My experiments in web development have led me all over the field of Content Management Systems (CMSs) from WordPress to Squarespace with stops at Kirby, concrete5, SilverStripe, Perch, Statamic, and Grav. Some of those have changed names and/or underpinnings, but clearly, I’ve tried too many.
With the exception of WordPress, the others all required a fair amount of file system management, PHP and CSS coding, and lots of document reading in exchange for very flexible systems that could do almost anything you could code for. But WordPress is simply not secure enough; every hacker seems to target WordPress installations and they have gotten very good at bypassing WordPress’ security features.
Squarespace has been on my radar for several years, at least back to 2019. Its clever combination of web server, WYSIWYG design, elegant themes, and superb support can’t help but be attractive. For me, back then, the system was too restrictive and didn’t offer enough flexibility or options to make it viable for what I wanted to do.
Now Squarespace has reached Version 7.1 and the flexibility is there. At least it has through my trial period getting a skeleton of my combined sites up and running. Some things can’t be changed without a huge amount of effort and unsupported custom code, but I can live with that. One thing of particular importance to me is the ability to set up multiple blogs for my multiple hobbies. Having different galleries for my different photography interests is pretty simple, too.
Editing and redesigning don’t require code. Adding, deleting, or replacing photos is easy. Server maintenance and software updates happen automatically. You do have to pay for convenience like that, but what’s new? My old server costs $45/year (shared limited storage, limited bandwidth, but excellent support); Squarespace is $192/year (shared unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, and excellent support).
I find that in my hobbies I start off seeing what others do and learning all the ins and outs of a system. I want to understand, and manipulate, all the things. After a while, I become more interested in the result and less interested in working with the details and the guts. Web development is going that way for me now. I enjoyed coding the details of my Grav sites, but now it has become tedious. And it’s hard to pick the necessary skills back up after a long diversion to another hobby. Squarespace offers me the chance to get my design close enough to where I want it to be more easily, even if it’s not perfectly perfect.
The Squarespace design system works to keep the look of your site consistent across its pages and design elements. Many fonts are available, but it’s easy to keep text elements uniform; you can break that mold, but you have to try. Most of the work you do in Squarespace is WYSIWYG which makes it easy to evaluate changes before you publish them.
If you need some help with something, Squarespace’s support system is nearly legendary. Emails are answered quickly and during business hours you can chat with support specialists in real time. Plus, there are active support forums for getting help from other users on things that might not be within the scope of Squarespace’s support – custom CSS, for example.
That custom CSS allows the site designer to dig a little bit deeper under the standard templates to make changes the template designer did not originally intend. There is some danger there with the possibility of messing up the template’s CSS and Squarespace offers no support for changes made.
I like it. And if you want to give it a try, you can get a 14-day trial with no risk. It’s worth at least a look if you are interested in changing hosts and design systems.