Squarespace Review (2019) — Full List of Pros and Cons
In this in-depth Squarespace review, we go through key aspects of the product that you absolutely need to consider before committing to it. Read on for a thorough examination of its design, content management and e-commerce features (and much else besides!).
Our overall rating: 4/5
The website and online store builder market seems to be getting larger by the day, with a huge number of web apps now available promising to make creating a 'beautiful' website a breeze.
This ever growing list includes Squarespace, Wix, Bigcommerce, Shopify, Moonfruit, Pixpa, Jimdo, Weebly, WordPress...the sheer quantity of site building platforms now available makes deciding which one to use rather difficult.
In this review we're going to take a really in-depth look at one of the more established tools, Squarespace (it's been around since 2004) and zoom in on the key pros and cons of the product.
By the end of this review, you should have worked out if it's the right solution for your business needs (and we'll also suggest some alternatives if you feel it isn't).
So, read on to get:
an overview of what Squarespace is, and what it does
a good idea of which Squarespace plan might work for you
an evaluation of its templates and key features
the key reasons you might want to use Squarespace or plump for a competing product.
Let’s start with the first question — what exactly is Squarespace?
1. What is Squarespace?
The concept behind Squarespace is simple: it's an website publishing platform that lets you
build a professional site online without coding
edit your site easily thanks to a user-friendly content management system (CMS).
In other words, rather than loading Dreamweaver or a similar package up and banging out lines of CSS and HTML to construct a site, you do it all online using Squarespace’s templates and style editor.
You pick a template, click on the bits of the design you want to tweak, and then adjust controllers to change them. For example, you can click on some text and apply a new typeface, click on a background and change its colour and so on.
But in general, Squarespace is a product that is not designed for those who want to tinker too much: it is a platform which encourages you to pick a template, add some text and images and hit the go button.
This approach to website building has its pros and cons, and we'll go through them below — after a quick look at pricing.
2. Squarespace pricing
Squarespace provides four pricing options.
The available plans are as follows:
Personal — $16 per month
Business — $26 per month
Basic Commerce — $30 per month
Advanced Commerce — $46 per month
If you pay upfront for a year, then the costs for the five plans average out respectively at $12, $18, $26 and $40 per month.
Key differences between the Squarespace plans
In terms of the key differences between the plans, some of the main things to look out for are:
Whether or not you can sell products
The 'Personal' Squarespace plan is the only one which doesn’t allow you to sell products — e-commerce functionality is not provided on this plan at all. All other plans allow you to sell an unlimited number of products and accept donations via your site.
Whether or not you can add CSS or scripts to your site
The 'Personal' Squarespace plan doesn't let you style your site with your own CSS. Nor does it let you add scripts to your site (to the header or footer sections — you can add code blocks to individual pages, however).
Theoretically, this shouldn’t be an issue for many users — the idea being after all that Squarespace is a code-free solution — but if you plan on integrating certain third-party services into your site via code injection, you may hit a brick wall.
The number of contributors you can have to your site
The 'Personal' plan restricts the number of contributors to your site to 2.
G Suite (formerly Google Apps)
You'll get a year's free G Suite account on the 'Business' plans and up.
Google Adwords credit
If you're based in the US or Canada, you'll get $100 Google Adwords credit on the $18 'Business' plans and up. This allows you to try out Google's PPC advertising options.
So long as you are based in the US, the 'Basic Commerce' and 'Advanced Commerce' Squarespace plans allow you to avail of integrated accounting via Xero. As this is an industry leading accounting solution used by many small businesses worldwide, this is a good option to have.
You can avoid transaction fees on the 'Basic Commerce' and 'Advanced Commerce' plans. If you plump for the 'Business' plan, however, you can expect to pay 3% of transactions.
If you’re on a ‘Basic Commerce’ or ‘Advanced Commerce’ plan, and based in the US, UK, Australia or Canada, you can make use of Shipstation to print your postage labels.
You can only make use of Squarespace's 'premium blocks and integrations' if you're on a 'Business' plan or higher. These allow you to connect your site to third party apps and services like Amazon, Opentable, Acuity and Chownow.
However, the most significant integration for most users will often be the Mailchimp one; and unless you are on the Business plan or higher, you won't be able to use your Squarespace site to capture data onto your Mailchimp mailing list (out of the box at least — there is a workaround involving embedding forms on pages via Mailchimp code).
Promotional pop-ups / mobile information bars
On the $26 per month 'Business' plans and higher you can use Squarespace's promotional pop-ups. These allow you to highlight particular offers etc. on your site or ask users to sign up to your mailing list.
Abandoned cart autorecovery
Abandoned cart autorecovery — a way of identifying and automatically emailing users who put items in their carts only to not complete a purchase — is only available on the most expensive plan ('Advanced Commerce').
Squarespace's pricing compared to its competitors
With regard to how Squarespace pricing stacks up against competing products, it is generally more expensive than competing website building tools such as Wix, Jimdo and Moonfruit; and unlike Wix, Squarespace does not offer a totally free plan (you can try the product free for 14 days, however).
That said, it's probably fair to say that Squarespace provides a slicker user experience and, in the right hands, often a better end result than these products.
When it comes to how Squarespace's pricing structure compares to more dedicated e-commerce solutions such as Shopify and Bigcommerce, its 'Basic Commerce' $30 per month plan is in broadly line with comparable offerings from both — Shopify’s $29 ‘Basic’ plan and Bigcommerce’s $29.95 ‘Standard’ plan.
Squarespace's 'Advanced Commerce' plan is considerably cheaper than the top-end plans provided by Shopify and Bigcommerce. That said, these competing products do provide important e-commerce functionality that Squarespace doesn’t — particularly where payment gateways, tax rates and point of sale functionality are involved, along with more comprehensive support options (more on all that later in the review).
Squarespace's 'Personal' plan - one to avoid?
Of the Squarespace plans discussed in this review, I would argue that Squarespace's 'Personal' plan is best avoided, for quite a few reasons:
it doesn't facilitate e-commerce
it doesn't let you add CSS, restricting your ability to customize the appearance of your site
it doesn’t allow you to add scripts, restricting your ability to add functionality to your site
it doesn't let you capture email addresses onto Mailchimp (or use Zapier to send it to another email marketing tool)
it doesn't let you use promotional pop-ups (which studies show increase visitor-to-email-subscriber conversion rates significantly)
it doesn't let you add an announcement bar
In my view, these omissions render the Personal Plan suitable for only the most basic of users.
