squarespace template: bedford
Squarespace has moved beyond the realm of artists and local restaurants, but is it ready for the enterprise spotlight? PHOTO: Squarespace

Anthony Casalena launched Squarespace in 2004 spurred by the inability “to find a way to elegantly publish his personal website.” Since then, the New York City-based company has grown to a team of 580 employees with millions of users.

Squarespace is best known for being one of the most popular website builders on the market, powering small and medium-sized businesses across the globe. But more interestingly, Squarespace also powers 53 of the world’s top 10,000 websites.

So is it time we rethink Squarespace's status in the CMS world? Because it's no longer just a website builder for budding artists and restaurant owners.

Squarespace Moves Past Mom and Pops

While it’s true the overwhelming majority of Squarespace instances serve small and medium-sized businesses, companies including Lyft and Fast Company — two websites currently ranked in the top 7,000 and 3,000 websites in the world respectively — rely on Squarespace to sustain their digital presences.

Lyft uses Squarespace as most businesses would: to brand itself boldly online, to explain its benefits, to showcase a video and to sign up drivers and customers. Fast Company uses Squarespace to publish regular editorials and news stories.

Elsewhere, global jewelry brand J.Hannah deploys Squarespace to sell jewelry online, making use of the system's ecommerce functionality.

Squarespace Architecture

Squarespace is a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform, but there’s more going on under its hood.

According to former Squarespace CTO Davin Chew, Squarespace’s backend is, “[primarily Java-based], and we have built a custom website serving application on top of Tomcat, MS SqlServer and Oracle Coherence for caching and clustering all our web servers together, and [we use] Isilon for storage.”  

Chew went on to explain that Squarespace has multiple subsystems that also utilize MySQL, MongoDB, RabbitMQ but use Java for application code, while on the front end, they make extensive use of YUI and plain old XHTML and CSS.

For hosting, Squarespace uses New York City-based Peer1.

Squarespace Review: Getting Started

Let’s kick-start this review by heading over to its homepage and signing up. The company offers a 14-day free trial to test the waters. Only a name and email address are required, so you can keep your credit card safely tucked away.

Once you sign up, you’re prompted to choose a template, which you can switch out later.

Squarespace Templates

The quality of Squarespace’s templates is arguably the reason it has any foothold in the enterprise market. And that’s not to suggest the rest of the platform is sub par, but it’s a testament to the creativity that goes into every template.

At the time of writing, 84 Squarespace templates were available, listed under categories such as online stores, photography, weddings, creative services and more.

Building Pages With Squarespace

Squarespace allows you to view, manage, add and delete your pages from a page-tree. It starts out simple and manageable, but it can get confusing if you’re planning to create a long list of pages and sub-pages.

When you click on a page from the page-tree, a live preview will be presented, from which you can dabble in some in-line editing.

Double-clicking on any page element opens up a more detailed content editor, where Squarespace boasts an array of content blocks that can be configured and then dragged-and-dropped into pages. Content blocks options include:

  • Text
  • Markdown
  • Images
  • Audio
  • Galleries (slideshows, grids and carousels)
  • Forms
  • Newsletter signup forms
  • Data charts
  • Embedded social media posts
  • Calendars
  • Maps

When setting up a new page, you can choose between a range of page layouts, or you can start from scratch. The pre-designed layouts include contact pages, about pages and team pages, all of which are unique to the template you chose. This all makes setting up a business website that much easier.

Editing Images With Squarespace

Squarespace is a website builder with a gigantic focus on visual content, namely images. Thus, it has a robust image editor.  

After uploading an image — or after importing one from Squarespace’s integrated Getty Images library — you can apply a range of filters, adjust sharpness, remove blemishes, add text and much more.

You can also choose a focal point for your image, which tells Squarespace which area of the image to display when screen sizes force the image to be cropped.

Squarespace Falls Short in CMS Department

Squarespace lets you manage navigation menus, page creation and product creation with relative ease. Plus, it has SEO features for pages and user permissions. But let’s be frank: Squarespace is not a powerhouse CMS.

