Five Tips for Creating a Website on Squarespace

five tips for getting started with squarespace

There is a lot to think about when designing a website for yourself or for a client, so today I’m sharing five essential tips that will help you get started with Squarespace. I’ve also created a few freebies to help you (or your clients) in the process, so be sure to check them out if you need some additional guidance. You can also learn how to create a website with Squarespace from start to finish right here, and get your site ready to launch in as little as one week! For now, here are a few things to know when designing your site on this platform:

Choose a Template From the Brine Family

Squarespace has a lot of visually appealing templates to choose from, but if you’re looking for something that is highly customizable, easy to navigate and offers the most flexibility, Brine templates are the way to go. Each Squarespace template offers different features and functionalities, but those that fall within the Brine family are going to be your best bet. 99.9% of the time I choose a Brine family template to start designing my clients’ sites and always recommend those who are DIYing their site to go with this option too. There are several Brine family templates to choose from, so there is something for every type of website. To see all the templates that are part of this family you can view the full list here.

Have Your Branding Handy

Whether you’ve had branding done by a designer or are going the DIY route, it’s important to keep track of the colors and fonts you’re going to be using on your site. You’ll want to have this information in an easily accessible place so you can refer to it quickly throughout the design process. I typically keep this information in a Google Doc or in the Notes App on my computer. Having this information in a document also makes it easy to send over to clients when you put their closing package together (more on this soon).

If you’re DIYing your own site or working on a site for a client, I love using Coolors to generate potential color palettes. It’s completely free and easy to use, plus it really helps spark some ideas for the range of colors you can use in your design.

In Site Styles (where you customize the various layout and design elements of your website), you’ll notice that the color options are in what’s known as an HSL format (for example: hsl(195, 100%, 50%)). The colors that are generated in Coolors are provided in HEX format (for example: #FFFFFF). If you use Canva to create any graphics for your website, you’ll also notice your colors are in HEX. On Squarespace, you can simply copy and paste the HEX code right into site styles and it will automatically convert to HSL. You can also convert any colors you’re using to and from HSL, CMYK, RGB or HEX by using the color converter from W3Schools. This is also helpful if you’re working with a client who already has branding ready for you to use but may have those colors listed in a different format.

Create the Foundation of Your Site First

I strongly recommend mapping out your layout before you start adding any of your own content or your client content into your website. Determine the number of and types of pages, the features and functionalities you need your site to have, and how you want your site to look first, then you can focus on plugging in your content and making additional tweaks. If you need some direction for planning your layout and design, you can download this questionnaire to help you organize your thoughts. It’s very similar to the questionnaire I ask my clients to fill out during our on-boarding process — you can learn more about my exact client on-boarding process here.

When I design my clients’ initial concepts, I’ll use placeholder text and stock photos so they can approve the layout and design before we incorporate their own content. For placeholder text I use snippets of Lorem Ipsum through this generator and simply input these placeholders anywhere there needs to be text on the website. Lorem Ipsum typically looks something like this:

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”

I also use stock images from Pexels or Unsplash, which are websites that allow you to download free images for personal and commercial use (Squarespace connects to Unsplash directly so you can easily add images from this site onto your own website). In the Build It With Squarespace Essentials course I list additional stock photo sites you can use to add more images to your site that are appropriate for personal and commercial use.

When using stock images for the initial concept, the client then has the option to keep these images on their site, add their own, or swap out the placeholders for different stock images when we move into the first round of revisions.

*When using placeholder images, it’s important to remember that it’s never okay to use images from Google, Pinterest, other social media accounts or other websites unless it’s clearly stated that they can be used for personal and/or commercial use. If you’re using a photo that doesn’t belong to you, you MUST ask the owner of that image for permission to use their content on your website and give attribution. That’s why I always recommend Pexels or Unsplash, because those images are available to use with or without attribution on your site and/or social media.

If you’re designing a website for a client, I highly recommend creating their initial concept outside of Squarespace. I always use Affinity Designer or Moqups to create initial concepts and complete revisions before building the full site on Squarespace. This allows you to make as many revisions as needed before having to actually build out their site. If you choose to design initial concepts on Squarespace, just be aware that you may have to make significant, time-consuming changes depending on your clients’ feedback. It’s much easier and much more practical to create the initial concepts and revisions on an external program first, then implement the design into Squarespace after it’s approved!

Secure Your Domain Name

When you sign up for a Squarespace account you will have 14 days to design your site before you have to upgrade to a plan (if you’re a designer who is part of Squarespace Circle, you’ll have much longer before your trial expires). To determine which plan is right for you, you can check out this post or download the free guide to compare all four plans.

You should also think about the domain name you would like to use (also known as the URL visitors enter into their internet browser to get to your website), so you can not only choose your host provider, but also determine if it’s available for use. In the Build It With Squarespace Essentials course, I go over exactly how to set up your domain, transfer from a current host provider, or point an existing domain over to Squarespace. I also show you some work arounds if your intended domain name is already taken.

If you don’t have a domain name already, you can follow the steps below to obtain your custom domain through Squarespace:

It’s crucial to obtain your own domain not only for branding purposes, but also so your website address can look professional and is easy for your visitors to access.

Prep and Plan Your Content

While you can certainly work on preparing your content before you begin designing your site, locking in your layout first can help you determine the type of copy you’ll need to create to further personalize and wrap up your website.

If you’re having trouble getting clear on the type of content you need to create, you can check out this post that will help you go from overwhelmed to organized. If you have a clear idea of the type of content you’ll need to create and are ready to start putting it all together, this post about content batching will be really helpful.

Regardless of the type of website you’re creating, you’ll definitely want to think about the type of copy you will include on your home page, about page, and contact page.

If you’re a blogger, I recommend having at least 5-10 posts on your website before you launch. If you‘re a business owner, you should have your product or service descriptions ready, as well as your return policy, shipping information (if you sell physical products), FAQ’s, and a testimonial/review area if and when possible.

If you‘re a designer, you need to determine if you are going to ask your clients to create their own copy, if you’ll provide those copy services to them, or if you will recommend a contractor to outsource this portion of the project to (if your client does not want to provide their own copy). It’s important you discuss these terms with your clients and find out what their needs are early on.

**I personally do not choose to create copy for my clients; I leave this part up to them or I recommend someone who can help them create their copy. I prefer to focus on my speciality which is web design and 1:1 support, so I make sure to refer them to copywriters who specialize in their niche/industry if they do not want to write their own copy.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that these are just some of the essential steps to getting started with your web design on Squarespace. To learn how to DIY your own site or create your clients’ sites on Squarespace from start to finish, be sure to check out this course on building with Squarespace.

What questions do you have about starting your website on Squarespace?