Happy Friday lovelies! The weekend is looming and it feels good doesn't it? We've been having some warm weather these last few days in Southern California and I'm liking it. Today I'm wearing shorts even! I hope we haven't completely said goodbye to chilly weather and knowing SoCal, it will fluctuate back and forth. Is spring starting to show itself in your part of the world yet?
Today I wanted to do an Inventory post on Squarespace which is the online platform I use to design, host, and maintain my blog. Over the last few weeks I've received a few emails from readers asking about website hosting and blog templates and I thought maybe other new bloggers are curious about the same thing. By sharing my blogging experience, hopefully I can answer a few questions and educate you on one possible blogging option which I have been extremely happy with.
When I was first looking to start a blog (almost two years ago) I spent a lot of time researching my options for hosting and design and templates. I had two main criteria for my search. One, I wanted my photographs to stand out and be a big focus of my blog. So I wanted options for my images, mainly sizing options so that I could size my images larger than normal. Basic Blogger and Wordpress templates size images at 500 pixels...I size my images here at 680 pixels to fit a 700 pixel grid. That's a lot bigger. You can see a lot more detail at that larger size and that is exactly what I wanted. Two, I needed a cost effective option because I didn't have money to hire a designer. But I still wanted my site to look more custom and personal than a basic template. I didn't know coding so I would need to be able to make those changes myself. When I discovered Squarespace I knew this was the right option for me because it answered all of this criteria (and beyond!).
Squarespace is a completely online platform, so I go to squarespace.com and log into my account to access my blog. I then have access to do all kinds of things like change the layout of my site, add columns, change column widths, set fonts, add widgets, change design templates, manage posts & comments, add pages, and so on. You have complete control over your site which you can change and update whenever you want. And you can make all these changes without knowing coding (although you can use the platform to build a website from scratch too). The above image is what you see when you log in. My blog is always in the background (so when I make changes, I see them update live) and then the drop-down Dashboard menu acts as your starting point. From the Dashboard you can look at overviews, look at the structure of your site and make changes, manage file storage, and get real-time analytics. It's a great home base where you can easily find what you're looking for.
When I go to Overview, I see something like this above. The latest comments get posted on the left and I can manage them: delete ones if necessary or reply to readers. On the right I see my real-time data for popular posts, keywords, and my top referrers. You can organize these charts by day, week, month. This is a great way to get a quick update on what is going on with your site. And it comes with your account, all built in and ready to go from day one.
You can also see more detailed analytics from what you see in Overview. This data is real-time so you can know exactly who is coming to your site, from where at all times. I love the graphs and charts since it's a quick way to grab the information you need. I still have a Google Analytics account (which is free) and the information you find there goes more in depth but I use both tools and am so impressed with all the data I find. It is a great way to gauge content and see what your readers are loving. As a blogger it is so important to know what content is resonating with your readers and with these tools you'll never be left wondering that again...you'll know.
This image shows how you can easily select a pre-designed template in Style mode. All the templates are clean and well designed. Use the template as a starting point and then customize from there, making changes to fit your preferences. You can set fonts and colors too. For example, whenever I include a link in one of my posts, Squarespace automatically set it at a different color (in my case light blue) so that readers can differentiate between the link and regular text. This saves time since all these options are set beforehand.
In Structure mode you can easily add widgets, buttons, and banners to your columns. Squarespace has a lot of built in widgets, likes ones for Twitter, but you can also insert code blocks or pictures. The pictures I have running down the right-hand side of my blog - I made those in Photoshop and then just uploaded them. I can change their order around at any time or easily delete them.
Overall, I think the Squarespace platform is really easy to use but it does take a little time to feel comfortable with it. When I first got it I made changes and tweaks for days, just trying to learn all the features. It's fun to play around with though. And when you do have questions or you feel stuck, there is a community forum and a help & support page to find answers. I have found both to be extremely comprehensive. You can also contact the Squarespace support team directly. When I contacted them they were super quick in replying with great customer service.
Squarespace is not a free option (see pricing here) but when I saw how much came with my subscription I knew it was worth it. I don't regret hosting my blog here one bit and for me, I was willing to spend a little bit of money to be able to be so involved in the design and content of my blog. It is so hands-on and I really like that. Check out the Squarespace site to see examples of all the features. You can also try it for free and I definitely recommend that too. I think this is such a great option for new bloggers and those wanting to create sites that look a bit more professional. Give it a try, have some fun with it.
Do any of you use Squarespace already? Are you happy with it? Are you looking to move your blog to the next level? What other hosting and design options have you found? I'd love to hear your experience in these areas and any suggestions you have. There are many options and this is only one of them, one that I can attest to, but it definitely isn't the only way to produce a great blog or website.
*I do not receive any compensation for my Inventory posts. My opinions are based solely on my own experience with the product. I blog about these products because I like them and think other crafters or bloggers could find them useful in their own work. Thanks!