How to build a website using Squarespace

We walk you step-by-step through the process of building your Squarespace website, and show you how to make it stand out
Mar 26, 2020 • 9 minute read
Adam Smith @HomebrandAdam
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for How to build a website using Squarespace

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If you want to get a simple website up quickly, Squarespace is a great option

Your business needs a website. No doubt you already know this. But the process of building a website from the ground up can take time and a fair amount of money. What if you just want to get a simple site up quickly, and you don't have much technical knowhow?

If that's your goal, Squarespace is a great option. Squarespace is a simple website builder that lets you design your site using a visual editor. It's great if you want a straightforward site that doesn't need a lot of fancy functionality, but you still want it to look beautiful.

Before we dive into how to build a site with Squarespace, let's look at some of the platform's pros and cons.

Squarespace pros and cons

Squarespace has a lot of advantages. Like its rival Wix, Squarespace uses an intuitive interface to help you build a beautiful site without writing a line of code. It provides you with a range of templates to help you get started, and it even lets you add some cool functionality. And Squarespace's template library beats Wix's, hands down.

OK, so those are the arguments in favor of Squarespace. Here are the downsides.

First, Squarespace isn't great for SEO. It's not terrible, mind you. It actually provides you with some nifty SEO tools, and it allows you some very advanced SEO control. But in order to actually make use of those advanced SEO features, you have to have a pretty advanced knowledge of SEO to begin with.

Second, Squarespace's templates are beautiful, but they can also be endlessly frustrating. Want to add a featured image to your blog post with a template that doesn't already include that function? Too bad! Squarespace templates hem you into a set layout, and in order to deviate from that too drastically, you'll need to know some reasonably advanced HTML and CSS. And you probably didn't choose Squarespace because you love writing HTML and CSS markup.

Finally, Squarespace just isn't the best option for building sites with robust, dynamic features. Yes, you can add cool elements like appointment scheduling, pop-ups, forms and videos, but your options for dynamic elements are very limited.

One little note on this, though. You actually can add custom JavaScript to your Squarespace page. If you're not familiar with JavaScript, it's the programming language used for websites, along with markdown languages HTML and CSS. HTML and CSS tell a web browser how your website should look, while JavaScript determines what your website does. And Squarespace does allow you to inject JavaScript, so if you have a cool idea for a custom function on your Squarespace site, a JavaScript web developer can probably help you pull it off.

Now that we've gone through the pros and cons of choosing Squarespace for your website, let's dive into how to build your Squarespace site.

Getting started with Squarespace

First thing's first. Head to Squarespace.com and create an account. You'll start off with a 14-day free trial, but if you already know you want to use Squarespace to build your site, you can go ahead and choose a plan.

Squarespace plans and pricing

Squarespace offers four different subscription options based on what you want to accomplish with your website.

Personal: The Personal plan is really only suited for people looking for a blog or portfolio site. It's $16 USD a month, or $144 billed annually. That gets you a custom domain (but only if you choose annual billing), a mobile optimized website and allows you to manage the site with one other contributor. The Personal plan also doesn't allow for the aforementioned CSS and JavaScript customization.

Business: The Business plan is $26 USD per month or $216 billed annually. In addition to the features of the Personal plan, you'll also get unlimited contributors, an email address attached to your site, $100 credit to spend on Google Ads, a bunch of cool ecommerce tools to sell products and services or take donations, CSS and JavaScript customization and the ability to add pop-up forms. The Business plan tacks a 3% fee on any transactions you do through your site.

Basic: The Basic plan is good for ecommerce sites. It removes that pesky 3% transaction fee. It also provides you with inventory tools, Xero accounting software integration, label printing, checkout on your site, the ability for site visitors to create customer accounts and it posts your products to Instagram. It's $30 USD per month, or $312 billed annually.

Advanced: The Advanced plan adds some more ecommerce functionality. For $46 USD per month or $480 billed annually, you get advanced shipping tools, user subscription functionality, gift card creation, abandoned cart autorecovery and flexible discounting options.

Choosing your Squarespace site

Now we get down to the action. After you log into Squarespace, you'll be asked what your site is all about. This is basically asking what industry you're in. We'll choose design as an example.

squarespace whats your site about

Next, Squarespace will ask you what you want to do with your site. Do you want to showcase a portfolio? Advertise your physical storefront? Promote an event? We're gonna choose to be a design site for this example, so we'll select "Sell services."

squarespace what are your top goals

Now, Squarespace wants to know where you are in this whole crazy website journey. Are you replacing your site with a Squarespace site? Trying to promote your existing business? Just kicking the tires a bit? We're starry-eyed optimists, so we'll say we're trying to turn our hobby into a source of income.

Next, you get to choose a template for your site. We can't go past a strange pickle photo, so we're going with Hester.

squarespace template picker

Finally, it's time to give our site a name. We've decided we're going to set up an ecommerce site that sells bad drawings at high prices, so we've named it appropriately.

squarespace name site

Editing your Squarespace site

But we're just getting started! Now it's time to make that Squarespace site our own. Squarespace makes it ridiculously easy to edit any element of your site. Just double click, and an editing pane will appear. For example, we can change our h1 (the main headline):

squarespace change h1

Our button text:

squarespace button text

Our background image, and just about anything else on the page.

