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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Squarespace - The Cons

When I first decided to write a post about the cons of using Squarespace to build and host my website I actually had a far larger list than I do now.  Like any tool, it takes some getting used to.  Let me state at the outset that now that I have finished putting together the site I am extremely pleased with Squarespace overall and can VERY HIGHLY recommend it to those interested in building and hosting a website.

I should add that the site is now live (which I guess you already know if you are reading this) at www.howardgrill.com.  

Also, see my post about the 'Pros' of Squarespace.

So what do I think could be improved?

  • The 'blocks' from which you build your pages are mostly a big plus and the various types of 'blocks' are varied (text, image, forms etc.), but when moving them around it can sometimes be difficult to drop them exactly where you would like them to go.  Its pretty easy if you want the whole page in, say, two columns.  But if you want one column in half the page and two in the other half (such as in some of my Carrie Furnace with audio pages) it can get a bit difficult to get the blocks to behave.  In this instance I found it far easier to build the two column part first and then drop in a single column above or below. But I wasted a fair bit of time discovering that.
  • Although you can add custom code to the templates there is still a bit too much restriction.  For example, I can't have my home page play an auto-run slideshow without every other gallery also being on auto-play.  My home page configured as a gallery can't display text on it.  If I configure it as a 'Page' with a 'Gallery Block' I can have text, but then the image won't be as large.
  • Although the degree of configurability and options are quite good there are some simple options that are missing.  For example, having the ability to have a border around your content, or to have a stroke and a watermark automatically added to uploaded images.  I would think options such as that would not be too difficult to add. The ability to make changes to one specific page's appearance would also be welcome.
  • The blog pages functionality and appearance vary greatly from template to template. Since blogs are often a large draw into a website and often the most updated and added to portion of the website there needs to be more options and customization. SOME templates have a good number of blog options, but this one that I chose did not. There is no sidebar in which to insert a search function or calendar to pull up old posts.  No blogroll. It was a battle to even get the header with the title Motivation onto the blog page and it took some manipulation and custom coding.  These are real shortcomings for a blog page. I did finally manage to at least make a blog summary page that has a search function and calendar but those are things that are out of place on a separate page. 
  • What, no preview mode for unpublished posts?
  • The e-commerce function uses a credit card processor only (at a very reasonable rate I should add) but there is no ability to use Paypal.  Paypal is so popular these days that this should really not be the case.

Switching away from the negatives, I also want to mention their customer service.  It simply doesn't get any better and I should have mentioned it in my last post.  Response time is always under an hour and mostly significantly less than that.  Unfortunately they will NOT help you with any custom coding, however, I can well understand why that might be the case. And when there is something you want the template or service to do that it can't they will right out tell you they can't do it.  But let me point out two examples of what they can do besides help you accurately and rapidly with the routine built in building functions:

  • My product search block on the template simply wasn't working properly.  It clearly was a problem with the template code and not anything I did.  They didn't BS me.  They told me there appeared to be a problem and told me they were referring it to the tech side to work on, but that they couldn't tell how long it would take.  I gave it up as a lost cause. Like many things with the templates, I found a work-around that did the job another way. But three days later I got an email saying they hadn't forgotten and they fixed it.  Sure enough, it worked.
  • My domain name is held elsewhere and I couldn't figure out the myriad of settings that needed to be made over at the company that held the domain in order for the URL to point to my new site.  It took about ten emails back and forth with the Squarespace customer service.  But they responded every thirty minutes like clockwork with screenshots and specifics of what settings on the screenshot needed to be changed and what to change them to.

In summary, nothing is perfect, and neither is Squarespace.  But given the myriad of specifics that I wanted, it was clearly the closest to perfection that I think is out there.  In fact, if they would just make all the template blog pages as good as the best ones they already have they would be 95% of the way to being pretty perfect.

With the knowledge of the above issues, I recommend Squarespace highly and without reservation.  Give their free trial a try if you are thinking of building that website that you really do need!