TL; DR: Founded in 2003 in a dorm room at the University of Maryland, Squarespace has since grown into one of the industry’s leading hosting providers and now powers the online properties of millions of businesses worldwide. Since day one, the host has operated with the goal to deliver affordable, enterprise-grade web solutions, including high-performing infrastructure, security, and eCommerce tools, so small- to medium-sized businesses can turn profits in the competitive online marketplace. We recently sat down with Squarespace’s Matt Zito, who told us how the host is continuing its mission to empower entrepreneurs to build web presence and realize their business dreams.
When Danny Bowien was 19, he found himself at a crossroads. Living in Oklahoma City at the time, he was still unsure what he wanted out of life and a career. But there were two talents he had nurtured since he was a kid that he kept in his back pocket — cooking and creativity.
“Whenever my friends would get together, I’d be the one that would always cook and host parties, and I really loved entertaining,” Danny said in an interview. “So, I thought, ‘Well, culinary school sounds fun — it’s a good way to get out of Oklahoma.’”
After working his way through culinary school in San Francisco, Danny moved east and cut his teeth in the competitive New York City cooking culture. And, not long after, he opened Mission Chinese Food on East Broadway.
Looking to get the word out about his budding business, Bowien turned to Squarespace to create a website that showcased his creative efforts. And, with the help of the host’s professionally designed templates and drag-and-drop web builder, Danny’s site came to life in a way that complements his cutting-edge menu and colorful dishes.”
“I want people to leave the website and feel like they’ve had an experience different from what they’ve had from other websites because that’s what we do at our restaurant,” Danny said. “If we can incite some sort of emotion, and people can connect to it, by the time they’re leaving, they’re like, ‘Wow, that was cool. That was different — I wasn’t expecting that.’”
With Squarespace, millions of aspiring entrepreneurs, like Danny, have been able to bring the best aspects of their businesses to the web. The host offers a one-stop shop where users can source an array of hosting, domain, eCommerce, and web development solutions.
Squarespace’s main appeal for entrepreneurs and SMBs is its offering of enterprise-level features to smaller clients with less to invest. Matt Zito, Director of Product at Squarespace, cites its SMB focus as one of the main draws to working with the company.
“My background has traditionally been in enterprise software,” Matt said. “I was really intrigued by a platform that had the power of an enterprise solution but was targeted at consumers.”
Delivering Aspiring Site Owners the Tools Needed for Online Success
As Matt noted, a large portion of Squarespace’s user base consists of SMBs. Surprisingly, many small brick-and-mortar businesses have little to no web presence — even in today’s digital-centric landscape — and are missing out on a highly effective promotional tool.
Matt told us just how essential it is for businesses to spread their message online and how Squarespace can help them do it.
“The most important thing to do when starting a business is to start,” Matt said. “Instead of getting every single website detail perfect, get the bare minimum that you need to get your vision across, and then iterate from there.”
And, once the ideas are in place, Squarespace’s compelling themes and intuitive web builder can help develop the professional, modern feel necessary to attract and retain customers.
According to Matt, the relationship Squarespace has with its clients is mutually beneficial, as site owners are effectively investing in their own future profit.
“I think Squarespace users are aspirational. They have a vision of the business they want to build, and we’re helping them create a brand and identity that is much bigger than they are,” he said.
By partnering with Squarespace, SMBs gain affordable access to hosting, site management, and eCommerce tools for creating sites that range from company advertisements to full-fledged eCommerce platforms.
In addition to its quintessential content management tools, Squarespace helps secure websites with SSL. Not only does this improve security for the businesses, but it also safeguards customers’ personal and financial information.
“All of our customers automatically get free SSL certificates as part of their subscription,” Matt said. “It shows your visitors that you care about protecting any information they share with you.”
Optimizing Web Apps for Today’s Mobile-Centric Landscape
As mobile platforms have dominated a large percentage of site traffic, incorporating mobile-friendly elements into web design is essential for modern businesses. In fact, studies show that mobile and tablet access accounted for 51.3% of internet usage in October 2016, surpassing desktop traffic for the first time ever.
The use of mobile-friendly templates ensures that sites render correctly — and promptly — on screens of various sizes. This way, visitors are ensured the best possible user experience no matter what device they’re using to access a site.
“Currently our system is built around mobile-responsive templates, and we offer mobile-specific styling on many of them,” Matt said.
In addition to templates, Squarespace provides a number of ways to fine-tune mobile sites so they display exactly as intended. To accommodate widely differing screen dimensions, Squarespace seeks to strike a balance between responsive and static mobile-centric design.
“While templates are easy to use and work automatically, we know people want finer-grained control over exactly how their site renders on mobile,” Matt said. “We have plans to offer people deeper ability to optimize specifically for mobile displays.”
Incorrectly rendered sites may lead to user frustration or create problems with readability, and Squarespace’s dynamic web design solves this problem.
A Full Inventory of Innovative Features at a Low Cost of Entry
Squarespace is a completely centralized content management system that offers businesses the means to create an online presence with little investment and zero headaches. Acting as a domain name registrar, host, website builder, blogging platform, and eCommerce solution, Squarespace’s portfolio satisfies all the basic needs of a budding online business.
What makes Squarespace stand out from the competition is its capacity for stunning web design, as well as its intense focus on aspiring business owners. According to Matt, Squarespace users say the #1 benefit of partnering with the host is its web builder.
With Squarespace, entrepreneurs with no design or coding experience can build sites that display the same elegance and functionality of those created by professional designers or large, enterprise-level organizations. And it can all be done at minimal cost.
“One area where we feel the need to continue to lead the market is with our design,” Matt said. “We think a core part of the Squarespace value proposition is that the websites you can build with our platform look unique and different compared to what any other builder can do.”
Squarespace’s templates are created by award-winning designers and are versatile enough to be incorporated into any kind of site — be it a blog, a portfolio, or a store. Users can also drag and drop images; add and delete sections; and modify fonts, colors, configurations, and dimensions, making professional web design easy for those with limited technical knowledge.
In addition to its heavy focus on design, Squarespace offers clients comprehensive marketing tools to cultivate audience growth. Unlike many CMS platforms, the host includes built-in SEO solutions to help businesses rank high in search results. Social media integration is also made easy with unique sharing buttons that allow visitors to share posts and product pages simultaneously across multiple accounts. Other integration features include surveys, newsletter campaigns, and signup forms, which all increase brand trust and customer engagement.
Perfecting a User-Friendly Approach to Building Web Presence
Squarespace makes professional-grade design achievable for those with low budgets and limited technical knowledge. To simplify the task of creating an online presence, Squarespace plans to expand its platform to be even more user-friendly than it already is.
“We’re always looking to make our platform easier to use, more international, and improve our capabilities on mobile,” Matt said. “We want to make sure that Squarespace works for every user, regardless of their language, familiarity with building websites, or whether they want to do it on a laptop or a phone.”
And, as Matt noted, by facilitating the site management experience, Squarespace allows SMBs and aspiring entrepreneurs to focus more on their core business missions instead of worrying about the technicalities of site design and management.
“I think Squarespace will always focus on designs and styles that look great on both mobile and desktop,” Matt said.
With responsive and mobile-friendly site design, marketing tools, eCommerce solutions, and blogging features, Squarespace delivers a turnkey solution that allows SMBs to strike the balance between visual appeal, usability, customer engagement, and ease of implementation.