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SquareSpace Platform Review

Posted on 1.27.2010

Whether you are an experienced coder or a newbie, a platform can be a powerful tool to help you set up a blog or website. You’ve probably used the most popular – Wordpress and Blogger – at some point. However, you probably haven’t used one of the least known and underappreciated platforms: Squarespace.

This is likely due to the cost. For their cheapest plans, Squarespace costs $8 per month. For many people who are already using free services like Blogger and WordPress, $8 is just too much. But Squarespace does have some benefits to offer.

Advantages
One of Squarespace’s biggest advantages is its customizability. Squarespace provides you with CSS pages as templates, but they are really only the starting point. From there, you can either make changes through a smooth and clean visual interface, or by changing the CSS code directly. The visual interface allows you to change every aspect of your blog from adjusting the layout of your site to dropping in various widgets. For those whose programming knowledge is limited, this is an invaluable tool. Even better, the style and structure editors adjust to your changes in real-time, so you can see how the changes you are making directly affect the layout of your site.

To get an idea of what it looks like, Squarespace’s site offers a preview of their WYSIWYG interface. Squarespace’s design flexibility and ease of use really give it an advantage over its competition.

Another major advantage, particularly for e-commerce or ad-based sites, is that the platform includes very detailed traffic stats. This means you don’t have to add a third-party plug-in. The traffic stats are charted in real-time, which can be very useful if you are trying to optimize the conditions that will drive traffic. It can also tell you if the hits on your site are from humans or bots – another great piece of info. Although the evidence is anecdotal, some users suggest they have received more traffic and ad money because they have been using Squarespace.

Since Squarespace is a paid site, they have a robust technical help department, and there are a lot of resources to help you if you get stuck. This is particularly useful if you are adding your own code. There is a forum where other users can provide you with guidance if they have encountered the same problems as you.

Finally, if you are already using another blogging service such as Blogger or WordPress, Squarespace can import your content from these sites.

Disadvantages
The factor that creates the biggest stumbling block for potential users of Squarespace is that platform users have to host their site through Squarespace. This means that if there is ever any problem with Squarespace, you could lose content on your site. Although this can happen with any hosting service, many other hosting services also allow you to easily export content. With Squarespace, users have to manually export every post if they want to back up their content. This also means that you do not have full control over your site. Squarespace rarely intervenes or removes sites, but if you are producing a site with controversial content, it might be more advisable to use a different hosting service. And if you are planning a very ambitious and robust site that will last for years, it might be a concern to limit your hosting options early on.

The cost is also a hurdle. Eight dollars a month is not very expensive (although more advanced users might prefer one of the more expensive Pro accounts), but if your site will be a low-income or marginal site, it may not make much economic sense to prefer Squarespace over one of the free platforms.

And finally, although Squarespace is fully customizeable, the templates and visual interface will not get you completely there. Eventually you might have to use some CSS or HTML programming to get your site looking exactly as you want it to look.

Summary

Advantages:
• Completely customizeable
• Easy to use visual interface that shows changes in real-time
• Detailed traffic stats
• Robust forum and technical support to help you address issues
• Import any content from your other blogs, such as Wordpress and Blogger

Disadvantages:
• SquareSpace hosts the site
• The cost is one of the most expensive for a blogging/website platform
• Programming knowledge will be required to achieve the full 100% customization

In summary, Squarespace is a good option for anyone looking to develop a new blog or website from scratch. It is a particularly powerful tool for those who don’t know CSS, but advanced users will also appreciate the ability to quickly adapt any of the templates to suit their needs. However, it’s a good idea to figure out what you want from your site: the traffic stats may be unnecessary and the cost may be prohibitive for what you need. If you want more information, check out the Squarespace homepage.


About the Author: Matt Goulart is the Founder and Lead Consultant with Webstar Content.  Matt can be reached at matt@webstarcontent.com or via their website at www.webstarcontent.com.

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