If you’ve ever looked at the online portfolios of fellow photographers, chances are you’ve come across a number of websites built using the Squarespace platform.
This isn’t an accident. Squarespace is designed especially for photographers, graphic artists, and other creatives to showcase their work and help drive conversions, regardless of experience or technical ability.
It isn’t a free service, and you do need to put in a bit of time to create your dream website, but odds are you’ll come out with a website that looks pretty amazing.
I spent a month reviewing Squarespace to find out just how good it is for photographers, and whether I’d recommend it over other website builders such as WordPress and Wix.
Hopefully, my findings will help you decide what is the best website builder for your needs.
Table of Contents
What is Squarespace?
Based out of New York, Squarespace is a platform for website building and hosting that was designed with “creatives” in mind.
It allows you to intuitively build your own website, showcase your portfolio, and sell your work, all without knowing a single line of code.
You simply create an account, choose a template, and then load your content into it. It’s possibly the fastest way you can find to get a great looking photography site online.
You can try it out for free for 14 days, but after that, there’s a monthly/yearly subscription that includes hosting, blogging, SEO, customer support and just about anything else you might want from a website.
Who Should Use Squarespace?
Squarespace was designed for visual artists. In fact, it’s so heavily weighted towards showing off high-quality images that it doesn’t really work well for sites that are text-heavy.
For photographers and others who want to showcase their images, Square Space really shines. Many of the templates were designed with photographers in mind, combining bold image presentation with a clear, streamlined structure that just feels right.
There’s also plenty of documentation for photographers specifically – everything from which template you should pick to creating an overall design that will engage your clients.
Of course, there are plenty of non-artists who use Squarespace as well – the last I saw, more than one million people are on Squarespace and certainly not all of them are visual artists.
Still, if images are your thing and you’re looking to build a website on your own, then you’ll definitely want to consider trying Squarespace out.
The Squarespace Interface
Getting started with Squarespace is ridiculously easy. Just hit the “get started” button on their website and then you can either tell Squarespace what your site is for and have it recommend templates or go straight to browsing templates on your own.
Once you pick your theme, all you need to do is populate your content and set certain SEO items up (everything is very simple and non-technical), and then you’re pretty much good to go.
Of course, the more pages your site has, the longer it will take to get it up, but that goes without saying.
One thing Squarespace is known for is their elegant design, and that goes for its interface as much as for its templates.
You control everything you need from simple menus and content “blocks,” without having to know any code.
(Incidentally, the latest WordPress ‘Gutenberg’ now uses the same sort of content blocks Squarespace has been using all along…)
The first thing that will jump out at you about the interface is that it’s neat and clean. In fact, in the beginning it may seem a little too neat, as you get used to finding where everything is. Once you get used to it, though, it’s easy to navigate.
Instead of a sidebar for adding elements, Squarespace uses ‘dialog boxes’. Simply hover over a spot where you’d like to add or edit an element and the dialog box appears.
The first time you move to edit something, a help dialog box will appear, to walk you through the process – everything is geared around holding your hand to make the process really simple… it’s actually a lot of fun too ;-)J
Just about all of the navigation is done through the left sidebar, where you will find everything from design elements to e-commerce and site analytics.
The options that appear will depend on which template you’re using, but all of them are easily findable.
One thing of note, however, is that while Squarespace is a drag-and-drop website builder, you can’t just drag anything anywhere.
It’s based on sections, which may take a little getting used to, but even beginners should pick it up in a couple of minutes of experimentation.
Once you’ve been playing around for a bit, it all quickly becomes second nature, and you can concentrate more on making your website look awesome with your imagery.
Squarespace Features and Tools
Squarespace is an all-in-one platform, providing its users with all the main features any professional website would need:
Squarespace has particularly robust blogging tools, especially designed for image-heavy blogs and/or posts that are attached to portfolios.
It has everything from social media integration (sync and share with sites like Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, etc.) to multiple contributor permissions and an app that allows you to manage your blog from your mobile device.
Other features include a scheduler, built-in RSS, and a direct publishing link to Apple News. In fact, it’s been said that Squarespace is a close second to WordPress in regards to blogging tools, and that’s pretty high praise.
If you’re planning on selling your images or services through your website, Squarespace won’t disappoint.
Its online store capabilities are impressive and can easily power anything from a small to medium-sized store.
