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Squarespace, Space for Improvement

Important update: In October 2014, Squarespace introduced Squarespace 7. The new version comes equipped with a completely redesigned site builder, 15 new templates and a whole bunch of new business-specific features. It is now available to groups of existing Squarespace users. When it is available for the entire customer base, we’ll be among the first to test it 🙂 . 

Even more important update: The day has come, here’s the review.

Let’s face it – keeping things simple is more complex than you probably think it is, especially when it comes to web design. In an attempt to invent unusual web design solutions and jaw-dropping user experiences, many designers fail to hit the sweet spot of usability and simplicity. Being carried away by their own ambitions, they simply forget about their end users’ needs. The inability to find this balance results in decreased usability and/or information overkill… this is exactly what I experience each time when I enter the Squarespace admin panel.

Mystery Meat Navigation

Don’t get me wrong. I respect their hard-working team and their desire to simplify website construction and maintenance for non-technical users. But let’s not pretend they have no drawbacks. Underneath their beautiful, award-winning home page lay a few glaring usability issues. I’m not going to discuss all of them in this post or try to persuade you that Squarespace is bad. I just want to make the web a better place :).

Icons

They’ll make you scratch your head. Try to guess the meaning of the following Squarespace icons:

                 Icon #1                                 Icon #2

Fonts? Upgrade? Nope! The former stands for ‘Content Manager’, and the latter throws you to ‘Commerce’. C’mon, people love familiar icons. They make them feel safe and comfortable, while unknown, strange iconography immediately disorients a user. The same applies to their mysterious arrows (Blog section). The only way to figure out their purpose is to click and watch.

Squarespace - The Mysterious Arrow

Navigation

It could be much more compact. In its current version, Squarespace offers too many places to go and literally bombards you with various non-related options on the same page: URL mappings, Code injection, Permissions, Domains, Import/Export, Sessions, Mobile Apps – all these and 11 other tabs are located within a single nav bar. There are too many places to go, and thus – to get lost.

Squarespace - Overload

In addition to the overwhelming amount of navigation options, there are some other utterly disappointing issues. In particular, the aforementioned Commerce section has no way out. The pop-up has neither ‘No thanks’ nor ‘close-out’ option. The only active button is ‘Get Started with Commerce’. I’m sure that their Commerce platform is a great platform to get started with, however it allows no way to back out other than the arrow in your browser navigation or the ‘esc’ key, both inexplicably redirecting you to the preview mode.

The 'Welcome to Commerce' Trap

Users should not resort to the ‘esc’ key. It’s an error. While their strange iconography is something that you can get used to, mystery meat navigation is a glaring usability issue that leads to complete frustration.

In April 2014 Squarespace raised $40 million from General Atlantic. Hopefully, this investment will not only fuel the platform’s expansion, but also improves its overall usability :).

Have you ever been trapped in the Squarespace ‘Commerce’ section? How many points would you give to Squarespace from a first user perspective? Speak your mind comments!

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