So if you're serious about building a professional website with Squarespace, you will in all likelihood need to buy a 'Business' or higher plan. This means that your monthly costs will be $26 — a good bit higher than they would be if you opted for entry-level plans on competing products like Wix or Jimdo.
That said, Squarespace is in many ways a nicer platform to use — particularly for those new to web design — and the more expensive Squarespace plans do come with some great features.
Let's take a look at some of them, starting with the templates.
3. What are Squarespace templates and design features like?
Quality of templates
Squarespace templates are very attractive and have a slick, contemporary look and feel — in my view outclassing the offering from most other similar hosted site building tools.
Whilst the number of templates available for Squarespace is dwarfed by the the thousands available for WordPress, there's nonetheless a decent range available: there are around 90 available at the moment. (It’s worth noting however that with the roll-out of Squarespace 7.1 — more on which later — this number is going to drop to around 60).
In terms of how these numbers stack up against the free template offering from other website builder products, they make Squarespace more generous than Shopify and Bigcommerce (which only offer a few free templates), but less generous than Wix.
One thing I'd say about Squarespace templates is that the majority of them work best if professional, eye-catching photography is used. If you are considering using Squarespace, it makes sense to invest some thought and time in getting some great pictures for your site before you start building it. And speaking of which…
Stock images in Squarespace
One of the really great things about Squarespace is that it provides you with access to all of Unsplash’s image library out of the box — meaning that you get access to a large number of royalty free images that you can add directly to your site.
When adding an image to a page, you just click a ‘search for image’ option and you can choose a picture from Unsplash to insert into it.
And, if the quality of the Unsplash library doesn’t quite float your boat, there is also an option to buy images directly from Getty — these images cost $10 each, which is not unreasonable. Again, it’s really easy to purchase and insert these images into your site.
I've found both the Unsplash and Getty options extremely useful when building sites in Squarespace for clients who don't have any pictures to hand. In some cases, the stock photography feature has contributed positively to the overall corporate design of my clients' websites — and has been particularly helpful when a client has not given any thought to the branding or imagery end of things (something that happens rather more than I’d like!).
A huge range of web fonts, 1000 Adobe and 600+ Google ones, are available out of the box — far more than provided by many competing website building platforms. These further augment the look and feel of any site built in Squarespace.
How do Squarespace sites look on a mobile?
All Squarespace templates are fully responsive, meaning that a mobile / tablet-optimised version of your site is automatically generated for users viewing your site on those devices. Not only does this make your site more accessible to a wider range of users, it can provide some SEO benefits too.
Additionally, you can enable AMP — Accelerated Mobile Pages — on Squarespace sites. AMP is a Google-backed project which aims to speed up the delivery of content on mobile devices through the use of stripped down code known as AMP HTML.
This creates a much faster version of your pages for mobile users and reduces the number of visitors who abandon your site due to lengthy loading times. AMP can also provide some SEO benefits, because Google prioritizes some AMP content in carousels displayed above search results.
Enabling AMP in Squarespace is extremely easy (it's just a case of ticking a box in your site settings), but it's important to note that currently, you can only use it with blog posts. It would be nice if you could enable AMP for products too; this is something you can do with competing products Shopify (via an add-on app) and Bigcommerce.
If you enable AMP on your Squarespace blog posts, you'll need to be aware that only some types of content will display on the AMP version of your post. Things like videos, images and text are fine — but if your post has any embedded forms or custom code in it, a 'click here for original post' link will be displayed. This is a poor user experience which Google discourages.
All in all though, there's a lot to like about AMP in Squarespace, and in most contexts it makes sense to switch it on. However, if you do so, make sure you always review your blog posts carefully on a mobile (to ensure that there are no holes in your content) before sharing them widely.
Editing the template design
It’s a bit of a confusing situation at the moment with regard to editing template design in Squarespace. This is because there are currently two versions of Squarespace available, 7.0 and 7.1, and they behave quite differently in the design department.
(The latter is in ‘early access’ — until it becomes the de facto version, only a randomly selected group of new Squarespace users will be on it.)
Both versions generally make it easy to configure a Squarespace template to your liking. You can use a menu of styling options on the left hand side of the screen to adjust how components — displayed on the right — appear. You can adjust things like fonts, colours, site width and so on with a minimum of fuss.
Squarespace 7.1 differs from 7.0 in the design department however in that
there are, on the whole, more design options available in 7.1 (particularly where text spacing and colour palettes are concerned)
all Squarespace 7.1 templates offer the same design options; by contrast, in 7.0 the design controls available to you differ by template
Squarespace 7.1 allows you to make design changes in real-time as you edit content — this is not the case with Squarespace 7.0, where you’ll always need to navigate to a separate section to make design tweaks
Squarespace 7.0 allows you to change certain aspects of your mobile site; 7.1 doesn’t.
you can’t add sidebars to Squarespace 7.1 blogs.
Both 7.0 and 7.1 allow you to add your own custom CSS to your site — code that allows you to change the appearance of it (this is useful when you really want to make a change to your website’s appearance that Squarespace’s design controls just don’t permit).
You won't be able to see the full CSS stylesheet in Squarespace, but you can add your own CSS rules to change the appearance of certain items on your site. However, it’s important to note that if you do add your own CSS, Squarespace's support team reserves the right to limit the kind of support they give you.
Many competing products are better than Squarespace when it comes to providing full control over the templates — Shopify and Bigcommerce, for example, provide you with complete access to your site's CSS and HTML on all plans.
Although there are ways to make additions to CSS and HTML in the standard version of Squarespace, you can only get full access to both if you're using the developers' version (which, as the name suggests, is really more appropriate for use by developers than people hoping to build a website by themselves). And, the developer’s version isn’t actually available for Squarespace 7.1.
One particularly nice feature of Squarespace is the video backgrounds design feature - this can turn an already nice-looking Squarespace template into a stunning one.
You can basically use any Youtube URL to create a looped video background for your Squarespace site; you can also apply a range of filters to this, and speed up or slow it down.
The results can be eye-poppingly good, and I expect that many potential users of Squarespace will fall in love with the product based on this feature alone.
