Today's blog post comes from the many conversations I've had lately with other photographers about website platforms. I figured if I'm telling people the same things over and over again, I might as well write it in a blog and direct people to it in the future. Plus, I'm always excited to share about something that I really love.
Some background... my first website was completely homemade by my developer husband, my second website was completely Wordpress based, my third website was Showit + a Wordpress blog, and (fourth time's the charm) now I'm on Squarespace.
After using Squarespace for about two months, I feel like I can really speak to why it works so well for me.
Whatever I need to do for my business, I can usually find a way to do it through Squarespace. I love that my blog and my website are on the same platform. I can do all my client questionnaires and surveys through forms built on Squarespace. My clients can make payments through my sales page, which deposits the money directly to my bank account. I can make MULTIPLE sales pages for special events like my mini sessions. Squarespace will host an unlimited number of website pages for me, so I create a personal page for every client I have. This is something that people told me for a long time I could only do through Showit, and it's just not true! Creating all these various pages for various needs keeps my clients and prospective clients on my site all within one cohesive brand.
I always use websites like Where Do I Rank? to find out where my website ranks on Google searches. When your business has no brick and mortar storefront, it's extremely important that your website is relevant and that Google knows it! With all my previous websites, I was excited just to be in the top 10 first pages. My Wordpress site and blog did okay, but never got higher than page 8. My Showit site was never anywhere to be found on Google (ugh!). As soon as I imported my content to Squarespace and labeled my images (which Squarespace makes so easy!) I instantly shot up twenty places on Google and have been steadily going up. I'm on page 4 now, which isn't perfect, but it's the right direction and it's nice to see that my changes matter. Having your blog, portfolio, and business information all in one place really makes a huge difference in your website SEO.
3. The Back End
Everything is so. very. easy. Of course, this is a subjective thing, but I find the Squarespace platform extremely easy to navigate. It's intuitive and constantly adding new features that make it even better. I've only been using it for about three months and have already seen tweaks and improvements. After a week or two of playing with Showit's back end, I had to give up and buy a template and tweak that. Designing my site from scratch was just way too overwhelming without having something to start with.
That brings me to my next point. All of Squarespace's templates are completely free. There are tons of options, all very modern and efficient, and you can change your template on a whim if you want. It will automatically translate your site from one template to the next. It's fun to play with to get different looks. I enjoyed my two week free trial because I could try a template, design my site, then change my template completely to see if I liked that better. It was so quick and easy.
5. Responsive Design
This becomes more and more important every day. A responsive website design means that your site will look beautiful no matter what size screen people view it on. All of Squarespace's templates are responsive and instantly look great on tablet and mobile. When I'm designing a page on my website I can just resize the window smaller and smaller to see how it would appear on tablets and on mobile phones. It even resizes all of your images for you so that they appear their best no matter how they're being viewed. I remember uploading an image to my Showit site and seeing that that size didn't look right in the place I put it, so I'd go back into Photoshop to resize that image, rinse and repeat until things didn't look pixelated or grainy. It's a very convenient feature!
6. No Coding Knowledge Needed
Showit excels at this, too, but this was the problem I had with Wordpress. If I wanted to customize something, even just change a color, I had to do some sort of HTML tweaking. This may be no big deal for some people, but for the majority it's very overwhelming. Now you CAN insert your own custom code into Squarespace, but even that is made much easier, as there's a clearly designated box for HTML code on each page if you choose to put any there. So far the only customization I've done is to add the Facebook "like" at the bottom of each blog post. It was there before, but hidden under the share button that I don't think most people click on. That's definitely something I think Squarespace should improve on!
But in general... drag and drop design. Super, super easy. With the latest Squarespace update you can even edit it and see what the final product will look like simultaneously. It's beyond easy. Did I mention how easy it is?
Especially when you factor in all the free templates at your fingertips, the sales tools, the free hosting and domain, and the questionnaire form functions that I know a lot of people have to use additional software for, Squarespace is a total steal at $16 per month. I think a lot of photographers shy away from it because it's not designed specifically FOR photographers, but I think overall that's been a good thing. Their focus is small BUSINESSES so there are a ton of built in business tools that I had to look elsewhere for when I had Wordpress and Showit.
If you're still reading this, I'm impressed. But I can write about this for days. Obviously people have different needs and priorities with their websites, but if you're on the fence trying to figure out what you need, I hope this painted a picture of what Squarespace might be able to do for you.
Any questions or comments, leave them here!