Five initial Squarespace impressions

Published October 5, 2010

I’ve been getting more and more dissatisfied with Wordpress, and although I still maintain it is an excellent place to set up your first blog and start getting published, it’s limitations were beginning to get to me.

In point of fact, all I wanted to do was to change the font on my template. Typekit fonts are a bit ahead of their time, whilst the Custom CSS function was not really accessible on the template I was using.

For as long as I can remember, Leo has been telling me about Squarespace, offering up a coupon code to get a good deal. He bigs it up like it is the be-all and end-all of blogging software, and up until now, I disagreed.

About a year ago, I took advantage of the no-credit-card-required free trial (what an excellent idea, by the way?) and was instantly scared off by what I saw. Instead of heading directly into an admin page, you are confronted with your blog and how it looks, with options scattered all around the page for customisation.

This was not for me.

Except, now I have given it longer than an hour, I want to take back my initial sceptism. It’s still nowhere near perfect, and it’s taking me forever and a day to find things, but here are my first five impressions after using Squarespace for a long weekend.

1. It’s a completely different way of blogging.

As mentioned, you are presented with your blog and you make changes whilst looking directly at it. This is the exact opposite of something like Wordpress, where you fiddle around in the admin pages and then preview what you’ve done before going live. When you want to create a new post, you have to click the button above your existing entries. It just feels unnatural.

That being said, it brings down a window for your blog entry that is just like Wordpress and easy to understand.

The four options take a bit of getting used to - Content Editing, Structure Editing, Style Editing and an eyeball to represent the live site. Once you start playing around with them, though, it does start to make sense, and you gradually get to know where things are hidden.

2. There are far more options than you can imagine, but the menus are a mess.

That leads me on nicely to this second point. You have a lot more control over your template and the structure of your site than you do on a Wordpress hosted blog. You can adjust widths, image headers, colours, favicons, link hover actions, widgets, and far too much else to be listed here. I am still finding it tricky to navigate, having to visit several sections because they all look the same, or because I can’t remember where one of the options was.

For instance, I knew it had to be possible to get a widget of recent comments. So I had to create a new sidebar section, add a widget, and I searched and searched for it, but I couldn’t find it. Eventually, I discovered the option to “Track Website Changes” and with that, you can configure it to track any number of things, including new posts, new links, new gallery photos, all you could hope for. It wasn’t obvious where it was, but when I delved into it, there were so many options, it was worthwhile.

I’m finding that a lot. Plus, I managed to change the font on my theme, and that’s all I was after.

3. Proper embed codes.

It’s a bit of a pain, because when I switched to Wordpress, I went through my blog and changed all video embeds to the special shortcodes. Something along the lines of [youtube link goes here]. Squarespace can cope with actual embeds, which is a) excellent and b) a pain because I’m having to go through my entire blog again.

4. Templates are a bit of a rabbit warren to begin with.

This is another completely different setup to what I am used to, and it took me a long time to get my head round it. Firstly, you pick the general template that you want to use. It’s really a jumping off point, and there are about ten options to choose from. Then, from there, you can choose a version of that theme that appeals to you more. This is more to do with colours and images, design and detail.

Once you have done all that, you can then choose to make a copy of that theme and tweak it to your heart’s content. You can choose whether it has headers, where the top links are, whether you have one or two sidebars, and all the widths, colours and fonts that you so desire.

You can end up tweaking for hours, there are so many options.

5. The help manual is excellent.

When all else fails, I have found the help manual to be really, well, helpful. They seem to have almost every question I’ve ever had to ask, bar the Recent Comments issue. The manual is presented with a great search function, so that’s your first option, and if not, you can narrow down the manual by category depending on what you’re looking for.

I haven’t had to resort to help tickets or anything, but Leo and friends have always said they are quick to respond and very helpful.

Considering that I upgraded Wordpress to have extra functionality, including the custom domain name, to get rid of adverts, and other bits and pieces, the price is almost like-for-like.

The only problem I have had is that the plan I have chosen limits you to ten static pages, and I had just started to experiment with nested pages for my Life List. I am still pondering a way round this, but I think it is a small sacrifice to make.

So far, I have revised my opinion from: Squarespace, stay away from it, it’s terrible to Squarespace, it looks scary to start with but if you have the patience to stick with it, you’ll probably find some very cool features that will make you happy. I’m hoping my opinion will continue to improve as I continue to bring my blog back to life.

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