Some minor improvements could be made to Squarespace video backgrounds however: first, it would be good to be able to set start and end points for your video loop, so that certain parts of the video which might not work as a background (for example, logo-heavy introductions to a corporate video) can be bypassed easily.
Second, it would be great to be able to upload the video background directly to Squarespace itself (like you can do in Wix). This would do away with having to create unlisted (but still publicly available) videos on Youtube.
Third, it would be good to be able to display videos with sound — or give visitors an option to do this. (There’s a nice but paid-for workaround available for this however — check out this background video controls plugin).
Finally on the subject of Squarespace video backgrounds, it's important to note that these only work on some devices — a 'mobile fallback' image that you specify will be used on mobile browsers that don't support them.
Designing logos with Squarespace
A useful feature included with Squarespace is a logo designing app.
A selection of symbols and typefaces are provided in the app which you can use to create a simple logo. As the video below highlights, you drop your text and symbols onto a grid, move things about a bit and, when you're happy with the results, you can download a hi-res version of your logo which can be used either on your site or on printed material.
The logo designing app will come in extremely useful for many users, but it does have its limitations.
The first is that there's a very limited selection of typefaces available — nothing like the number that are available to you when building a Squarespace site, which means you may not be able to make the branding on your logo consistent with the typefaces used on your site.
The second is that you can't upload any images into the tool (i.e., if the symbols provided out of the box aren't to your liking, you’re stuck).
Despite these flaws, Squarespace's logo app is definitely a good option for users who are on a tight budget and, used judiciously, it is capable of providing you with professional results. Check out the video below for an overview of how it works.
Interestingly, the logo app is available for use by non-Squarespace users too — if you go to https://logo.squarespace.com/ you can create a logo with it and pay a $10 fee to download the results.
Interestingly, the logo app is available for use by non-Squarespace users too — if you go to https://logo.squarespace.com/ you can create a logo with it and pay a $10 fee to download the results.
4. How does content management in Squarespace work?
There is a LOT to like about Squarespace's approach to content management. Let's go through some of the good stuff first.
Squarespace's 'layout engine' is very simple to use and lets you drag and drop 'content blocks' anywhere on your site (images, text, forms, videos, code snippets etc.). This makes for very flexible, attractive presentation of content — in my view, it’s one of the best interfaces available in a product of this kind.
Content blocks that you can add to a page include:
galleries (in slideshow, grid, carousel, or stack format)
...and that's just a few examples really.
There are lots of ways to lay out different types of content in Squarespace; you can use the platform to put something really attractive together, and really quickly, too. It's also really easy to tweak the position of your content blocks; it's just a case of grabbing an element and dropping it in another location on the page.
Additionally, when you set up a page, you can choose from a range of pre-defined page layouts — for example contact pages, about pages, team pages etc. — which can further speed things up. These are a bit of a godsend to website-building novices who are not terribly familiar with the best ways to lay out content.
Working with images in Squarespace is great; its image manipulation and management tools comprise some of the platform's strongest features.
You can resize, crop or rotate any image you add to your site with ease in Squarespace. You can also pick a 'focal point' in images; this helps ensure that no matter which device a user is viewing your site on, the part of the image you care the most about is always on display.
In this day and age of responsive websites, where images are resized according to device, this can be a bit of a design lifesaver, ensuring that your images always 'make sense' regardless of the device you're using.
In terms of using galleries and slideshows, there are several different presentation options (including slideshows, carousels and grids) and all look excellent. This makes Squarespace a particularly attractive option for photographers.
As discussed earlier, another nice aspect of working with images in Squarespace is that you can browse Unsplash and Getty images directly within Squarespace and insert them really easily into your site (for free in the case of Unsplash; for $10 per image with Getty).
There is one thing I don't like about Squarespace and images however: depending on the template, adding introductory text to gallery pages is often a tricky thing to do. And with some templates, you have to wait until all your images have loaded before users can use the previous / next controls, which can be a bit of a problem if you have galleries containing a very large number of images (particularly large images).
An unusual but potentially useful feature in Squarespace is its 'charting' functionality. This lets you drop some data into Squarespace and use it to create a pie chart, line chart or bar chart. These look good and are a handy way to include a visualisation of your data in your site content.
A related feature that's missing however is the ability to insert tables into Squarespace pages and posts. I routinely get requests from clients to add tables into Squarespace sites and it's always a faff which involves either coding and styling something manually or creating JPG versions of tables. It’s a bit of a mystery to me as to why Squarespace don’t provide the functionality to create a table easily.
What is Squarespace like as a blogging platform?
Well, first the good stuff:
Unlike some competing platforms, you can have as many blogs as you like on your site. This is useful, because you can create different blogs for different types of content (news, reviews, tutorials and so on). Or, alternatively - and as you'd do in Wordpress - you can stick with one blog and use categories and tags to split out your posts in various ways.
You can create really stylish summary blocks of your blog and drop them into any page of your site, and filter these so that the most relevant posts for a particular context are displayed. Anyone who is interested in creating a magazine style layout for their site will love this.
As discussed earlier, you can enable AMP on your blog posts, which means that they will load super-fast for your users (something that may provide you with a slight bump in search results).
There are however, some flaws in Squarespace's blogging setup that do need to be pointed out:
There's no autosave. This is a pretty serious omission and it can lead to lost content (for example if your browser crashes mid-sentence, or you accidentally delete part of a post).
There's no archive of older versions of posts.
If you want to update an existing post, you can't work on a draft version and publish it when you're ready; you have to update the live version (that said, you can create a duplicate of an existing post, update the content and disable the older one, thus sort of solving the problem — a bit of a messy process though).
We'll discuss some of these problems in more depth in the 'CMS problems' and 'Squarespace and SEO' sections below. Before that, let’s take a look at something called ‘cover pages.’
Squarespace cover pages
On the subject of content and content layout, it's worth dwelling a moment on Squarespace Cover Pages. These are visually impressive one-page websites that you can use to create a nice welcome page for your site or as a landing page for marketing campaigns.
Although, thanks to their beautiful templates, cover pages can look absolutely fantastic (see example below) they don't really work too well as landing pages for online advertising campaigns (a potentially important use for them). This because they don't currently allow you to add code blocks containing the HTML for your email marketing tool (Aweber, Getresponse and so on).
Code blocks are vital if the primary purpose of your landing page is to capture email addresses, get Facebook likes, process a transaction and so on.
