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Squarespace review - features, drawbacks and comparisons

Ecommerce Platforms|01.12.2014

Squarespace is a highly affordable cloud-hosted ecommerce solution with some of the most stylish pre-made templates available. Read this Squarespace review to see if it's the right platform for your online business.

Squarespace is a great platform for e-tailers to get started selling online. Millions of websites use the platform, though not all of them are e-commerce sites; Squarespace is an all-purpose website builder and not exclusive to shop building like Shopify and Bigcommerce.

Squarespace is also a hosted solution, which means they will host your shop on their cloud servers and you don't have access to any the back-end code. Instead, you can massively customise your shop via Squarespace’s powerful and dynamic styling editor.

This article discusses the main benefits and drawbacks of Squarespace. There's also a comparison with some of its main competitors.

Let's begin!

Benefits

1. Beautifully designed templates

Squarespace provides you with templates that command your attention. Their templates are clean, mostly minimalistic and highly professional. The themes give off an air of elegance, which is mainly due to their simplicity. With some theme stores you can scroll for a while before you find anything that you would feel comfortable presenting to your customers, but with Squarespace the challenge is to pick a single one out of the many options that you love!

2. Extensive styling options

Theme customisation isn’t anything groundbreaking in the website building world, and Squarespace aren’t necessarily pioneering anything here, but their Style Editor makes it exceptionally easy for anyone to customise their website design without having to type a letter of code. In the Style Editor you can adjust colours, typography, background images, opacity of images, the width of the sidebar, any spacing and padding, and page-specific styles. There is also a CSS editor built in so you can maximise the customisation of your website if you have an understanding of code.

3. All templates are responsive

The landscape of e-commerce is moving towards mobile and tablet devices, so having a responsive website that is optimised for desktop, mobile and tablet is absolutely essential. Regardless of the device’s screen size, the website can be seen perfectly and the content will automatically resize to give your customers the best user experience. A seamless experience for your visitors will increase conversions.

4. Free Typekit fonts and discounted Getty images

Squarespace's partnership with Typekit makes more than 65 Typekit fonts available to all Squarespace customers at no additional charge. Typography is one of the very core factors that influence a customer's perception of a brand. It's something that can be instantly judged and scrutinised when they load up your website, and has to be perfect. This partnership with Typekit makes it far easier for you to construct a brand for your business, with a much wider range of typography to choose from. 

Another partner of Squarespace is Getty Images, one of the world's leading creators and distributors of high quality images and videos. Because of this partnership, Squarespace website owners get an exclusive rate for using images from Getty on their websites, at the affordable cost of just $10 a photo.

5. Excellent marketing tools

SEO is built in to all websites made with Squarespace to ensure that search engines, and thus potential customers, find you. You will also have access to analytics that are updated in real time, giving you a powerful sense of customer insight. Squarespace's dedication to social integration also makes it easier than ever to connect with your customers on Facebook, Twitter, and more (see point 7).

6. Hosting and security included

Every Squarespace store includes fast, unlimited cloud hosting at no extra cost. This means you don't have to pay for an external host and your site will remain available at all times. 

They are Level 1 PCI compliant and use 128 bit SSL encryption to ensure that your customers' credit card data is always transferred in a safe and secure manner.

7. Social integration

Squarespace's social integration feature allows you to easily share store news and product updates to all of your customers and followers at Twitter, Facebook, or any other social service supported by the platform.

The social accounts publishing system should save you time and effort, as you do not have to manually post any updates to your social media platforms, but can automatically share specific news with all of them. All you have to do is connect your social media accounts to your Squarespace website, then alter the settings for how people can connect with you on those social networks. This nifty feature allows you to include social 'follow' buttons on your website navigation, as well as auto-post new content - such as a new product - to all of your social media accounts, ensuring that your followers never miss an update, and that you are getting as much traffic as possible.

Drawbacks

1. Not open source

One of the most annoying things about Squarespace is that it isn't open source. This means that everything is designed by their in-house team and they do not allow external designers to design for their platform. As a result, the templates and tools are exceptionally designed but limited. Another downside to not having an open source system is that support can only be given from Squarespace.

2. Editing mode is not intuitive

When you are altering your template, Squarespace does not offer a real-time "live" editing screen, so you can't see what your website will actually look like until it is published. The difference between editing mode and live mode is not massive, though it can be frustrating to know that what you've spent a long time perfecting in editing mode may not necessarily be experienced by your customers. You will find that you will have to make edits, then preview the page in live mode, only to go back and make edits again because it looks different to how you expected. Not very instinctive!

3. Bugs when editing

Squarespace uses containers called 'blocks' that you can add, move and combine to customise your site. In these blocks, you can hold images, text, videos, quotes, calendars, forms and many other things. The issue is that when you try to add blocks or move them around, the editor is, again, not intuitive. People often report problems when they want to move blocks around their pages, with the editing system hindering and slowing down their customisation rather than making it an easy seamless experience.

