My thoughts on Squarespace (and other site builders)

Some Squarespace ads have rubbed me the wrong way. Honestly, its a little because it seems to threaten my business, but mostly because the ad-readers write off Web Design altogether (sometimes more subtle than others).I was reminded of this after I read Chris Enns’ post on Paying for Web Design vs Squarespace and it struck a cord with me. After Chris listened to the latest The Talk Show:

Some­thing about the way John Gru­ber & Marco Arment mocked pay­ing money for web design dur­ing a Square­space ad on The Talk Show seemed off. You can lis­ten here at the 1:14 mark.

But after thinking about this for some time, I think these platforms are a good thing not a bad thing for our industry. We need to understand where these tools excel and lack.

Where they excel

There are legitimate reasons to use site builders like Squarespace. They are great tools for companies that have smaller budgets or companies that are just starting up. For companies that can’t afford a custom website, this is a great way to get a web esenseesense.

Where they don’t

Squarespace may give you a design quickly, but there is a ceiling to it. Areas like user experience, content optimization and other things are things that we still have the expertise in and any automated system will not address all of these. Squarespace won’t stop a user from writing a 3000 word “About Us” page, or create a 20 page slider (or any slider for that matter). This is where we come in.

How we can embrace them

Whenever I am having a conversation with a potential client, and a tool like this (or even a WordPress template) is brought up as something they are using, this is how I usually respond (and I swear it doesn’t sound as condescending as this reads):

That is awesome you got a website stood up on your own! Those tools work really well for getting a site up and running. Having a web presence in the vital for your business. Let me know if you want a second set of eyes on it.

If/when this person grows out of this website, or finds they don’t have time to work on their website, you might be the first person they call to take their web presence to the next level. And with a client that has an existing website that is pretty well put together, it makes the next iteration that much easier to build.

Getting back to the ads

I think we can’t be polarizing when forming opinions about site builders. Web Designers can’t write them off entirely as tools that create subpar websites. Ad readers shouldn’t sell them as the silver bullet of web design (Remember who is writing the check for those ads). I appreciate Chris Coyier’s reads when Squarespace was sponsoring ShopTalk. To paraphrase, he thinks these are great for smaller companies that wouldn’t normally pay for your services, but still want a web presence.

Even though these tools seem to threaten our business, that’s ok. It forces us to be better at what we do. It forces us to create better user experiences and design better websites. I just ask podcast ad-readers to not write off Web Design completely.

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