Squarespace Review – Possibly the Best Website Builder on the Market
Squarespace has become a household name in recent years thanks to some very clever advertising campaigns. How many times have you clicked on a YouTube video only to have it start with ‘this video is brought to you by Squarespace'? That’s not to say that the service isn’t good but the company’s marketing team definitely helped it become more popular than it otherwise would have. Since we’re big fans of separating fact from fiction around here, we decided to personally look into Squarespace in order to see if its huge popularity is warranted.
The first thing we realized after extensively testing the service is that Squarespace isn’t for everyone. The company targets a very specific audience; an audience comprised of users who are looking for an all-in-one solution that will allow them to design, manage, and host a website with very little effort. While veteran webmasters who like to build everything from scratch may not find this sort of service particularly appealing, any newcomer would surely appreciate the level of convenience offered by a company like Squarespace.
However, user-friendliness does come at a cost. And I’m not just talking about money, though that’s certainly an important factor to consider as well. The hands-off approach means that you won’t have direct control over every single component of your website. If that sort of thing doesn’t bother you, Squarespace might be exactly your cup of tea. Why? Well, check out our in-depth SquareSpace review down below to find out.
With a lot of the companies we like to talk about on this site you pay for the hosting and get a website builder as an added bonus. Here, it’s pretty much the exact opposite. SquareSpace’s entire business revolves around its state-of-the-art website builder, with things like hosting, domain name and various useful tools being included for free with all plans.
The service allows virtually anyone to create a professional-looking website in a matter of hours or even minutes if you know what you’re doing. Squarespace doesn’t require users to have any previous knowledge of coding or site building, which is why it’s such a great option for beginners. While main rivals like Wix or Weebly can be considered even easier for newcomers, working with SquareSpace shouldn’t pose a major challenge regardless of your experience level.
Squarespace is perfect for websites that rely heavily on images and flashy visual design elements. This makes it perfect for photographers and artists with extensive portfolios or businesses in need of a website that instantly catches the eye. Bloggers can also make good use of the service, but if you’re looking to build a site with a lot more text than images, Squarespace won’t be a great fit and you should go for something like WordPress instead.
One of the nicest things about Squarespace is that the company offers a free 14-day trial to all new users. That gives you plenty of time to test out the service for yourself and get a taste of what the website builder has to offer.
Navigation and Ease of Use
Getting started with Squarespace is incredibly easy. Simply visit the company’s website, click the ‘Get Started’ button and select a design. You can quickly pick a template from one of the recommended categories or let SquareSpace’s Artificial Intelligence build a new website for you. All you have to do is type the purpose of your website in the search bar and the AI will do the rest. You can then start editing and customizing the resulting site to your liking.
Once you've found the perfect template for your new website, you’ll be asked to log in or create an account if you don’t already have one. If you don’t want to create a new account from scratch, you can easily log in with Facebook, Twitter or Google instead.
Squarespace features a very modern and minimalistic interface with little to no clutter to worry about. The builder comes with drag-and-drop functionality, which makes everything feel very intuitive once you get the hang of it. There is a bit of learning curve when using the builder for the first time but don’t be afraid to experiment and check out all the available options because there’s a lot to work with here.
If you’re already familiar with Wix or other similar builders there will be an additional hurdle to surpass because Squarespace’s builder is block-based. This means that you won’t be able to drag elements just anywhere on the screen. Each page is split into multiple sections of various sizes that can hold text, images, and other elements. That may seem a bit limiting at first, however, you have a wide variety of block types and layouts at your disposal that you can use to customize everything to your liking.
Creating a website with Squarespace takes a bit of time and patience but it will all start making sense once you figure out how everything works. Advanced users can inject their own CSS rules into the site if they want to add certain design elements that are not available by default. All the changes you make while customizing pages will be accurately translated to the live version of the site. There is no ‘preview’ button here or anything like that because what you’re seeing on the dashboard screen is exactly what your visitors see when they access your website.
