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If you’re a Squarespace user, this is pretty much the post you’ve been waiting for. And if you’re not… well, you already know where I land on that one. I’m always casting a vote for simple. Which is why I found talking to Squarespace Circle member Josh Stott so enlightening. Josh brings more than a little Squarespace template experience to the table. As the director for Squarestud.io, a studio that designs websites using Squarespace, Josh is on first name basis with all the Squarespace templates. Every Squarespace template is completely unique and is so flexible that you could have hundreds (thousands!) of companies all using Squarespace and the sites would look completely different. So what’s a decision-phobic person to do? When it comes to choosing a template, there are only three things Josh says you should focus on: The Navigation, the Gallery Layout and Blog. Here’s why.
1. Focus on the navigation.
When you’re choosing a template the most inflexible component will be the navigation. The content is an open canvas, but how the navigation is displayed is a fixed thing so as you look through the possible templates, pay close attention to how the navigation is displayed. You’ll want to have a clear picture of your target user. For example, if your customer is 45+, you might want to jettison the more modern mobile navigation (a three line, hamburger menu—three lines that indicate there’s some navigation inside) for something more traditional. At the end of the day, you want to have as few item in your top navigation as possible. Having more than five or six navigation items is too many choices for your users.
2. Choose a gallery layout that makes your work sing
Once you’ve settled on a few navigation styles that seem to fit the bill, you’ll want to devote some energy to analyzing the gallery layout. Each Squarespace template has a different style for the gallery layout. And while there is flexibility, each template has its own unique way of displaying the portfolio. In addition, as you focus on choosing a portfolio display that works for you, be sure to keep your portfolio images consistent. The portfolio will look the best, if you make sure that the colors (contrast and brightness) of your images are similar (think about using the same filter) and make sure the aspect ratios are similar. This makes the portfolio a seamless journey and more pleasing to the eye. (Think a particularly well-curated Instagram feed.)
For more portfolio design tips, check out our post on designing your portfolio like a boss.
3. Blog, blog, blog.
A blog keeps Google interested and keeps your customers updated. Consequently, having a great blog is a pretty important aspect to almost any business or personal site. The options for blog display vary quite a bit within Squarespace. This is a place that’s gotten a lot of love and attention from recent template designs so if blogging is critical to your business, focus on some of the more recent template designs (like Foundry or Farrow).
If you’re working with a limited budget or are simply not a designer, then pay extra close attention to the customer example websites that are part of each template and stick like glue to that design. In fact, Josh suggests that you craft your site to mimic the sample as closely as possible. Exercise your creativity in the content realm, but by modeling your design on one of Squarespace’s standout picks, you’re guaranteed to get a site that looks more than a little amazing.