Squarespace is a website builder and hosting platform that has grown significantly in popularity and usage over the past decade. Founded in 2003, Squarespace aimed to provide an all-in-one solution for anyone looking to build a professional website without needing to know coding. Since then, it has evolved into one of the leading players in the website building industry. This article will examine the history and growth of Squarespace, its features and advantages that have driven adoption, and its impact on web design and the DIY website building landscape.
History and Overview of Squarespace
Squarespace was founded in 2003 by Anthony Casalena in his dorm room at the University of Maryland. The initial version provided users with pre-made website templates and hosting to quickly set up sites. In 2004, Casalena dropped out of college to focus on Squarespace full time. The company attracted venture capital funding in 2005 and opened its first office in NYC. Over the next few years, Squarespace continued improving its templates and expanding its hosting infrastructure.
A major upgrade came in 2010 with Squarespace 6, which introduced a completely redesigned template system with custom CSS capabilities. This allowed much more customization and flexibility compared to previous rigid templates. In 2011, Squarespace introduced ecommerce capabilities, enabling users to easily sell products directly on their sites. The company also focused on improving their mobile templates and management systems during this period of rapid smartphone adoption.
In 2014, Squarespace 7 was released, completely revamping the editor interface and including new features like integrated blogging, video handling, and search engine optimization tools. Squarespace also began its online advertising campaign with videos showcasing beautiful websites built on the platform. Over the next few years, Squarespace continued refining the platform, introducing an all-new logo and brand identity in 2017.
Squarespace debuted on the NYSE in 2021 at a $6.8 billion valuation. Today, it powers over 2 million websites and has over 1000 employees globally. Though it started as a DIY building platform, Squarespace now caters to both hobbyists and professionals. Its customers include individuals, restaurants, artists, musicians, fashion designers, doctors, lawyers, Fortune 500 companies and more.
Key Advantages of Squarespace
There are several key advantages that have contributed to Squarespace’s rise as a major web building platform:
All-in-One Solution – Squarespace combines website building, hosting, and ecommerce capabilities into one integrated system. Users don’t have to piecing together separate solutions.
Easy-to-Use Editor – The Squarespace editor allows anyone to build and customize their site visually without needing coding expertise. The interface is drag-and-drop with intuitive page layout tools.
Design Flexibility – Squarespace includes beautiful templates created by professional designers across various industries. Users have extensive control over colors, fonts, layouts, and CSS.
Robust Features – Squarespace offers powerful blogging, social media integration, email marketing, search engine optimization, analytics, and ecommerce tools built-in.
Top-Notch Hosting & Security – Websites are hosted on Squarespace’s fast global infrastructure. The platform provides automatic updates, SSL encryption, and DDoS protection.
Strong Customer Support – Squarespace offers 24/7 customer support via live chat and phone. They also maintain a rich knowledge base and forums to help users.
Mobile Friendly – All Squarespace templates are fully responsive and optimized for mobile devices. Site owners can preview mobile versions.
Affordable Pricing – Squarespace has competitive pricing tiers to fit personal sites to high-traffic enterprises. Uncommon features like custom domains and ecommerce have no extra fees.
These advantages have made Squarespace the go-to platform for anyone looking to create a professional quality website easily without deep technical skills. It democratized quality web design.
Impact on Web Design Industry
The growth of Squarespace has had a significant influence on web design in several ways:
Empowered DIY Users – Squarespace opened website creation to the masses. Its drag-and-drop editor and skills-free approach enabled anyone to make a site. This DIY trend has continued with other site builders like Wix and Weebly.
Raised Quality Standards – With beautiful templates and integrated features, Squarespace enabled regular users to make high-quality sites rivaling professionally designed ones. This improved baseline quality across the web.
Streamlined Web Design Services – Professionals use Squarespace as a base for client sites. This allows focusing on strategic design vs. technical build tasks, efficiently increasing output. Many web design firms even offer Squarespace-specific services.
Enabled New Business Models – Squarespace allowed individuals and organizations with no web design budgets to present themselves professionally online. Small businesses, artists, musicians, community groups all benefit from the platform.
Drove Innovation in Incumbents – The rise of Squarespace pressured established players like WordPress and Adobe to streamline experiences for novice users. This pushed the entire industry towards more inclusive web design.
Challenged Perception of Skills Required – Squarespace’s success showed that coding is not required to build sleek, functional websites. This has helped demystify web design and lower the barrier to entry significantly.
While DIY builders now power the majority of the world’s websites, expert web designers continue to thrive. Squarespace streamlined the needs of basic sites, allowing pros to focus on high-end and strategic projects. But for the average personal or small business user, Squarespace delivered on its promise of enabling anyone to create a professional web presence.
