your customers to complete their purchases.

Above Average Speed Performance

Squarespace also boasts an impressive speed (733ms), way faster than the industry average (890ms).

Hostingfacts also tested Squarespace for speed, and here’s a table summarising the results they got:

Month

Average Uptime

Speed (in ms)

January 2020

100%

757ms

December 2020

100%

764ms

November 2019

99.89%

745ms

October 2019

100%

733ms

September 2019

100%

622ms

August 2019

99.99%

701ms

July 2019

100%

748ms

June 2019

100%

746ms

May 2019

99.94%

721ms

April 2019

100%

744ms

March 2019

99.96%

686ms

February 2019

99.97%

814ms

Cons of Using Squarespace

Even roses have thorns. It’s the same case with Squarespace; things can’t just be all rosy for this website builder. It sure does spot its share of downfalls that we’d like to cover in this section of the post.

No Refunds on Their Monthly Plans

Many web-hosting companies offer a 30-day full refund guarantee should their services fail to meet your standards.

Squarespace has a guarantee too, but you have to cancel your plan within 14 days to get your money back.

And worse, this refund policy only applies to their annual plans – no refunds on their monthly plans and renewal payments.

Things get even more stickier on their domain refunds. They only offer refunds to users that cancel their domain names within five days of registration.

Misleading Pricing

Squarespace pricing can be misleading, as with many other web hosting companies.

They’ll reel you in with their quote of $12 per month, but in reality, that only applies with annual billing.

For monthly billing, you should be prepared to shell out $16 every month, which amounts to about $192 a year, not as cheap as anyone would expect.

It’s the same case with their business plan. You’ll be lured with a price of $18 per month, which only applies to annual billing. But if you opt to pay monthly, you end up paying $26. So instead of spending $216 per year, you end up spending $312.

The store pricing for their basic plan is $26, but the true month to month billing comes to $30. So instead of spending $312 per year, you end up spending $360.

Their advanced plan goes for $40 on their site, but the true month-to-month rates for this plan is $46. So instead of spending $480 per year, you end up paying $552.

The bottom line? Squarespace only offers discounted rates on annual billing. If you opt for monthly billing, the rates increase dramatically.

Squarespace Quick Facts, Hosting Plans, and Pricing

Squarespace offers four pricing plans.

Personal Plan

This plan goes for $12 per month, but on annual billing only. For monthly payments, you have to be prepared to part away with $16 instead.

Features:

  • Unlimited storage and bandwidth
  • Unlimited galleries, blogs, and pages
  • 2 contributors
  • Website metrics
  • WHOIS Privacy and SSL security
  • Mobile optimised website
  • Free custom domain (only with an annual billing)
  • 24/7 customer support

Business Plan

Their business plan goes for $18 a month, but only if you pay for the whole year. For monthly payments, the rate increases to $26.

Features:

With this plan, you get everything included in the personal plan, in addition to the following features:

  • A professional email address from Google
  • Promotional pop-ups
  • $100 credit for Google Ads
  • Fully integrated e-commerce
  • 3% Transaction Fee
  • Accept unlimited donations or sell unlimited products
  • JavaScript and CSS Customisation
  • Premium Blocks Integration
  • Announcement Bar
  • Mobile Information Bar

Basic Commerce Plan

Their basic commerce plan is quoted at $26 per month, which only applies to those who pay for 12 months in advance. If you opt for monthly payments instead, then the amount shifts to $30.

Advanced Commerce Plan

It’s the same story with their advanced commerce plan. The $40 monthly rate only applies if you pay for 12 months in advance. Otherwise, be prepared to spend not less than $46 per month.

To host your e-commerce website on Squarespace and unlock more advanced features (such as zero transaction fees, abandoned cart auto-recovery, and checkout on your domain), then you have to choose between the two online store plans.

  • Fee domain name but only with annual billing.
  • Easy and more simplified process of signing up
  • Payment methods: Discover, Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, JCB, and American Express.
  • Hidden Fees and Clauses: No refunds on renewal payments and monthly plans. There’s an added $20 to $70 to transfer an already registered domain name
  • No upsells
  • Quick account activation
  • Dashboard for managing your website
  • One-click installation for common CMSs (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.)

