Co.Design

The All-In-1 Website Builder We’ve Been Waiting For

Squarespace’s sixth platform mashes up WordPress, Tumblr, and Pinterest, and it is awesome.

The web grows more beautiful every day. Tumblr and Pinterest aren’t about easily shared stories; they’re easy to look at, too, with their core designs stemming from photos. The only problem is neither of these sites allows a lot of your own editorial along with the multimedia. So many of us still turn to traditional (and ever-so-dated) blog templates when we want to have our own sites. Unless you’re both a code monkey and front-end developer, there’s this huge hole in the market: You can have a beautiful, media-centric site, or you can have a blog with rich original content. And we haven’t even begun to discuss taking this design to mobiles.

Squarespace 6 is Squarespace’s new turnkey platform to create portfolios, blogs, and general-purpose websites that are drag ‘n drop customizable yet image-centric and willing to interface with every platform under the sun (like Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram). It’s commoditized, customizable design for those of us without design degrees. And it’s a deeper content-management system for publishing constant, dynamic content.

“Your website is a reflection of you. It’s like your online clothing,” Squarespace CEO Anthony Casalena tells Co.Design. “So the design of that is exceptionally important.”

Squarespace 6 promises designs that are “super visual, super distinct, really high end.” The secret to all of this is the LayoutEngine, a flexible, 12-column reactive grid that Squarespace spent two years developing. You can drag and drop “widgets”--or media windows--into this grid and re-size each chunk at will. A Vimeo video can live alongside an Instagram photo, and by snagging a corner of any widget window with your mouse, you can expand or shrink it within this grid, and all of the rest of your content will react accordingly.

Things get a step more interesting for bloggers, who, rather than being stuck with a single format on every post, can actually use the LayoutEngine to customize any post within Squarespace 6’s CMS backend. In other words, your pretty mainpage no longer needs to be a tease for a simple column of text. This image-forward design can be customized at every level of the experience.

“It just does everything right. You can’t really mess it up. You don’t really have to figure it out,” Casalena says. “Aesthetically, there are very few things on the screen. It’s very direct about what you’re doing.”

The best part, however, may be the two-way street of sharing between other platforms. Squarespace 6 can suck in your entire existing Tumblr or WordPress blog, or it can publish to those sites as well. This makes the commitment of a platform migration very low, and it allows your site to have presence to viral Tumblr users as well as those who may seek out your official page.

“If in five years, no one is looking at your site on the web, and is instead using iOS devices, it really doesn’t matter to us,” Casalena says. “We’re really just managing your content.” That argument actually makes a lot of sense, because the biggest, most important difference between something like Dreamweaver and Squarespace 6 is that, at its core, Squarespace is a content-management system (CMS). That means it has context for the media on the page--images are images to it, and videos are videos--rather than a beautifully designed webpage that looks pretty but is ultimately hard to categorize, update, or interface with.

“Every single endpoint on your page is an API,” Casalena adds, so building additional apps from your core Squarespace 6 page is ridiculously simple and by no means a start-from-scratch experience.

Squarespace 6 isn’t the only web design template. It’s not the only blogging system. And it’s not the only way to share a story across platforms. But when have you see companies do all three? I’m not sure that I have, actually.

The sixth iteration of Squarespace is available now. Pricing ranges all of $8-$16 per month.

[Image: dani3315/Shutterstock]

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19 Comments

  • Lela Feldmeier

    Do you think their prices are comprable to other CMS platforms like Wordpress? There's something about $10 a month that just seems high for the lack of customization via code editing, etc.

  • Casey Armstrong

    Love the new control. I am hoping they let the community develop templates similar to how we can for platforms like Shopify. Excited to see what's next.

  • Edeshies

    Interesting. But what about platform like Sopixi? It's still at beta stage, but I found it really cool to use to create my site. A english version is coming soon, but the french one is quite fun. Did you try it?

  • Ty Frey

    Interesting thought, that in five years people will be digesting content through handheld touch devices and not on the web.

    While I agree that everything is moving toward ubiquitous services like Tumblr, Facebook, etc. I think it will cause the demand for a unique (non template) experience for people.

    I would go so far as to say: As long as things like Tumblr and Squarespace are popular, we still have jobs.  People will always crave something different.

  • Duncan MacDonald

    'NEW MAGICAL BUTTON THAT DOES EVERYTHING YOU WANT (Nearly. Maybe...)"

    No.
    Squarespace is a P.O.S.

  • Ian G

    My negative experience with Squarespace:
    Loyal customer for two years, but recently told that I cannot upgrade to the new Squarespace 6 because I am on a "legacy package" and need to either pay a lot more for a more expensive package or "downgrade" to a cheaper but much less feature-rich package than the one I'm currently using.Then, when I tried to export my data to move to another service, they only allow you to export each individual web page one by one in to a plain text file, there is no way to export the entire site in a portable format, and no way to export graphics or photos.  So, basically, they make it as hard as possible to extract your data and leave, you are locked in.Conclusion: Squarespace "looks" good and promises various things but beware of them locking you in and then screwing you over.

  • Michael Aldridge

    Very impressed, it feels as though something like this is well overdue and can bring web building to the masses. The website I manage on Wordpress (www.MichaelAldridge.com) is heavily customised and not sure that could be replicated in SquareSpace. But still there is a huge learning curve for the average user when starting up with Wordpress that is often daunting and leads them to giving up.

    I will be watching SquareSpace with keen interest for the future...

  • Tony Burkhart

    I'm loving it! I haven't had any problems and barely blipped a few times in the beta. It is an overall HUGE improvement on any existing site I manage on wordpress and has much more backend than tumblr (though I agree that it has a "tumblr-ish" feel to portions of it. Overall, it's the best webbuilder platform I've used to date :)

  • Mathijs Alderliesten

    it's nice, I must say. But I can't say it's the webbuilder I have been waiting for.
    It looks to much like a tumblr or wordpress template. So what's the big USP, I can't really make it out?