Have you ever considered branching out and created a web presence outside of Etsy? What are your options? How do you make the right choice among so many hosting alternatives?
I get a lot of questions from friends and readers who are interested in starting a business and want to learn more about launching their own e-commerce website or web presence, so I thought I'd share with you how I chose Squarespace for web hosting, creation, and design, and what my experience with it has been so far.
A few things before we get started...
A website is only as good as the content (the words and photos) that you put in it. I know that’s really obvious, but first things first. Spend some time crafting your copy (the words) on your home and about pages, listings, and blog posts.
Also, it’s worth it to gain a basic understanding of how to take good photos. Using natural light and diffused light are two huge game changers when it comes to taking better photos. I take all of my photos on the iPhone 6. The camera is remarkable!
Access to the Adobe Creative Suite and some beginner-level understanding in how to do some basic maneuvers in Photoshop and Illustrator is also key. (InDesign will be worth knowing for other reasons, like creating a wholesale catalog, order forms, PDF printables, etc. but that’s another post.)
OK, good. Glad we got that behind us so we can talk about the big questions you have about Squarespace.
What exactly is Squarespace?
Squarespace covers everything from website building, hosting, template design, e-commerce, blog management, and web stats.
Why did you choose Squarespace?
Ease of use. I could see immediately during the free trial that it was super easy and quick to set up a beautiful website.
Low price. Some may be turned off by the annual fee (around $250ish for e-commerce, less if you're using it as a portfolio or blog only). To me, this is a steal compared to paying a designer and a developer.
The look. It’s the best looking option among its peers, in my opinion.
The feel + functionality. The initial setup is not only easy but so is pretty much everything else. It easily integrates with MailChimp and your social media accounts, it has a great blogging component, and its style editor is a breeze to use.
Secure payment method. Squarespace's e-commerce is powered by Stripe, which allows me to accept payments over the web on behalf of my shop. Stripe is a TRUSTe verified payment method.
Did you look at other options?
Yes. Here’s what I came up with in my research:
Big Cartel. I noticed in my research that a lot of artists use Big Cartel. It seemed similarly priced to Squarespace but there is a limit in the number of goods you can sell. In general, I thought that the Squarespace sites were more appealing. Note to freelancers: last I checked, you can’t sell services on Big Cartel whereas you can on Squarespace.
Shopify. Shopify is an e-commerce option that can be integrated with another website host, like Wordpress (or even Squarespace). Shopify is the winner if you are looking for the most customizable, powerful e-commerce platform, but with that comes complexity. Many shops hire out for a designer and developer to customize Shopify. Bonus: Shopify and Pinterest have partnered to create the Buy it Now button.
Wordpress. I know you can do a lot with Wordpress but I didn't want to spend a lot of time customizing it. Another drawback: you need a separate e-commerce plug-in to create an online store using Wordpress.
Wix. Similar to Squarespace in that you can use the e-commerce platform that is built into Wix. I’ve heard it is much more complicated and less straightforward to use—good for those who want to tinker with their website.
What would you like to see improve?
Shopify has a lot of traction with the Buy it Now button which integrates with Pinterest (mind blown!) I also recently learned that's its possible to integrate Shopify and Squarespace. I don't know how complicated this would be; it's likely that the average person without coding skills would hire a developer to make this customization.
Can you show me some examples of websites that are using Squarespace?
You can check out the the Squarespace gallery of templates here. Lots of beautiful, inspiring options, don't you think?
What theme do you use?
I use the Montauk theme and have tweaked it using the style editor that's built in to the Squarespace platform. If you need more options for customization and can code, you can modify the CSS.
How do I get started?
My suggestion would be to take a quick glance again at the 'Why' section above, and think through your own needs for an online shop. Figure this piece out first before shopping around. Then, play around with the few options you are considering. (Last I checked, Squarespace offered a free two week trial.) And you may want to start a Pinterest board or bookmark sites that you come across and love. It can't hurt to shoot an email to the shop and ask how they set up their site.
I hope this helps. I know when I was just starting out and looking for Etsy alternatives I was overwhelmed with the number of options out there. I have been so happy with my experience with Squarespace and I am sure that the professional presentation of my site has opened doors to press mentions and sales that I otherwise would not have had. I’d be happy to answer any more questions you may have about Squarespace. The best way to be in touch with me is to join my monthly letters and reply to an email.