Squarespace has been one of my favorites for a while, and writing this review has done nothing to change that. It’s not the cheapest option out there, but if you’re ready to build a site and even make some money off it, then I’d say go for Squarespace. Read on to find out if it has the features you need.
Squarespace: The Final Frontier
Out of a sense of honesty, I have to tell you that I personally like Squarespace a lot. I’ve tested and reviewed it for other articles, and if I wasn’t so personally obsessed with building websites the hard way (as in, with code), I’d probably use Squarespace (if not WordPress.com; I guess it would depend on the project).
This review was fun to write because Squarespace released a whole new template system and made some significant changes to its editor in the last year or so. Now, does that mean it’s right for your portfolio, business site, or online store? It depends.
Squarespace is a premium service through and through, with not even a hint of a free plan, just a 14-day free trial. It’s designed for people who want good-looking, highly professional portfolio sites or business sites, and anyone who wants to run an online store. That said, it doesn’t give you as much creative freedom as other builders, and if you’re not planning on monetizing your website, the expense might be too high.
Read on to find out if Squarespace is worth the investment for your site.
Before I get all nerdy on you, let’s cover the basics: Squarespace works more or less how you’d expect. You can choose from 60+ preset designs, customize them to your liking, and go from there. These preset designs cover the needs of just about every major industry in 14 different categories, from blogs to weddings. Yeah, I wish I could say “from A to Z,” but they don’t have any categories that start with either letter.
You can just pick a template and go, and if you change your mind, you can alter the design at any time. You can’t just switch to a new preset, exactly, but you can change yours drastically if you want to. These preset designs are mobile-responsive, and they’re designed to be adapted to any needs you might have.
Let me make my opinion abundantly clear: these pre-made designs are pretty. They trend toward a sort of flat, Apple-style minimalism – but then, so does the whole platform. That minimalism is Squarespace’s “thing.”
But if you don’t find a template that matches what you’re looking for, don’t worry. You’re not limited to Squarespace’s default designs. You can customize them all, or hire people to do it for you. You can also have a highly customized version of a template built for you, if you use Squarespace’s developer platform. You’ll just have to pay for it.
Now let’s go a little deeper. Technically speaking, Squarespace only has one “template.” Well, you might call it a “template framework.”
Once upon a time, Squarespace was like every other site builder. There were a bunch of different site templates, which were supposed to cover just about every need you could think of. On the technical side of things, each template was its own separate pile of code.
For Squarespace, that meant updating every single template whenever a new feature came out on their platform. For the user, it meant that some templates were far more flexible and customizable than others, and they all had their limitations. If you wanted to build a highly specialized website, that was fine. If you wanted to expand that website, there were potential complications.
Enter Squarespace version 7.1. Now, all templates are actually just variations on the same template – the same big pile of code – which is the same “framework” I was referring to earlier. This framework is designed to be highly flexible and modular, so you can build almost any sort of layout you want, and use any colors and fonts you want – the whole works.
For the developers at Squarespace, this means their whole platform is way easier to work with. For you, as a user, this means you can actually change the entire look and feel of your site in just a few clicks. The changes can be as radical or as subtle as you like, and you won’t lose all of your content.
It’s a good system. But if you want to, you can actually choose to still use an older version of Squarespace, with all of their old templates. So that’s cool too.
All the Features a New (or Semi-Pro) Designer Might Need
Like most of the better-known site builders, Squarespace strives for a balance between giving new website owners an easy way to build what they need, and giving more experienced designers/developers a place to build whatever they want. In this case, that balance is clearly weighted toward beginners.
It’s easy to add what you need, even on the basic plan. Want a calendar? Appointment bookings? A store? Just click a button or two, and you’ll have it. You can even create an extra set of pages and make a multilingual site with minimal effort.
If you want to use custom templates or any custom code, on the other hand, you’ll have to shell out some cash for one of the more expensive plans. This is true of almost every site builder, so it’s not out of the ordinary.
I’d categorize this editor as sort of… semi-drag-and-drop. When you edit a page, you start the process by adding “sections” or “content blocks,” which are just that: sections of page layout or site functionality, pre-configured for easy use.
These range from simple text blocks, to food menus, to contact forms, to “About The Team” image galleries. More complex blocks include social media icons, RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, all-the-other-social-media feeds, charts, Amazon products, appointment scheduling forms, calendars, e-commerce products and… well, plenty of others.
Once you’ve chosen the content block you need, the drag-and-drop stuff begins. You can drag elements around to fit the layout you like, within given parameters. This isn’t Wix. You can’t just put anything wherever you want on any page. The flexibility of a Squarespace site’s layout has limits, which are designed to keep your site looking consistent and properly spaced.
This is a double-edged sword. On the one side, you don’t have a lot of room to fully express your creativity. On the other side of the blade, I have yet to encounter a Squarespace site that actually looks truly bad, or is super hard to use – unlike some Wix websites I’ve stumbled upon.
That said, there’s still a lot you can do, layout-wise. You can find the pre-set content blocks that give you the layout you want and tweak them. Or, you can add a blank content block and build a basic layout yourself by adding columns, spacing, and content as you see fit.
