You have a new business idea or venture. Maybe you’ve set it up and started running it, or maybe you’ve just started the planning phase. You’ve got no clue on how to build a website for your business. What now?
Welcome to the club. Correction, I was where you are now. I had not built, nor even seen a website builder before. I thought it looked too complicated to ever try doing myself. That was about two years ago.
Since that time, I’ve learned that website building has actually gotten pretty easy. I’ve built three websites using Wix and Squarespace. And I’ve dabbled a bit in WordPress. All three are popular options in website building and I’ve quite gotten the hang of them, if you don’t mind me bragging (Not WordPress, I’m sadly not a Code Ninja yet).
I’m going to tell you how to build a website like my own; ademiralijagic.com. Yours will obviously be tailored to your own needs. Hopefully it will look even better than mine, which isn’t hard.
Not because it’s easy to compete with my awesome website, that’s hard. It’s easy to create yours better because of my excellent guidance (#humble).
To quote The Black Eyed Peas, (or in other words the sound of my middle school dances), “Let’s get it started”.
Chose Squarespace over Wix
You might have noticed that I’m biased towards using Squarespace. My own website is built on it and so was my previous company Streets of Oslo’s website. Check it out here.
Squarespace has limitations, don’t get me wrong, we’ll get into to them shortly. The benefits however are:
The most polished look for visitors.
The least amount of knowledge needed to have your site looking professional.
The easiest user interface for you with a website builder. Click and drop, and no coding needed.
Wix lacks in the polish area. Maybe due to them allowing more freedom in tailoring their sites. This sounds good at first, which is the reason I initially started with Wix. But the freedom has a backside. You’re most likely going to create a crappy looking site, with a lousy user experience because you’re not experienced with creating websites, duh. It’s a learning experience, speaking from my own.
Squarespace narrows your options, which might get annoying at times when you aren’t allowed to change seemingly minor stuff, but it keeps your website within a frame. A frame that experts have made specifically for the ‘polished’ user experience.
And that’s what you want. Because nobody has the attention span to browse poorly designed websites. The actual content on your site might be great, but that won’t matter if a visitor can’t find anything due to confusing menus, ugly layouts, or all of the above. Your website traffic will suffer as a result.
If you’re a person with a good grasp of website design and aesthetics, sure try Wix. But if you’re as green as I was, do me a favor and ditch Wix.
Done ditched? Okay, great. Now let’s eliminate WordPress from the equation as well 😉
Dont use WordPress
WordPress is probably the best option for many people, especially for bloggers and writers. But it’s way too complicated for where you are now. You should be focusing on your business. Not on learning how to code.
To be clear, there are two ‘versions’ of WordPress, and the one I’m talking about is https://wordpress.org/ which is an open source platform where you need to code, and not https://wordpress.com/ which is more like a website builder, such as Squarespace and Wix. The website builder is quite usable, but if you want to utilize WordPress fully, I would learn how to code and make your website from scratch.
I consider migrating to WordPress down the line because:
It has an enormous amount of options and customization, like with using Plugins and SEO optimization, ‘a pinch’ better than Squarespace.
The WordPress online community has detailed guides on “everything” your site might need. For people who want to take their site to the next level. This is a BIG pluss.
They have plenty of monetization options, especially for bloggers like me who are aiming to earn a living on their content, eventually.
It outperforms Squarespace in speed. Squarespace tends to have slow loading sites if you fill it with high-quality pictures and videos. It’s not a deal breaker for me, but it is noticeable enough to be annoying.
In short, the reasons for choosing Squarespace when you’re creating a website the first time is:
If you chose Wix you’ll most likely create something ugly, because of option overload.
You won’t be able to use WordPress because it’s complicated and you’ll give up.
Squarespace wins ‘best website builder for entrepreneurs’, because it makes your site look polished enough, easily enough. Freeing yourself up to focus on your business.
Chosen Squarespace already? Good, now let’s move on to practicalities.
Start using Squarespace
First you need to register an account for www.squarespace.com. I suggest using Gmail, as this will easier sync up with Google’s analytics later, and makes the process of search engine optimization (SEO) smoother.
After you’ve created your account you are shown popular website templates. This is the bread and butter for Squarespace. Templates are ready-made website ‘shells’ you simply fill in with your own content.
Any additional design options will greatly depend on which template you chose. It’s an important decision, but it’s also very easy switching later on if you want.
I would suggest having a clear idea of what kind of website you want to build before choosing a template. Is it a store, or is it a blog? Maybe it’s an online resume? Whatever you decide on, use the search feature when choosing templates to narrow your result. I typed in ‘blog’ and a bunch of templates popped up which I browsed before landing on my current one, called ‘Farro’.
