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 Pros

In my last post I mentioned that I had been looking for a template based web hosting service and that I had decided on  Squarespace after assessing all the variables I had mentioned. To recap what the important issues were for me:

  • the ability to utilize a custom domain so that my URL could remain the same
  • at least half a chance of being able to import my blog so as not to either lose all the posts, have to pay to have the blog hosted elsewhere, or to have to start from scratch
  • be responsive….that is to say be optimized for mobile devices
  • use no Flash
  • allow for the storage and download of digital products such as eBooks
  • be customizable so that the site doesn’t look like thousands of others that are out there already
  • be relatively reasonably priced
  • have clean, modern looking templatesbe relatively easy to use
  • have responsive customer service and support
  • optimally have the ability to embed audio for my Carrie Furnace Project, on which I spent quite some time preparing the audio clips
  • be able to do e-commerce and yet take only what I consider to be a reasonable ‘cut’ of one’s sales while also allowing for self-fulfillment of print orders

All the hosting services have the ability to utilize a custom domain (albeit at a higher price than the basic version).

All the hosts have available templates that don't use Flash and that are responsive (able to adapt configuration depending on what device the site is being viewed on) and that are clean and modern looking.

They all have the ability to do e-commerce, though the 'cuts' they take are variable. They all allow for self-fulfillment with no 'cut' as long as payment is NOT made through the site's e-commerce shopping cart (but then separate arrangements need to be made for payment, such as Paypal, but not through a direct link from the site). Having to request payment outside the website seems somewhat unprofessional to me.

So assuming that payment is made through the site shopping cart what is the 'cut'. Photo Shelter takes an 8-10% cut in most instances. Zenfolio takes 6% for self fulfilled orders and up to 12% for partner lab orders.  Smugmug says you keep 85% of the difference between the price you set and the Smugmug default, too complicated!

I like the Squarespace approach.  They have partnered with a service called Stripe to process credit cards.  You keep everything except for a 2.9% credit card processing fee and 30 cents per transaction.  This is very similar to plain old Paypal fees.  The downside is that you can't actually use Paypal.  Please note that my comments are based on the fact that I self fulfill all my sales. The considerations might be different if you use a print service.

What about blogs?  All the hosts have the ability to have a blog integrated into your website. But what about all those hundreds and hundreds of posts I have already made on my Wordpress blog that is integrated into my current website over many years? I certainly don't want to lose them. One of the very nice features of Squarespace is that they have an integrated import program that will copy all your old posts and port them into your new blog.  I tried works!   The downside (which I will cover in my next post) is that depending on your template the new blog appearance can range from magnificent to, well, less than magnificent.  PhotoShelter does not allow such blog importing. Zenfolio does.  I am uncertain as to the current status of this at Smugmug.

The only service where it seemed possible for me to add my Carrie Furnace audio clips to a page was Squarespace.  None of the others seemed to allow for that.

In terms of pricing, Smugmug was $150/yr, Zenfolio $140/yr, PhotoShelter $360/yr and Squarespace $190/yr, all when paid on a monthly plan.  Each may offer slightly lower prices for yearly commitments. PhotoShelter is clearly outside the bell shaped curve on this one at twice the price compared to most of the others.

In the end, I felt Squarespace offered the best options for me.  Obviously, this may not be the case for simply depends very specifically on what one is looking to do with their website and what type of photography and businedd concerns they have.

But don't think it is all a panacea.  In my next post I will discuss the Squarespace negatives, and there are a fair number in my mind.  Again, with a template based site it is unlikely that one size will fit all.