Cover Pages do permit you to use form blocks to capture data; but there is a problem with this too, in that you are required to place your form behind a button (you click the button and then the data capture form appears in a lightbox). In most instances, landing pages convert best when the form is entirely visible, not hidden behind other elements. This 'additional click to see the form' situation is not at all ideal.
Cover Pages also limit how you can lay out your content — unlike normal Squarespace pages, there's no drag and drop functionality, so if a layout aspect of a cover page isn't working for you, it's not particularly tweakable.
As things stand, Squarespace's cover pages are good for showcasing content but not as data capture tools. I frequently use them for creating little EPKs (electronic press kits) for music projects, but because of the constraints on forms I don't really rate Squarespace cover pages — yet — as serious marketing tools.
They do have the potential to be extremely useful however, and hopefully Squarespace will make them more flexible in future.
So far, things look pretty good with the CMS side of things...but let's take a look at some of the less-fantastic aspects of using Squarespace to manage content.
Importing and exporting content
As discussed above, there are technically two versions of Squarespace available, 7.0 and 7.1.
While 7.0 is reasonably flexible with regard to content import and export (its main flaw being that it doesn’t allow you to export digital products), as things stand, Squarespace 7.1 doesn’t facilitate content import or export at all.
This makes migrating from a Squarespace site to another platform — something users will inevitably need to do if their requirements outgrow Squarespace’s capabilitie — very difficult. Accordingly, if you envisage a situation where you might need to export a large number of blog posts or products to another platform, it’s worth approaching Squarespace with a large degree of caution.
Another problem involves levels of navigation: as things stand Squarespace is not really a suitable tool for creating large websites.
Yes, most plans allow you to create an unlimited number of pages — but you can't use Squarespace to create a navigation system to organise them properly. In practice the platform only permits you to create very flat websites, with a maximum of two levels of navigation.
In a way this is a good thing, because your site will end up being easy to navigate; but some businesses — particularly those offering a wide or complex range of services — will inevitably require a deeper website hierarchy and a suitable navigation system to facilitate this.
Squarespace’s ‘folder’ system further restricts things, because it prevents parent pages from being visited — i.e., if you have a ‘Services’ down-menu containing several sub pages, users can only access the sub pages. This makes sense for mobile navigation, but it’s confusing for desktop users, who may expect to be able to click on a parent page for an overview of the whole section.
A potentially more serious problem with using Squarespace as a content management system is that — unlike WordPress for example — it doesn't automatically keep a history of changes to your website. This means that if you accidentally mess up a page (or worse, delete it entirely), you can't restore an earlier version.
That's not to say that Squarespace doesn't back up your site — the company says that it keeps copies of its customers' content in multiple locations and that your data is safe with the company.
But the fact that the Squarespace help page on troubleshooting lost content encourages you to try to retrieve accidentally deleted content by using the Wayback Machine or visiting a cached version of a page does not really inspire confidence…
There's no autosave functionality on pages or posts!
That's pretty shocking really, and users writing long pages or posts will inevitably get bitten by that at some point (like I did with this review).
Sure, there are ways you can manually save your content — copying and pasting text from Squarespace into a text editor, creating duplicate posts, or hitting the save button after every paragraph...but it feels archaic and shouldn't really need to be done in the era of cloud computing we now live in.
Creating multiple language versions of a Squarespace site
Users who wish to use Squarespace to create a website for a company operating in many different locations or languages may also be disappointed — Squarespace is not really designed to let you create a network of multiple sites using the same design.
In other words, you couldn't really use Squarespace to host a full UK version of your site at www.yoursite.com/uk/ and a full German version at www.yoursite.com/de/. WordPress Multilingual or WordPress Multisite would be a better bet for applications like that [note: you can find out more about our Wordpress development services here].
Control over content
There's also an issue around content 'acceptability'. Squarespace users should be aware that if they publish content which conflicts with Squarespace's acceptable use policy, their website can be taken down by Squarespace. This in effect means that Squarespace users don't have full control over the content of their websites: they are effectively subject to an editorial policy.
To be fair this is also true for competing products like Wix, Shopify and Jimdo, and probably also the case if you set up a self-hosted website using a platform such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal: your hosting provider could also pull the plug on your site if your content breached acceptable use policies. But in the latter scenario you'd have more options — you could move your site over to a more liberal hosting company, for example.
If you’re expecting Squarespace to provide a Wordpress-style media library that lets you access, manage, sort, edit or update your files easily and all in one place, you’ll be a bit disappointed. Finding the URL of a particular file involves a bit of a convoluted process, as does replacing it with an updated version.
Squarespace’s new image re-use feature goes some way towards providing a media library, in that it allows you to locate and re-use images you’ve already imported to the platform — but it’s not currently searchable.
So there’s a lot of room for improvement in how Squarespace approaches file management.
5. What integrations with other apps are available?
Unlike many other online store / website building products, there's no 'app store' per se, or a plugin system that lets you install third-party functionality with a click or two.
That said, Squarespace provides several built-in integrations with key web applications - you can incorporate apps like Mailchimp, Dropbox, Google Drive, Pinterest and Github (and quite a few others) into your site in various useful ways. You will need to be on the 'Business' plan or higher though to get full access to these, however.
If a built-in integration isn’t available to help you get Squarespace talking to a particular app, then you might find the relatively new Squarespace-Zapier integration a good option.
This allows you to send data captured via forms in Squarespace to a wide range of third party applications. Zapier is a sort of 'if this, then that' (IFTT) tool which allows you to create rules as to what should happen with data from one application when it's sent to another. You will usually need a premium Zapier plan to get the most out of this though ($20+ per month).
There’s also the option of buying ‘code snippets’ to enhance the functionality of your Squarespace site from various providers. These snippets are increasingly referred to as ‘Squarepace plugins’ — and although they’re not quite as easy to install as WordPress equivalents, they nonetheless allow you to significantly extend the functionality of your Squarespace site.
Plugins exist for a variety of applications — for example, enhancing video backgrounds, adding sidebars, creating bespoke lightboxes…and much else besides. Check out our new Squarespace Plugins store for an idea of some of the things you can do with code snippets.