Also, because everything is integrated on Squarespace, all the components work well together. For example, it’s easy to embed products from your store into your blog posts, embed videos into the catalog, or tie everything together in your email marketing.
Other features include:
- abandoned checkout recovery
- customer relationship management (CRM) tools
- order and inventory management
- commerce analytics
- the ability to charge in a variety of currencies
- customer accounts
- and a mobile-optimized secure checkout
A website with e-commerce options does cost a bit more per month, but if you like everything working smoothly with no hassle, you’ll probably find the convenience worth it. Especially given that there’s 24/7 customer support.
Search Engine Optimization is also part of the package and no additional plugins are needed. Squarespace produces clean code that’s easily indexable by search engines, and offers full meta data/alt text options for on normal web pages.
They don’t yet have meta data customization on their blog posts or store products, though, and that’s certainly disappointing.
Still, they do provide strong SEO options, including Google AuthorRank support and other tools.
SEO is important for photographers, particularly in competitive niches such as wedding photography. It’s nice to know that Squarespace has our back in this regard, without the need for additional software or plugins.
Squarespace’s visual reports cover everything from statistics like page views, conversions, and popular content to graphing out your how well you’re meeting your KPIs.
Other features include:
- Calendar – lets visitors RSVP from your website, shares events across your social media profiles, etc.
- Custom CSS – in case you actually want to code.
- Charts – interactive pie charts, line graphs, and bar graphs
- Acuity Scheduling – online booking and appointment scheduling
- Podcast Support
- Fully integrated audio – easily share music albums with full album art and meta data display.
- A few fully integrated 3rd party services – Google Analytics, Google Docs, Disqus, MailChimp, and Typekit are all fully supported
These are just the highlights. For the full list, you’ll need to go to their site, but it’s safe to say that Squarespace offers enough features to keep even the most tech-savvy photographer happy.
The basic features are perfect for beginners, and there’s a ton of advanced functionality too for anyone who feels more confident with building their own website.
Squarespace Website Templates
As with Wordpress, Wix, and may other site builders, picking a template is really where the online design process starts.
The difference between other platforms and Squarespace is that each and every one of Squarespace’s templates are exquisitely designed and meant for image-heavy content.
To date, Squarespace offers 91 different templates. This doesn’t sound like many, but when you consider the quality, the fact that many are designed specifically for photographers, that they’re customizable, and that just about all of them look stunning, what’s there will likely meet any photography website need you might have.
If you know how to code, you can even customize them further. Either way, you’ll get an impressive looking website.
Each of their templates is also mobile friendly, something that’s definitely not a given on other website builders. As much as 50% of the traffic to your website will be from a mobile device, with that number growing every year, so having a ‘responsive’ website is important.
Also, you can change templates at any time without losing any info on your site. That’s something you won’t find on WordPress or Wix, or any other website building platform I know of.
If you’re looking for templates that will set you completely apart from the crowd, you can use Squaremuse in conjunction with Squarespace. They offer additional high-end Squarespace design kits and services, while not being affiliated with Squarespace.
Squaremuse design kits run about $200 a piece (a one-time fee, no subscription). Each kit is designed to present your visual content in a unique way that catches the eye and grabs the viewer’s attention.
When you buy a kit, you get a whole host of graphic files and video tutorials, as well as a detailed guide on how to implement everything that comes in the kit. On top of that, each kit can be fully customized.
Basically, they pride themselves on crafting high-end designs and design element combinations that will make your website sell.
From font combos and sizes (H1, H2, H3, Quote, Normal, etc.) to buttons, gallery layouts, and page layouts, they’ve done all the research to make everything look its best.
So if you’re going for a top-of-the-line website on Squarespace, Squaremuse is really the way to go. It’s definitely an extra expense, but still far less expensive than hiring a web desginer to create a website of the same caliber.
Click here and use code SHOTMUSE to get 20% all the awesome Squaremuse Design Kits.
Squarespace Customer Support
Squarespace has a Customer Care Team that provides support 24/7 via email and live chat weekdays from 3am to 8pm EST.
One thing that’s super nice about this is that their entire team actually works in Squarespace’s offices – there’s no farming out to third parties. That means they not only know their product intimately, they’ll also understand you and your needs.