They also have a series of articles that take you through the process of installing these content management programs.

How to Create a Squarespace Website

Sign up for a Squarespace Account

The first step to setting up your website on Squarespace is signing up on the platform for an account. Keep in mind that you’ll be required to log into the account every time you need to edit your website.

Here’s how you sign up for an account.

You can start by going to the Squarespace homepage.

Although there are other ways to create the account, the easiest one is where you click on “Log In” on the top right corner of the homepage (next to “Get Started”).

On the page that opens up, click on “Create Account” at the top right corner of the page.

You’ll be provided with options. You can sign up using Google, General email, Twitter, or Facebook. This will be your login ID, but you have the option of personalising your password.

That’s pretty much like it. After you log in, you’ll be directed to your site editor, where you can embark on the process of creating your website.

You can always log in to your account to continue from where you left. At this point, you do not have to worry about payments or credit card details just yet.

Create Your Website

After you’ve created your account, you can proceed with the website creation process at any time.

After you log into your account and click on “Get Started” at the top right corner of the page.

If you’ve been keen to notice, they’re all featured on the same spot.

You’re now on Squarespace’s template page. Don’t rush to choose a template. You have to be very analytical and so sure of the template that you get to pick.

Another option would be to consider working with a designer for a custom template.

We suggest you preview all the templates that pique your interest before reaching the final decision. You can also view the most popular template in your industry on the left vertical editing menu.

To preview a template, click on the template, and on the next page that opens up, click “View Demo Site.”

This should direct you to a fully-created website using the same theme. You can interact with the site to see how it operates in real-time.

Identify a Template

After you’ve identified a template you think could work with your website idea, go ahead and click on “Start with this Design” at the top right corner of your preview page.

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You’ll be directed to the onboarding page, where you’ll first be asked to enter your website title. There will also be a short tutorial teaching you about how to edit your page and handle the rest of the design process.

You have the option of skipping any of these processes should you feel like you do not understand it or if you aren’t exactly ready for it.

After you’ve entered your site’s title, you can go ahead and click on continue.

Now, this is the fun bit of the design process. This is where you design your site any way you want. With this editor, you can play around with any element or feature of your template and alter it any way you want.

You can navigate to any part of the website that you feel like editing and change it any way you want. You, however, have to keep in mind that it’s going to take you a while to master the editor and be able to achieve great things with it.

On the left-hand menu is a list of all the things you can edit. You can start by editing your pages, and then proceed to edit the design and any other section, including the e-commerce functionality as listed on the menu.

If you wish to open the WYSIWYG editor, just click on edit to change the font face and size of any text on your website. You can even add images, buttons, and so on.

While it, remember to also click on the smartphone icon on the top-left corner of the page to find out how your pages look on mobile.

At this point, you’re free to experiment with just about anything. Let your imagination run wild, as you use this opportunity to understand Squarespace’s builder better.

Remember to save any change you make via the WYSIWYG editor. You can also discard what you don’t like. To save or discard the changes, just click on done on the top-left corner, and a pop-up with the two options will show.

Next, you’ll be returned to the main editing menu, where you can proceed with the rest of the editing.

You can also preview your site and all the changes you’d have made by clicking on the arrow at the top-right corner of the page.

If you seriously want to create a Squarespace website, we recommend that you hit on the subscribe button at the bottom of the editor page.

You’ll be directed to a page with the four pricing plans to choose from. Choose the package that you think suits you best. The rest of the process is just the standard credit card processing and nothing much.

At this point, you’re free to hit the publish button and watch as your site goes live.

How to Create an E-Commerce Website on Squarespace

Squarespace has invested heavily in its e-commerce functionality to pose fierce competition on the likes of Shopify. They even boast customisation features that so many other e-commerce platforms don’t have.

They might not rival with Shopify as far as e-commerce goes, but they’re something.

If you’ve never created an e-commerce site on Squarespace, we’ve prepared a simple guide to take you through the process. But before we dive into this guide, we’ll like to remind you that you’ll need to subscribe to the two e-commerce plans – basic e-commerce plan and advanced e-commerce plan.