Integration with social media
Connecting Squarespace to social media accounts is very straightforward — you simply add your accounts in your site settings, and Squarespace takes care of the relevant icons and feeds (pushing content automatically to selected networks if requested). All the most popular social networks are catered for in Squarespace, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
6. How does data capture in Squarespace work?
Data capture is one of the most important features of any website, especially in this era of inbound marketing. A robust approach to data capture is absolutely vital to generating leads and clients, and if you don't get it right, you will hamper the growth of your online business. So, I'm going to drill down into this area in quite a lot of depth.
So how does Squarespace stack up in the data capture department?
Well, there are two ways to go about data capture in Squarespace. The first is to simply use code blocks to integrate an email marketing service of your choice (Getresponse, Aweber, Mailchimp etc.). This gives you a lot of flexibility but means adding HTML forms to your Squarespace site, and styling them using CSS so that they look as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of it. This is perfectly doable, but won't be for everyone.
The other way to capture data is via Squarespace's built-in data capture options: the 'form block' or the 'newsletter block'. These both allow you to construct bespoke forms — creating fields and laying them out in a preferred order is very easy (with the form block being the much more flexible of the two: you can add a wide variety of fields using the form block, whereas the newsletter block limits your options to name and email).
Both the form block and the newsletter block allow you to send the data captured to
an email address
Squarespace’s new Email Campaigns tool (more on this below)
The good news first: the forms are really easy to set up and use and they look great — if you are happy to send your data to Google Sheets and Mailchimp, or set up a 'zap' to another application via Zapier, you'll love them.
There are some improvements that I'd love to see being made however.
First, although the new Zapier integration is a very welcome addition, opening up Squarespace's data capture functionality to users of well-known email marketing products such as Getresponse, Campaign Monitor and Aweber, it still makes life more complicated (and expensive) for these users than it should be. It would be better if direct integrations were available for users of other well-established email marketing products.
Second, and as discussed earlier, you can’t use Zapier to handle data captured by forms on Squarespace cover pages.
Still, the situation here is MUCH better than it used to be - until the Zapier integration came along, users of these products didn't have the option to use Squarespace's built-in forms at all.
A major improvement I'd like to see to Squarespace forms would be file uploading functionality - as things stand, you can't let users attach any files to form submissions in Squarespace. (This is currently causing headaches for a client of mine who wants to allow site visitors to upload CVs as part of a course registration process.)
The other thing I'd love to see is conditional logic being added to Squarespace forms. For example, although you can send data from a contact form to Mailchimp, in most cases you'd only want to send it there if the user completing that form has ticked a box requesting to join your mailing list (this box-ticking has become more important than ever in the era of GDPR).
You can create the checkbox alright, but you can't ask Squarespace to check whether it's been populated before adding that user to the mailing list. So you end up having to using a workaround - you could either:
send the data to Google Sheets and then manually upload the users who have ticked the sign up box to Mailchimp
connect your form using Zapier and create a relevant 'zap' that checks what's been populated in the form before processing it.
Neither workaround is particularly ideal.
And finally, you can't create one form in Squarespace that you then drop into pages as you please — you have to create a new form for every page (unless you are using a template that facilitates sidebars, in which case the same form will be used on pages containing one).
With some competing platforms, notably WordPress, you can create 'master forms' that you just slot into relevant pages where appropriate. The latter approach saves time and also leads to neater data capture, especially if you use Google Sheets to store your data (using multiple forms on Squarespace means creating multiple spreadsheets in G Suite).
So it's a bit of a frustrating situation with Squarespace forms: they look great, are easy to build and can capture loads of data nicely — but they're not always flexible enough with regards to what you can do with that data.
If your needs are simple, you'll be absolutely fine and will get great results; but if you need to use conditional logic or facilitate file uploads as part of your data capture process, you will probably end up having to invest in a third party forms app like Wufoo Forms or Jotform, or using custom code to connect your forms to your email marketing software.
Squarespace Email Campaigns
Squarespace recently added significant new functionality to its platform with the introduction of its ‘Email Campaigns’ feature.
For an extra fee, this allows you to capture email addresses and send newsletters to them directly within the Squarespace interface. This brings it into line with key competitor Wix, which has offered this sort of functionality for some time.
There are four plans available:
Starter — $7 per month to send up to 3 e-newsletters and 500 messages per month
Core — $14 per month for 5 e-newsletters / 5,000 messages
Pro — $34 per month for 20 e-newsletters / 50,000 messages
Max - $68 per month for an unlimited number of newsletters / 250,000 messages
In terms of how this pricing stacks up against other email marketing products, the Starter and Core plans are cheap by comparison to the entry-level plans available from the likes of Aweber, Getresponse and Mailchimp; they allow you to start capturing data and creating newsletters without spending too much.
Another important benefit of using Squarespace’s Email Campaigns is that you can manage your website and mailing list — the two most important online assets of any business — in one place; and keep the branding reasonably consistent across both.
On top of that, the email templates — as you’d expect from Squarespace — are well-designed, and are easy to edit too, as the Email Campaigns feature provides a drag-and-drop interface that is quite similar to Squarespace’s web page editor.
However, the pricing of this feature is confusing and ultimately a bit on the expensive side of things. Although all the Email Campaigns plans allow you to capture an unlimited number of subscribers, you may struggle to send each of those subscribers a message — or will be limited in the number of email blasts you can send each month.
And, although it’s nice to see basic autoresponder functionality being included with Email Campaigns, the automation provided is currently very basic by comparison to that provided by dedicated email marketing tools like Mailchimp or Getresponse.
And finally, Squarespace Email Campaigns forces you to adopt a ‘double-opt’ in approach when users subscribe to your mailing list — where users have to open a confirmation email and click a link before they are fully subscribed to your list.
Yes, this can make for a cleaner list, or reduce your vulnerability to spambots completing your forms, but has also been proven to lead to a massive drop-off in sign-up rates (so much so that Mailchimp — previously a big champion of the double-opt-in approach — finally abandoned it in 2017).
So, when it comes to building a mailing list on your site and sending e-newsletters, I’d still be more inclined to use a dedicated email marketing app instead of Squarespace Email Campaigns — but if your needs are on the basic side, you can live with double-opt in, and you’re particularly keen on managing everything in one place, then Squarespace’s Email Campaigns is not a bad option.
[Tip: if you’re deciding on which email marketing tool to use with Squarespace, our Getresponse review, our Aweber review, and our Mailchimp vs Getresponse comparison may help — or see our email marketing reviews section for our other reviews and comparisons].