4. Style Editor can be overwhelming

The Style Editor has a lot of room for customisation. It's packed full of tools, sliders, widgets and fonts. Perhaps too many. Because of the extent of the customising power given to you, it would be easy to be overwhelmed and not know where to start. If you have skills in design or a very clear layout that you want your website to follow, then this wouldn't really be an issue, but for the layperson who just wants to make little edits, the wealth of options could be a bit excessive.

5. No PayPal integration

Unlike Shopify or Bigcommerce, Squarespace's e-commerce is not integrated with PayPal. As a result, building a website with Squarespace excludes you from perhaps the most popular online payment method, and the one that your customers will be most familiar with. Squarespace instead uses Stripe to process its payments, though this is not as universally known as PayPal is. If you think that your customers will expect PayPal and require it as your payment gateway, you may have to use either Shopify or Bigcommerce. 

6. No phone support

Squarespace does not offer phone support to any of their customers. If their customers were expected to have excellent web design skills, that could probably be swept under the carpet, though considering Squarespace is meant for people without this skillset, they are more likely to require support. Their lack of instant assistance is a big error on Squarespace's part.

Pricing

Squarespace, like most website building companies, offers three different price plans for you to choose from. All of them are slightly cheaper if you opt to pay annually rather than monthly. Squarespace also uses Stripe for all their e-commerce payments, which charges transaction fees of 2.9% + 30¢Let's look at each of them in a little detail, outlining what you get for your money.

Personal plan

The personal plan is the cheapest that Squarespace offers, charged at $8/month (billed annually) or $10/month (billed monthly). Here are the features included in this plan:

  • 20 pages, galleries and blogs
  • 500 GB bandwidth
  • 2 GB storage
  • 2 contributors
  • Fully integrated e-commerce
  • The ability to sell 1 product
  • Mobile and tablet optimisation
  • A free custom domain
  • 24/7 customer support

Professional plan

The professional plan is marketed by Squarespace as their most popular, probably because it is the mid-price plan - not too cheap and not too expensive. It is charged at $16/month (billed annually) or $20/month (billed monthly). Here are the features included in this plan:

  • Everything from Basic, plus...
  • Unlimited pages, galleries and blogs
  • Unlimited storage
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Unlimited contributors
  • The ability to sell up to 20 products
  • The Squarespace developer platform

Business plan

The most expensive plan that Squarespace has on offer - while still being remarkably cost-effective - is the business plan. It is charged at $24/month (billed annually) or $30/month (billed monthly). Here are the features included in this plan:

  • Everything from Professional, plus....
  • The ability to sell unlimited products
  • Real-time carrier shipping
  • Label printing via ShipStation
  • Integrated accounting by Xero

Comparison with other platforms

You might be stuck choosing between Squarespace and a couple of other platforms to build your website. Here, we will compare Squarespace with two of the biggest e-commerce website builders - Shopify and Bigcommerce.

Shopify

  • Shopify's plans are more expensive. The monthly fees are higher on all tiers of their plans, though the transaction fees are higher with Squarespace, so that's also worth considering. Shopify now offer their own gateway, which uses Stripe in the background and therefore offers a highly competitive rate.
  • Shopify focuses solely on e-commerce. Unlike Squarespace, whose e-commerce plans only make up a third of their business, Shopify are on the whole far more dedicated to the industry and so have many more powerful e-commerce features.
  • Shopify has POS technology. One example of an upgrade that Shopify has provided their customers with is the opportunity to run a brick-and-mortar shop in tandem with their online one. This comes at a higher fee, but Shopify provide the option for those who want it, unlike Squarespace.
  • Shopify offers cart recovery emails on all plans except Basic, which is great for boosting conversion rates.

 

Bigcommerce

  • Bigcommerce, like Shopify, has far more expensive plans than Squarespace. Bigcommerce offers a silver plan at $29.95/month, a gold plan at $79.95/month and a platinum plan at $199.95/month. However, the gold and platinum plans have no transaction fees, while the silver plan only charges 1.5%.

  • Squarespace's templates are more elegant than Bigcommerce's. Squarespace puts a lot of emphasis on its templates, because they are renowned to be the among the most beautiful and professionally designed available. Despite them not being made bespoke to anyone, many people often find themselves falling in love with some of Squarespace's templates. There is a downside to them, though. Unfortunately, despite their Styling Editor, Squarespace does not allow for as much flexibility in altering and customising their templates as Bigcommerce.

  • Bigcommerce also has an Abandoned Cart Saver feature. With more than 70% of shopping carts being abandoned for a wide range of reasons, Bigcommerce thought it appropriate to implement a feature whereby the contents of these carts are automatically saved. Automatic, but personalised, emails will then be sent out to customers, urging them to complete their transaction - you can even include a discount code in the email to provide more of an incentive. According to Bigcommerce, this feature supposedly converts 15% of abandoned carts into sales.

Conclusion

So there you have it!

With their responsive beautiful templates, seamless social integration, and inclusive hosting, Squarespace is an excellent platform to open your e-commerce business.

How can we help?

Get in touch to discuss your e-commerce ambitions and we’ll help you get there.

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