Squarespace.com bills itself as the best way to put your Web site, and blog, on the Web. Since weve tried more than our share of hosting services over the years, we decided to put them to the test. And you know what? They just might be right.
Getting started is exceedingly easy: Just visit the site, click on the button to start your no-strings 30-day free trial, enter your login name and password, and youre on the Web. Squaresapce doesnt even ask for your credit card or other personal information up front. Just note that your login will be part of your site name (for example, http://yourname.squarespace.com), so choose it wisely.
If you arent comfortable having .squarespace as part of your site name (it seems less professional than a straight www.yourbusiness.com URL), Squarespace does support domain mapping. Simply register for the www site name you want through a domain-registration service (unlike some other hosting sites, Squarespace doesnt offer this service) and map you Squarespace-assigned domain to it.
Squarespace delivers 18 professionally designed site templates, each better looking than the next.
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When you first visit your new Web site, youll be struck by the clean, modern default home page, which shows navigation links to the left of the main pane, and includes a search box, an RSS subscription link for your visitors, and other standard elements. To fill in the dummy text and make other changes, just click on the login link at the bottom of the navigation pane and start editing.
Black banners indicate the areas you can tweak. Simply click an area, and then type (or cut-and-paste) your desired content into the boxes. Click Save, and your page is updated immediately.
To make more drastic changes to the default site, click on the Administration link in the upper left corner. It opens a tab-based user interface where you can fully customize your site using Squarespaces templates and design tools.
The Dashboard pane gives an overview and a to-do list of pertinent tasks that you might not have thought of on your own, such as setting your sites default time zone and creating a licensing notice. There are even basic site statistics (traffic information), a section showing service updates, and a link to Squarespace Insider, which delivers helpful articles (such as Taking Your Blog to the Next Level and SEO-Friendly Blogging).
Quickly customize your site with just the elements you want with Squarespaces widgets.
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The Structure & Style tab lets you change the organization of your site, as well as its appearance. Under Architecture, for example, you can remove default elements (such as the search bar or RSS link) or add other elements (called widgets), including a new text or HTML block, a link list (popular on many blogs to link to other like-minded bloggers), an index of past journal entries, and more.
The Appearance menu choice under the Structure & Style tab lets you pick a new layout from the professionally designed choices Squarespace offers. You can also import your own style (if you have one built in XML already) or create an entirely new one. But theres no need to: Squarespace offers 18 diverse templates, each available in several color schemes, so finding the right look for your site should be easy.
Indeed, we prefer the look of the templates to those weve seen from other low-cost roll-your-own Web hosting services, such as Microsoft Office Live and Yahoo Small Business. Each template has a clean, modern aesthetic that combines good looks with intuitive navigation.
The Squarespace blog editor makes posting journal entries as easy as using a word processor.
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The Structure & Style tab also gives access to domain mapping, so you can use an existing Web URL you already own. You can also rename any URL within your Squarespace site to make it easier to navigate to (for instance, http://www.squarespace.com/ShowJournal?moduleId=X could become www.squarespace.com/log). The tools also let you define custom audiences (up to three), which are groups of members within your site. Each audience can have access to a different set of modules and different permission levels.
Also a Better Blog Tool
Squarespace is geared as much to building a blog as it is to constructing a traditional site. Its templates put the journal entries front and center by default. Simply click on create a new journal entry and you are able to enter a blog post with a header, date, category assignment and body text. You can even select whether or not others are allowed to add comments after the main message posts.
The WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor is as easy to use as any word processor, and (thankfully) includes a spell-checker for those of us who type first and ask questions later. When you are satisfied with your post, click Save and its published.
Squarespace delivers an extensive online manual, including video tutorials. Theres also a searchable FAQ section that covers hundreds of topics. Those niceties are important, since there is no live phone tech support -- something both Microsoft and Yahoo offer
But for the low price, we can understand why Squarespace cant have live tech-support operators standing by. The Advanced account costs just $17 per month and gives you 2GB of storage, 10GB a month of traffic bandwidth, five user accounts with editor privileges and up to 250 additional member accounts.
Thats fine for a business that needs to make its presence known, or for a blog that isnt heavy on the video clips and photo uploads.
If thats still too rich for your blood, you can scale back to a Pro account ($12/month) with 1GB of site space and 8GB of monthly bandwidth. Still too much? Try the Basic account, which gives you 500MB of storage and 6GB of bandwidth for $7 per month.
The speed with which Squarespace lets you establish a Web presence is impressive, and its templates make you look good doing it. Squarespace isnt suited for e-commerce sites, but for small businesses that want a Web site and a blog without having to grapple with the tools of the trade, Squarespace is worth a try.
Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.
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