7. Can you edit the HTML and CSS on your Squarespace site?
HTML — adding widgets and code blocks
Unlike competing platforms like WordPress or Shopify, in Squarespace you can't really toggle between a WYSIWYG ('what you see is what you get') and HTML mode on pages and posts.
It is, however, possible to add HTML code blocks to a Squarespace site, so you can incorporate third-party forms, widgets and so on into proceedings easily.
CSS — styling your site
You can add custom CSS to your Squarespace website (if you're on the 'Business' plan or higher), but it's not entirely encouraged: you are warned when doing so that 1) adding lines of CSS can break your design, and 2) you might not be able to avail of full support if you add CSS.
If you'd like to add scripts to the header section of a Squarespace website, you can do this via a code injection section (on the 'Business' plan or higher).
8. Squarespace SEO: how do Squarespace sites fare on Google and other search engines?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) in Squarespace is a bit of an odd one.
Sites built with Squarespace do a lot of things that Google likes — they generate a sitemap.xml file; use clean HTML markup; and are mobile friendly (Google prioritises websites that are mobile friendly / responsive in mobile search results).
Finally, Squarespace allows users to enable SSL on their sites for free (and very easily too). This is important, because sites using SSL certificates are treated preferentially by Google in search.
However, it's not all hunky-dory in the search engine optimisation department: there are some important SEO issues to consider before committing to Squarespace.
Search engines tend to give preferential treatment to sites that load quickly, but because Squarespace is a hosted solution, you have no control over the hosting used — and hosting plays a big part in how fast a site loads.
Although Squarespace stresses that page speed on the platform is acceptable from an SEO point of view, Squarespace users nonetheless don’t have the fine grain control over page speed which might give them an SEO edge in an ultra-competitive niche.
For most users, however, this won’t be a massive issue, and to be fair to Squarespace, users won’t get this fine-grain control on any hosted solution — plumping for a competitor like Shopify or Wix wouldn’t really solve this problem: it’s just part and parcel of using a hosted website building platform.
However, if page speed is a key concern for you, then Wordpress or another self-hosted option might be a better bet.
(For more information on this topic, check out our Wordpress vs Squarespace comparison and/oror our post on how to speed up a Squarespace site).
Alt tags in Squarespace
My biggest problem with SEO in Squarespace relates to how Squarespace allows users to specify alt tags. Alt tags are descriptions of images — search engines use them as part of the indexing process, and screen readers apps use them to describe images to the visually impaired.
If you want to add an alt tag in Squarespace, you've got to 1) add an image 2) give it a 'caption', and then 3) select an option not to display the caption. It's rather messy — because when dealing with images on websites, traditionally captions and alt text are considered completely different things. (And there are good SEO reasons for keeping them separate too).
URL redirects in Squarespace
When you change a page URL, no Google-friendly 301 redirect is automatically created for you from the old URL to the new - rather, you have to dig around in Squarespace's advanced settings and manually remap your URLs.
To be fair, not all competing platforms do this out of the box — WordPress being an obvious example.
Key competitor Shopify does, however — whenever you change a URL in Shopify, you simply tick a checkbox to have the old version of the page redirect to it. This is great because as long as you tick the box, you’ll never end up with any broken internal or external links.
SEO checking tools for Squarespace
Squarespace does not come with any built-in SEO-checking tools or plugins. There's no Yoast-style functionality to be availed of, which is a pity (Yoast is a fantastic Wordpress plugin that monitors the quality of your pages from an SEO point of view and suggests improvements you could make to increase their chances of ranking better in search).
That said, you could enter your Squarespace site URLs (or copy and paste your content) into a third-party SEO checking tool, of which there are many online, to see how your pages stack up from an SEO point of view.
Rich Snippets in Squarespace
Rich snippets — data that can be added to your site to help both searchers and search engines understand what a page is about — are an increasingly important part of how your website is treated by search engines (for an in-depth explanation of why, I'd suggest checking this Search Engine Journal article about rich snippets).
Rich snippets enhance a search result by providing additional, immediately viewable contextual information. For example, when rich snippets are used, a search result about a restaurant wouldn't just contain a basic text summary of the content, it would also include things like a star rating, number of times it had been reviewed, price range, reviewer etc., as the example below highlights:
There’s no built-in functionality in Squarespace for creating rich snippets: as things stand it seems that you'll have to either use Google's Data Highlighter tool (which I’ve tried with mixed results with on Squarespace sites) or Google’s tag manager (which I’ve yet to try out).
(You could also try adding Schema markup to a code block in the body of your content, but if you try this on blog posts with AMP enabled, you’ll get problems).
Another Squarespace SEO niggle I have is URL format — it's not a major headache, but if you write a blog post, you can't change the URL so that it doesn't include the /blog/ prefix. There are SEO arguments for keeping URLs 'clean' — made by Google no less — by avoiding unnecessary parameters.
The bottom line on Squarespace and SEO
The bottom line is that it's a bit of a 'could do better' for Squarespace in the SEO department. It is definitely possible to optimise a Squarespace site successfully for search (you’re currently looking at a Squarespace post that performs very well in search!), but it is a more fiddly process than it needs to be (and a strange one too).
Note: if you're interested in finding out more about optimising your Squarespace site for search engines, do check out our Squarespace SEO tips or download our full guide to SEO.
9. What e-commerce functionality is available in Squarespace?
The e-commerce functionality in Squarespace is, on first inspection, strong. It's easy to create, edit and manage products and product catalogues, and I particularly like the way Squarespace handles product images. Unlike Shopify, Squarespace allows you to automatically apply image ratios to all your products — a huge timesaver for larger e-commerce projects.
It’s worth flagging up the recently-introduced subscription functionality as another strong feature of Squarespace — the platform makes it really easy for you to accept recurring payments for goods or services.
With regard to Stripe, this only allows you to sell if you operate in certain countries, so this will limit quite a lot of Squarespace merchangs to using Paypal.
VAT MOSS and Squarespace
A really strong feature of Squarespace's e-commerce functionality is the way you can sell digital products really easily — it delivers them on your behalf, with a link that expires after 24 hours.
But there's a bit of a headache to consider if you want to sell digital products to European consumers, and this involves something rather weird-sounding called 'VAT MOSS' (which is short for an even weirder sounding thing called 'VAT Mini One Stop Shop').
