Reviews and expert opinion Square

Ezequiel Bruni
Ezequiel Bruni
Website Development Expert

Square’s Online Store app is a simple, beginner-friendly solution that won’t break the bank. If you’re in a country where Square is actively operating, you’re set. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who wants to extensively customize their own site, however, or for anyone who needs a more established and feature-loaded e-commerce solution – in these situations, Wix would be a stronger option.


Overview

Square's site builder sign-up page
Square certainly keeps it simple

Well, It’s Certainly a Store Builder, but Not Much More

Square is a payment processor company that lets your business take payments from credit cards. Incidentally, that company has made the imaginatively-named “Online Store” app, which is a very simple and highly-focused site builder that lets you create one thing: an online store.

It seems to be available only in English, and it only works in a select few countries where Square has its payment processing set up (US, Canada, Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom). It’s a simple and very streamlined experience, but…

Is Square’s Online Store app right for you? Can it deliver all the features you need, or would you be better off with a more established website builder, like Wix? I tested it myself, and now I’m here to help you answer just that. Let’s have at it!

Templates

3.0
Square's limited design choices
You get to choose your typeface and your primary color. That’s it.

This Is Not a Product for the Designer in All of Us

It’s a product for those who want a store with a website – and that’s all, folks. What does that mean for the design of your website? Well…

There is exactly one real template, though I will admit it’s a pretty good one. It’s simple, it’s pretty, and it’s mobile-responsive. It also performs well speed-wise, so that’s a bonus.

There are some customization options, too. You can choose from 15 main typefaces for your text and from fifteen colors, which you can use for things like buttons and links. You can also customize the actual content, which is something I’ll address in more detail below. My point is that if you work with the content enough, you can achieve a different-ish design and content layout, but it all appears to be based on the same design system.

A 3 out of 5 is the best I can do here. It’s a good template, but it’s just one template doing far more work than it should be doing. It’s kind of like when management leaves the sixteen-year-old newbie to run the store while everyone else gets lunch.

Explore Square Templates

Features

4.0
The site builder
Notice the ability to add an Instagram feed

It’s an Online Store, and It Does What You’d Expect

That’s the trouble when writing about products that just do one thing: thinking of stuff to say besides, “Well, it definitely does the thing!” Fortunately, I can say that this was the best part of my whole experience with Square’s Online Store. The actual store builder, while a little simplistic, absolutely benefits from that simplicity.

In fact, what it may lack in hyper-advanced features, it makes up for by making e-commerce easy. You can painlessly:

  • Manage your items
  • Track the inventory of physical products
  • Sell digital products
  • Arrange for shipping or local pickup
  • Sell food for pickup, in-house delivery, or on-demand delivery
  • Collect taxes based on requirements in your location
  • Offer sales, discounts, and coupon codes

You can even use this platform to do less “store-like” things, such as appointment booking.

the product management UI
This will look familiar to anyone who’s ever managed an online store

The higher-tier plans do come with some compelling features, like being able to send spam automatic follow-up emails to people who have abandoned their shopping carts. You’ll also enable reviews for individual items, and be able to accept payments via PayPal.

Even though Square is a PayPal competitor in some ways, you can absolutely integrate PayPal into your site.

I should note, though, that Square is more than a payment processor even without the Online Store addon. You can use it to track your sales and inventory separately and synchronize your Square sales information with your site’s sales information. I’m not sure why those are two separate things to begin with, but it’s not too big a deal.

Now that we’ve discussed the basic store features, let’s get on to what makes Square’s Online Store app different. Well, different-ish.

Square Has a Simple, Focused Site Builder

Even though there isn’t much flexibility when it comes to design, the site editor gives you quick access to helpful features. And while the actual “store” part of the site is rather rigid, you can customize the content of every other page quite a bit.

The site builder uses pre-made content blocks where you can insert images, text, photo galleries, and forms, or you can link to your social media feeds, Google Maps, and more. It’s not absolute freedom, or true drag-and-drop design, but you can add as many pages as you’d like. You start with either a template or a blank page and simply add your content.

A sampling of the content you can add to your site
Doesn’t look like tons of options, but there’s more than meets the eye

Built-in Marketing Tools, Analytics Tools, and Third-Party Integrations Galore

Alright, let’s quickly discuss several small-but-important (and very related) features:

First, the email marketing tool. This is not a part of the Online Store app. It is a separate offering from Square that you can integrate with your store. From here, you can set up email campaigns and keep track of the leads and sales generated from your mailing list subscribers.

