Personal feeling: we don’t give our websites enough attention. It’s usually a “good enough” situation. It shows our photos, gets our name on Google and it serves as a place for us to send clients and prospects. That attitude tends to result in an attitude of “settling.” We settle for what we find and it is, again, good enough. Or is it? I wasn't ready to just be happy with "good enough" on my website.
I spent a long time considering how I was going to build jaronschneider.com. By a long time, I mean over two years. I didn’t want to get into a situation where I felt like I was stuck with what I had because I had invested in it. I felt like if I put myself in that position, I would find myself in a “good enough” situation of my own. So after a lot of thinking, considering and talking to friends about their experiences, I decided to try Squarespace.
I was drawn to Squarespace because of how image-centric it felt without being overbearing. To me, that means that though the images are important and most definitely center stage, they are well balanced. They don’t feel shoved down my throat. They’re welcoming without being showy. On top of all that, Squarespace feels up to date. It feels fresh, clean and new.
I’ve heard some pretty gnarly horror stories of photographers fighting for days (DAYS people) while they try and set up their website. Fighting with code, struggling with bad uploading applications or battling inflexible systems, it’s no wonder I waited two years to build a website. None of that sounded fun. At all.
To put my Squarespace experience in a contrasting perspective, I built it in an hour. That is not an overstatement or reverse exaggeration. It’s the cold hard truth. I built it in an hour because everything just made sense. Everything I did in the interface was subconscious. I didn't struggle to figure out how a window worked, I didn't fight with an image uploader, I wasn't baffled by a badly imagined navigation tree. Everything just made sense, and it was truly painless. You know what else? I beyond happy with how it came out. It is exactly what I wanted and it is a perfect emulation of my business.
I think the reason Squarespace succeeds is because they aren’t specifically a photographer website creator. Their tools and system are built to accommodate a wide range of professions making their software more adaptive, more responsive, more intuitive and all around just better than those I’ve seen before. If you want to do something in Squarespace, you can do it. Maybe the templates by themselves aren’t all that interesting to you. Well that’s ok, because the templates are just giant blank slates. They are just starting points, and the way your final site looks and functions is totally up to you.
The gallery settings are pretty slick, with a ton of options and an easy upload drag-and-drop feature that has become essentially standard in the past year or so (at least among cutting edge sites). The blog builder just works, and if you want to set up a store, Squarespace has that functionality built in as well.
Squarespace also has built in analytics. Though they aren’t as powerful as a stand alone system like Google Analytics, they are powerful enough to get a pretty good picture of what is going on with your website.
As an aside, I really did not want a flash website. Flash is dated. Flash sucks. I see a lot of photographer websites that use flash, and I can understand the benefit (not being able to save the images, therefore protecting your property) but to me, there are more wrongs with Flash than rights. The mobile alternatives tend to just look terrible. In a world where more people are using tablets and phones to browse the internet, having a crummy mobile site was not an option. I think the one place where Squarespace really impressed me was the way the sites work on any number of screens and operating systems. When you are on the go or using a computer that isn’t your own, it’s really important that your website always looks good. If you are trying to show off your work to a prospective client, the last thing you want is for your site to look crummy. There are fewer awkward situations as you try and dig yourself out of that kind of a hole. Squarespace optimizes the images to scale regardless of screen size, and the mobile sites actually look good. Like, really good. They load fast and my images look great.
Updating my website takes sixty seconds. Add a page, change my homepage, edit a gallery, change my contact details… anything I want is fast and easy. It just works, and I am really satisfied with it. I don’t feel like I settled, and if I decide to change up my website, that’s easy enough too. Because Squarespace makes it seamless, keeping your website up to date becomes less of a chore, which means that the feeling your website gives to prospective clients will be more real, which translates to positive feelings on their end, and results in a feeling of trust all before any deals are ever struck. That kind of thing is invaluable to a business. Whatever can make my business more successful is what matters most to me.
In the end, I made a choice with Squarespace. I felt like I was getting the site I really wanted for a price that didn't even faze me instead of a website I was somewhat satisfied with at a price that matched that sentiment. It is much nicer to be wholly satisfied with a purchase, in my opinion. And if I get bored with my current site layout, I can change it easily. No hoops to jump through, no extra fees, just an easy transition.
I have enough hassles in my life to not have something so pivotal to my business be another one. I'm doing my best to invest in products that make my life easier, and I can honestly say Squarespace fits in that category.