Squarespace: 12 Frequently Asked Questions

As someone who builds Squarespace sites for a living, I get a lot of questions about the platform. People ask me things like:

  • Is Squarespace any good?
  • Why should I use it?
  • Why would you recommend it?
  • What are the capabilities?
  • Is it cheap or expensive?
  • How does it compare with Wordpress?
  • Is it safe, or will my site be hacked?

I decided to gather the top questions people ask about Squarespace and try to answer them as clearly and simply as I can. Here goes. 

Squarespace FAQ

1. What is Squarespace?

Squarespace is an integrated web-building tool. It's a content management system that integrates blogging, hosting services, a commerce platform and a domain name registrar into one package. 

Squarespace was founded in 2003, in Maryland, USA by Anthony Casalena. Since then, it has grown to a team of over 677 staff members and now has millions of users. Squarespace was founded to create an all-in-one web publishing solution and their primary competitors in the website publishing industry include WordPress, Weebly, Wix.com, and GoDaddy, amongst others.

Squarespace Templates

2. How much does Squarespace cost?

I'm going to discuss the Squarespace fees themselves, rather than looking at web design costs. Imagine you're building a house - the Squarespace costs are the raw building materials (bricks and cement), excluding the labour (architect or project manager fee).

A personal site subscription will cost you $12 [R155] per month billed annually, or $16 [R206] month to month. A business site subscription will cost you $18 [R232] per month billed annually, or $26 [R336] month to month. Below is a list of what is included in both options:

Personal Site

  • Gallery and blog options
  • Unlimited bandwidth and storage
  • Mobile-optimized website
  • Powerful website analytics
  • Custom domain 
  • SSL Security Included
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • One year's hosting included

Business Site

  • Unlimited pages, galleries, and blogs, bandwidth, storage and contributors
  • Mobile-optimized website
  • Powerful website analytics
  • Custom domain
  • SSL Security Included
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • Professional email from Google
  • $100 Google AdWords credit
  • One year's hosting included

Are there any hidden costs I should know about?

The only other cost you need to take into consideration is your annual domain name subscription - the address of your website (e.g. www.bearista.co.za). These fees are either quite nominal - typically around $20 [R250] per year - or you can use a free custom domain (for the first year only) that comes with your Squarespace subscription.

3. Is Squarespace mobile-friendly?

People who ask this question are also asking "Will a Squarespace site work on my tablet?" and "Are Squarespace sites responsive?"

These are really the same questions. What most people want to know is: if I have a site built on Squarespace, will it look good, and work brilliantly on a mobile phone, a tablet, a large screen computer, and a laptop? Or, once I've had the site built, will I then have to invest further time, money and effort in making sure it works across all these devices?

The short answer is yes. Squarespace IS mobile-friendly. Let me elaborate.

Recent research shows that web traffic from mobile devices has overtaken that of desktop users. Although this is simplifying the issue and definitely isn't the whole picture (desktop accounts for greater engagement and mobile has higher bounce rates), this is a critical statistic. Users now expect your site to be responsive and easy to use on mobile, and on every other device for that matter.

 Image courtesy of www.stonetemple.com

Image courtesy of www.stonetemple.com

Consumers are spending more and more time on mobile — and less time on everything else.
— geomarketing.com

So, what is a responsive website?

 Image credits: websitebuilderexpert.com 

Image credits: websitebuilderexpert.com 

As you can see from the example above, the non-responsive site duplicates the way your site looks on a desktop, and squashes it into the very small space available on your mobile device. Small fonts become impossible to read, images shrink, filling out forms is a nightmare, and there's a lot of pinching and zooming in that goes on as you try to navigate around a bulky site on such a small screen.

The responsive site, however, adapts to the dimensions of the device you're using and rearranges content and information accordingly. Images flow one after another instead of being next to each other, fonts become larger and more legible, navigation tabs adjust, and large images are cropped to suit the device. 

Responsive web design is a relatively new approach to website design that ensures users have a good viewing experience no matter what type of device they’re using... building flexible and fluid layouts that adapt to almost any screen.
— Nicolas Wright, on Upwork

Here's another example from a site I've been working on. In the first example, the site as viewed on desktop, the image fills the screen, and there is little else going on on the home page. In the second example, a screenshot from my mobile phone, the main image has been cropped, the navigation bar is amended, and headings shift in size and proportion.