Much like other website builders like Wix, WordPress or Weebly, SquareSpace offers certain features that make it particularly useful for certain use cases. While you can design pretty much any type of website with this builder, we think SquareSpace should primarily be used by the following categories of users:
Squarespace isn’t ideal for all types of blogs but it’s certainly a good fit for some. Bloggers who use a lot of images in their posts will get a lot out of this service as SquareSpace can make even a simple page look professional and stylish. The builder features several templates specifically designed with blogging in mind along with a few useful features like quick social media sharing and support for multiple contributors. There’s also a Blog App that lets you manage everything on the go.
Big businesses usually tend to create their websites from scratch but there are more than a few small companies that use Squarespace these days. Growing businesses can make use of things like SEO tools and built-in analytics to improve their online presence while established ones can take advantage of integrations with PayPal and other tools to help sell their products and services. And since Squarespace grants you almost unlimited customization, you won’t have any issues designing a unique and professional-looking website for your company.
While Shopify might be a better alternative for eCommerce platforms, SquareSpace isn’t a bad choice either for users who are thinking about opening an online store. The company offers a good amount of features, including inventory management, abandoned cart recovery, advanced shipping, gift card support, and more. Squarespace wouldn’t be my first choice for building an eCommerce platform but it can certainly get the job done just fine.
Blogging can also fit into this category but we mainly wanted to highlight photography, art, and design. If you have any sort of creative portfolio that you want to share with the world, Squarespace would make a great place to host it on. If you have high-resolution images of your work, even better because Squarespace has tons of customization options that will allow you to highlight them and make everything look really nice. As far as templates are concerned, you’ll be able to find specialized ones for pretty much anything ranging from photography to music and everything in between.
Fans of Specialized Templates
Squarespace has a little over 60 templates, which may not seem like much compared to other builders like Wix that offer more than 500 of them. However, each and every template you can find at Squarespace was created by professional designers to be as stylish and easy to work with as possible. In other words, Squarespace goes for quality over quantity. Every template comes with some very impressive sets of features and tools that will allow you to craft the website of your dreams. Despite the relatively low number of templates on offer, SquareSpace manages to cover all major industries so don’t worry because you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for here.
Anyone Who Doesn’t Want to Worry About Scalability
If you go with a traditional hosting provider like Bluehost or GoDaddy you’re going to have to think about scalability before choosing a hosting plan. Generally speaking, you’ll want to start off small and gradually upgrade to the higher tiers once you need more resources. But what if you don’t want to bother with that? Well, with Squarespace you don’t really have to because all plans come with unlimited storage and bandwidth right off the bat. The only reason why you may want to upgrade your Squarespace package is to gain access to additional features and tools. That said, the basic plan comes with a good amount of both so you won’t have to think about upgrading for quite a while.
Plans and Pricing
If you’re looking for a cheap website builder I’d probably go with something like Weebly over SquareSpace because the prices here are quite high. You do get a lot in exchange for your money, mind you, but the fact remains that Squarespace is a pretty expensive website builder, particularly if you want to use it to create an eCommerce platform. But let’s start with the standard plans first so we don’t get ahead of ourselves.
Standard Builder Plans
The absolute cheapest plan you can get at Squarespace is called Personal and will cost you a hefty $12 per month. Although fairly expensive, this package includes everything you need to set up and launch a great-looking website. There’s no need to pay separately for the hosting because it is included for free and you also get a free domain name if you go with the yearly billing cycle. You don’t have to worry about storage and bandwidth because both of them are unmetered and you also get a few useful tools and features, including website metrics, mobile optimization, and an SSL certificate.
If you’re willing to spend $18 per month for your website builder, I recommend going straight for the next tier called Business because you’ll get a lot more benefits than with the Personal plan. For example, the Business plan gives users access to premium integrations, advanced website analytics, promotional banners, and a free professional Gmail and G Suite account for 1 year. In addition, Business plan users also benefit from limited eCommerce integration. It doesn’t really come close to what you can get with the dedicated eCommerce plans but it does allow you to sell unlimited products with a 3% transaction fee and accept donations via your site.
Dedicated eCommerce Plans
The Basic eCommerce package will set you back $26 per month and comes with all the features and tools found in the Business plan, plus a few nice extras. You don’t need to worry about transaction fees with this plan and your platforms will gain the ability to support customer accounts. In addition, you will be able to set up a secure checkout page for your customers, monitor your store’s performance with advanced eCommerce analytics, and use the merchandising tools to display Related Products or create Product Waitlists.
