How is designing a website on Squarespace different?

WARNING: This is inspired from several true stories.

So you're building a new website from scratch and.. oh no, wait!

You're HIRING a designer to build a new website from scratch for you. You've decided to host it on Squarespace (brilliant idea by the way!), so you ask them if they're familiar with the platform and they say:

Yes, of course!
— Your potential designer

But they don't elaborate & you believe them.

Let's pause here, to take in the massive error you just made.. (Read on, I'll give you tip to know if that's really the case, for future reference.)

First lesson, always do your homework & verify every statement.

You two create an amazing design (your About page, your homepage, it doesn't matter). It's totally you, your brand vision, you LOVE it ❤️

Maybe this comes as an unexpected surprise or you'd discussed this together before, but your incredibly talented designer doesn't do implementation. You need to put her design on your website yourself or hire someone else (a developer) to do it for you. But that's fine.

Except that great design doesn't take into account Squarespace native constraints. Things like:

  • Content is limited to blocks, which can be placed side by side, or one above another, but NOT overlapping (damn!)
  • For style consistency, all similar headings (say, Heading 1) will look the same. So having them vary widely requires custom code (now's the time to take out your wallet..)
  • The look is quite minimalist so using colors, shapes, fonts or effects that aren't in the Style Editor will also require additional tweaking (that might not be entirely mobile responsive-friendly, if I may add)

Granted, your site won't have a typical "Squarespace look", but with each additional line of code, you're increasing your risk of having a display problem down the road as Squarespace updates their platform.

People often choose Squarespace for their simplicity of use. That means NOT customizing every title, padding & block color. That'd be the opposite of easy actually (what's that word again? – oh yeah, "pain in the ass").

If you want a total custom look, Wordpress is amazing for that – that is, if you have the patience + resources to create it.

Personally, I prefer keeping my peace of mind. My website isn't designed to impress visitors with its unique design – it's designed to convey my vibe + start a relationship with you. But that doesn't mean it's exclusive of great design, just that I've got my priorities straight ;)

Please note: ultra customization is not necessary for a great website, just simple taste + an authentic message.

So what should you ask a potential designer to find out if they actually have a clue of what they're doing? You've got a few choices actually:

  1. View their Squarespace portfolio. When visiting a site, to know for sure if this is Squarespace, right click & select "View page source". A new page will open & you should read near the top <!-- This is Squarespace. --> If it's not there, it's not Squarespace (sorry).
  2. Ask how they'll adjust their design to Squarespace (refer to the list above for hints).
  3. Test their knowledge by asking what's their favorite Image block design (is it Poster, Collage, or something else?) or their favorite template family & why (hint: Brine is amazing for online stores, Skye for blogging, & Bedford or Pacific for personal sites)

Obviously, hire a designer who knows what they're doing & are willing to include the web development (the implementation of the design) in their package – not as an extra.

One sure fire way to choose a designer that LOVES working in Squarespace? Their website IS on Squarespace ;)

Got more tips to share with me? Holla away in the comments below!

Marie-Eve Talbot

My life is a mosaic of soulful collaborations, yoga, green architecture, gatherings, travels and love. My talents lay in managing systems & operations, nurturing your community, & making sure that your next launch’s strategy is aligned with your values + intentions. You hold the vision and I make it happen :)