 MMT by Design's site as it appears in a desktop view.

MMT by Design's site as it appears in a desktop view.

 
 MMT by Design in mobile view - a screen shot from my phone.

MMT by Design in mobile view - a screen shot from my phone.

 

How does Squarespace use responsive design principles? 

Squarespace offers two means of adjusting content based on the device in use:

  • Through responsive design - this is when your content automatically resizes based on the size of the browser window viewing your site.
  • Through "mobile styles" - most Squarespace templates have additional built-in mobile styles that activate when your site detects it’s being viewed on a mobile device. 

Although the responsive design is inbuilt, it is still up to the site designer to make sure they abide by certain principles of designing for mobile when it comes to content, image sizing, layout, font choice, the amount of embedded content and so on.

    4. Do I have to buy additional web hosting?

    No. When you use Squarespace you automatically have access to their hosting services, and your site is housed on their servers. They provide a place on the Internet to display your content. 

    5. Will Squarespace host my domain?

    Yes. You can purchase a domain through Squarespace when you sign up, which is included when you pay for an annual subscription and is around $20 [R260] if you go with the month by month subscription option. 

    You can also transfer a domain you purchased elsewhere to Squarespace; use a domain which is registered through a third-party domain provider (like I do with Afrihost and Hetzner); or purchase additional domains (which you might do if you want both a .co.za and a .com domain pointing to the same site). 

    6. Will Squarespace host my email?

    No. Squarespace will not host your email. Squarespace does, however, provide an email solution by partnering with G Suite (what used to be called Google Apps) to provide a seamless email solution for your website so that you can have a professional email to match your domain name (e.g. bob@fancysite.com or info@website.com).

    What is G Suite and how much does it cost?

    G Suite, from Google Cloud, is a set of apps including Gmail, Docs, Drive and Calendar. G Suite currently costs $50 [R650] per year per user. 

    Do I have to use G Suite? 

    No, you don't. You can use any third party email provider alongside Squarespace. I've used Hetzner, Afrihost and Zoho Mail to name a few in conjunction with Squarespace sites.

    7. How safe is Squarespace?

    Squarespace is pretty safe. Now I'm certainly not a website safety expert, but I've honestly never come across any articles relating to hacking of Squarespace sites, a targeted attack on Squarespace site owners, or anything like that (I hope I'm not tempting fate here!). This is quite interesting, given how often one hears about such things happening with Wordpress. I really am not trying to knock Wordpress. The vast amount of really helpful Wordpress plugins and updates also opens Wordpress users up to greater risk in this respect. Squarespace has a rather limited set of plugins (more on this later), with most of the additional widgets and extra functionality being developed by Squarespace themselves. It's a very tight system which has its pros and cons. When it comes to safety though, it's good news for Squarespace users. 

    Another way Squarespace ensures safety is through the use of free SSL certificates. This means that visitors to your site can be assured of a secure connection on every page of your site, keeping any information they share safe. 

    What is SSL?

    Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, is a technology that secures the connection between your browser and the website you’re visiting. When you see a URL beginning with https://, instead of http://, and a green, closed padlock icon, you know the site is SSL secured. SSL provides privacy (for info like login credentials), data integrity (keeping data submitted via forms safe and unaltered), and authentication (protects against impersonation). 

    Another important safety feature of Squarespace Commerce is that your checkout page is protected by SSL to keep your customers’ credit card data safe and secure.

    8. Do I have to update any plugins with Squarespace?

    No. 

    Plugins are bits of software that can be uploaded to extend and expand the functionality of your site. Many site builders, most notably Wordpress, make use of pieces of code that have been developed amongst the Wordpress community to add extra functions to your site. Things like email marketing pop-ups, photo galleries, blog commenting functions (like Disqus), contact forms, connecting social media platforms, are some examples of plugins. The list is endless. 

    Plugins typically have to be updated regularly to keep them working well, a bit like updating the apps on your phone. 

    Because Squarespace has its own in-house set of plugins developed by its own engineers, as a Squarespace site owner, there is nothing you have to do from your side to keep things updated. Squarespace handles all of that for you, leaving you to concentrate on producing and maintaining your content. 

