Yesterday I was looking at the services offered by Squarespace, a “fully hosted, completely managed environment for creating and maintaining your website.” Don’t worry, I’m not going to go off on a rant about how bad this kind of thing is for web developers.
I recognize that not everyone can afford to pay thousands of dollars to hire a designer and/or programmer to create a website for them. Squarespace offers quite a flexible service for website noobs and at a pretty reasonable monthly rate.
But I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the following paragraph on a page describing their services as offering total creative control:
The presentation of your site is independent of its content, allowing you to switch the style of your site without having to worry about your site “breaking”. With our theme designer, you can create new looks for your site with a few simple clicks. Every element of your site is clickable and yours to change in real-time right before your eyes. You’re no longer at the mercy of a web designer, you can do it yourself.
Now, after you read that, you can stop laughing, pick yourself up off the floor and let’s consider this point by point:
The presentation of your site is independent of its content
Um… no it’s not. At least it shouldn’t be, and no self-respecting web developer should ever promote that idea. I realize that they’re saying this in a strictly technical sense, referring to how the design can be changed and the content can stay the same. But that’s not a good thing to tell anyone building a website. The design and layout of a site should only be considered after a serious review of the content. If you can make major changes to your content without changing the design, then there’s something wrong with the design.
With our theme designer, you can create new looks for your site with a few simple clicks
Again, terrible advice that goes completely against the concept of branding and creating an atmosphere of trust and professionalism. And again, I realize that many of Squarespace’s customers are going to be non-techy bloggers and housewives and such — but they do promote their services to large businesses too. I hope those businesses know a little better than to utilize those features. Some services offer features that are passed off as advantages when in fact they are disadvantages.
The people that designed, developed, and structured the Squarespace website did a fantastic job. It’s a beautiful website that markets and brands their services very effectively. I notice, however, that their footer says “This site is completely powered by the Squarespace platform.” Does that mean that the marketing staff at Squarespace are permitted to “create new looks” for their website “with a few simple clicks”? Not a chance.
You’re no longer at the mercy of a web designer, you can do it yourself
Full control is great, right? So instead of getting a well-planned, professionally architected design, structure and layout, they get pretty much the equivalent of me trying to build my own house (keeping in mind that I don’t know how to build a house).
What do you think? Are services like this any good in the long run? Are they bad for web designers? Or do clients who use these services eventually come crawling to us later anyhow, after their site fails?
Okay, so maybe I did go off on a rant…