Squarespace’s Template Offerings and Selection
One of Squarespace’s main value propositions is providing beautifully designed templates created by world-class designers. It offers a wide selection spanning industries and use cases. While they provide a great starting point, Squarespace’s styling and layout options allow tailoring the templates extensively. Some characteristics of Squarespace’s templates:
Professionally Designed – Squarespace employs an in-house design team and also collaborates with external contributors to produce its templates. They follow modern best practices and aesthetics.
Industry-Specific – There are tailored templates for businesses, restaurants, photographers, musicians, events, weddings, portfolios, and more. This helps sites look credible and appropriate.
Mobile-First – The responsive templates automatically adapt layouts and styling for mobile devices. This results in seamless experiences across desktop and mobile.
Regularly Refined & Added – Squarespace continually tests and optimizes its templates based on real-world usage data and evolving web design trends. They also release fresh templates every month.
Customization Options – Users have fine-grained control over layout, colors, fonts, graphic elements, CSS, and navigation for modifying templates extensively.
Built-In Features – The templates come pre-configured with key features like blogs, galleries, ecommerce, appointment scheduling, and social media integration enabled and visually styled.
Squarespace strikes a balance between professional design and customizability better than competitors. Even basic users can achieve great results while designers have the flexibility to still craft unique sites.
A major factor in Squarespace’s expanding popularity is its built-in ecommerce capabilities. Squarespace Commerce powers online stores for both small businesses and large enterprises. Key ecommerce features include:
Easy Setup – Adding Commerce mode to sites takes just a few clicks. Squarespace walks users through connecting payment processors and configuring taxes, shipping rates, and other necessities.
Products & Inventory – The Products panel lets merchants create items with variations, custom options, pricing, inventory tracking, SKUs, and associated media. Importing products is also simplified via CSV.
Order Management – The Orders section centralizes purchase data, customer details, and tracking information to manage fulfillment smoothly. Automated order confirmation emails go out to buyers as well.
Robust Checkout – Squarespace offers native cart and checkout experiences that can be tailored with custom branding. Payment is handled via integration with Stripe and other processors.
Discount & Promo Tools – Sellers can create coupons and apply discounts to incentivize purchases. Automated abandoned cart emails can also rescue lost sales.
Physical & Digital – Stores can ship physical product globally and sell digital downloads. Square processes payments and payouts for both.
Seller Tools – Detailed sales, traffic, customer, and inventory reporting helps optimize the business side. Built-in email marketing maintains customer relationships.
Design Freedom – Storefronts can mimic the selected site template for a cohesive brand experience. Granular design controls customize aesthetics further.
With ecommerce penetration still rapidly increasing, Squarespace Commerce removes the technical burden for businesses to get online and start selling.
Squarespace has developed one of the most powerful built-in blogging engines across website builders. The platform is designed for multi-author sites, magazines, news outlets, and online publishers. Key blogging features include:
Integrated Workflow – Creating blog content feels natural thanks to seamless content creation and management workflows within Squarespace.
Custom Post Types – Beyond standard posts, users can create custom structures for podcasts, videos, reviews, recipes, and more.
Robust Text Options – The WYSIWYG editor lets bloggers format posts with H1-H6 headings, lists, links, imagery, embeds, code blocks, and footnotes.
Media Integration – It’s easy to insert images, audio, video, and documents hosted on Squarespace or external services like YouTube and Vimeo.
Comments & Threads – Posts can enable commenting and create ongoing conversations with readers using the integrated comment system.
Discovery & Search – SEO tools, sitemaps, and built-in search optimize blog content for being discovered by search engines and visitors.
Statistics – Squarespace provides dashboard snapshots and in-depth analytics on traffic sources, most popular posts, email subscribers, and audience demographics.
Email Marketing – Bloggers can send campaigns and automated newsletters to followers, import email lists, and integrate with providers like MailChimp.
For both hobbyists and professional online publishers, Squarespace sets the standard for an integrated blogging experience.
Developer Platform & APIs
While Squarespace focuses on ease-of-use, they also provide developer-friendly APIs and customization pathways for advanced users:
REST API – The REST API enables programmatically accessing and manipulating Squarespace site data like orders, products, comments, and users from external applications.
Custom Domains – Users can connect purchased third-party domains with no extra fees and manage DNS records directly in Squarespace.
CSS Editor – The dedicated CSS editor sandbox allows adding custom CSS stylesheets to override template code and add more advanced formatting.
Code Blocks – HTML, CSS, and JS code blocks can be inserted anywhere into Squarespace pages for small tweaks and custom scripts.
Extensions – Third-party extensions from the Squarespace Developer Platform add missing features like booking systems, advanced galleries, and review management.
Partners – Squarespace’s App Partners integrate popular third-party services like HubSpot, MailChimp, Calendly, and others into sites.
While catering to all skill levels, Squarespace still empowers developers through APIs, markup insertion, and extensions for advanced customization when needed.
