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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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  11. You say “entrant” but Squarespace has been an option–and, in my opinion, the “superior option”–for several years now. I’m happy to see they are finally getting some press. Anyone who hasn’t used their templating engine needs too. If you don’t know a lick about CSS, you can can change the style elements across your entire site.

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  12. I’ve only been with squarespace a few short weeks but already love it! I especially love the fact that I can now save money by being my own web site designer and also maintain and update my site. As an author, doing these things in a timely manner is important. After spending literally thousands in the past year to try and find a competant web designer/host; I decided to go with Squarespace and take back control of my site and URL. Which brings me to the domain mapping feature of squarespace. I’m waiting now for my transfer to kick in but I’m so happy that my original (and advertised) URL of authoraprilstar.com will soon be the home of my squarespace site. I’m not techie savvy at all but have discovered that I can indeed build a professional looking website and mainatin it throuh Squarespace.

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  13. After trying many hosters, I’ve understood, like probably 95% of the people that I should better focus on the content that on reinventing the wheel. Therefore, going to squarespace was a no-brainer after seeing and testing many other systems (free or not). It is so powerfull, and the templates are so neat, trendy and modern that I don’t have a reason to go looking for something else. I’m also free to design my own banner and button if I want… and if I have time! All the rest is so easy to use that I can only recommend it (and I’m not paid to say it, more likely to be the opposite!). Have a try and you won’t regret it!

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  14. I think Squarespace is genius.

    I’ve had RapidWeaver, Movable Type, and WordPress sites, and I like Squarespace hugely better than any of them. Very empowering to be able to create a site on your own, and then mess with it to your heart’s content.

    Amazing service from the company as well — fast, cheerful, and genuinely helpful.

    I have less than zero interest in messing with HTML, let alone CSS. I’m a content guy, and I find that tech questions give me headaches. Yet I love having a web presence, and I love being able to enjoy my webpresence freely. WordPress was a pain for me. WordPress.com was OK, RapidWeaver is nice but you’re stuck working from just one computer (I love being able to get to my site from any computer), and Movable Type is ‘way too much of a bear for me. Squarespace really answers my prayers. I was up and functioning in less than an hour.

    Using Squarespace for my web adventures is as much of a relief (and fun) for me as working on a Mac instead of a PC is. I’m amazed it isn’t far better known than it is. I think a lot of people who are struggling with WordPress (and WordPress.com) would be far happier on Squarespace.

    Check out my own Squarespace sites. Handsome and fun. My personal one makes use of an untweaked Squarespace template, while the business one (caution: it’s a little racy) was designed for me by a design team I hired.

    http://raysawhill.com

    http://rapturehouse.com

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  15. I actually agree with Ray after reading his post. Squarespace is as easy as using a mac, providing quick and fantastic results (as a mac!). If you like simplicity that has proven results, then using squarespace is ideal, if you like having total ownership of every details of your site, then you might feel some limits. Anyway, having a trial period is possible for anyone to test. Just highly recommended from my side.

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  16. I am on the verge of selecting a blogging platform, and I am impressed by what I have read about Squarespace. There is only one more piece of information that I need in order to “seal the deal.”

    As a Mac user, I need to know if I can access and successfully use all the Squarespace features from my Mac (OSX 10.2.4 ).

    Any input will be appreciated.

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  17. SQUARESPACE IS TOO SLOW FOR MEDIA DATA!!!

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  18. What does that mean? Too slow for media data? Does that mean podcasts and vlogs? I’ve read in several places that squarespace sites are too slow. I can’t say I’ve noticed this. I’m on a squarespace trial account right now, and we’re trying to figure out if moving to squarespace is the right thing for us.

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  19. After self-hosting a WordPress blog for 18 months, I’ve had it. My site gets hacked several times a week. Open source seems to mean easy access for hackers: Here’s the source code, guys, have at it!

    As for cost, even $20 a month for SS is cheaper than self-hosting, plus I don’t have all the headaches of having to maintain the software (applying updates and patches constantly). My business is photography and graphics, and WordPress frankly sucks in the online gallery department. They keep tweaking the damn “Dashboard”, but what it needs is some world-class graphical support…which Squarespace offers.

    As to the comments about themes, I don’t find that an advantage of WordPress at all. Having to customize php and ccs scripts–not my idea of a good time. But coding is necessary if you want to do any kind of customizing with WordPress.

    As they say, a camel is a horse designed by a committee. WordPress is blogging software designed by a mob. Yuck.

    I am through with open source.

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  20. Ok, so Squarespace has a good thing going on, and I really want to make the leap, but what a risky leap it is for me. I’m just going to address a few random things that bother me about SquareSpace.