VAT MOSS is basically a requirement that sellers of digital products to consumers in the EU add value added tax (VAT) to each digital product on a per-country basis (i.e., there's one VAT rate to be applied for the UK, one for France and so on). It only applies if you sell over €10,000 worth of digital products each year, so it won’t be an issue for everyone, but nonetheless, Squarespace doesn't really cater for this requirement madly well.
When you sell a digital product on Shopify, you can set things up so that the platform calculates all the VAT MOSS rates for you automatically; but with Squarespace you'll have to either manually create a bunch of tax rules OR charge a flat rate and work out the VAT retrospectively and pay the tax man accordingly (the latter may or may not be legally kosher; you'd be best off ringing the tax man himself/herself to find out!).
A workaround is to use Squarespace in conjunction with Shopify — with Shopify, it’s possible to embed ‘buy buttons’ on external websites. In this scenario, you’d host your content on your Squarespace site, but sell your products using Shopify (with the tax rates calculated automatically for you). We currently do precisely this in order to solve the VAT MOSS problem when selling our SEO book on a Squarespace site.
To be fair, Squarespace is not alone in presenting users with this headache — with the notable exception of Shopify, many other similar platforms don't cater particularly well for VAT MOSS. But it is something you should bear in mind if you're thinking of selling digital goods in the EU.
Dropshipping with Squarespace (or, a workaround!)
Dropshipping is a fulfillment method where you don't keep what you're selling in stock (you take the order, send it to a supplier, and they deliver the goods to your client - your store is in effect a middle man of sorts). It's a very attractive business model for many merchants because no major investment in stock is required to start selling products.
The bad news is that you can't really dropship using Squarespace yet - although there is a workaround of sorts (similar to the one for solving the VAT MOSS problem):
Add a Dropshipping app.
Embed a Shopify buy button on your Squarespace site to sell your dropshipped goods.
10. Is Squarespace easy to use?
Squarespace is undeniably a very user-friendly product. As mentioned before, the layout options are extensive and can provide you with some pretty gorgeous, 'magazine-style' presentation of content.
Whenever I build a site in Squarespace and hand it over to a client for them to edit themselves, there are rarely any problems; we are not talking about a steep learning curve here at all.
I do as ever have a couple of niggles though to point out though. If, when designing your site in Squarespace 7.0, you choose one template, and then try to switch to another template at a later date, you will encounter a bit of a headache — you will nearly have to build your site all over again! Although your content will be preserved, you'll have to reconstruct your navigation, delete a lot of dummy 'example' pages and slot relevant pages into place again.
And oddly, in 7.1, you can’t switch templates at all.
Another issue is that Squarespace can occasionally be quite sluggish or crash unexpectedly. This is particularly bad news if you've just finished writing a blog post and you haven't copied the content anywhere (remember: there's no autosave!).
Images can also take a while to upload and it is sometimes difficult to ascertain whether they've been correctly uploaded or not, particularly where large galleries are concerned.
Despite these gripes, I think Squarespace provides one of the easiest-to-use and most intuitive content management systems out there, and the quality of the interface is probably one of the strongest arguments for using it.
11. What customer support is available?
Customer support for Squarespace is email or live-chat only: no phone support is available.
In terms of the support that is available, whilst the staff on Squarespace's support desk are very friendly and provide reasonably quick answers to queries, based on my experience they will only deal with pretty simple issues.
In essence, if you want to add some functionality or design aspects to your Squarespace site that are not provided 'out of the box' you won't always get much help from Squarespace. Often you will just be told that what you are trying to achieve is not possible (even if actually, with a bit of perseverance, research or simple coding it actually is) and directed to read the Squarespace blog religiously in case the functionality you're trying to add to your site gets added as an official feature down the line.
And, as mentioned briefly above, if you add custom CSS to your site, you may not be able to get full support from Squarespace.
The other problem I have with support is that when you open a ticket with the helpdesk, you can often end up dealing with multiple team members: Joe Bloggs answers your query, you reply with a follow up question, you then get John Doe helping you and so on — this is usually okay, and I suppose it does mean that queries can be addressed faster, but occasionally it's led to some crossed wires where a particular team member hasn't really followed the thread correctly.
All that said, I have had some very positive experiences with the Squarespace support team — it's just that it has sometimes required a bit more perseverance from my side than I might like.
Finally, and as with a lot of similar products, it's a bit of a headache trying to actually email the company. You have to overcome quite a few dropdown menus packed full of support topics — the aim of which is to make you read a help article and do the legwork before contacting them — before you get anywhere near an 'email us' button.
12. How GDPR-compliant is Squarespace?
In the era of GDPR — General Data Protection Regulation — it’s important to get privacy and data protection issues right, as the fines for not doing so are considerable.
However, when it comes to compliance in the area of cookie consent, Squarespace presents a LOT of challenges to prospective users.
GDPR requires site owners to follow 5 key rules with regard to cookie consent:
Let site visitors know that cookies are being used.
Explain how cookies are being used, and why.
Provide visitors with a means to consent to ‘non-essential’ cookies being used BEFORE they are run (non-essential cookies include Facebook pixels, Google Analytic, Adsense etc.).
Log consent of cookie usage.
Allow users to withdraw that consent (i.e., switch cookies they’ve previously activated off).
Whilst you can meet the first two requirements with a Squarespace site easily, it’s not at all straightforward to meet the other three. To do so you will need to either code something yourself, or use a third-party paid-for tool like CookiePro to create a GDPR-compliant banner that gives users 100% control over the cookies used on a Squarespace site.
To solve GDPR problems with Squarespace, I’d suggest reading our Squarespace GDPR guide and/or our article on setting up a GDPR-compliant cookie banner on Squarespace.
Ultimately it’s a massive ‘could do better’ here for Squarespace, because you can’t use key business tools like Google Analytics, Adwords or Facebook ads without dropping cookies.
To be fair, the product is not the only hosted solution that could provide a better solution for meeting these GDPR rules; but Squarespace could be far more proactive about helping its users deal with this problem — even if that simply meant pointing people in the direction of tools that can be used to solve it.
My personal experience of the Squarespace help team’s support on this issue has been particularly poor.
Review conclusions / should I use Squarespace?