E-commerce Is Kind of a Big Deal
We’re going to spend a long minute or two on e-commerce, because Squarespace’s store functionality is actually one of its biggest selling points. Adding a store to your site is literally as simple as clicking a couple buttons, answering a couple questions, and letting Squarespace do the work.
Well, I’m talking mostly about the design work. Actually adding products is up to you. If you have an existing store elsewhere on the internet, you can save time and import your products via a .CSV file.
Other features included allow you to:
Accept payments in a variety of ways (PayPal, Stripe, Square)
Get automatic tax calculation
Sell both digital and physical products
Offer discounts and sales
Sell gift cards
Create mailing lists
Sell via social media
Get an automatic shipping fee calculation (via Fedex and UPS, but only for the U.S.)
Create shipping zones
Schedule in-store pickup
On the front end, the store takes on the same general style and feel as the rest of your site. You can change the layout of the store page, but your options are somewhat limited, due to the nature of online stores. You can also change how individual product pages look, again with limits on the layout.
The UI (User Interface) for managing your products is detailed, but still simple to learn. Give it a whirl, and soon you’ll be adding images, different pricing for variations of the same product, and forms to collect additional information from customers. You can even change the “Add to Cart” text to something more ambitious, like, “Add This Product to Your Life.”
Or, maybe don’t do that. That was awful.
My point is that it’s a fully featured store. To get anything more complex, you’d have to go to an e-commerce-focused platform like Shopify or… I dunno… Amazon. I mean, you can even connect your Squarespace store to Amazon, and have them handle the shipping for you. Or you can print your own shipping labels via Shipstation.
Another thing you can do is send automatic emails to customers who’ve abandoned products in their digital shopping carts. Okay, as a frequent online shopper, I will ask you not to do this. I really don’t need more clutter in my email. Still, I hear it’s an effective strategy for many stores, and Squarespace gives you the option.
The only “downside” is that you specifically have to pay for one of Squarespace’s Business plans to use the store functionality at all, and these plans aren’t cheap. They’re a bit more expensive than Wix’s comparable plans, and a lot more expensive than a service like Zyro. But hey, the idea is that you’re going to make money off your site, right?
Squarespace isn’t my favorite blogging platform by any stretch, but it’s still pretty good. The blog module can save drafts, schedule posts, add tags, and categorize them to your liking. You can set posts to be reviewed by colleagues before publishing, choose whether or not to show the author’s name and profile, and even change fonts and colors for individual posts.
My favorite feature, by far, is the actual editor. While many site builders have a separate interface for writing blog posts, Squarespace lets you edit them the same way you edit any other page: right there on the page itself. What you see is exactly what you get.
Now, you can’t do complex layouts like you can with a regular page, but it’s still pretty great. You can add image galleries, slideshows, videos (of course), audio, tag clouds, charts, and more.
Like any other page, blogs posts also have all the basic SEO options and social sharing tools you might want. You can set meta titles and descriptions for search engines, set up how your blog post will be previewed on social media sites, and even send blog posts out as newsletters when you publish them.
There Are Third-Party Integrations Galore
Squarespace doesn’t work alone, and is actually integrated with a lot of external services/other websites. These integrations basically allow Squarespace to expand its functionality. They allow your website to connect to other platforms – for example, you could cross-promote all of your blog posts on social media. They also allow you to embed things like maps, YouTube videos, restaurant menus, and more.
Some of the integrations include:
A Google Maps block
An OpenTable block for restaurant booking
A SoundCloud block
A video block that supports YouTube, Vimeo, Animoto, and Wistia
Apple News integration for cross-publishing your blog to the Apple News app
Apple Pay, PayPal, Stripe, and Square integration for payment processing
Fedex and UPS shipping rate calculation
Adobe Fonts and Google Fonts
G Suite, for those who use Google Drive for everything
The User Interface May Be Flat, But It Still Has a Learning Curve
I’ve found Squarespace to be simple, intuitive, and generally easy on my eyes and brain. However, I’ve been doing this web stuff for a long time, and the way Squarespace works just… works for me.
For someone brand new to building websites, there will be a bit to learn. It won’t be hard, probably, but you’ll want to have an hour or two of extra time to become familiar with the basic systems, how to add content to a page, how to publish your site and make it all live, all that good stuff.
I’d be remiss not to admit that I’ve heard rumblings of discontent around the internet. Even some other career professionals don’t find the user interface quite as simple as I do. I think for some, it’s a matter of taste and how their brains are wired.
Still, if you need help, you’ll get it.
You can start by reading all about how to use Squarespace, or you can jump right in. As soon as you begin, a starter questionnaire of sorts will ask you what kind of site you want to build. Once you actually start editing your website, there are tutorials and tips built right into the interface to explain everything.
There’s also a blog that’s full of advice on design in general, webinars about Squarespace, and an extensive collection of help guides in the knowledge base. Since this site builder has been around for years, the support team has certainly had the time to put together a comprehensive set of guides to teach you just about everything you need to know.
At this point, all of that material is used for marketing as much as it is for teaching, but hey, I’ll never begrudge a company that knows how to multitask.
