Squarespace: Online Publishing Worth Paying For?

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.

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