Marketing, SEO, and Analytics
Beyond core content features, Squarespace includes a robust set of marketing, promotion, and analytics tools:
Built-In SEO – Squarespace applies SEO best practices out-of-the-box for site structure, URL formatting, meta tags, alt text, and discoverability. Users can customize titles and descriptions.
Google Analytics – Sites can integrate Google Analytics for in-depth tracking of visitors, traffic sources, conversions, and other analytics. Dashboard shortcuts provide quick access.
Social Media – Squarespace builds in social sharing widgets and buttons. Users can create connected social profiles and auto-publish blog posts.
Email Campaigns – The Email Campaigns tool lets users create and send marketing messages to customers and email list subscribers directly within Squarespace.
Coupons – Site owners can set up coupon codes and promotional discounts for email campaigns and other initiatives to drive sales and engagement.
A/B Testing – Squarespace Commerce sites can set up A/B tests to trial versions of product pages, content, or messaging with a portion of visitors.
Site Metrics – The built-in site stats provide snapshots of total visitors, top pages and referrers, traffic charts, and geography. More detailed reporting in Squarespace Commerce.
Squarespace aims to be an integrated one-stop solution and its marketing capabilities help owners actively grow their sites without external tools.
Ease of use has been central to Squarespace since the beginning. Some aspects that contribute to its user experience edge:
Intuitive Editor – The visual editor with drag-and-drop modules and clear menus enables intuitive content creation without technical knowledge.
Responsive Design – Templates dynamically format content for desktop, tablet, and mobile screens. Users can preview sites across devices.
Consistent Interfaces – Pages, blogs, stores, and other tools maintain UX commonalities that make ramp up easy across Squarespace sections.
Guided Onboarding – When launching sites, Squarespace offers prompts that guide users through key setup steps like integrating a custom domain and connecting social accounts.
Design Aids – The Style Editor suggestions and Design Helper accelerate applying custom colors, fonts, and layouts without deep design expertise.
Simplified Commerce – Squarespace Commerce streamlines launching online stores by automating complex parts like payment setup, tax configuration, and compliance.
Interactive Tutorials – The help guides demonstrate concepts and flows using annotated diagrams and step-by-step walkthroughs of common use cases.
Squarespace focuses on consistency and usability so that sites remain easy to manage even as they grow in the long run.
Support & Resources
For a platform targeting non-technical users, Squarespace has developed extensive educational content and customer support:
Knowledge Base – Squarespace curates detailed help center articles explaining core concepts and how to accomplish tasks within the platform.
Forum – The community forum connects users to provide assistance and product feedback based on shared experiences.
Webinars & Events – Squarespace offers live and recorded webinars and meetups to walk through more complex use cases and answer community questions.
Video Tutorials – There is a library of short help videos demonstrating how to use Squarespace features that users can refer to on-demand.
Customer Support – Users get 24/7 email, chat, and phone support from Squarespace’s customer service team to resolve issues.
Newsletter – Squarespace’s regular email newsletter highlights platform updates, new capabilities, and best practices for subscribers.
Office Hours – Users can book 1-on-1 sessions with Squarespace experts to get personalized advice based on their site and needs.
By offering multi-channel learning resources, Squarespace enables users to fully leverage its platform and create effective sites.
Despite its popularity, Squarespace faces some criticisms:
Limited Customization – While more configurable than competitors, Squarespace still restricts changes compared to open platforms like WordPress. Advanced users may feel limited.
Technical Shortcomings – Occasional bugs, stability issues, downtime, and performance lags have been reported as Squarespace scales.
Steep Learning Curve – Mastering advanced Squarespace features for ecommerce, email marketing, and branding requires significant learning even with its guides.
Third-Party Dependencies – Reliance on third-party systems like Stripe, Getty Images, and Google for key capabilities brings additional complexity.
Price – Squarespace is one of the more expensive website builder solutions. The $30 – $40 monthly cost may not suit budget-minded users.
Lacks Established Plugin Ecosystem – Having a closed system limits integrating niche functionalities enabled by WordPress’ vast plugin library.
Not Ideal for Large Sites – Squarespace may not be robust enough for extremely high-traffic websites due to infrastructure constraints.
Ongoing Cost – The monthly subscription model can seem pricier long-term compared to a self-hosted WordPress site with a one-time license fee.
While Squarespace makes tradeoffs to enable its ease of use, for the target DIY to small business demographic, it delivers significant more value than alternatives.
Since its founding, Squarespace has helped revolutionize website creation for non-technical users. Its all-in-one platform, beautiful templates, powerful commerce capabilities, and streamlined editor enabled anyone to build a professional online presence. Squarespace identified the pain points of piecing together hosting, design, and functionality separately. By integrating everything into one cohesive system, it simplified web design and leveled the playing field. While it may not suit advanced developers, Squarespace’s continued refinement of its templates and features solidifies its place as a leader in the DIY space. Going forward, Squarespace must continue innovating on usability while closing feature gaps with competitors. But for now, its ability to