Blog Redesign, Pt. 2: Choosing A Platform & A Review of Squarespace

This is Part 2 of my blog's redesign series, chronicling my blog's recent makeover. See Part 1 (including Before & After pics) here

In my last post, Part 1 of this series, I listed three major reason on why I decided to redesign my blog. Truth be told, I omitted the real reason why I decided to change my blog in the first place: I hated Blogger, my blogging platform. Or at least, I thought I did. But we'll get to that later.

Back in December, when I had a bunch of free time in my hands over the Christmas holiday, I decided to give my blog (still in its old design) a bit of a refresher. I wanted simply to change my blog's background from its current wood background to a canvas background.

Changing your blog's background in Blogger isn't particularly complicated. All you need to do is access Blogger's template editor, select an image to upload and set as a background, hit "Apply to Template", and voila. Done. No fancy HTML or CSS needed. It was this simplicity and ease of use that attracted me to Blogger in the first place. 

But as I hit "Apply to Blog", nothing happened. I clicked it again. I could see it in Blogger's preview function, but not on my blog.

After doing this several times (and expecting different results) without any luck, I decided to take the issue to Blogger support. This was the first time I'd ever used Blogger support and wasn't entirely sure how it worked. Turns out that Blogger's support is basically... non-existent. Help could only be found in unreliable Google Groups — that is, post your issue up on an anonymous forum and hope that somebody answers it.

As I prepared to drop my problem into the Blogger Support Google Group, I realized that I wasn't the only one reporting the issue. In fact, literally thousands of other bloggers had reported this same issue, starting in the summer of last year! The more I read up on it, the more I was disheartened: this was a bug that had been around for at least 6 months, possibly more. It affected around 30% of Blogger users, meaning that literally thousands of people could not make any changes to their template. Google seemed to have made no efforts to fix the bug, or even reach out to the community about the issue.

Welp. Time to find a new blogging platform.

It's a bit of a known fact that most of the big bloggers use Wordpress, but I'm not the world's biggest fan. Long story short, the company I work for currently uses Wordpress to host our site and it's pretty much put me off the platform for reasons I won't list here. Admittedly, I've only ever used Wordpress for business and not pleasure, so maybe that's the difference? In any case, it wasn't an option I wanted to explore for the time being.

Now, I'm not sure where I first heard about Squarespace, but I do know two of the blogs I admire the most — Pastry Affair and Roost — used Squarespace as their blogging platform. Additionally, the company advertised ease of use, 24/7 support, and hosting services as some of their main strengths. Although I was reluctant to move to a paid platform (Squarespace charges $8 a month, not very steep, but still a price compared to Blogger and Wordpress's free services), I was willing to take advantage of their 2-week long free trial.

Well, I'll tell you one thing. With Squarespace, I was able to easily build a new and extraordinarily beautiful site from the get-go:


Their template editor allowed me to do things that I didn't have the HTML/CSS knowledge for — things like editing the padding between the header, navigation bar, and content. I also liked the fact that Boutique, the template I chose, had a navigation bar that was anchored up top — that is, you could keep scrolling down the page, but my "Home/Recipes/About" bar would always stay in its place at the top of the window. Seems like a minor detail, I know, but I have no idea how I would code for something like that in HTML/CSS. This is it, I thought to myself. I'm moving to Squarespace.

However, the more I played around with Squarespace, the more the initial warm and fuzzy glow receded. I began to realize how limiting their templates were. For instance, although I loved the anchored navigation bar in my Boutique template, I didn't like the fact that all my content looked like one perpetual scrolling data dump. Was there a way I could add a side bar for additional content like social media buttons and a popular posts feed? No, apparently not. Because it turns out there wasn't a way I could code in a sidebar unless I changed my template entirely. But changing my template would mean having to give up the anchored sidebar that I loved so much! What to do?

One of my friends savvier than myself alerted me about Squarespace's developer platform, which enables users to make the changes to Squarespace templates that you couldn't do from their template editor. However, upon checking it out, I was overwhelmed — this was far too advanced for me! I was a casual blogger, somebody who had taught herself how to code from Google searches and "HTML/CSS for Dummies" books. The developer platform made no sense to me. Couldn't there be some sort of middle ground between a beginner using the template editor and a front-end developer using their developer platform? Surely I'm not the only person who falls in the middle of the two. There were many more instances like this; in the end, it seemed like Squarespace was giving me an all or nothing scenario.

There was also the fact that Squarespace wasn't widely used as Blogger or Wordpress. Again, this seems like a minor detail, but at the end of the day, it really wasn't. If I didn't know how to do something in Blogger or Wordpress, I would simply google it and voila! Problem solved. I didn't have that same luxury with Squarespace. Their help forums had questions that were very obviously for beginners; I posted my own somewhat intermediate question about how to code in a search box and it went unanswered. I felt like I was back to Blogger's "help" services, dropping in a question into a void without any idea when it would be answered.

So of course, I turned to live support. But it turns out their live support was no help to me either — the few times I did try live chat, they were unavailable. The first time because I wasn't on East Coast hours (way to alienate your West Coast market, guys), the second time because they were flooded and unable to provide live chat services.  Admittedly, I was impressed with Squarespace's email support, which was timely and polite, but I really would have preferred to chat with somebody in real time.

At the end of the day, although I still really love the aesthetic of Squarespace's templates, I just couldn't make Squarespace work for me. Don't get me wrong — I think it's a great platform for those who are completely new to blogging, CSS, HTML, and web design. You'll be able to design a beautiful website without any problem. But for those slightly more advanced bloggers who want a little bit more control their design? I found it way too limiting, especially for the fee they're charging. I don't think I could have made my blog's new design in Squarespace, for instance.

Sigh. It was back to Blogger for me.

5 comments

  1. I love the redesign. And, while I am not IN love with Blogger... it has been the most usable platform for me as well. I use Wordpress for the Portland Bloggers site. But, if I want any of the good extras or the ability to use google adsense I have to pay extra. I'm cheap. ;-) So, blogger for me, for now, as well.

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  2. Wow, really interesting to see what you went through... I've thought about other platforms and worked with Wordpress on the Portland Bloggers site and my husband's site, but UGH it is so limiting compared to Blogger where you can tweak so much in the HTML and CSS. I'm sticking to Blogger and trying to hack it all I can! ;) Followed some tutorials from PuglyPixel and even made a static website in it. I'm pretty happy with my modified Blogger sites!

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