After choosing a template you’re taken to the template’s example website. Now your job is to tailor this preview site into your own.
You’ll also notice a toolbar on the left side of the browser has popped up. This is your workplace. It’s where you customize your website and add content. There are 7 different tabs here, the most important for a new user in my opinion being the ‘Pages’, ‘Design’, and ‘Settings’ tabs.
On the right side is your actual website, and here you’ll see the changes you make in the left toolbar. The neat thing about website builders like Squarespace and Wix is the click and drop feature. You’ll notice a pluss sign (+) in the upper right corner. From this menu you can chose to drag texts, pictures, videos, social media feeds and plenty more. I suggest experimenting with the different ‘content blocks’ as their called, and figure out what works for your site.
At this point, if your happy with the original template and the content blocks you’ve added you could be done with your site. Most of you will however want to tailor it a bit more. So let’s move on to using the left toolbar.
Customizing your site
In the ‘toolbar’ I would recommend starting from the top and working your way down through the options you get. Experiment with them, and see the results on your website live. It takes some time to go through and figure out what works best for you, but this way you’ll get exposed to what options you have on your site, and template.
It’s worth noting that some of the options are dependent on your subscription plan. And yes, you need a subscription to use Squarespace for anything remotely serious.
Before tailoring your site, notice the bar (-) on top of your site navigation. If you hover over it you can change your view between desktop, tablet and mobile. Each one makes your website slightly different, so keep switching between them and check how your changes effect them individually. Something that looks good on desktop might look horrible on mobile and vice versa.
I wont be able to guide you through all the toolbar options as there are too many, but Squarespace’s own guides usually do a good job of explaining them. However, here are some steps I think are important:
Start with the top ‘pages’ tab, go through the example pages, retrofit them, change the headlines and add text and pictures. Delete the pages you don’t like or don’t need. Add any new pages you would like, ranging from cover pages to simple URL links. Notice that you have a ‘main’, ‘secondary’, ‘footer’ and ‘not linked’ navigation section. The ‘main’ navigation is going to be featured top left on your site’s ‘header’ in most templates. The ‘secondary’ usually gets placed top right. ‘Header’ and ‘footer’ is a fancy way of saying top and bottom. What sets these sections apart is that they appear on every page of your site. It’s useful for placing information you would like to have across your site, like the above mentioned ‘main’ navigation.
The ‘design’ tab. Here you place your logo, title and short description of your website. This is also where you can change your template if needed. The ‘style’ tab within design is probably the most interesting part of Squarespace. It lets you customize the position, size and style of most elements on your site. There’s a couple of standard pages in the ‘design’ section you should tailor; like the checkout page if you’re setting up a store. Also delve into the advanced setting if you feel like testing out your CSS coding knowledge. Here’s a guide how to get started on that.
The ‘commerce’ tab you can pretty much skip if you don’t have a store. Despite this being a Squarespace guide I would suggest checking out Shopify as an alternative website-builder if the store is sentral to you. Squarespace’s store lags behind Shopify, especially if you don’t live in america. Taxes and shipping becomes a hassle.
The ‘marketing’ tab is also mostly about connecting your social media accounts and writing a good SEO description (the text which search engines use to show potential visitors of your site). It also plays a part in how they rank you on searches. Do not skip this step.
In the ‘analytics’ tab I would suggest you confirm your email and domain with Squarespace in order to be able to use analytics. Then forget about this page for the time-being. Come back when you’ve fully set up your site and have some visitors to analyse.
The ‘comment’ tab is next if you have a blog. If you don’t run a blog, you can ignore this tab. It’s where you administrate all the comments on your site. You can approve, flag or delete them here.
Last step is the ‘settings’ where you chose if your site is visible to the public or not. You can lock your site behind a password here, connect your social media accounts, and tailor email and permission options.
You have an additional tab called ‘help’ which leads you to guides on Squarespace site building. It’s a good tool, which I would recommend familiarizing yourself with.
As a last tip for setting up your site, try to make your website easy on the eyes, clean and logical to navigate. If a visitor clicks the heading logo she expects to be redirected to your homepage, because that’s the norm on websites. Follow norms such as these. Use easy to read fonts and colors like black on white, not yellow on green.
And for the love of everything holy, do not forget to make your site mobile friendly!
That’s all for my ‘lightning course’ in setting up your first Squarespace site. Let me know if I missed something or you want me to delve deeper into a specific area.
See you next Monday, when I reflect on my entrepreneurial journey so far, and how I measure success. Now excuse me, I’m off to feast on Christmas dinner, for the second time!
Happy holidays to you all, and until next time fellow entrepreneur!
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