The Advanced eCommerce plan is priced at $40 per month so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re thinking about opening a sizeable online store. This plan is designed for major eCommerce platforms and packs even more useful features and tools. Some of the highlights include abandoned cart recovery, advanced shipping, advanced discounts, and limited availability labels. Users also gain the ability to sell digital gift cards and subscriptions to products and services along with full access to various eCommerce APIs that will allow you to create custom integrations with third-party systems.
No Free Plan
While some services like Weebly give users limited access to their builders for free, Squarespace doesn’t offer any sort of free plan. The good news is that the company supports monthly billing cycles so you don’t have to commit to a long-term investment right from the get-go. If you’re still on the fence about Squarespace I recommend first checking out the 14-day free trial and decide afterward if you want to subscribe to the service.
Additional Tools and Features
The basic gist of Squarespace is that the service gives you access to all the tools and features you need to run a successful website with one single package. However, the truth is that this all-in-one deal only works for certain types of users and SquareSpace clearly shines in some areas more than in others. Let’s take a look at some concrete examples to show you what I mean.
Before you can launch a website with Squarespace (or any other hosting service for that matter) you’re going to have to register a new domain name. Buying any of the four plans mentioned in the previous section will grant you a free domain name for 1 year. However, you can only take advantage of this offer if you decide to go for the annual billing cycle. If you want to pay for the service on a month-by-month basis, you’re going to have to purchase your domain separately for the price of $20 per year. That’s quite a bit more expensive compared to other hosting providers, though the company does include domain privacy and an SSL certificate in that price.
Social Media Integration
This is an area where Squarespace definitely doesn’t disappoint as the service can seamlessly integrate with over 20 social platforms. A few notable examples include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. Linking your social media pages to your Squarespace account will allow you to display social feeds directly on your website. In addition, you can also import content like pictures and videos from your Dropbox and social media platforms to your website.
Backing up your Squarespace website can be a real hassle if you don’t know your way around FTP and XML files. That’s because the company doesn’t have a system that allows users to manually create backups of their site from inside the dashboard, which means you’ll need to resort to third-party tools. You can partially export your website and then import it into a different platform like WordPress but there’s no reliable way of saving your site’s layout. Squarespace does keep backups of all sites but it only hangs onto them for about a month so if you want to restore an older version of your website you’re pretty much on your own.
SEO is essential for increasing your site’s visibility and rankings with search engines like Google. Learning good SEO practices takes time but you won’t have to learn everything by yourself if you sign up with Squarespace because the service will guide you through the basics of how the process works. The company also has a wide variety of in-depth guides related to SEO that you check out at any time. Squarespace mentions that it is only able to provide generalized SEO tips and can’t give specific advice to users who want to improve the SEO of their websites.
As any successful business owner can tell you, a custom domain email address is very important for increasing your credibility when interacting with clients. After all, most people won’t take your business seriously if you’re using a regular Gmail or Yahoo email. Although Squarespace users do have the option of creating professional email addresses for their domains, there are a couple of caveats. The first is that only users who subscribe to the Business plan or higher will be able to benefit from this feature. Secondly, Squarespace gives users access to G Suite’s Basic plan but they can only use it for free for up to 1 year. After that, you’ll need to pay $6 per month ($72 per year) to continue using your domain email.
SquareSpace’s security systems are pretty basic but they can get the job done pretty well if push comes to shove. As mentioned earlier, every domain registered or transferred to Squarespace benefits from a free SSL certificate, which helps encrypt information flowing through your website, including personal data entered by your users/customers. In addition, the company also has built-in protection against malware and DDoS attacks.
Performance and Reliability
Squarespace can’t really hold a candle to open-source website builders like WordPress when it comes to performance. However, the service is overall pretty reliable and does have the infrastructure necessary to support websites that receive large amounts of traffic on a monthly basis. Unlike most companies that offer web hosting, Squarespace doesn’t make any guarantees related to uptime. That may seem a bit concerning but there’s actually nothing to worry about. According to our research, SquareSpace sites had an average uptime of 99.95% in 2019, which is pretty decent.
