some advice if you’re thinking about starting your own website

And now a word from a sponsor…

When I started Ask a Manager back in 2007, I really had no idea what I was doing as far as creating and maintaining a website. I’d run one previously with very, very remedial HTML (if you remember Geocities, it looked a lot like that monstrosity). I was flying pretty blind for the first year, and through a lot of luck and no web design skill, I eventually ended up with the site you see today. (You can see the 2008 version of the site here if you’re interested.)

But if you’re starting a website now, you can avoid that whole learning-by-error-and-disaster process by using Squarespace. Squarespace is a website builder, blogging platform, hosting service, and domain name registrar all in one. Because it’s an all-in-one platform, it removes all of the headaches of installing software, applying security patches, and worrying about bandwidth or storage limitations. You just upload your content, customize your design, and you’re ready to go.

Of greatest interest to aesthetically challenged people like me, Squarespace’s site templates are beautiful. (Take a look at samples here.) Their templates have made great design accessible to everyone, regardless of what your own personal design skill level might be. I tend to be drawn to really clean, basic templates (as you can see by my, uh, minimalist approach to design here), but they’ve got templates that make even minimalism look really great.

Squarespace will also automatically generate a mobile site from the site you built for desktop browsers – and its sites look really great on mobile. That’s hugely important to consider when you’re starting a site; for example, nearly half of visits to Ask a Manager are on phones and tablets, and that number will likely keep going up.

That thoughtfulness in design extends to the editing interface too. For example, when you click on a spot on your page that can accept a new element, Squarespace opens a dialogue box of content items, which you hover over to edit or add new elements (like text, images, charts, forms, buttons, links, and so forth). And it’s easy to navigate around using the navigation on the previews themselves rather than having to use a separate back-end menu, like most site-builders require. I would love, love to have this here.

And if you want to use your site for commerce, Squarespace makes that easy. In fact, about 70% of Squarespace’s customers are small businesses with an eye for design. Because they offer eCommerce, SEO, social media integrations, analytics, domains, Google Apps, and a form builder to collect customer data, it’s very easy to build your business with Squarespace.

Unlike many of its competitors, Squarespace has an award-winning customer care team that serves customers 24/7 via email and live chat.

If you’re ready to start your own website, I recommend Squarespace. And if you’re intrigued, don’t wait – because the first 50 readers who use offer code ASKAMANAGER will receive 10% off their first website or domains purchase. Check it out!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Squarespace. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

{ 25 comments… read them below }

  1. The Other Dawn*

    Does anyone use this for blogging? I’m using Google’s Blogger right now. Mainly because it’s very easy and I’m not really looking to make my blog into something like AAM or other well-known blogs. (Don’t get me wrong, that would be awesome, but I’m not looking to put a ton of effort in at the moment.) But I’d like something with more options, like an easier way to share my posts to social media. Like Alison, I’d consider myself aesthetically challenged. I’m very visual, but I have a hard time composing all the elements into one cohesive thing. I do much better when it’s already composed and I can go in and tweak.

    1. Amber Rose*

      SquareSpace is what we use for our club website. It’s pretty intuitive and has some decent basic layouts for free. The really nice ones cost money but you can do a lot with what they give you.

      I’m more familiar with WordPress but the basic idea is the same. WP has some functionality that SS doesn’t and vice versa. I think SS is probably better for blogging. It seems a little easier to use. The WP dashboard gave me headaches for a while until I figured it all out.

      1. Manders*

        The big thing that makes WordPress unique as a platform is that anyone can develop plugins for it. That gives you more flexibility behind the scenes–but a LOT of those plugins are broken or counterintuitive to use. The CMS is also just plaim difficult to understand, and is a locked down version of the tools available through (confused yet?)

        I’ve used both WordPress and Squarespace, and while I need the flexibility of WordPress for work-related stuff I do, if I wanted to create a nice looking site and actually enjoy designing it I’d choose Squarespace.

        1. Manders*

          (Oops, I was actually wrong–Squarespace does have some plugins, but WordPress has far more.)

      2. SL #2*

        Ugh, the WordPress CMS is the stuff of nightmares for me and my coworker. And guess who are the ones to regularly update our site?

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Can I ask what makes it nightmarish?

          By the way, Ask a Manager appears to be running WordPress (I guess WP on SquareSpace, instead of WP on WP).

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m running WordPress on WordPress and have for years. But Squarespace would be high on my list of options if I were starting a new site today.

    2. VermiciousKnit*

      I don’t do serious blogging on it, but do occasionally post blogs for my business, and it’s quite easy to work with, including adding various media, scheduling posts ahead of time, and managing comments, tags, categories, etc.

    3. Anonymoose*

      I have a wordpress site but if I’m being totally honest, I loathe ALL the damn things I have to do with it to make it presentable. And then the upkeep, jeebus. One post, without writing, takes me twenty minutes. I’ve been considering changing but haven’t decided what direction to go.

      Alison – I would loooooove it if you had a regular ‘blogger experience’ post. Your challenges, things you discovered that made your blogging easier/better, etc.

  2. Suzy Q*

    I got my domain through squarespace, but my site was built by my niece-in-law via Wix. It’s quite lovely!

  3. Stella-Ella-Oh-La*

    I’ve heard that Squarespace doesn’t let you own/retain rights to your content, any truth in that? I’ve been sticking with Namecheap/Wordpress/Bluehost because of that concern.

    1. Amber Rose*

      No. People say that about pretty much every hosting site at some point or another and I’ve never seen it be true. Your content is your own. You grant them a limited license to be able to store the information and post the website online. They own the rights to the template you use.

      From their terms of service: “When you upload content to Squarespace, you still own it. You do, however, give us permission to use it in the ways necessary to provide our services. For example, when you upload a photo, you give us the right to save it, and also to display it on your site at your direction. We also may promote or feature your site, but you can opt out if you don’t want us to do that.”

      1. Tomato Frog*

        That would be a pretty suicidal stance for a web platform to take.

        A quick Googling makes me wonder if this misinformation arose from the fact that they reserve the right to suspend service unilaterally? So, yeah, if you don’t have your own copies of the content, it could in theory disappear.

        1. the gold digger*

          Which is what happened with journalspace, which wasn’t even free! That was the first platform I used and when they crashed and burned (and did not refund even pro-rated fees), I lost a few years of content.

        2. Elsajeni*

          I think it tends to be a misunderstanding of the type of clause Amber Rose quoted, actually — it looks like Squarespace made an effort to make their ToS readable by a layperson, but a lot of sites phrase the part about “to display it on your site at your direction” as “to publish it,” which people read as the site claiming the right to do something like re-use their photos on other pages or print it in a “The Best Of Tumblr” coffeetable book or something like that.

  4. Amy*

    Do you know how good a job they do at accessibility? I’d love a new website, but my main concern is keeping it accessible to people who are using screen readers or other accessibility software.

  5. Honeybee*

    Dude, all of the media outlets I love are recommending Squarespace. Going to check it out!

    (Also, Alison, I started using Blue Apron because of a sponsored post you made here before. I LOVE it. I take all of your sponsored posts really seriously because I know you wouldn’t recommend something you haven’t used or don’t like.)

  6. VermiciousKnit*

    I had a need for my own website about 6 months ago, squarespace was recommended by a techie friend (including a coupon code), so I went for it. It’s been absolutely amazing. I’ve been able to do everything I’ve wanted with it without any difficulties or ugly pages.

  7. CanadianDot*

    I started a squarespace site recently for my portfolio, but honestly, I’m just not feeling it. I think that once I finish the 60 day waiting period, I’m going to transfer it over to wordpress.

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