Squarespace for Bloggers & Publishers: Part 1 - Choosing the Right Template
Despite its popularity with small business, artists, small-scale stores and even larger corporate clients, I still don't see a lot of inquiries about using Squarespace for blogging. Part of this is probably because WordPress and Blogger have been so dominant for so long and especially in the case of the self-hosted versions of WordPress.
And, despite really liking Squarespace, I do think that it's not the best choice for all blogs. It's possible that WordPress or even Blogger (which I personally do not care for--it's just not pleasant to use) are better solutions for you. I'll cover that topic in a future post in this series. I'm assuming that if you're reading this you either already have a Squarespace site or you've settled on this as the platform for you. And as a result, you'll be considering which template is right for your blog.
While Squarespace has many beautiful templates to use as starting points, just a handful are appropriate for blogging- and publishing-focused sites. This is not to say that if your site is primarily a business site and you've built it on a template that's not one of the following that you'll be unhappy, but rather that if you're planning a site that is primarily focused on blogging, you will want to give each of these a hard look. In a future post, I'll discuss creating a stylish blog landing page using summary blocks, which is an easy workaround for folks on other templates.
Five was directly inspired by the previous version of Squarespace's platform, v5. This is an incredibly flexible template, as it has the choice of no sidebars, one sidebar, two sidebar or two split sidebars. It also has per-page spaces in the header and footer that allow you to insert additional content. Furthermore, the navigation and banner areas are fairly flexible in terms of layout.
Who it's best for: If your site is dependent on ad revenue, you can't make a better choice than Five as your starting point.
Sure, it's not glitzy and exciting like other templates, but it does the job. It's also much friendlier to tweak in developer mode (in my humble opinion) than most of the other templates.
My client Shellie built much KidTripster on her own with some help with the technical stuff from me and I love how she really pushed the Five template and Squarespace to their limits. There's a ton of customization on her site, but at its core is Five, which really works for wrangling the huge amount of content on her site and provides ample space for advertising.
We designed Bolt's blog for the second time to shift them over to the new Squarespace after they were on Squarespace 5 for some years, and in order to mimic the look of their old blog, Five was a natural choice.
This family of templates are the newest blogging templates in the Squarespace template family. They feature a masonry-style layout, endless scroll (which I despise) if you want it, sidebars within the post, interesting author bio integration, sidecart blocks in the navigation, social icons built into the navigation and built-in related posts.
Who it's best for: If you want a modern blogging look that you can use pretty much out of the box, this template family deserves a look.
One thing to note, however, the hamburger menu (the three lines to open a navigation menu) is a fixed element, so if that's not going to work for you, you'll want to look at a different blog template. You may want to add a bit of coding to the header area to make it behave in a less odd manner than the template has built and and there aren't header or footer areas on the page for additional advertising, unfortunately.
Examples: My client Weppy Davis of Significant Love makes great use of this template, as does my client Melody of Coffee House Paws/Pets of Starbucks fame. I also have Clear Eyes, Full Shelves on this template and have been very happy with it.
I've actually not used Avenue for a blog project (yet--I have one launching very soon!), but I think it's a natural fit if you want something more minimal that Five or Tudor but with loads of features. Avenue is pitched as a portfolio template, but the blog has a sidebar and there are header and footer spaces that are natural places for ad insertions. I also like Avenue a lot because it has a ton of easily-editable elements in the style editor, so it's easy for DIYers to customize.
Who it's best for: Lovers of minimal design, who want a website that will also showcase products or work.
Sadly, I cannot find any examples of people using this template well for blogging. Stay tuned for a project I'm launching for a client on this template soon.
Up until recently, Galapagos was available to everyone. Now it's isolated to the commerce platform, but I'll tell you a secret for accessing this awesome template if you're not using commerce: Do you initial trial using the commerce product and install Galapagos and then switch to the regular Squarespace website product immediately. This is a great template if you like lots of white space in your blog akin to Avenue (which is awesome if you need advertising space like Five) but want a bit of flair. Galapagos has a nice roomy sidebar (no header/footer spaces) for your ads, social links and subscribe boxes.
Who it's best for: Design blogs, artist blogs and business blogs.
Galapagos is an overlooked template that's a bit different, so I'd give it a hard look if you're searching for something unique as a starting point for your blog.
Bedford and Hayden are both popular templates for business sites, but the blog infrastructure is pretty solid as well. One of the things I really like about it is how you can have different sidebar content on different blogs (not blog posts). This is a really nice feature if you say, have a main blog and then another one on a different topic or a blog just for podcast hosting. I love the way banner images are handled, with the thumbnail being pulled into the header of each post and a slideshow of featured posts automagically appearing the blog header.
Who it's best for: Bloggers who want lightweight ad integration with a focus on imagery (food bloggers would be a great candidate for this).
Downsides: No header or footer spaces on pages, so be aware if your ad plans are for placements in those areas.
Example: This here blog is on Hayden! You can also check out my clients Basic Mommy for another application of this template family.
Template to Avoid: Farro
The design of this one is gorgeous, but I've done lots of testing and even temporarily messed around with it live for my book blog, but it just has loads of issues with text popping out of the blocks and just general weirdness. I did extensive coding just to make the mobile styles not look crazy and by the time I was done, I decided that it was a template not really worth spending time with. It's possible the Squarespace will modify this in the future and we'll see this template be workable, but I wouldn't risk it now (Oct. 2016). Note: Haute is the same template and the same advice applies.
Questions? Drop them in the comments! Interested in a one-on-one consultation about your blog? A Skype session is a great way to get started!