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    « Why folks will flip for GroupSwim’s version 6 | Main | Twitter API extends value of Salesforce’s Service Cloud »
    Thursday
    Apr022009

    Why Squarespace is a super blogging platform

    A common question that pops up on LinkedIn’s Q&A forum surrounds are requests for recommendations for blogging platforms. The most common answers swirl around WordPress and Typepad. I tend to be the contrarian because I don’t like either platform.  Instead I like, recommend, and use Squarespace.com.

    It’s what I used for this site (both in the main site and blog) and for Community Network, the Intellicore Design Consulting blog.

    Let me tell you why.

     

    Squarespace subscriptions

    Squarespace is a hosted service with variable subscription plans with annual fees ranging from $48 to $600 per year. However, Squarespace is worth every penny, especially for a corporate blogger.

    Among subscription options, you can have a custom URL for the Pro plan ($14/month) and above.

    With any subscription plan, you receive free tech support and it’s fabulously fasty fast.  The support team fields questions from technical to billing issues to how to questions.

    Typical turnaround on support tickets during the day is less than four hours and often less than two hours.  I’ve posted a few questions to the support team late at night and have still gotten answers within about four hours.

     

    Building your site

    Squarespace is easy to use and it’s designed so that you can make style and layout changes without being an HTML or PHP expert.

    Pages and features in Squarespace are broken into blocks that you snap together to make your site.  All the site elements are built right into the platform so you don’t have to scrounge around the Internet for plug-ins to get the features you want on your site.

    Squarespace widget. Click to enlarge.

    Additionally, all the widgets and other page elements like widgets are fully supported by Squarespace’s tech support team unlike WordPress hacks.

    You can also move around pages or elements within a page or sidebar by dragging and dropping.  I love this feature and use it on my blogs to make on-the-fly changes to all the time.

    Squarespace promotes that you can have a site up and running in 30 minutes.  Yes, you can. 

    However, if you want a professional-looking site that is well laid out, expect to spend several days designing and building your site.  Given the time requirement, it may still make sense to hire someone to do your set up for you so you stay focused on your primary business.

     

    SEO considerations

    The site's underlying architecture is built to optimize your website so it's spider friendly. You supply some information in plain English and let Squarespace turn it into metatags, page titles, etc.

     

    Design considerations

    Style editor. Click to enlarge.Squarespace offers 60-some templates to choose for your website and if the platform has a weakness, this is it.  I personally am not overly fond of their templates and don’t think any of them look very corporatey.

    However, what’s cool is that you can edit the style and layout of your site by click and dragging and can either start from scratch or modify an existing template.  There’s a lot you can do with uploading banners and changing font styles and colors to give your site a clean look.

    For example, I created the Community Network blog and www.kathyherrmann.com designs by modifying the same template as my starting point.  For each site, though, I uploaded different banners, selected different color schemes for fonts and sidebars.  Additionally, both sites use three-column layouts but I placed the sidebars in different locations.

    Squarespace does make a big thing about not needing to use a professional designer and they’re correct within certain limits.  If you want a fancier look for your site, especially one where you create a custom skin, then you’ll likely need a pro designer because such customization requires a good knowledge of using CSS stylesheets.

     

    Content management

    WYSIWYG editor. Click to enlarge.Squarespace has a good WYSIWYG editor (and note, I haven't found any online editor I'd consider great). The Squarespace editor will also allow you to easily upload images and make sizing and justification adjustments (again without knowing HTML).

    Additionally, you can still use third-party HTML editors with Squarespace. For example, I use Windows Live Writer because it gives me a little more feature functionality than Squarespace does. That said, Squarespace does allow you to get to an article's HTML code so if you know it, you can make manual changes if you want but it's really not necessary.

    I also make changes to my sidebars on a recurring basis.  Some of the sidebar content, I derived from Squarespace’s widget library and some I created myself using HTML code.

     

    Note on spamming

    I’ve hardly seen any comment spamming on my three Squarespace blogs, unlike other blogging platforms I’ve used in the past.  Comment spamming has been so low with Squarespace this is a non-issue for me.

     

    Summary

    When it comes to blogging, my philosophy is that I want to spend the maximum amount of time focused on content creation and management and the minimum amount of time on site maintenance. I like Squarespace because it allows me to do so.

    You can design a Squarespace site yourself if you have some basic knowledge of CSS and stylesheets and have a good eye for graphics.  Conversely, for a corporate blog, it may make sense to use a pro designer to give your site a polished and professional look.  Once your blog is designed, though, you’ll find Squarespace sites easy to maintain.

    I mainly wrote this article to make it easier to answer the recurring LinkedIn question for blog platform recommendations and not as a sales pitch.  That said, if you elect to go the Squarespace route for your site and want a professional design -- or want to delegate the site configuration to someone else – then give us a ring.  It’s one of the general community services we offer and we’d be happy to help you.

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