Just little more a week ago I wrote a post about my experience with Squarespace, a platform to build high quality websites. I praised them for constantly improving the features of the service they offer. Well so it happens, Squarespace just introduced the version 7 of their website building platform. I had about a week time to play with it and here is what I think.
There is no back-end any more. Well there is but it is seamlessly integrated into front-end so user never has to leave their website. In version 6 user usually moved between back and front end by hitting Esc key on keyboard. Site was either edited or viewed (with some exceptions). Upon doing that, content was continuously reloaded each time when switching from editing to previewing. In version 7 it is handled nicely by only loading those elements that needs to be. This greatly improves usability and loading time.
Image above displays how Squarespace 7 looks like. Green line shows you live website. Red rectangle marks the "back-end" area. Here you do all your settings, editing and uploading. Content of this section will change depending on your choice. If this area gets into the way of viewing the website just by itself, click little arrow in top-left corner to hide the setting menu and "voila", you are looking just on the website. Click the arrow again and setting menu comes back nice and fast, without reloading the entire back-end from scratch.
All editing happens live directly on your website. Screen grab above shows editing of this very post. Just navigate to the desired post either through menu on the left side (back-end section) or directly through your website menu. Hover above desired post/content and an overlay appears which gives you the ability to edit. Once done editing just hot save and that's it. Of course for this to happen you have to be logged it but I am sure you guessed that by now :)
Very nice feature is the mobile or device view. Whenever you editing your content and you re-size your browser window, Squarespace shows how your website looks in tablet or mobile view. Pretty neat.
Another addition to Squarespace functionality are cover pages. They might serve various purposes. They can be used instead of full fledged website as landing page, an entry to your full website. Whatever you want to use it for. I used this functionality on this website. Of course they are customizable, all nice and simple.
New Squarespace comes with bunch of brand new designs or templates. 15 to be more exact and they are all pretty nice and can serve various purposes.
There were mobile apps available for iPhone/iPad allowing to edit posts, check site metrics or jot down notes.. There is a very nice portfolio app that syncs images between your mobile device and your website galleries. Some of these apps are available also for Android users now and those missing are in development.
Google Apps and Getty Images are also integrated into Squarespace environment now if that is what you want to use. You have the ability to use Gmail for your business with your own domain name for a competitive price. Getty Images licencing is also fully integrated. Whenever you inserting image block you have choice to upload your own image or licence one from Getty Images. Full search and view options are seamlessly integrated so you never leave your editing environment.
What I think about it?
I am very pleased where Squarespace guys have taken their website publishing platform. They stayed true to the best features that Squarespace was known for. It is simple and very intuitive to use. One doesn't need to be a design guru to put together a great looking website. If you are one, you still have the possibility to dig deep and customize the website to your hearts content.
Interface was always very neat but with version 7 it looks much cleaner. Integration of editing and setting features to the front-end (I don't know how to describe it better) is great improvement. Not just I am able to see what I am doing straight away but the editing time is greatly reduced by not having to reload entire back-end or front-end all over again.
One complain I have is that some setting/editing areas are too tight as seen on the image above. The gallery editing option with thumbnails displayed in very narrow strip that makes the editing little harder. I would prefer much wider display as seen for example in site metrics section. Another way could be popping-out the editing option into it's own modal dialog which is available for some other editing functions. For example custom CSS editing box is very narrow and unusable by default however there is an option to open it in separate window. Something similar would be welcome here.
Saving post can be sometimes little confusing. Like on the image above I am editing blog post. Then I open blog setting where I still have ability to edit blog content. I save it here and then once dialog closes I save it again. I perhaps did some things wrong but over the course of editing I lost some content and I had to rewrite it again. Of course you can write your content in separate document, and then copy and paste. But it is not always the case. I had to upload the image above twice. Even though it appeared on the site when I was saving the post. When I returned to it to edit something only empty image block was there.
There are few other features I would love to have implemented that I mentioned in my previous article "Squarespace, one year on". I won't be mentioning those here.
After about a week with Squarespace 7 I can say I will stay with it. Although I still have the option to switch back to version 6 but I have not find any reason to do so. Interface is pretty intuitive and works well for me. I managed to find my way around pretty quickly. Perhaps there are quirks that I haven't discovered yet but I am sure Squarespace will be fixing them and improving on functionality. One week is not long enough to dig deeper but enough to get first impression which was positive in my case. I think Squarespace is on right path. You can always try it for 14 days free.