Squarespace isn’t doing too shabby when it comes to page loading speeds either. On average, you can expect a SquareSpace page to load in around 627 ms. Just to give you a bit of context, we mentioned in our Bluehost vs SquareSpace comparison that Bluehost’s loading speeds sit at 406 ms on average. On the other hand, our Bluehost vs Wix comparison revealed that Wix, one of Squarespace's main rivals, takes over 1 second on average to load a page. While Squarespace isn’t quite as fast as popular hosting providers like Bluehost, it definitely performs better than Wix and other website builders.
Squarespace is a very user-friendly company so I wasn’t surprised to see that the company has a good customer support system in place. In case of an emergency, you can contact the support staff via live chat Monday through Friday. You can also the ticket system to ask for assistance 24/7 or try getting in touch with a support agent via Twitter. Unfortunately, there is no phone support and the fact that you can't use the live chat during the weekend is a bit disappointing. On the bright side, Squarespace is usually quick to reply to tickets and its agents are very friendly and knowledgeable.
In addition to that, Squarespace also has a very extensive selection of guides and tutorials about pretty much everything you may want to know about the platform. Simply go to the official website and access the Support page to find not just guides but also videos and full-on webinars on topics like launching your first online store, growing your audience, good SEO practices, and more. And if that doesn’t do the trick, you can always hit up the official forums and try asking for help from other members of the Squarespace community.
Does Squarespace Offer a Free Trial?
Any new user can test out the service without paying anything by signing up for the 14-day free trial offered by Squarespace. Keep in mind that the trial does come with certain limitations so it may not provide a completely accurate representation of what the paid plans have to offer. However, it will give you a good idea of what to expect.
What Do I Get in Exchange for Subscribing to Squarespace?
While that may vary depending on which plan you’re buying, the basic gist is that you will get everything you need to create, launch, and manage a website. Namely, you get a free domain name for 1 year, free hosting, access to one of the most advanced website builders around, 24/7 customer support, website analytics, and basic SEO tools, among other things. All of that is included even with the basic package. eCommerce and marketing tools are also available with the most expensive plans.
Which Template Should I Use?
Having so many choices can be a bit overwhelming but Squarespace has a nice sorting system in place that can help you pick the perfect template for your website. Simply choose the category that would fit best with the niche of your website and then select one of the recommended templates. If you still don’t know which template to pick, you can let SquareSpace’s AI build a custom website for you based on your specifications, which you can then edit to your liking.
Can I Move My Website From a Different Platform to Squarespace?
Squarespace allows users to transfer domains from other platforms in exchange for a fee. This fee simply represents the standard price charged by the company for registering a new domain name. When it comes to transferring content, things get a bit tricky. If your old site was built using WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr you will be able to import its contents to Squarespace, though you’ll need to recreate its layout from scratch. If your old site wasn’t built using those platforms, you will not be able to directly import any of its content to Squarespace.
What is SquareSpace’s Refund Policy?
Squarespace is somewhat stingy when it comes to issuing refunds for its services. The company offers a 14-day money-back guarantee, however, it is only available for annual plans. Partial refunds are not supported so if you purchase an annual plan and decide after more than 14 days that you don’t like the service, you won’t be able to get any of your money back. In addition, there are no refunds at all for monthly plans or renewal payments.
As mentioned near the start of this article, Squarespace is an ideal choice for a very specific type of user. After reading our review, I think you may have a pretty good idea of why that is. The service was primarily designed to simplify the process of site-building and to allow virtually anyone to create a professional and stylish website. The fact that you don’t have to worry about things like hosting and domain registration only helps to make things even easier. Having said that, this platform isn’t meant for developers or users who need an open-source platform or advanced tools for building their website.
If you’re someone who needs an all-in-one website builder, then Squarespace is definitely a very solid pick. In fact, it might be the best pick thanks to its unique features and quality templates. The only thing that might make it an unappealing choice for some is the price. Don’t get me wrong, you do get very good value for your money but there’s no denying that $12 per month is pretty steep for a basic plan when compared to similar site builders. At the end of the day, though, if you’re looking for a premium builder with nice features and good support we wholeheartedly recommend checking out Squarespace.