Stuff That Rocks: SquareSpace

Hi friends! As I said, this week I'm going to highlight some products and shortcuts that I love and have made life a little easier, a little more enjoyable - or if we're really lucky, a little bit of both.

Let's start right here, with this website, www.MindyHolahan.com. If you're using an RSS reader to catch this message, first of all, good for you! Second, please click through to the site, or this post will be a bit boring.

Take a quick look around. Doesn't it look better than when you were last here? (If you don't remember what it looked like when you set up your feed, trust me - it does.) Last Friday I signed up for a year's subscription to SquareSpace, which is a web editing tool requiring minimal knowledge of HTML. Their goal is to make website creation easy while still leaving it completely customizable. Here's a video about the product:

I'm here to tell you they've succeeded marvelously.

I've been holding the MindyHolahan.com domain for over a year now. With Andrew's assistance, I successfully installed and have run WordPress, and for the most part I was happy with it. I found a theme I liked and my blog looked pretty decent.

So why switch from WordPress, the free solution (as in $0!) to SquareSpace, which cost me $130* a year?

Two reasons: my time is worth money and I want to build a website, not just a blog. WordPress is customizable - you just need to know what you're doing. About four months ago I wanted to change my theme's default font colors for a few items to something more readable. I taught myself some HTML back in 1998 when I had a Geocities site - aww yeah - and so I knew what I needed to change in the CSS file. Even so, it took me a couple of hours of messing with the CSS and saving every change, just in case I messed it up, before I got what I wanted.

Contrast that to changing the default font color on the SquareSpace theme. I switched to design mode, clicked on the blog content section, and opened up the little color box for the font. I clicked on the color I wanted and it save. Done in under a minute.

That, my friends, was worth $12.08 for the month.

I could take the time to get proficient with the necessary code. I have no doubt that I would find it interesting and would enjoy learning it, but every hour I spend futzing with code is another hour I'm not writing. I could have a great website and stay a hobbyist writer forever, or I could shell out a couple of bucks and get busy writing.

I've got a Kevin Pollack** quote next to my desk that applies quite nicely to website code. "That's on a 'need to care' basis." You know what, my friends? At this point, I just don't have the energy to care.

Thankfully the folks at SquareSpace do. I mentioned that I want to build a website, not just a blog. SquareSpace is set up for that too. Blogs are just one of the many types of page templates they have. They've got photo galleries (my forthcoming Projects page will be an example), link galleries (my Writing page is an example), and even a blank page you can build from scratch. Right now I'm using a standard theme - I've only spent a handful of hours on this so far - but I intend to fully customize my site.

If you want to mess with the code, you can. If you don't want to touch it, you don't have to. Also, I believe the sign of a good web service these days is a complement of video tutorials. They've got a bunch of them.

I went with the cheapest of their three levels of service. I'll probably bump up to the middle price bracket at some point - and it will be worth it, I'm sure. How about you? Have you tried SquareSpace? Please post a comment if you have; I'd love to know about your experience with it.

I'm a big fan after only a short time with the product. I've already achieved my goal - the landing page for MindyHolahan.com no longer looks like a 10 year old designed it. If it still looks a bit cookie-cutter...well, I can live with that. I've got plenty of time to customize as I go.

Time not spent changing font colors.

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(*I got a coupon code for the service from the Back to Work podcast. Check out the most recent episode for a current coupon code, as long as they are still sponsoring the show.)

(**Turns out, Kevin uses SquareSpace for his website! Part of what convinced me to give it a try was the examples gallery, wherein I found a bunch of websites I was familiar with, like Bre Pettis's and Purl Bee. Also, you should watch the Kevin Pollack Chat Show! It's fascinating!)