One good thing about designing your e-commerce website on Squarespace is that you can incorporate it into any of the templates. However, if you’re new to this, then you might want to go with a template that’s specifically designed for e-commerce. 

Here a simplified guide on how to set up an e-commerce site on Squarespace:

  • You have to begin by choosing a theme that you think best resonates with your business goals. For newbies, we suggest you go with a template that’s specifically designed for an online store.
  • On the vertical editing menu on the left, click on commerce. If this is your first time working on your website, a small onboarding assistant will open up, prompting you to enter your site title. You’ll also be asked a series of questions regarding your industry and range of products. You’re also allowed to skip this process and handle other things first before you can come back to it.
  • You can start by setting up your store pages. On the main editing menu, just click on pages, followed by “Add Pages,” and finally “store.” You’ll be provided with two store layouts to choose from.
  • Choose the one that suits you best before proceeding to the next step. Squarespace will have some sample products in their editor. You can click on the product or the WYSIWYG editor to edit the product’s image, name, description, and other details.
  • Squarespace will have some sample products in their editor. You can click on the product or the WYSIWYG editor to edit the product’s image, name, description, and other details.
  • You can click on “edit product” to open a more advanced product editor. Here, you’ll be allowed to edit your product specifics (name, photos, description, and all the other variants). You’re also allowed to edit their product’s SEO metadata, social media preview, and even duplicate or delete a product.
  • You can click on “Edit Design” (if you can’t find it, go to the main editing menu and click on “design,” followed by “Product Items”). This should open your product design editor.

Here, you can customise design elements such as image alignment, image spacing, general placement, alignment, slideshow features, and image spacing. These are design attributes that affect all of your product pages.

  • The next step is where you choose your preferred payment methods. You have to choose between the payment options provided before your site can go live.

Again, in the main menu (the vertical editing menu), go to “Commerce” and then “Payments.”

You have three options to choose from — PayPal, Stripe, or Point of Sale (POS).

The POS option has its own requirements, such as Square Reader.

You can also change your store currency.

  • Your store isn’t complete until you specify what shipping method you’re going to use. You can start by selecting your shipping method, and then proceed to edit the formula you’ll use to calculate the shipping charges for each location. You can also specify the shipping provider and percentage mark-up.

Remember that not all shipping methods are the same. Each one of them boasts different parameter options that you might just want to take note of.

  • At this point, you’re free to go ahead and launch your online store. You, however, have to take note of all the perk that comes with designing your online store on Squarespace.

Here are a few of these e-commerce perks:

  • Checkout: Here, you can finetune your checkout options. You can even enable extra features like abandoned cart emails, Express Checkout, or Minimum Order Amounts.
  • Inventory: Here, you should be able to see a full list of all your product pages for quick updating and editing.
  • Customers: Here’s where all your customers’ data is kept, including the orders that they have made and the total amount of money they have spent.
  • Discounts: This option allows you to run promotional campaigns, such as Flat discount sales and coupon codes.

Remember that each business model comes with its own unique needs. Be experimental when using Squarespace, and you’ll realise there’s more to this web building platform than what people say about it.

A Template or Custom Squarespace Design: What Option Suits You Best?

Squarespace websites are popular because they’re easy to design. It’s as easy as creating a Facebook account, no matter your web design experience.

However, you still need some little bit of experience to bring up a great site. If you have little to no experience working with Squarespace, then your website will most likely look like it was created by someone with little to no web design experience at all.

One downside of using a template is that there’ll be thousands of other sites using the same template. You might customise it here and there, but there’s a limit as to how much change you can make to the template.

A template can work for small businesses or novelty online stores getting off the ground. However, if you’re a serious businessperson, then you might want a site that’s unique and looks more professional.

Or maybe you’re interested in a custom look or functionality that’s far beyond what a template can offer.

Square Space SEO (2020): How to Optimise Your Squarespace Website for Search Engines

Getting your Squarespace website up and running is only a small part of securing your online space. What’s even more important is to make sure you’re in almost every online search result for critical keywords in your industry.