If you’re looking for multi-site management, personalization, A/B testing, marketing automation, collaboration or anything else of that scale, Squarespace isn’t the right platform for your project.

There is no content versioning, so anything you update or delete will remain that way — and there’s no way to reverse the change.

There’s no autosave functionality on pages or posts either, which is actually sub-par even for most website builders, let alone a fully fledged CMS. So make sure you’re hitting that save button often.

File management is another issue, because there is no way to manage files, period. You can upload images from your desktop, but Squarespace has no built-in media library for you to keep track of assets.

The only way you can store files is by clicking the ‘Add Link’ button within a content block. There, you can upload files and revisit any previously uploaded ones. A strange approach to asset management to say the least.

Squarespace Extras

Web Fonts

Squarespace serves up 1000 Typekit fonts and over 600 Google fonts — although only a curated list is displayed, so you'll need to search for the rest from within Squarespace.

G Suite Integration

With the ‘Business,’ ‘Basic and ‘Advanced' plans, you qualify for a G Suite account free of charge. Plus, you’ll receive $100 in Google Adwords credits to help kick-start the marketing campaign for your new project.

Video Backgrounds

Squarespace introduced the video backgrounds feature in 2006.

The feature allows you to use any YouTube or Vimeo video to create a looped video background for your Squarespace site. Filters are available to help match the colors of the video to your site, and the speed can also be adjusted. 

The feature isn’t much to write home about on its own, but when a large video background is housed within a well-crafted Squarespace template, the results can be impressive.

Importing and Exporting Content

Squarespace provides an import tool for anybody switching from Blogger, Tumblr or WordPress, but for some reason, you can’t import content from another Squarespace 7 website. You can change your template at any time though, which should help if you grow bored of your existing one.

If you want to leave Squarespace, you can export text and images only via an XML file, which is good news if WordPress is your new destination.

Blogging

Squarespace allows you to have numerous blogs on one site, which plays nicely into the hands of publishers. For example, you can have a different blog page for news, reviews, tutorials and interviews.



The content editor is once again easy to use, and content blocks can be deployed just as you would use them on a page. You can also add tags, turn comments on or off, add thumbnail images, configure URL slugs and more. However, as previously mentioned, there’s no autosave feature, no workflows or any form of content versioning.

So, if publishing is your aim, you might want to create your content off-site, and then throw it into Squarespace at the final hurdle.

Analytics

Squarespace has a built-in analytics dashboard, complete with daily, weekly and monthly graphs. It tracks the following metrics:

  • Traffic Overview
  • Traffic Sources
  • Popular Content
  • Site Search Queries
  • RSS Subscribers
  • Search Engine Queries

Promotional Pop-ups

Another useful feature is the built-in pop-up builder. With it, you can design a pop-up email form that integrates with Mailchimp or Google Drive. You can also configure how many seconds you want to delay the appearance of the pop-up, which pages it should (and shouldn’t) display on, and so forth.

If you don’t want to collect emails, you can also showcase a call to action button that links anywhere you like.

This feature is boosted by an announcement bar feature, which you can use to display a featured message in a large bar across the top of your website, which could come in handy if you have important news to report or a sale to promote. You can add a URL to the bar also, leading visitors to the relevant page. A bar can also be set up specifically for mobile devices.

Squarespace and Social Media

Squarespace helps you tap into social media in a few ways. Firstly, you can configure social sharing buttons that appear on blog posts. Buttons include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Stumbleupon, LinkedIn and more.

Squarespace can also link to your Facebook page, importing and embedding galleries into a page.

Finally, you can add ‘Pin It’ buttons to any image on your Squarespace site, and specify the size, color and location of the icon when it displays.

Multi-lingual Support

If localization is on your agenda, Squarespace recommends templates and ways to plan your content creation around them, but it doesn’t offer any translation services or language packs of any kind.

Squarespace and ecommerce

If you want to launch an online store with Squarespace, you’ll be paying a 2 percent or 3 percent transaction fee for every item sold on the Personal and Business plans respectively. If you opt for the Basic or Advanced Online Store packages, you’ll pay a higher premium each month (we’ll discuss pricing later on), but you’ll avoid the transaction fees altogether.

