My favorite things: Squarespace

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Since the beginning of this year, I keep getting into conversations about Squarespace. Someone would ask if anyone knows anything about it and one of my friends would reply and direct them to me because I tend to be pretty vocal about how much I like it. I'm far from an expert on Squarespace, but I have become a loyal customer over the last three years. 

When I started blogging, I signed up for a Blogger account. It was free and easy to use. I did all my own design from day one. I have never done anything overly fancy or cool, but I think my layouts were generally nice for a typical blog layout. My current layout is simple and minimalistic - exactly what I wanted. This blog is my hobby, so even though I was tempted to hire a designer, I knew I wouldn't do it as long as I was on Blogger.

An alternative to Blogger

Then I started thinking about Squarespace. I had learned about the platform through podcasts they sponsored back in 2007ish? In fact, several of the podcasters were so impressed when they tried it out that they used it for their own sites. These were tech podcasts, and these tech journalists knew what they were doing. So, when I decided to make the jump from Blogger, despite having set up a Wordpress account already, I chose to go with Squarespace.

A comment problem

My only regret has been the lack of threaded comments. One of the primary reasons I was switching platforms was to have a more "grown up" blog conducive to discussion, which isn't easy unless comments are threaded.  I'm disappointed to this day that they haven't integrated them into version 5. It's a paid platform and it should have threaded comments if Wordpress, the "free" platform does. I'm not sure we'll get comment threads on V5, though.

Problem solved

Two years ago Squarespace announced a new version - V6 - was coming! It has threaded comments, gorgeous templates and lots of social integration. Yay! Six months after the full launch of SS6, I finally moved this blog over. The biggest challenge I had was figuring out where everything was and it still only took a few hours over a couple of days to set up my site and import everything from V5. Squarespace makes it so easy!

Easy breezy customization

I've taken HTML and CSS. I have coded my own website from scratch - nothing fancy, but I'm more proficient than the average bear. With Squarespace, I don't have to know any code at all. I can customize the templates to my heart's content to create a unique site for myself without ever coding a single line. I've incorporated the Nivo slider into one site before Squarespace introduced slideshows. Now I don't need to custom build a slider if I want one - it's a built-in function.

While I find customization in Version 5 to be much more flexible, Squarespace releases new features regularly, so I'm hopeful that V6 will become more versatile over time and I have no doubt that they'll introduce more and more fabulous templates.

Squarespace vs Wordpress

I surprise people regularly by telling them I don't like Wordpress. I've been using Wordpress regularly as long as I've been using Squarespace and I've done lots of site customization/design on WP. I can easily spend four times longer customizing a WP site as I do customizing a SS site. 

Wordpress is a "free" platform. It's open source, which means there are thousands upon thousands of plugins (and themes and other stuff) to pick from built by the open source community! The downside is that not all plugins are created equal (and you have to sift through thousands and thousands). Sometimes they don't work with your Wordpress install or your theme or they don't quite do what you want. My head is spinning just thinking about it. I bought Thesis for a self-hosted site I developed in 2011. Of the (admittedly few) themes I've used, Thesis was the easiest to customize. However, it was not "easy". Custom themes? Ugh. Have I mentioned I don't like Wordpress?

My personal preference

If Squarespace disappeared tomorrow, I'd go back to Blogger before I sign up for Wordpress again. My opinion is that Wordpress is a bulky beast that is about as user-friendly as Microsoft Access (and I know Access well). I don't subscribe to the notion that just because everyone else is using it, I should too. Yes, WP has the lion's share of the market when it comes to blog platforms, but that doesn't mean that other tools aren't worthy of attention - and Squarespace is attracting more attention all the time. To me, Squarespace is a superior tool. The time I save on every aspect of my site - design, maintenance, software updates, etc. (NO updates!!!) - makes up for the cost of a premium hosted service about three times over. 

The Squarespace team's response to Hurricane Sandy just re-affirmed my choice. That's a commitment to customer service that cannot be denied. They also have actual support. I can ask my buddy Google (or the SS Help forums) how to do something and get answers, or I can send in a support ticket. I always get an email so fast that it takes me by surprise every time.

There are a lot of people who prefer Wordpress over Squarespace. Some reviews give me the impression they haven't truly given SS a fair shake. For others it's just not a platform that meets their needs. There's also a really strong community out there that believes in open source software. 

What should you use?

I think the question of what platform to use should really come down to what suits your needs and preferences. For me, that platform is Squarespace. It's not perfect (realistically, none are), but it's very, very good. 

Just in case anyone's curious: This is not a solicited review. It's my thoughts about the blogging platform I use as compared to others. Squarespace hasn't paid me or verified the accuracy of anything I've said so feel free to take it with a grain of salt. I just wanted to be able to send people a link when they ask me about Squarespace. ;)