That sounds crazy, right? That’s actually what I thought when the idea of creating Design in a Day popped into my head. And yet… it kept niggling at me, that maybe this could be something–for the right clients.
I started thinking about what it would take to design and launch a site quickly and what most commonly holds back site launches and I kept coming back to a single thing: Content.
So, in order to launch a new Squarespace website in a day, you need your content–and this is true whether you’re working with professionals like myself and Kath or if you’re DIYing your website.
So what does this mean? it means that you need to step away from the Squarespace template library and close your color picker and starting thinking strategically before you ever consider your design.
Design should not drive your content. Instead, let your content inform your design.
If you need to launch your Squarespace website fast, here’s how to tackle it.
1. Limit your page count–I recommend no more than five. Yes, that can be tough, but if you’re starting out, you really don’t need more than that. Look at my post about site structures for artist websites if you want a starting point. There’s always room to grow down the line (my own site has grown from a single page site to the behemoth it is today), but this is enough to get you going and look “legit.”
2. Follow Kath’s advice and write down the goal for each of those pages. This is absolutely critical. While your at it, draft the description for each page, keeping in mind that 160 characters is the ideal length for (think of your descriptions like a tweet).
3. Sketch out–yes, on paper–exactly how these pages will connect to each other and what the content on each of those pages will be. I like the index card method, which I learned while working on my senior research thesis in college, but some plain scratch paper will do you just fine.
4. Write down your wish list of design and functionality priorities, informed by the goals outlined in step #3. Again, write this down on actual paper! Keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to have all these things and will have to pick and choose what’s most important to you.
Prioritizing will help you be very clear on your needs once it’s time to pick your template.
5. Write all your copy. Every single word. Proofread it. Proofread it again–you’ll probably want to cut about 25%. Trust me on this, I’ve written content for and designed A LOT of websites. This means not only your text, but form fields, image captions, headlines, what have you.
6. Gather all your imagery and other assets, such as icons. At this point, you may want to hop onto Creative Market and find some graphics that will work for you. Name and format all these files and determine where you’re going to use them. Here’s a guide to image sizes in Squarespace.
7. Put together a story for your new website’s feel. This is where Pinterest is the bomb. It’s not just for recipes and outfits, Pinterest is amazing for collecting design inspiration. Start a board that you label “Design Inspiration” and start pinning whatever strikes you. But–and this is a big but–don’t just pin. Instead take the time to write in the pin’s description what exactly it is that appeals to you. Is it the font? The color? The photos? Make a note of that.
You’ll start to see patterns and you’ll have a design story to inspire you.
8. Now the fun begins! it’s time to spend the day designing and laying out your website.
Whether you’re doing it yourself or working with a Squarespace Specialist, this is when you’ll starting looking at templates. Remember that list in #4? That’s where this will come in handy. You’ve already determined your priorities, so we can look past the pretty designs in the Squarespace template library and decide what meets your goals. You may be surprised by what meets those needs. For example, for Charlotte & Daughters, we used Rover, a long scroll website. The client’s original inspiration sites were all based on Avenue, but Rover better suited her content and website goals.
Because everything is prepared and you’re ready to go, the only focused over the next few hours is design, design, design. As a Squarespace Specialist, one of the things that clients who reach out to me about finishing up the sites they’ve started DIYing commonly struggle with is that they’re trying to do too much at once. They’re trying to design a page without knowing what’s going to go on it, they’re trying to write copy without knowing what they’re trying to achieve. I’m incredibly sympathetic, because everyone thinks design first, and Squarespace presents us with beautiful templates just screaming to have imagery and words popped into them, so it’s very tempting, but it’s also wrong (sorry!) and results in us taking far more time than we need to to create the site.
Preparing helps us focus and allows the content to inform the design.
We’re not trying to shove the proverbial square peg into a round hole, instead we’re making sure that every element fits together just perfectly and fine-tuning important elements like page descriptions, text formatting and fun stuff like typography and color choices.
Start with your homepage and finish that page, then move onto the next most important page, likely the about page. And so on and so forth. Be purposeful and intentional about the entire thing, going step by step. The same goes with the design. Pick one element at a time, save and refresh. Yes, it’s slow, but trust me–I’ve done this work for, well, longer that I want to admit, and this is the most efficient and effective way to approach it.
9. Finish up the nuts and bolts. Once you’ve laid out your pages, picked your colors and fonts (thanks to that handy Pinterest board) and have your new Squarespace website in a place you like it, don’t forget the details. Map your domain (here’s Squarespace’s guide), make sure all your pages have search engine descriptions, and submit your new website to Google and Bing. Squarespace has a solid guide to doing this in their help documentation that’s a great starting point. Find it here. And, of course, don’t forget to add a favicon and social logo to your Squarespace website. Kath has a good guide on how to do that as well.
10. Celebrate! 💥 Launching a website is a big deal. There are a million things to track, content to gather, and a bunch of details to make sure are just so in order to have a professional presentation ready to release into the world. Share it on Facebook, or wherever else you are, and let people know you’re live. I’m always telling clients that their websites aren’t an “if they build it, they will come” situation. Let people know you exist!
Now, you may be wondering why I haven’t revealed any amazing top-secret methods for launching your Squarespace website in just one day, and that’s because, well, there’s not a secret. If you need a website fast, like I said, you need to step away from the fun design stuff and focus hard on your content. You can easily spend a Saturday fleshing all this out for three to five pages and then an evening sourcing some great stock photography (I love Stocksy for this–not the cheapest, but definitely the nicest) and creating your inspiration board on Pinterest. Then you’ll be ready to shut off your phone notifications and spend a day crafting your website.