DIY WEBSITE BUILDERS: Going Online with SquareSpace

I’m a WordPress guy. That’s the CMS I used to build my marketing communications, copywriting, and (now defunct) soccer sites. Though, as I noted in an earlier post, I did try GoDaddy (where I do my hosting) when creating a new portal site.

But when a client was looking for a simple, affordable website to showcase their new rental property in Brooklyn, I decided to use one of the DIY web development platforms. In addition to the cost factor, I was also thinking of a solution that they – or someone they designate – could maintain long after I’m out of the picture (as opposed to many developers who count on a steady stream of revenue from site maintenance and updates).

Having already experimented with GoDaddy, I decided to consider the two most popular options currently available: Wix and SquareSpace. After doing some research and exploring each interface and the templates they offer, I opted for SquareSpace as it seemed better suited for my client’s needs at the time.

The upside of these platforms is that they try their best to make building a website practically brainless. In fact, one could argue that they try too hard. But if you have no vision of what you want the site to look like or how you want it to flow and function, then these could be ideal options for you. You just need to pick a template that you like, replace their images with your own, and drop in some text.

The downside is that I have a vision. I always have a vision. And these platforms make it very difficult to achieve that vision given the constraints of their templates.

For example, my client originally wanted the navigation centered across the top of the page. But when they decided late in the development process that they would rather have it along the left side of the page, there were very few SquareSpace templates offering that option. And in selecting one, we had to sacrifice some features from the original template that were not available in this new one.

I was also frustrated by the extremely wobbly drag and drop function. And the inability to copy and paste blocks of content on a given page – let alone from one page to another.

Also, at least in the templates I tried, the options for formatting text were extremely limited. My client wanted to underline a headline, which wasn’t allowed. And I could not change the color of one word without changing the color of all the text throughout the site. It all felt very rigid, and very limited.

Near the end of the process, when my client decided they wanted a custom email address, I discovered that SquareSpace outsources this to Google. And between those two “service” providers, neither were willing to provide any service on this front. Had this been part of the original plan, I might have opted for GoDaddy instead, as they are really good at helping with such things.

In the end, though, I think it worked out reasonably well. And the client is happy, with two of the apartments going into contract on the first day. You can see their site here.

So if you are looking for a way to create a basic website without the expense of hiring talent or acquiring skills and software, then these DIY website builders are definitely worth considering. You won’t be able to build the home of your dreams, but at least you will have somewhere to live online until you can afford to.