Secondly, there’s the Analytics Suite. It includes all of the traffic, tracking, and sales data you’re likely to need when you’re just starting out. No Google Analytics required. I should note, however, that visitors from the UK and the EU can turn off tracking. That might skew your results if you have a lot of customers from that part of the world.

Lastly, there are a lot of third-party integrations. You can integrate your site with Google Analytics (if you want it after all), Facebook Pixel, Instagram shopping, Facebook Messenger (for chatting directly with customers), G Suite, and even Google/Bing verification.

Yeah… Bing.

You Can Hire a Designer

Square has partnered with 99designs to make professional designers available on the Square Online Store platform. As web design goes, it’s not that expensive, especially when you consider that many web designers will charge thousands of dollars for their services.

Of course, you have to pay a bare minimum of around $100 for small one-page sites, so it’s not dirt-cheap, either. If you have a bit of a budget, and you want someone with a professional eye to get you set up, hiring a designer who knows the platform could be worth it.

There’s Also a Photo Studio Service

If you’re selling physical products, you can actually send the products to Square, and they’ll have photographers take pictures for you (and then send the products back to you). This might not work so well if you’re selling refrigerators, but the prices are pretty low overall. Depending on where you live, it might be cheaper than hiring a local photographer.See full list of features

Ease of use

3.5
The Online Store dashboard
Keep track of your sales and settings at a glance

Ease of Use Sort of Varies by Country

Okay, so what do I mean by that? Let me start by saying that overall, Square’s Online Store app is easy to learn and easy to use. The relative simplicity of its features and well-designed UI combine to create a beginner-friendly e-commerce experience.

Of course, if you’ve never used any site builder or online store builder before, there will be a learning curve. That can’t be avoided, and it’s fine. As long as you have a general idea of what products you want to display and what you want to charge for them, the rest is a matter of trial and error.

The only potential trouble comes from the poor implementation of region-locking. (Please bear with me while I get pretty annoyed.) Like I said in the Overview, Square is a payment processing company first and foremost. This store builder is just an add-on to Square’s main business of taking money from one bank account and putting it into another.

That payment processing service is available internationally, but it’s not available in every country. Specifically, it’s not available in Mexico, where I live. Because the Online Store app is tied to the payment processing, it’s not available in Mexico either. Square never made that clear on the app’s sign-up page.

Confusingly, you can start a business on Square that’s registered in Mexico, and use Square’s general sales-tracking features, without payment processing. With me so far?

I was able to open an account, but the online store app was nowhere to be seen. When I tried to go to Support, the support pages never fully loaded, and neither did the Contact page. Eventually, I was able to get to the Contact page after several tries, but make no mistake: Square’s entire support site is more or less region-locked.

It was only after I made a test account with a “business” that was registered in the United States, that I was able to access the Online Store builder. What’s more, the support pages all started loading properly. So yeah… just keep that in mind.

This poor implementation of region-locking is why the official Ease of Use score takes a pretty large hit. If Square Online Store isn’t available in your country, you should check out an alternative like Wix.

Clear Instructions Everywhere

Luckily, once you finally do create an account and register it properly, the user interface is very intuitive. Almost all of its functions are clearly labelled. There are also tooltips and little starting guides that can help you get going.

In short, you are not left entirely to your own devices.

The dedicated button for guides
The guide button is helpful, although I don’t like how close it is to the “Publish” button

Extensive Knowledge Base

If the user interface is still a little confusing, Square’s Support Center is there for you. Well, if you’re in the right country. There’s an extensive knowledge base that covers all of Square’s features, including the Online Store builder. If you’re stumped, you should start there.

Small Quality-of-Life Features

A site builder this simple might try to get away with ignoring the smaller details, but Square didn’t do that. For instance, it provides a mobile device preview for your website. Things like Undo and Redo buttons are always appreciated, too.

See if Square is Right for You

Support

4.5

Support Was Mostly Prompt and Helpful

I am very happy to report that Square’s support team is on top of things, and they’re generally ready to answer your questions. I was able to contact them via email, chat, and their phone line. Keep in mind that support operates during fairly standard business hours: 8 AM – 8 PM US Central Time on weekdays, 10 AM – 7 PM US Central on weekends.

Despite multiple warnings that they were experiencing a high volume of calls and live chats, I was able to reach a person in about half an hour or less for each mode of communication (email, chat, phone). That’s pretty impressive.