     An example of some of Squarespace's built in 'plugins'. 

    An example of some of Squarespace's built in 'plugins'. 

    9. Is Squarespace good for SEO?

    SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the thing everyone wants for their site. They want to be number one on Google, or at the very least appear on the first page of Google's search results. This seems to be a hot topic when it comes to people choosing Squarespace over something like Wordpress, Weebly or Wix. But what is SEO? Let's start there. According to SEO experts, Moz, it is "the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results."

    So, does building a site using Squarespace increase or decrease your chances of ranking high on Google?

    Let's look at some of the ways Squarespace builds SEO best practices into every site. 

    • Site map: Squarespace automatically generates and links a proper sitemap - a list of pages of a website accessible to programs (bots) that systematically browse the web. Sitemaps are important for SEO because they make it easier for Google to find your site's pages.
    • SSL certificates: Squarespace offers free SSL certificates for all Squarespace Domains and third-party domains connected to a site. Google has announced that SSL-secured websites may receive a minor ranking boost.
    • Clean HTML Markup: Squarespace produces pages with clean HTML markup that is indexable by search engines. 
    • Automatic tagging: Images contain proper <alt> and <title> tags, improving search engine indexing. All meta tags for pages and <link> tags for RSS feeds are automatically generated. Image descriptions are converted to <alt> tags.
    • Clean URLs: All primary pages on your site contain clean URLs that are easily indexed and read.
    • Automatic redirects: If you have multiple domains, Squarespace will redirect users and search engines to a primary domain. 
    • Search engine and page descriptions: Squarespace includes a field for editing your site’s search engine descriptions. 
    • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): creates lightweight versions of web pages to help them load faster on a mobile device. AMP works with Google to prioritize results in mobile searches.
    • Built-in mobile optimization: Google recently updated their technology to give mobile-optimized sites a higher priority. 

    That's a really long way of saying yes. Squarespace is good for SEO. For some extra reading on the topic, have a look at Elle & Co's The Truth About Squarespace SEO.

    Sources:
    www.bluecorona.com
    www.squarespace.support.com
    www.moz.com

    10. Can Squarespace host my online shop?

    Yes. Squarespace has a fully integrated e-commerce platform. That means if you choose to go the Squarespace route, you are able to host your own online shop right there on your website. 

    A disclaimer for South Africans. The two main payment gateways Squarespace uses are Stripe and PayPal. Although Stripe is available in most countries around the world, it is NOT available in South Africa. That leaves PayPal as the only option for us South Africans. Some people prefer for their pricing to show up in Rands, not $, which means you may need to look at a work around for your online shop. Shopify is a powerful e-commerce platform and integrates well with Squarespace. There are many others to choose from.

     

    11. Can Squarespace host my blog/vlog/podcast?

    Indeed! Squarespace is a great platform for bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, photographers, writers and other content creators. When it comes to blogging there's a range of beautiful design and layout options, a variety of ways to categorise and organise your content, the opportunity to collaborate with invited authors and contributors, links to social media and more.

    Video content is embedded via YouTube and/or Vimeo. You can use Squarespace to create, manage and display your podcasts, and you can integrate this all with Apple Podcasts. 

    12. How hard will Squarespace be for me to manage?

    While many people build their own Squarespace sites, others prefer to employ a Squarespace designer to build it for them. One of the main questions people ask me during this process is - will you have to maintain the site for me, or can I manage it myself? My answer is always: you will be more than capable of managing the site yourself!

    I like people to be able to take full ownership of their site, having access to the back-end, being able to make updates as and when they would like to without having to run things by a third person (like a web maintenance team). 

    Things like updating text based content, adding images and captions, creating blog posts, adding photo galleries, embedding videos, creating links, buttons and forms are all pretty straight forward. Squarespace is a very intuitive system. That just means it works the way you think it's going to work. There's also a really helpful support team just an email away, who have a patient and gracious approach to each of their customers. 


    These are, of course, many more questions people ask about Squarespace. A big one which I'll attempt to tackle in a future post is the by now well-documented topic of Wordpress vs Squarespace. (I might as well throw my two cents' worth in there!)

    Do you have any questions about Squarespace?