So, over the years, I've experimented with many website platforms. I've tried Blogger, Wordpress.com, and many others. I was never really satisfied with the DIY look that most of these free or low-cost options provided....until I found out about SquareSpace.com. What I immediately loved about SquareSpace was the look of their templates. All the templates are free so they don't have "premium" or "paid" ones that look better than the free options. I love a clean looking site and pretty much all of SquareSpace's templates fit the bill. SquareSpace is also super budget friendly. Monthly costs range from $8 to $36 per month depending on your e-commerce needs.
What About Other Options?
I was initially hosting Dream Birthers on a free Wordpress.com account. It was okay, but definitely not what I was looking for design and feature-wise. I never tried Wordpress.org but I was seriously considering it in the beginning. I simply didn't have the funds initially to set up one of these sites but I'm actually so glad I didn't.
Wordpress.org is the self-hosted version of Wordpress. Wordpress.org is open source software. Anyone can download it to their computers for free. However, there are many other additional costs associated with using Wordpress.org. First, you have to pay for monthly hosting from a third party site. Next, you have to purchase a theme. A theme is your template design. Also, many people higher a designer to edit their themes to meet their needs. Finally, you have to purchase security and file backups for your Wordpress site. The plus is that you own your site. The negative is that it can often cost a ton of money and take a lot of effort to set it up.
What You Need Before Building Your Site
There are a few things you need prior to setting up your SquareSpace site. Here is a checklist of those items. I've also included a worksheet at the end of this post that includes this checklist.
- Domain name. Your domain is your www.businessname.com. It's what others type in to get to your site. This can be purchased from www.GoDaddy.com or any domain site.
- Business logo (optional).SquareSpace allows you to use text for your website header but if you can insert your own logo in advance, that would be ideal for branding purposes. SquareSpace also has a Logo Creator that is free when you sign up for a site. Other DIY logo options include using PicMonkey or Canva.
- Site plan. I'll go into this in detail in further posts. In short you need to know what pages you need for your site. Most sites have: about us, contact, blog, store, etc.
- MailChimp account. Email accounts are considered gold in today's business world. It gives you direct inbox access to your ideal clients. SquareSpace has a great feature that allows you to set up a newsletter sign-up box integrated with your MailChimp account. MailChimp has free versions and paid versions depending on your business needs.
Six Steps To Building Your Site In A Day (or More)
Without further ado, here are some basic steps to create a website on SquareSpace in a day. Of course, it may take several days or weeks to set-up your site. However, it's very possible to get it up and running within a few hours.
Step One: Start A SquareSpace Account
I initially chose a 30-day free trial to find out if I liked SquareSpace and I ended up loving it. I encourage you to do the same if you're on the fence about using the service. Otherwise, you can sign up for the paid service up front. SquareSpace offers generous discounts for signing up a year in advance. If you're used to another platform, it may take you some time to get used to the SquareSpace navigation. However, with time, I found it to be much easier than other sites. Once you sign up for a site, they will give you a URL that links directly to your site to edit it. You can then direct your domain that you purchased to the SquareSpace site.
Step Two: Choose A Template
This is where you get to have fun. Go to SquareSpace.com/Templates to view all of their beautiful themes. Once you open a theme, select "Live Preview" to see how it will look on your screen. One of the most important things you need to consider at this point is your home page. If you are going to use the site primarily as a Blog, then you need to look at how the Blog pages are set up on the theme you are considering. Do you like the layouts? Do you like the options shown on the example site? If you are creating an e-commerce store, then definitely look at the templates that focus on e-commerce on the home page. You can set any page on your site as the home page with the click of a button. I started off with one them but then I found out that they had more traditional blog themes that worked better with my brand. Switching templates is easy. However, I lost some of my customization when I switched designs and had to start over. That's something to think about in the beginning. Before you put any real work into your site, test out a few designs with just your logo or business name to test them out.
Step Three: Set Up Your Site Pages
This is where you will set up your contact, store and blog pages. From the main menu, select "Pages" and click the + sign to add a new page. You can add a regular page or do a blog page, store, gallery or cover page. You can use a cover page to let people know about a book coming out soon. You can then set up an email account through MailChimp where people can sign up to be notified of updates. The Pages option also allow you to set up a folder page. When you create a folder it can host multiple drop down pages beneath it. For example, you can set up an About Us folder and then create separate pages underneath such as Store Policies, Our Story, and Frequently Asked Questions. I especially love this feature. The gallery feature allows you to display photographs. I've set up a gallery page to display my portfolio of published books but this can also be used to host a traditional portfolio of a jewelry designer or artist or you can display pictures from past events. When you start a new page, you can also edit the url. For example, you can set your store page to be sparkledesigns.com/store or sparkledesigns.com/shop.
Step Four: Design Your Site
From your SquareSpace home page, you can select the "Design" page to get started with all the visual options for your site. If you have a logo, you can upload it here. SquareSpace also allows you to upload a favicon here. A Favicon is that tiny little picture you see near your domain name when your site is up. The design page also lets you change your template and the style editor allows you to change the site font, spacing between sections, colors, hyperlink colors and so much more.
Step Five: Set-Up and Integrate Google Email, MailChimp
Since you already have your MailChimp account started, you'll just need to link it to your newsletter block. Most people host their newsletter sign-up in the sidebar of their blog pages. SquareSpace has a great, short tutorial on how to do this here: Connect a Form Block or Newsletter Block. One of my most favorite features of SquareSpace is that it allows you to have a very professional email through their integration with google apps. For example, I have my email firstname.lastname@example.org through SquareSpace. I think that this is infinitely more professional than email@example.com. It costs $5 per month but it is included in the cost of some of the higher paying plans. Information on how to set-up the Gmail functionality can be found here: Signing Up For Google Apps.
Step Six: Input Your Resources
Once you have the basic set-up of your site, you can go about tweaking it to meet your needs. I still update this site almost weekly. SquareSpace allows you to do so much it's impossible to cover it in one post. Once your site is up, you can insert your blog posts, upload your products and list your services page.
One other tip I'd like to mention is that you want to have clean, attractive graphics to post on social media. One of the greatest tools out there is Canva.com. It's worth it to take an afternoon to open an account and see all that it can do. Yes, there are paid options but the free options are more than enough for your DIY graphic design needs.
In conclusion, at this stage of my business, I really do love SquareSpace. You have to use whatever platform works for you and your business. Let me know in the comments what you think about SquareSpace and the other platforms I mentioned. JessicaSays.com has a great tutorial and cheat sheet for setting up a SquareSpace site. Check it out here:Lessons From My Move To SquareSpace
Bonus! Website Design Worksheet
Click here to get your website design worksheet. I hope it helps you to plan your website design more effectively!
If you still need help, I provide SquareSpace website set-up Services for clients if you need some help. You may not have the time or the interest in setting up your own site and I totally understand! I love setting up new sites and would love to help you.