Email

I asked a simple question that was immediately on my mind: when will the Online Store be available in Mexico? The response I got 31 minutes later was… not as helpful as I would have liked.

It read, “[Employee] here with Weebly Customer Success, here to help! Square Point of Sale and online store is available for free in most countries listed in the App Store and Google Play.

While Square can be used internationally to record payments, track inventory, and grow your business – payment processing, including processing through Square’s API, is only available in specific countries. View the list of countries with payment processing. Payment card processing isn’t supported outside of the countries on this list.

We are looking to bring payment processing to other countries, and we’ll be sure to announce any further expansion. Please let me know if there is anything else that I can help you with!

The name has been changed to protect the guilty. I kid. Sort of. I needed specific information about my country, and got a generic answer with, “Go look!”

 the live chat support
Support is generally strong, but I did have to click an “I’ll keep waiting for help” button three times

Chat

This was a shorter wait, and I got lucky with a clear, concise answer. I asked what the limits were for the Online Store’s free plan, and about 20 minutes later (high volume, remember?), I got the answer you can see in the screenshot above.

To reiterate, you can sell up to 25 products for free. That’s actually not bad.

Phone

So I dusted off my Skype account and called the support hotline. Once again, recorded messages repeatedly said there would be longer than average wait times, but I was only on hold for about fifteen minutes. Believe me, I’ve had worse.

Once I got through to an actual human being, I had a few questions. I asked about the ETA for getting the Online Store app in Mexico (again), and I asked about Square’s refund policies, which I get into below.

I am happy to report that I got clear, concise answers this time, too. Specifically, there’s no ETA for Mexico getting service. At least, there’s none that the support rep could give me. She just said, “Sorry, I don’t know. There’s not an ETA that I know of.”

That is a completely acceptable answer. Just telling me she didn’t have the information was better than giving me vague suggestions.

Comparison

How does Square match up to the competition?

Wix Compare 4.9 Compare
Squarespace Compare 4.8 Compare
Square Compare 4.0 Compare
Google Sites Compare 3.0 Compare

Pricing

5.0
Overall, I think that the pricing for the Online Store app is perfectly fair, especially if you’re actually making money off your site. The cheapest paid plan is about $12.00 per month (if you pay annually), although that only lets you connect a custom domain.

More expensive plans also remove the Square ads from your site, provide unlimited storage, give you access to advanced site stats, allow customers to review your products, and offer many more advanced features. Unless you’re planning to run an enterprise-level store here (and I wouldn’t – I’d use one of these builders instead), the most expensive plan you should go for is the Performance plan. Anything more probably isn’t worth it.

Even if you’re not ready to lay down some money yet, the free plan is reasonable if your catalog is small. 25 products with 10 product variations is nothing to sneeze at, and maybe you don’t want anyone reviewing your products just yet. Wait ‘til you see how they sell.

As you’d expect from a credit card processor, Square accepts pretty much all credit cards. It has to. Oh, and you can pay via PayPal.

One more thing: I couldn’t actually pay for anything until I used a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to log into the site from a US server. So that’s a thing to keep in mind. Even if your business is in the US, you also have to be in the US (at least virtually) to actually pay.

Cancellations & Refunds

The refund policy is simple: if you pay for the annual plan, you can cancel from the dashboard at any time, within the first 30 days. You get all your money back.

If you pay by the month, however, you’ll have to cancel by contacting support. They’ll do it, and they’ll refund you the remaining balance for the month. So if you use your plan for two weeks before cancelling, you’ll get roughly half the money you spent back.

I cancelled by email because I signed up for the monthly plan on this test. It was simple: I sent the email from the on-site email form, and they cancelled my account with minimal fuss.

User reviews

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Bottom line on Square

Square’s Online Store app is a simple, beginner-friendly solution that won’t break the bank. If you’re in a country where Square is actively operating, you’re set. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who wants to extensively customize their own site, however, or for anyone who needs a more established and feature-loaded e-commerce solution. In these situations, you’d be better off with Wix or any other option from our list of the top website builders

But for your first store? To sell your first book of homemade enchilada recipes? It’s not a bad solution.

Ezequiel Bruni
Ezequiel Bruni
Ezequiel Bruni is biologically Canadian, legally Mexican, and self identifies as a total nerd. He's been a web and experience designer off and on since he was a teenager, and loves sharing the kind of beginner's advice he really wishes he'd had when he first started. He also loves video games, tacos, open source software, video games, sci-fi and fantasy in all their forms, and video games. He does not love writing in the third person.

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