It’s not without its flaws, but ultimately I like Squarespace a lot — so much so, and as the eagle-eyed amongst you will probably have spotted by now, that we built this very site you're looking at in Squarespace (and we can help you build yours - check out our Squarespace design services).
My main conclusion regarding the platform is that it’s brilliant for two applications: running a simple brochure website or hosting a portfolio site – you can set yourself up with a very contemporary-looking site or image-focused website very quickly with it.
If you are an artist, photographer or a musician — or building a site for a one-off event like a wedding — and you don't need several layers of navigation on your site, it's a super, cost-effective option for you.
Thanks to the e-commerce features, businesses with simple selling requirements may also find Squarespace a good solution (particularly those that offer subscriptions and need to take recurring payments); and because it's a hosted solution, using Squarespace doesn't require you to worry about things like server updates or, other than taking the usual precautions around passwords, security.
Many SMEs will also love Squarespace — it can provide a low-cost, time-efficient way to create a stylish brochure site to showcase services.
Where Squarespace is not in my view quite 'up there' is when it comes to serious e-commerce applications: the lack of payment gateways and point of sale options would nudge me in the direction of a using a more dedicated e-commerce platform if I needed to build an online store (see the 'alternatives' section, below, for more details).
GDPR is also a concern — although you can make a Squarespace GDPR site compliant, it’s quite a job to do so.
And I'd have qualms about using the standard version of Squarespace to try to build a very large business website — the limited levels of navigation available and the lack of a proper file management system would probably make me look elsewhere.
For me, the thing that would make me think twice about using Squarespace is the lack of import and export functionality on version 7.1 (which will no doubt become the de facto version in time). I’m not sure whether Squarespace plans to add this functionality down the line, but if the company doesn’t, then any users planning to blog a lot or add a large inventory of products to their store should approach the platform with caution.
Finally, do give us your own thoughts on Squarespace in the comments section below — we're always interested to hear them, as it helps us identify issues we can address in our review.
Pros of using Squarespace
Its templates are gorgeous and there are a large number of them available.
Its interface is extremely easy to use — I’d argue that it’s one of the most user-friendly content management systems available.
Image management options are excellent.
It provides a good range of import tools for importing content from other platforms.
It allows you to work with a huge range of web fonts.
Its video backgrounds feature is great, and allows you to create a big wow factor.
It provides a lot of options for laying out content in an attractive manner.
It allows you to set up simple yet attractive websites extraordinarily quickly.
It integrates nicely out of the box with many well-known third-party tools, including Google Apps, Xero and Mailchimp.
A Zapier integration is available, which allows you connect your Squarespace site to a large number of other web applications.
You can enable SSL on any site you build with Squarespace really easily.
You can use its logo designing app to create a simple but professional-looking logo.
VAT MOSS issues aside, Squarespace provides a good way to sell and deliver digital products.
Cons of using Squarespace
It looks as though Squarespace is getting rid of import and export functionality — so approach the product with caution if you intend to blog a lot or host a very large inventory of products.
The 'Personal Plan' is poor in terms of the number of professional features provided.
GDPR compliance is poor (or non-existent!) in the area of cookie consent — you’ll need to do quite a bit of work and/or invest in a third-party tool to make your site compliant.
No content versioning is available.
There's no autosave for pages and posts.
You ultimately don't have control over the content of your website: Squarespace, via an acceptable use policy, does.
It effectively only caters for users who can make do with one level of navigation.
The templates are often very prescriptive in terms of what you can and can't change.
Although it is perfectly possible to optimise a site for search engine, SEO functionalitycould be a bit better.
It’s hard to add or edit rich snippets in Squarespace.
Only Stripe and Paypal are available as payment gateways.
VAT MOSS rates are not calculated automatically.
The only e-marketing product that can be used with the newsletter and form blocks as a direct integration is Mailchimp (users of other products will need to rely on a Zapier integration)
Cover Pages are very restrictive in terms of how you can lay them out, and you can't use Zapier with forms on them.
The ‘Email Campaigns’ feature is a bit on the expensive side, and doesn’t provide single-opt in functionality.
WHILE YOU’RE HERE…
We offer Squarespace web design services that can help you get a Squarespace website up and running very quickly. We can also provide custom Squarespace coding, which allows you to significantly customize the functionality and appearance of your website. Contact us today for more information.
Alternatives to Squarespace / comparisons with Wix, Wordpress, Shopify and others
If content management is a key concern, then self-hosted WordPress is an obvious alternative to Squarespace; but the two platforms are rather different beasts.
WordPress is a much more powerful tool, but one which usually involves a more manual setup and customisation of elements — Squarespace is more of a 'click and point to change something' style solution. I'd suggest reading our Squarespace vs WordPress article to get an in-depth comparison of these two platforms.
You could also look at hosted WordPress, which works in a similar way to Squarespace (i.e., it's hosted on a server and doesn't involve much in the way of manual configuration) but delivers more sophisticated options when it comes to blogging (not least an autosave feature!).
As far as e-commerce solutions go, if you are looking to build an online store, the best hosted solutions I've tried out to date are Shopify and Bigcommerce. Although the Squarespace template designs are arguably slicker than the ones you get with both of these tools, the Shopify / Bigcommerce e-commerce functionality is a lot stronger. With Shopify and Bigcommerce there is also a bit more flexibility when it comes to accessing the CSS and HTML of your website.
Another option with regard to e-commerce is to use Squarespace to host your content, but use a plug-in like Ecwid or the Shopify Buy Button to handle the selling side of things. And then of course, there's Wordpress again, which so long as you are not shy about spending time configuring things, can be used effectively with various e-commerce plugins such as Woocommerce, Ecwid or Shopp to sell goods.
And finally, if you’re on a budget, Wix is worth a look; although I find Squarespace to be a more elegant and professional website-building solution, Wix does provide a similar feature set to Squarespace (and at a lower price point). A free Wix plan is also available (basic but okay for some requirements). Check out our Wix review, our Wix vs Shopify comparison and our WordPress vs Wix post for more details.
Got any thoughts on Squarespace?
If you've got any thoughts or queries on Squarespace, or have experiences of using the product that you'd like to share, please do leave a comment on this post - just scroll down to post one or read feedback on Squarespace from other readers.
And if you enjoyed this post, I'd be hugely grateful if you could create a link to it on your website or blog, or share it on social media :)