Product Review: SquareSpace CMS

I’ve had a chance to review a number of CMS systems over the past few years and SquareSpace does something completely different when you go to create a website using their content management system, they let you pick a template for your website before you even login to create your account with them (regardless of the fact that you are creating a 14 day trial account or not).  Its an interesting take on a CMS offering and it might seem like a small shift from the norm but this intrigued me and I wanted to know more about SquareSpace.

SquareSpace login

Once you go ahead and select the template that you want to use with your SquareSpace website (you can change it at anytime, by the way) you are prompted to create a login which in turn creates your account with SquareSpace, no credit card needed for their free trial and no password confirmation required either.  When you enter this information and click the “Finish and Create Site” button your website is created as well.

SquareSpace login screen

My first walk around the SquareSpace user interface left me feeling that this looks a lot like other content management systems until i started to click on the various pages to edit my site.  The truth is that most content management systems out their when you click on pages take you to a standard view of your page that you can toogle between a code view and a visual editor view.  SquareSpace on the hand looks like this.

SquareSpace page editor

I love the fact that its completely a visual experience.  Most people today that develop websites need the option to do things without any coding required and SquareSpace has made this a cornerstone of how you can use their platform to develop websites.  As you can see above when you click on an area of the page you are editing a pop up window shows and gives you the ability to add text, change an image, add some effects and other settings and once you click the “save” button you are back looking at the page you’ve just created.

SquareSpace - Add Block to your webpage

Another thing you will notice when you navigating through SquareSpace is the fact that its very easy to add any element whether its text or an image as well as other types of media to your pages when you click on the “+ add block” button.

SquareSpace - How to add a block to your website

You can currently add three different types of blocks to your SquareSpace website including content blocks, structure blocks and social blocks.  This is where you can really start to customize your SquareSpace website by being able to add everything from custom code, products, quotes as well as structural elements like tag indexes, calendars, twitter and facebook accounts and search functionality just to name a few things that you can do with blocks.

Another solid offering that SquareSpace has is the fact that you can configure a lot of site settings when you click on the cog icon from setting up who is allowed to contribute on your site, a developer mode for those of you who are developers, the option to import and export data to and from SquareSpace which is useful if you are switching from a platform like Shopify or WordPress to go to SquareSpace, general site information, description and meta tags for all you SEO buffs and a feature called “Code Injection” which allows you to custom code the headers and footers of your SquareSpace webpages as needed for any number of integrations you might want to do.

SquareSpace - Site Settings and Configuration options

Things I really didn’t like about SquareSpace

Now with all that said here are a few ways in which I found SquareSpace lacking and there were a few that I noticed.

1. Their analytics package is very very basic – When I say “basic” I mean to say that I wasn’t wow’ed by any think that I saw on the analytics that they offer.  That being said I prefer to setup my own Google Analytics tracking and have used it for the last 6 to 7 years now.  Its a basic and run-of-the-mill analytics packages so don’t expect much from SquareSpace on this.

2. No SEO – When I say “No SEO” I mean to say that it isn’t apparent to the average user where to enter this information on web pages.  Normally I am used to seeing Meta descriptions and meta tags at least or a section for SEO but it was hard to find this in SquareSpace.  Was this intentional? I don’t know but it left me thinking “how is the average person supposed to add SEO to their site if they can’t find it to begin with?”

Cool things that SquareSpace have that make it great, interesting and fun to use!

  1. The option to use Markdown Editing – Now for those of you who have never heard of Markdown editing, what it is is a way to write your webpages in a very easy to read fashion without a lot of heavy syntax.  Its basically like shorthand for HTML editing.
  2. The ability to add connected accounts – Connected accounts allow you to hook into social networks like Facebook, cloud services like dropbox and others to allow you to push and pull data and give your audience a whole new way to connect with you and your business.
  3. The ability to add internal and external products to your site – A lot of CMS systems are just that, content management systems and perhaps after extensively coding in APIs and payment gateway you can have a makeshift ecommerce solution but the cool thing that SquareSpace allows you to do is create a shop easily and integrate it with your CMS and Amazon account to sell goods on your site.  Very user friendly but more importantly very useful as well!

 My thoughts, in closing:

My final thoughts on SquareSpace are that its a solid tool that you can use to develop websites.  If you aren’t and don’t want to get heavy into coding then its perfect.  For those of you developers out there you may find it a little basic and lacking and maybe even hard to use because a lot of the bells and whistles are either hidden a bit or are named something else.  Regardless its a good solution for most people out there today looking for a tool that can deliver a website quickly and easily without having to open a manual on the ins and outs of website development.

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