When to use Squarespace

Being a template developer, I tend to be at the receiving end of many bizarre website ideas on the Squarespace developer platform. Over the course of the last 5 years, these have ranged from the wannabe Pinterest clones, to complex data interfaces in need of a designer touch. And somewhere in the middle are the usual ideas of putting old websites in a new bottle, without actually wanting to throw away the old bottle.

During my early days with Squarespace, I was naive enough to assume that all websites are basically the same - just different styles applied to combinations of markup. And I’d eagerly encourage any ideas people came up with, however convoluted the implementation may be. But after years of actually building upon such ideas, it suddenly dawned on me that there is a reason why some of these ideas work flawlessly, while others die of confusion.

The answer lies in the acronym — CMS. But to truly understand this 3 letter word, we need to understand the individual letters deeply. And it helps to start backwards.

S is for Service

Squarespace is a service, not a software. Unlike other CMS providers like Wordpress, you cannot download and install it on your preferred hosting service. Neither can you run your own backend processes. This may seem like a hindrance, until you realize that it frees you up from having to maintain your own infrastructure and updates. Plus, you get the benefits of not having to worry about scaling to millions of users (if needed). However, this does mean that you should get used to the idea of picking an embeddable “service” over an installable “software” for all your third party integrations (aka plugins).

M is for Manage

A long time ago, a website was built by a single person, who handled everything from functionality to style to content. If you still believe that’s applicable today, you don’t need Squarespace (or any other CMS). The real power of a CMS lies in its ability to let different people manage different aspects of it, without requiring everyone to know how to code. But if all the managing is done by a single developer, the usefulness of a CMS starts withering away quickly.

C is for Content

There is a saying that Content is king, and that applies to Squarespace as well. You can only get a beautiful looking website, if your content is beautiful. Pixelated images and rambling text is going to look the same, regardless of the medium. You have to spend the time polishing your content, before beautifying your website. Another way to emphasize this is to say C is for Curated Content, not Catalogs of Content. And this applies to all types of content. Dumping your legacy banners, blog posts, photos, videos, forums, and data streams, is not going to make it magically beautiful. You must refine it using the latest design standards (or fads), before uploading or linking to them.

I hope this short post helps you to decide how to choose the right tool for your next website.