(See below in the Squarespace vs. WordPress section what happened when I needed support on a WordPress plugin I’d bought…)
It’s sort of a bummer about not having phone support (Wix offers telephone support, even for free accounts), but the response time is generally less than ten minutes via live chat, and even more imressively, less than an hour with email – that’s incredible!!
Squarespace vs. WordPress
If you’re looking at building your own website, you’ve probably at some point considered doing it with WordPress.
WordPress is fantastic if you’re looking to build a complex website; if you want complete control of every aspect; if you don’t mind learning to code; and you’re not put off by the technical aspects of managing your own security and updates.
If, however, you just want to make a high-quality, amazing-looking website quickly and don’t want to be fussed about the technical aspects, Squarespace is a better choice. It’s much easier to work with than WordPress and provides you with everything you need in one place.
Ease of Use
As far as ease of use is concerned, Squarespace is the clear winner – at least for beginners. Its drag-and-drop interface requires no coding or technical expertise.
WordPress uses code and third-party plugins to customize pages. This gives you an incredible amount of creative control but makes the whole process a lot more difficult.
If you’re not tech-savvy, the sheer amount of different options and their implementations can prove to be a real headache.
Design-wise, WordPress has an astounding amount of themes to choose from, but the quality of those varies. Some are indeed excellent (see Flothemes, for example), but many are substandard and you won’t really know until you after you buy them and try them out.
(You can, of course, get free themes, but these rarely are as well designed as the premium ones.)
I bought a photography portfolio theme a couple of years back. While it looked good in the previews, it turned out to be way off in a couple of key factors. When I went to the designers for support, they didn’t really speak enough English to be able to address my issues.
I looked around for other WordPress experts to see if they could fix the code and had no luck. So basically I’m (still) stuck with a template I can’t really use. Sure, it was only $30, but all the time and energy I put into trying to make it work really wasn’t worth it.
Squarespace, on the other hand, has amazing templates. There’s only around ninety to choose from, but each of these has been professionally designed and function beautifully – especially the ones for photographers.
There’s no question about their functionality or whether you’d be able to get customer support if something goes wrong.
You can also switch templates at any time, and all of Squarespace’s templates are mobile optimized. Neither of these are true for WordPress.
WordPress does, however, give you complete control over every aspect of your site. If you can get over the possibility that you’ll probably need to learn a bit of code, you’ll have an infinite amount of possibilities at your fingertips.
WordPress certainly wins as far as power and customization are concerned. Squarespace, however, has perfectly serviceable built-in SEO tools and requires much less work.
If you’re an SEO beginner and/or you’re looking for less work rather than more, Squarespace is the better choice. If you need full control over your SEO and you’re something of a power user, WordPress is the way to go.
Concerning security, the main difference between the two platforms is what happens if something goes wrong.
If something happens on Squarespace, they’ll let you know while their security experts take care of things. It’s their responsibility to keep your website safe from hackers and keep their platform up and running.
If something happens to your WordPress site – say, you install a malicious plugin and you get hacked – you’ll have to figure out how to fix things on your own.
For most creatives who don’t want to spend a lot of time worrying about these kinds of things, Squarespace is the clear winner. Just keep in mind that as Squarespace has become more and more popular, it’s become subject to more attacks. Big fish attract more fishermen.
Squarespace does, however, do a decent job at fending off attacks. Their in-house security experts know their business. And since all of its features are in-house, there are far fewer opportunities for security breaches – and no possibility of having your site hacked due to downloading unsafe plugins.
Also, all Squarespace plans include SSL certificates. With WordPress, you’ll need to provide your own, which is often an additional expense.
Customer Service, Help, and Support
WordPress doesn’t provide customer support. There is, however, a massive support community and numerous forums and tutorials to help you figure things out.
That being said, the sheer amount of information out there can be pretty overwhelming and the quality of the advice can vary greatly. Also, you’ll have to wait for the advice – there’s no one hour email response time here!
Squarespace, on the other hand, has an in-house support team that knows its platform inside and out. Because you’re paying for the service, you get things like live chat and quick email support (within 1 hour – I still can’t believe that!)
There are also a number of support articles and videos, as well as a community forum to answer your questions.
As far as pricing is concerned, on the surface WordPress looks like the better deal – it’s free to get started and start building. The only repeating fees you’ll likely be paying is for website hosting.