Built-In Marketing, SEO, and Scheduling Tools
Naturally, the goal isn’t just to build your site on Squarespace. The goal is to make your site/business wildly successful. To that end, there are several built-in tools designed to help you market and promote yourself with minimal effort.
There’s a whole slew of marketing tools, including social share buttons, Pinterest buttons, Instagram stories, Facebook ads, and (horror of horrors) promotional pop-ups. I previously mentioned Mailchimp integration, but Squarespace also has its own email marketing platform that, while a bit less advanced than Mailchimp, is free to use if you already paid for your site.
Squarespace also has a basic but effective set of SEO features to help make your site (and individual pieces of content) easier to find via Google and other search engines. If you’re willing to pay extra, you can even hire a “Squarespace SEO Expert.” Yeah, apparently they have those.
One new-ish tool is the Scheduling tool. It does scheduling (go figure). If your business depends on in-person appointments, you can use this functionality to take appointments, manage your available time, send automatic reminders to customers (so they’ll be more likely to show up), create intake forms, and more.
Choose Stock Photos Right in the Editor
Okay, this is a smaller feature, but it’s cool all the same. If you don’t have the time or budget to hire a photographer, stock photography is your friend. You can find free stock photos (provided by sites like Unsplash) and premium paid stock photos alike, right in the site editor. No need to download or resize anything, just pick the photo you need, and go.
The Support Team Is Prompt and Helpful
When you need help, Squarespace’s team is there. I mean, they are on top of things. The main support channels include a combined email/ticket system, live chat, and a community forum.
Something we do in every review is test out a few different support channels by asking questions. I actually did this once before in my review of Squarespace’s Logo Maker, but I ran the experiment again, just for all of you.
Oh, they also do offer help on their Twitter account, but I didn’t test that one. Here’s what I did test:
Since I was working on my Ultimate Guide to Choosing Domain Names and I had domains on my mind, I sent in a ticket asking if it would be possible to buy a domain on Squarespace (like mywebsite.com), make a subdomain (like server.mywebsite.com), and then point that subdomain elsewhere on the internet. Like, to a private server, perhaps.
A member of the team responded in about six hours and said yes, I could do exactly that. They provided very helpful, specific guidance in their response.
Since I was pulling an all-nighter anyway, I was able to access their live chat support. Live chat is available Monday to Friday, 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time, and my schedule usually doesn’t match theirs, but this time they responded in mere minutes.
I asked, “I’ve noticed that Squarespace has lots of SEO features, but what if I want to discourage search engines from crawling my site, or portions of it? Is there any way to do that?” Turns out you can absolutely do that. If for some reason, you want people, but not Google, to find your stuff, the development team has thought of this.
Technically, the support team isn’t responsible for answering questions here. Nonetheless, I got a fairly quick response from a fellow Squarespace user with the information I needed. I asked if there’s any way to build a site on this platform without using cookies on the front end. Apparently, there isn’t.
Also, the story in the screenshot is entirely true.
With no free plan at all, Squarespace isn’t the cheapest site builder on the market, especially if you pay per month. Seriously, paying for an annual plan will save you a ton, but there are still cheaper options. Even so, I honestly believe that for the quality of the service provided, these prices are fair.
All plans come with a domain that’s free for the first year, and it only takes the second-cheapest plan (Business) to gain access to store functions. Upgrading to the Business plan also gives you access to professional email from Google, more content blocks, advanced analytics, and the ability to accept donations.
Upgrade further, and you get the ability to let users register for their own accounts on your site, as well as more analytics, more merchandising tools, the ability to sell via Instagram, and more. In fact, most of the advanced features are e-commerce-related. If you plan to build an online store, make a list of the features you need, and check to see which plan includes them all.
All that said, while I think the prices are fair, there are services (such as Wix) which simply offer more features for less money.
Cancellations & Refunds
The refunds system is fairly simple. Squarespace only offers refunds for plans that have been paid for on an annual basis, and only within the first 14 days of the first payment.
Pretty simple stuff, right? Not the absolute best terms, but simple. To test this out, I actually forked over my own cash for a year’s supply of Squarespace, and cancelled just a few hours later. It went well. Literally all I needed to do was go to the billing section of my site and cancel it, and that was done.
I double-checked things with customer support, and that also went smoothly. Refunds come back in about three to ten business days. Since I followed their policy to the letter, and it all worked as intended, I certainly can’t complain.
So yeah, two weeks to be really, really sure that you like the product. I figure that’s fair.
Bad Bad Bad No response website does't work even after you sign up and pay major rip off.Tried to get in contact no way to do it over and over again when we fist tried it worked then it never worked.We emailed we tried to ask for help no response . Bad bad bad left out to dry.
I quote from your review "Squarespace is the best most intuitive, cleanest website builder. I use it for every client" and yet within the site you built with it you recommend WIX as best website builder...???
However, if you’re ready to build a site and make some money off it, if you have a solid plan, and you know Squarespace has all the features you need, then I’d say go for it. Just make sure it’s what you want, then pay for the annual plan.
‘Cause my god, those monthly plans are expensive.
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.