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Summary:

Squarespace is an interesting entrant in the website-and-blog authoring space. They offer a great array of features for anything from a blog to a fullblown small business website, with a state of the art in-browser editing interface. But despite the fact that they would seem to […]

ScreenshotSquarespace is an interesting entrant in the website-and-blog authoring space. They offer a great array of features for anything from a blog to a fullblown small business website, with a state of the art in-browser editing interface. But despite the fact that they would seem to be in the same business as other blogging hosts like WordPress and TypePad, there’s another thing besides features that set them apart: there’s no free lunch at Squarespace.

There are, however, 14-day trial accounts, and signing up for one is a trivial one-step process. After you create your initial site, you can watch some instructional videos, or just start editing by clicking around. Those used to simple interfaces may be initially confused by the distinction between content editing, structure editing, and style editing, but the net result is to let you build and customize a site without having to grub around in HTML or CSS at all.

There are a wealth of features here: a variety of canned designs, RSS and Atom feeds, photo galleries, forms feeding into email or Excel, Google map integration, built-in anti-spam systems, support for podcasting, support for private membership areas, integrated analytics, and on and on. The Squarespace notion of customizing everything extends right down to letting you choose a favicon for your site.

Squarespace has invested a fair bit in a high-end, grid-based hosting system, with hosting at Peer1. They claim a 99.98% uptime record over five years, and say their lack of free customers helps them keep resource use under control.

And that’s where the other distinction comes in: if you want to play in this infrastructure after your free period, you need to pay. Pricing runs from $7 per month for a barebones site with 1GB of storage and very few of the extra features, up to $175 per month for 1 terabyte of bandwidth, 20GB of storage, and every feature you can think of.

For web workers whose core business is not building web sites, Squarespace is a good value. Even if you do know how to do everything it can do, it’s worth looking at for sites that just need to be there: what’s it worth to you to outsource all of the backend and deployment messiness? Those who believe everything should be free, though, will keep using the alternatives, even at less functionality.

  1. Um, does this 175$ plan include a dedicated server as well? Because I get 1TB of bandwith on a shared host for waaaaaay less.

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  2. Not sure why everyone zeros in on the Elite plan. It’s meant to be simply “everything”, and if you have it — we’ll happily open a dialogue and work with you on your bandwidth needs.

    The Elite plan is actually far faster than a dedicated server — because it’s on our grid architecture. It’s a bit complex to get into in a comment, but no Squarespace account exists on one system — and all are load balanced intelligently across a cluster, which provides a lot of in-memory caching features for when sites get on national news and such. Most users fit into the $12/mo plan (which is on the grid as well). It would be impossible for you to set this up without spending similarly to us on load balancers and other infrastructure, so the accurate price comparison would be versus a load balanced infrastructure perhaps Rackspace could do for you for $5000+/mo.

    I’d also like to point out that Squarespace was built with developers in mind. No design is actually “canned”, as you can get to each and every CSS element we use and tweak anything (all from a visual CSS editor).

    We’re releasing some videos highlighting this early next week :)

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  3. I’ve been re-looking at Squarespace and think it offers many great features coupled with beautiful design. I will probably switch at least one of my Typepad blogs over to it.

    Nonprofits, especially, may want to take a look.

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  4. Casalena, no doubt Squarespace is a nice system, but please don’t try to say your designs are not canned. They are. Yes, they are nice, but they are templates, themes or skins (whatever you want to call them). This is where WordPress has a huge advantage. There are free themes, premium themes and you can create you own custom theme or hire someone to design you a custom theme. Squarespace my be great some folks, but it’s very difficult to compete against open source and the shear number of developers and designs working to make WordPress (and Joomla, Drupal) much better systems. Just my two cents.

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  5. Bob, as far as I can tell, everything that you list about WordPress themes can be done with Squarespace themes. The one difference being (at this point in time) that there aren’t as many themes to choose from. Personally, I think that the Squarespace templates etc. are easier to use than Word press, based on a short trial with each.

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  6. @Bob: Throwing this out there: I’ve got a feeling you haven’t actually logged into a Squarespace account yet :) I feel this is exactly the area we’re at an immense advantage versus WP, not a disadvantage. Mail me if you’d like a walkthrough or if this is somehow unclear after this comment. It’s worth discussing.

    In Squarespace — you can start with one of our templates (or the ‘Developer’ one with no CSS mods), click “modify”, and immediately be able to customize most (60+) parts of the CSS visually. The word “template” is more of a “starting point” in Squarespace. You can edit every selector. You can make new selectors that are adjustable visually. You can use math and variables in our stylesheets. You can move sliders and watch CSS rerender in real time. You can add your own CSS. It’s VERY powerful. We didn’t just make a system that manages content, we manage designs. I think we’re unique in this capacity, as I’ve never seen another system do this.

    By virtue of the fact that each style is immensely flexible — because we’ve built a CMS around design — each Squarespace style is worth much more than some unchangable thing that’s designed once. I’d love to pit as many “canned” themes as possible against just one superbly designed Squarespace one, and see where our customers end up. V5 is designed with them in mind, and they seem to love not being replicas.

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  7. Hey Anthony,

    Will it ever be possible with V5 to have multiple blogs within one acccount? That might be a deal breaker for me.

    Bob

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  8. I’m glad to see some press about Squarespace… I think it’s a great service – but it is unfairly overshadowed by TypePad and WP.

    As a VA that often advises clients about blogging options – I always mention Squarespace. Yes, maybe its a bit pricier – but the sites are gorgeous and let’s face it… not everyone wants to tinker with WordPress. It’s all about what meets the client’s goals. There will always be a balancing act among cost, flexibility, beauty and functionality.

    For clients that don’t want the hassle and expense of upgrades and plugins, hosting, etc… I suggest Squarespace or Typepad – they are simply easier for a client that doesnt have the need for extensive customization and maintenance.

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  9. You really have to create an account and log into the Squarespace admin for a few hours to truly understand and appreciate the product. In my opinion, the user interface design and form interactions of the administration tools are incomparable to everything else on the market. It’s really that good.

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  10. An “entrant” in website & blog authoring space…? Common, I have been blogging on Squarespace for years !

    I fully agree with Mary, finally some publicity for these guys… I am a new media consultant and have tested (from the user point of view) many platforms out there and stayed with Squarespace throughout the years. I just love the ease of use of the platform.

    With regards to templates, I had mine redesigned by someone who is way more creative than me but am sure we’ll see a lot of choice soon.

    I always advise to try Squarespace to my “non IT” clients and business contacts and those who have tried loved it.

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