Any other fees (i.e. premium templates, plugins, etc.), are likely just one-time and are totally under your control. Still, you’re largely on your own for the build, design, and maintenance of your site.
With Squarespace you’re paying not to have to deal with anything other than the design of your site.
Premium templates and everything else is included. You can get a fantastic photographer’s website up and running quickly and with relatively little fuss.
WordPress or Squarespace – Which is Best for You?
Choose Squarespace if:
- You want a visually stunning website without much fuss or hassle
- You want all the technical aspects of website maintenance taken care of for you
- You don’t want to deal with learning to code
- You want to focus more on populating your website with content and less on how to get it to work
- You’re comfortable paying a subscription
- You’re looking for 24/7 support and an easy-to-reach support team who know their product inside and out
- You want a website up quickly
- You like working with platforms that are all-in-one: everything’s included and works seamlessly together
Choose WordPress if:
- You want full control over every aspect of your site
- You want a lot of different options and features
- You know how to code or are willing to learn
- You don’t want to pay a subscription
- You’re happy doing your own site maintenance, updates, and security
- You’re confident in your research abilities
Squarespace vs. Wix
Another competitive website building platform is Wix, and many photographers dither between the two.
There are definitely some areas where Wix clearly has the advantage, but for photographers who really want to build a pro site without much fuss, Squarespace still comes out on top.
Here’s a break down of the pros and cons:
Ease of Use
Wix is definitely more intuitive to use. The drag and drop editor allows you to change anything and put it anywhere. With Squarespace, you’re working in “blocks” and need to work within their grid system. It does take a little getting used to.
Wix also has a Site History system that makes it really easy to recover content in case something happens. Squarespace suggests you copy everything into Google Docs. (Boo! Hiss!)
So while Squarespace does have an easy-to-use interface, Wix’s interface is definitely easier to get started with and easier to back up.
That being said, Squarespace has designs they know will work. So while you can put anything anywhere with Wix, there’s no guarantee that you’ll place things where they should be for best effect.
Design and Customization
Wix definitely has more options when it comes to themes – over 300 free ones at the last count. Like WordPress, though, these come in varying degrees of quality.
They’re also not fully responsive-ready – you have to take care of that yourself, and making a website theme viewable on the huge number of different mobile devices is a massive headahce.
Squarespace has fewer templates but they’re all exquisitely designed for both desktop and mobile. You simply can’t go wrong with them.
Also, if you get tired of a template, no problem. You can switch at any time. Not so with Wix.
Also, if you do want to code, you can’t on Wix. On Squarespace you can create (or have others create) any custom HTML or CSS you like.
Another bonus is that all of Squarespace’s templates were made with impressive imagery in mind. In short, they were meant for people like us: photographers.
So like WordPress, Wix offers many more options in terms of themes and third-party apps and therefore has much more flexibility. But you play it safe with Squarespace – your website will look great pretty much whatever you do.
With e-commerce it’s pretty much a draw with both platforms, though Squarespace has an advantage in the photography world.
Some of the main differences are that Squarespace allows you to sell services – something that’s pretty important in the photography business. They also have advanced options like abandoned cart recovery, gift cards, etc.
Wix has point of sale integration and lets you sell offline, but doesn’t have things like being able to edit the email receipts customers receive.
There are other differences, but both platforms will work well for small-to-medium size stores. I do find Squarespace’s online store and their marketing tools to be more intuitive to use, though.
Features and Tools
If you want something simple and sleek without a lot of added shopping hassle, Squarespace will work better for you than Wix. All of its features are built-in and fully integrated.
Wix, however, has its own dedicated App Market with over 200 free and paid apps to choose from. So if you’re looking for more flexibility and/or design freedom, Wix is where it’s at.
Still, Squarespace really does have an excellent set of in-house tools. If you’re looking for just having a simple, exquisite site that looks great, there’s not really any need to go outside for other apps.
Squarespace wins out in the blogging world. Like I said before, it’s virtually a contender with the world champion of blogging platforms, WordPress. That’s saying something!
Wix only allows you to work with text, images, and videos in its blog posts. Squarespace allows you to add just about anything you could possibly need. It also has many more features than Wix (like scheduling, etc.).
The place Squarespace falls short with its blog posts are in its SEO – it doesn’t allow you to customize meta descriptions or titles for blog posts. This is unfortunate because blogging is often an important way to tap into Google traffic.