What if you want to add a new element? Easy. Just click around on the page in edit mode, and you'll see a teardrop shaped icon appear. Click on it, and a new pane will pop up with a broad array of elements you can add to your page.

squarespace content blocks

Adding pages and posts to your Squarespace site

On the home screen of your Squarespace site, you'll see a toolbar on the left hand side. At the top, you'll see "Pages." Once you click through, you'll be given another toolbar with a few options for different page types, depending on the type of site you chose.

squarespace toolbar

You can click on any of the existing pages to add posts. For example, let's say you want to add a blog post. Easy. Just click "Blog," then click the plus icon on the next toolbar. Squarespace's blogging interface is quite simple. Just click to add a heading, click to add text, format to your pleasing and you're done. You can also add categories to group similar blogs together, and tags to allow visitors to search for content by keyword.

squarespace blog post

A quick note here. There's a difference between pages and posts. Pages are the main architecture of your website. They're essentially the broad categories of content. Posts are the content that live on pages. As we said, Squarespace will have pre-selected a few different types of pages depending on the template you chose.

But what if you want to add a different type of page? One that's not among the options you're initially offered? As though you're too good for what Squarespace is trying to give you. Is that it? You think you're too good for Squarespace?

Well, you're in luck. On the main "Pages" toolbar, you'll see a plus icon in two different places. One is for pages you want to have linked in the main navigation menu. The other is for pages you want to add, but don't want to link in the main navigation.

Click the plus icon and a pane will appear showing all the different types of pages you can add. If you don't see one you want, you can just choose a blank page or a preset layout.

Once you've added the page, you can change the page options by clicking on the gear icon next to the relevant page. You'll be presented with a variety of options you can edit. Clicking on the General tab will let you change the title and URL of the page, the title that appears in the navigation bar and the number of posts that will display on the page. You can even password protect the page if you want to create gated content.

squarespace change page settings

The SEO tab will allow you to change the page's title tag (the title that appears in search results), meta description (the blurb that appears under the title in search results) and change whether or not you want search engines to index the page.

The Social Image tab lets you — you guessed it — change the image that appears when people link the page on social media.

The Feeds tab only appears under Blogs, and only has a couple of use cases. They both require a bit of advanced know-how. If you have a podcast, you can host the episodes on your Squarespace page and use this tab to add them to podcast apps. You can upload episodes of your podcast by adding a blog post, clicking that little teardrop icon we told you about and selecting "Audio" from the pop-up pane.

Once you've uploaded your podcast, you can use Squarespace to add its feed to podcasting platforms by entering all the relevant information in the Feeds tab and then clicking Connect.

You can also use the Feeds tab if you want your blog's content pulled into the Apple News feed. This one is a bit trickier, as you'll first need to create an Apple News Publisher account, and get a channel ID and an API key. Once you've gotten all the info from your Apple News Publisher account, just plug it in and hit Connect.

The Advanced tab enables you to manage any categories or tags you've added, and to inject custom code into the header of a page.

Squarespace tools

Now we've made a simple, functioning site. Let's have a look at some of the tools Squarespace offers to help manage it.

Design

The Design tab lets you customize the appearance of your site so it doesn't look exactly like the template you chose. You can change the color palette, the fonts, the button shape and size and the way products and images appear. You can even customize your 404 page for visitors who get lost navigating your site.

Commerce

To use Squarespace's ecommerce tools, you'll need a Business subscription or better. The tools you get (depending on your subscription) include inventory and order tracking, customer relationship management, discount codes and point of sale tools. You can also use this tab to set up shipping, manage your payment gateway, keep track of customer accounts and download accounting reports.

Marketing

The Marketing tab puts some pretty great tools at your disposal. You can build email campaigns, create custom URLs to track your Google Ads, add pop-ups to pages and promote your products on Instagram.

Scheduling

This is an add-on service that allows you to access robust online scheduling tools. Squarespace Scheduling will allow your clients to book, alter or cancel appointments, will automatically send out reminders and will have clients fill out intake forms.

Analytics

The Analytics tab contains some amazing insight into how visitors are interacting with your website. You can see where your traffic is coming from, what keywords you're ranking for and how people are engaging with your content. You can also track sales and see abandoned carts.

Settings

In the Settings tab, you can add links to your social media pages, add your business information, integrate your Xero or Quickbooks accounting system with your site and add site contributors. You can also manage your account and billing.

Making your Squarespace amazing

We've gone over the basics of how to get your site set up and how to use Squarespace's tools to manage it. But to really take your Squarespace to the next level, you should enlist the help of some professionals.

A graphic designer can use an existing Squarespace template to make your site look unique, or they can create a brand new Squarespace template for you.

A web developer can build custom functions to run on your Squarespace site, and can make sure the existing functions are set up properly to give you the most bang for your buck.

An SEO expert can be immensely helpful with your Squarespace site. As we mentioned, Squarespace isn't the best for SEO. Unless you already have some advanced SEO skills, you'll need to get an SEO expert to set up your Squarespace site to have any hope of ranking in search results.

An email marketing expert can help you build winning email campaigns that grow your user base and convert into sales.

A search engine marketing expert can help you make good use of that $100 Google Ad credit to bring high-intent buyers to your site. Squarespace is handing you $100 of advertising. It's worth getting some expert help to turn that gift into serious sales.

Finally, a freelance writer can create copy for your site that tells your brand's story, motivates visitors to take action and engages your customers to keep coming back to your site again and again.

Final words

Squarespace isn't the perfect option for every website. But if you want to build a great looking site quickly and easily, and you want user-friendly tools to help you manage your online business, Squarespace is a great place to start.

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