Adding products is as simple as adding pages. You can upload multiple images, set pricing and variants, connect social profiles to update when the product goes live and you can even create a form for each product to collect data during checkout. 


The Advanced plan also boasts a handy abandoned cart recovery feature, something that isn’t always immediately available with other ecommerce solutions. With it, you can identify and email users who put items in their carts but exited before completing the purchase.

A separate dashboard for commerce-related settings is available on the Squarespace backend, where you can manage orders, inventory, customers and product discounts. When it comes to payments, Stripe and PayPal are your only options, though shipping and taxing fees can be configured.

When it comes to checkout, you can toggle between two different designs (light and dark), add an email newsletter subscription option and add additional fields. You can also activate an express checkout system which, if enabled, allows customers to click a ‘Purchase’ button instead of an ‘Add to Cart’ button on product pages. Customers will then move directly to the checkout page, bypassing the shopping cart page. It’s a useful feature if you’re selling a single product.

Building Landing Pages With Squarespace

Squarespace’s ‘Cover Pages,’ which can be added to any site as you would a page or product, are essentially landing pages.

There are 30 templates, all different from the 84 website templates we discussed earlier. Some are geared towards technology, but design, food and personal branding are all catered for, too.  

You can adapt them to no end, with videos, buttons, forms, social icons and more. They’re ideal for the promotion of a new product or event.

Custom CSS

Squarespace is a proprietary SaaS platform, so customization is limited. However, you can code custom CSS into any Squarespace template through a built-in custom CSS editor, which also provides image and font file storage for CSS assets.

Squarespace Pricing

Squarespace provides four monthly pricing options, two for websites, and two for online stores.

Websites:

  • Personal: $16 per month / $12 per month (billed annually)
  • Business: $26 per month / $18 per month (billed annually)

Online Stores:

  • Basic: $30 per month / $26 per month (billed annually)
  • Advanced: $46 per month / $40 per month (billed annually)

There are quite a few differences between the four plans. With the Websites packages, the Personal plan limits you to 20 pages and two content contributors, while the Business plan has no limits, and throws in promotional pop-ups, G Suite integration and only imposes a 2 percent transaction fee.

The Online Stores plans have all the features of the Business plan, without transaction fees. However the Advanced plan includes abandoned cart recovery, automatic discounts and real-time carrier shipping.

It goes without saying these fees are negligible compared with any enterprise-grade platform, or even mid-market grade platforms.

Squarespace Review: The Verdict

Although big names like Lyft and Fast Company have opted for Squarespace, the sleek website builder simply can’t be recommended as a worthwhile alternative to an enterprise-grade CMS. The features just aren’t there, nor are the integrations.

However, that doesn’t disqualify Squarespace from being a valuable tool in the enterprise space.

On the contrary, the features, templates and pricing of Squarespace make it a formidable microsite and landing page solution for enterprises looking to promote events, pop-up shops or webinars. It could even be considered as an ecommerce solution for enterprises interested in selling digital or physical merchandise.

It’s a marketer-friendly solution for such side projects, and could easily complement a more capable CMS — namely the headless kind, many of which lack the front-end features marketers need to quickly launch microsites and landing pages.

Squarespace Pros:

  • Stunning templates that work well for microsites and landing pages
  • User-friendly content editor
  • Cost-effective
  • Blogging and marketing features like pop-ups and cover pages
  • Well-rounded ecommerce solution
  • Integrates with MailChimp, Google Drive and G Suite
  • Built-in Analytics engine

Squarespace Cons:

  • Lacks enterprise-grade features like content versioning, multi-site management, localization and asset management.
  • Content management in general is not Squarespace’s forte.

To conclude, Squarespace powers a small slice of the world’s top 10,000 websites not because it’s an enterprise-grade CMS, but because it’s highly efficient at producing small, simple yet stunning websites to support powerful brands. The type of brands that don’t need personalization engines and asset management, just a striking online presence with only a few moving parts.

That — along with landing page and microsite building — is where Squarespace has found its place amongst the biggest sites in the world.