Still, the SEO options with Squarespace good enough (if not exemplary) and the blogging tools are impressive.
Speaking of SEO…
Search Engine Optimization
While Squarespace has decent SEO capabilities, Wix definitely wins out here. Its SEO Wiz is both interactive and beginner-friendly, and the entire platform comes with extensive SEO resources.
There’s also the issue I mentioned before where Squarespace hasn’t yet enabled users to change the meta data on their blog posts and product pages. (You can on normal pages.) It also doesn’t let you customize image alt attributes, instead it copies the title or the caption.
What Sqaurespace does have, though, is full integration with Google Analytics and the Google Search Console. Regarding this Wix is…complicated.
So while you won’t hurt for SEO with Squarespace, Wix definitely shines in this department.
Both Wix and Squarespace have excellent customer service – they give relevant, clear, and useful answers to user questions.
The main difference is that you can talk to someone on the phone with Wix (as a callback). With Squarespace, you only have online chat.
One thing with Wix, though, is that they really want you to read their FAQs first, so it’s a bit annoying to get to actual real support. Squarespace gives you whatever support you need immediately if you contact them during their chat hours, and pretty quickly (within an hour more or less) by email.
Squarespace is definitely the more expensive platform, reflecting the fact that you’re getting a high quality product.
With Wix the quality is variable, but there are more pricing options (including free with ads). This allows anyone on any budget to find the right plan.
Because Wix allows you to keep your website free of charge, if you have a paid plan and then choose to stop paying, you’ll still have your website available. With Squarespace there’s no free option, so once you stop paying, your website goes offline.
Wix has four different plans for both personal and e-commerce sites. That’s eight in total. But still, I find Squarespace’s pricing much more straightforward and understandable.
For example, you might save a dollar per month with Wix’s combo price when compared to Squarespace’s personal plan ($11/month vs. $12/month), but you get unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, an automatically mobile-optimized site, an SSL certificate, and website metrics with Squarespace. (Some of these you can add onto Wix via third-party apps, but not all are free.)
Also, on Wix you’re more likely to find yourself needing to upgrade more frequently than on Squarespace. Also, if you’re not wanting a site that has ads, Wix’s free option really isn’t an option.
(For more on Squarespace pricing, see the next section.)
Wix or Squarepace – Which is Best for You?
If you’re a total beginner, are looking for a free site, need extensive SEO capabilities, or want total control over all the creative elements of your site, Wix will be a good choice.
If you want a seriously stunning website and are willing to have a bit more patience with the process, Squarespace has the finest designs on the market and all the features you need for a hassle-free, fully functional website.
Their templates are also made for photographers and other creatives with high-quality image content. That’s a serious plus in my book.
Squarespace Pricing & Discount
As mentioned before, Squarespace offers a free 14-day trial, but after that there’s no free account option. Also, your website won’t go live until you sign up for a plan.
Plans start at $12/month* for the Personal level, which give you up to 20 pages. Next up is their Business plan at $18/month, offering fully integrated e-commerce with a 3% transaction fee.
Online stores start at $26/month which gives you a whole host of e-commerce features and removes the 3% fee from transactions. The Advanced e-commerce plan has additional features like subscriptions, gift cards, real-time shipping integration, and abandoned cart recovery options.
*All prices listed are billed annually
All Squarespace plans include website hosting, and if you pay annually, free domain registration your first year. (You can also connect your own domain to your Squarespace site.) After the first year, you’ll have to pay for your domain.
Squarespace is definitely a bit more expensive than some of the other website builders out there, at least at the entry level: Wix ($11), Weebly ($8), MyWebsite ($9.99), and Jimdo ($7.50), but those few extra dollars per month go for quality, unlimited bandwidth and storage, and a number of other perks.
Click this link then use code SHOTKIT10 for a sweet discount when signing up for a Squarespace plan.
Squarespace Review | Final Words
While it’s not the cheapest option out there, Squarespace is definitely the choice for photographers or other creatives who want a professional-looking website.
Their templates and designs will make your portfolio really stand out – especially if you use Squaremuse.
You will need to put in a little time into crafting your pages, but the end result will be well worth it, and Squarespace will give you all the support you need.
Final Verdict: Squarespace has the best designs on the market and combines them with powerful built-in features to give you everything you need in one place. Highly recommended for any photography website!