Your website should also reach more customers.

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A lot of details go into the process of ranking your website, but SEO is a little straightforward when you get to understand a few fundamental things.

In this SEO guide, we’ll try to cover the essential steps to getting started with Squarespace SEO.

SEO is an all-encompassing term for two key practices: on-page SEO (where you optimise your website’s content for search engines) and off-page SEO (where you work on external signals to impact the authority of your website).

You need links to rank your website, but your biggest bang for value lies with ongoing on-page optimisation.

Is Squarespace SEO-Friendly?

Among the things that have been said about Squarespace that are a wee bit misleading is that it’s not SEO-friendly.

The question we should be asking is, can a Squarespace website be as good as a WordPress site when it comes to SEO?

The answer is Yes. If you choose the right template and follow the best SEO practises, then it’s possible to rank a Squarespace website the same way you would rank a WordPress website.

Quite possibly, you might even do it better, considering you won’t be dealing with the backend issues associated with WordPress, plus you have reduced chances of getting hacked or encountering a problem with plugins, hosting, and updates.

A Few SEO Benefits of a Squarespace Website

Sitemaps: Squarespace comes with an automatically integrated XML sitemap. Your sitemap will always be updated and will include all your image metadata and page URLs for SEO-friendly indexing.

SSL Certificates: Squarespace has free SSL certificates for all of their customers, regardless of what plan you choose. That means, your site visitors will get a secure HTTPs connection on every page of your website. It’s worth mentioning that Google tends to favour websites with a secure HTTPs connection.

Mobile-friendly: Squarespace themes are mobile-friendly. They’re designed to adapt to different screen widths and devices. Google also tends to favour mobile-friendly websites.

Clean URLs and HTML: Your site URLs and HTML mark-up are automatically indexed. You do not have to worry about indexing them manually.

Is There a Plugin for Squarespace SEO?

The biggest drawback is that they do not have an SEO plugin.

An SEO plugin is an additional software program that you can install on some CMSs or website builders to help you out with managing your site’s SEO.

These plugins are meant to make those less familiar with the technical aspect of SEO optimise their site information for search engines, including meta descriptions and tags.

They’re to make SEO work simple enough for those who can’t code. Examples include the Yoast SEO plugin, which only works with WordPress.

Squarespace has no Yoast-like plugin, and that’s because they have powerful built-in SEO tools that are more than adequate for this task.

How to Make the Most of Your Squarespace Website

What exactly should you be doing to make the most of this website building platform?

Make Your Alt Text Count: Squarespace is best known for being big on appearances. Their website or templates are full of images. So, don’t just upload photos and be done with it. Adding alt text is the perfect way to tell search engines what your images or website, in general, is all about.

Integrate Your Website With Social Media: Squarespace’s process for integrating your website with social media is seamless. Plus, it helps to make your website look spectacular.

The Not-Linked Feature Should Be Your Friend: This is a handy feature for listing webpages that aren’t linked anywhere else on your website. Web owners use it to store in-progress pages. Other than that, it’s also a great way to catch any orphan content on your website.

Connect Your Website to Google Analytics: This applies to any website, regardless of the website builder or the CMS holding it together. Google analytics has some fascinating insights on your website traffic and how to improve it best. Plus, it’s free.

Choose the Right Template: Don’t just settle for the first template that looks pleasing to your eyes. Take your time to analyse every single one of them and try to balance between your design or visual needs with smooth SEO performance.

Final Words

Squarespace has its share of redeeming qualities and flaws. But overall, it’s an excellent platform for building a wildly effective website. The point is to make sure you have a clear goal of what you’d want to see your website accomplish as well as what you wish to see your visitors do upon landing on your website.

Author Bio

Tom Koh is widely recognised as a leading SEO consultant in Asia who has worked to transform the online visibility of the leading organisations such as SingTel, Capitaland, Maybank, P&G, WWF, etc. Recently he was instrumental in consulting for a New York-based US$30B fund in an US$4Bn acquisition. Tom is a Computational Science graduate of the National University of Singapore. In his free time he performs pro-bono community work and traveling.
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