    It’s too expensive. Sure, the cheaper plans are great, but who the heck wants their url to look like this: http://www.YourSiteName.squarespace.com? Not me and either should you if you want any of your visitors to take you seriously.

    I would think most people who need a serious website (no matter what it is) would need at minimum the $20 package. I personally would need the $30 package.

    Currently I pay around $70 a year for hosting through one of the best hosting companies around (great support, great up time, and easy to use). I also am allowed UNLIMITED websites with that single account! Not sure why “$20 a month for SS is cheaper than self-hosting” Bob Nolin? Try shopping around. Again, I pay $70 a year for unlimited sites!

    While I really want to give up on wordpress, I just can’t see the justification in paying $30 a month for a CMS just because it’s easier. WordPress has some killer new themes coming out; way better than any of the templates Squarespace offers from scratch. Actually Squarespace’s default template is the only one that is worth messing with in my opinion. The others are god awful.

    So lets say I make the leap into SquareSpace. $30 a momth x 12 months = $360 a year. Since I definitely can’t afford to move my other 4 sites to Squarespace due to the cost, I’m stuck with 2 bills (my current hosting bill, and Squarespace). Not feasible. Now if SquareSpace had better deals for adding multiple sites then horray. I believe their discount is something like %12 off, not much of a bargain if you ask me.

    One more point that noone seems to be addressing. $30 a month x 12 months = $360 a year. Lets say you want to keep your site around for a long time. $360 a year x 20 years = $4320. With that money, why not just pay a designer to build you a killer site and call it good.

    If SquareSpace would do the following, I would make the leap and quit ragging on them:

    1) Add some java script features to the site building tools. Many of the latest wordpress themes have these very cool image sliders, carosels (some even auto scrolling), and very nice smooth flowing pulldown menus and buttons. Why not have a drag and drop image slider for gallery based websites?

    2) Offer real deals for multiple sites and lower pricing by 1/3 atleast.

    3) Have better templates to choose from. The current ones are just horrible if you have any design sense.

    All in all though, I would have to say what they have to offer is a good thing, just wish it was a great thing.

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    1. I’ve been using Squarespace for nearly a year now. In the past I’ve dabbled with most open source alternatives, however, as my time became limited I wanted something quick and easy. That’s what Squarespace is.

      The templates are just the starting point. All can be customised depending on your level of creativity or expertise. There’s certain amount to get most people up and running within minutes.

      No real steep learning curve. Plently of FAQ’s and videos to get you started. Reading some of these comments it’s clear that some haven’t looked through these resources.

      For example, GraphicsGuys’ comment regarding the URL. It’s extremely easy to use your own addresses. In fact there’s a very well written FAQ detailing the steps.

      I can’t recommend them highly enough. It’s a great solution for those who don’t want the headache of hosting their own.

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  21. GraphicsGuy, I don’t see how you think $30 per month for a blog solution is expensive. Yes, you can use your own hosting and setup word press. However, you are going to spend a huge amount of time maintaining upgrades, hack exploits, database maintenance etc… Square Space doesn’t even sound like an ideal match for you. You sound like a techy. And still $30 per month is nothing. Top end blogs pay hundreds of dollars per month for dedicated hosting, server load balancing, database backups, security, support, server maintenance etc…

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  22. Just for the record, I don’t think I ever said SquareSpace was a bad thing, I just think it needs improvement for me to fork over the extra money. And I’m not sure why I have to be a “techy” to want the bells and whistles and modifications that seem to be easily accessible through something like wordpress.

    And regarding the url, how was I wrong saying that you don’t get a normal website name? It says right on SquareSpace’s website that your url will include the “squarespace” name in their $8 a month package.

    I applaud SquareSpace for doing what they are doing. I just hope they add more features in the future. There is a Photoshop plugin called Sitegrinder for example, which allows you to create a website mockup in Photoshop. What you see in your psd file is how your site will look when it goes live. Awesome idea, but it only allows you to create very basic sites, has too many limitations, and seemed unnecessarily confusing at times. It would be great if SquareSpace could implement the design aspects of Sitegrinder into their system somehow.

    I know I’m rambling (kind of in a hurry), but I just wanted to respond to those who didn’t like what I had to say. I wasn’t trying to detour anyone from using SquareSpace, I was simply stating my opinion based on my observations and short trial. I will probably subscribe one day, but still waiting for it to have more features.

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  23. I’m using Squarespace to develop my current website. The great thing about Squarespace is that you can develop a pretty good looking website without a lot of HTML/CSS knowledge. Their support is what really sets them apart from the rest. I’ve sent numerous support tickets over the past few weeks and the average response time was less than 10 minutes. Squarespace certainly gets my vote!

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  24. nice article, for a hosting space

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