Building a Low Maintenance Squarespace Website that Performs

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Having a website for your business is a fundamental part of participating online, from being found through Search, social media or a combination of the both. Ensuring your website has up-to-date information and represents your business area in a value-add way allows for website visitors to convert, either as subscribers or as first-time customers. This post outlines some of the key building blocks to create a robust website that is both easy to compile and simple to manage at low cost.

Website builders

The 2010s has seen the dramatic simplification of constructing professional websites, broadly through the standardisation of components. By removing the variety of options available to those responsible for building the website, standardisation has helped to rapidly increases the time it takes to get a website on the internet, while also ensuring stablility over time. "Themes" or pre-formatted websites further enhance this by gathering together a common set of elements and functions to allow for a centralised management, usually the author / inventor of the theme or the company that owns the designs. 

There are three website builders that are worth knowing about, beyond the stock option offered by Google, known as Google Sites. The first two you can disregard, WordPress because it focuses on news publishers or those businesses that want to allow multi-use access and manage frequently changing content and Wix, for the more simple reason that it is inferior to the market leading website builders, Squarespace. 

So what about Squarespace?

Like Wix, Squarespace allows its customers to build web pages and introduce their own content, colors, logos and text type. Unlike Wix, Squarespace makes a significant amount of choices for you, constraining the options you have when it comes to orientation. While this might be off-putting to large companies that want to build their own software or drive large amounts of business transactions through their website, the constraining characteristic of Squarespace providers portfolio site owners with a greater chance of success. 

Cost and maintenance

Once your website is published on the internet, you have to pay Squarespace for keeping it visible. Depending on your functionality, pricing starts at $12 per month for the "Personal" use. Most businesses can get away with using this tier, but as soon as you want to take bookings or payments through the website, it makes sense to upgrade to the full set of features. Premium pricing isn't hefty - $24 per month for a stack of features.

There is another aspect to Squarespace's services - "holding your domain". This allows you to move your domain from your initial provider to be stored by Squarespace Inc.. The cost for the doing this is $40 per year, substantially more than what most domain providers offering for holding a domain, but it does simplify processes, especially if you're fed up with the interface given by your initial provider. I've found that GoDaddy's integration is so snug that this isn't needed, but it is worth considering as a parallel offering from Squarespace.

Nuts and bolts

1. Defining page structure

Once you’ve wrapped your head around the basic monthly pricing and features offered by Squarespace, the first thing you should do is think about your what your business does and how your website should be orientated.

Sketch this core information architecture for your business using a pen and paper. One way of thinking about this is to provide a cross-section of your entire site, or you could provide a condensed set of items to really focus your visitor.

  • Homepage: area of focus and current position, latest work, upcoming events

  • About: area of operation, example projects, link to News

  • News: content, blog

  • Press / Testimonials: images and press releases

  • Contact: Contact Form and link to current base.

2. Refining the homepage

Your business products, services and values can then be condensed on the homepage, paying attention to the top section and what will be seen by a browser before they make their first scroll on their smartphone or computer.

3. Select a template for layout

At this point, you’re ready to jump in and start creating pages, and making the vital design decisions for your homepage. Fortunately Squarespace has a small selection of very good templates that are both robust and practical – they require a good handling of your content assets.

3. Insert your content

Think about orientation of a mobile screen and ensure that background images provide a sufficient contrast to text overlays (Squarespace do aid with this). Succint text titles for headlines is another way of taking a mobile-first approach, ensuring these don’t fall over more than two lines. Here’s a checklist of other items:

  • Deliver a mobile-first experience

  • Allow a fast load-speed: no animations, no sliders, individual images less than 300KB

  • Post items split into thirds (columns) on web, stacked on mobile.

  • No 2-column tables

  • No dropdowns

  • Max. seven menu headers – titles concise and differentiated

  • Limit font library to Header 1, Header 2 and regular text, with option of going bold.

  • Label all images for SEO (e.g. will_ross_website_tips_infographic)

  • Paragraphs max. 500 characters

4. Connect your domain

Squarespace provide instructions on connecting to a domain held elsewhere, for instance at GoDaddy (also a good place to search for your first domain). Move your domain to Squarespace and you can then plug into some superior features, including G Suite which is Google’s offering for businesses. For instance, you can connect a form to a Google Sheet, so the Sheet populates when your website browsers submit information through the form.

5. Get the apps

Squarespace have a suite of mobile apps, with Blog and Analytics are two apps being two of their legacy treats. Each are very simple but far more realistic for having a regular glance at your website and drafting additional content or thoughts.

6. UI Checklist

  • Allow a fast load-speed: no animations, no sliders, individual images less than 300KB

  • Post items split into thirds (columns) on web, stacked on mobile.

  • No 2-column tables

  • No dropdowns

  • Max. 7 menu headers – titles concise and differentiated

  • Limit font library to Header 1, Header 2 and regular text, with option of going bold.

  • Label all images for SEO (e.g. will_ross_website_tips_infographic)

  • Paragraphs max. 500 characters

  • Favicon – the icon in the tab next to your page title.

  • Page Title – what browser will read when you website comes up in Google Search. Vanity is a good thing –make it look good.

  • Add “tel:” markup ahead of all telephone numbers so browsers can call directly from their mobile device.

  • Add “mailto:” markup ahead of all mentions of email, so browser can email directly from their mobile device. Advanced: mailto:will@zafiri.com?subject=Meeting%20Zafiri&body=Tell%20us%20what%20you%27re%20trying%20to%20solve

  • Inspect Meta Descriptions for all pages: these appear in Google Search.

This post will no doubt fall short in some aspects of building your company website with Squarespace. But if you have any questions, feel free to email Will Ross (will@tendo.com) with any issues. Good luck!