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Literature is rife with adages about the importance of first impressions. If you have a business or personal brand, a website is just that. And just like we aim for a wardrobe seasonal refresh, your website needs that same attention to detail. Which means, that job of creating a website is never really done. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be daunting. The Squarespace template format makes it easy to make incremental improvements or even opt for a full refresh (without having to re-enter all that content!). Because whether the website is your main focus or your side hustle, it should be sharp. And with the flush of energy that the summer sun brings, this might be just the moment to take advantage of the latest template designs.
One of our favorite aspects to the Squarespace template design (aside from the plug and play aspect) is how comprehensive each design is. This is not surface level impact. Each page in the navigation gets the same love as the home page. We were curious as to how they manage to orchestrate that level of detail so we reached out to John Yates, Project Manager for the Template Design Team at Squarespace.
Since John’s role is to coordinate the template design progress between the designers, the developers, and the marketing, strategy, and the leadership teams, he has the perfect vantage point to give us the play-by-play into how it all happens.
Can you describe the process of creating a new template? Is there a theme/mood that you start with?
The creation of a template begins with a conversation between our Strategy and Creative teams. This can be driven by a type of customer we’d like to serve, a feature we want to demonstrate, or even just a cool idea we have!
Many of our templates are staged with photos we shoot ourselves, with our in-house content studio team – so often the first step in production is planning that photoshoot. After the photos are retouched, the designer begins laying out the template itself, based around the core aim of the site (Is it a store? Is it a blog?, etc). The general mood/vibe of a template is often suggested by the photos and by the personality we’re aiming for – although each designer here certainly has their own voice that you can see in their designs.
The aim is for each template to be true to the persona while also being broad enough to be useful for any customer. We may have staged a template for a hypothetical Boutique Hotel – but it needs to be beautiful and useable for anyone from a baker to a tax preparer! Additionally, each new template should offer a distinct aesthetic that’s new to our store. During this process, designers frequently review with creative leadership to ensure a consistent vision across our templates.
Once a template is perfected, launching it into the Template Store it is a team effort with our developers and QA team, to make sure every detail works perfectly for the future users and responds well to any type of content our customers can dream up.
Are there a lot of template attempts that are discarded in the design process? Or is the process so streamlined that every design makes it all the way through the production process?
Certainly – I’d say it’s rare that an entire template idea is wholesale discarded, photos and all – but there are definitely many treatments of an idea that end up going in a completely different direction. Editing, revising, and constraining are essential to any creative endeavor. It’s my job to include that exploration in our process while still launching templates on time!
How do the Squarespace customers factor into the design process?
Our existing customers are always front of mind! The questions we ask ourselves when preparing a new design not only include “will this excite new customers?” but also “does this offer something fresh for current Squarespace users?” It’s really rewarding to see the responses on social media of longtime customers excited to try on a new template for their site or store.
John’s Picks for Three Standouts from The Summer Refresh
Cacao – This one was a ton of fun because we actually invented a fake chocolate brand, including the packaging! The design team started with the brand, printed the labels, wrapped the chocolate bars, and styled them for a photo shoot. The illustrations were inspired by Peruvian textiles at the Brooklyn Museum. It was a really ground-up design process which gave us complete control over the final aesthetic. This one is great for an online store with only a few products and a few photos – a lot of the energy comes from the bold palette.
Sofia: We know one of the main barriers that people encounter in creating a new website is finding sufficient high-res photography. Sometimes you’re running a business that just doesn’t lend itself to imagery. That’s why we always aim to include templates like Sofia that don’t rely heavily on photos but instead convey polish and professionalism through typography and proportion.
Maple – Ever since we launched our video backgrounds feature, we’ve been seeing customer sites doing all sorts of beautiful things with it. With Maple, we wanted to demonstrate how just a subtle touch of motion really adds a premium feeling to sites, especially if you’re marketing a destination.
The best part about the website refreshes? That first impression will be on point without taking away time from what you love. Implementing the template refresh is truly as easy as switching out your winter coats for bathing suits, which leaves plenty of time to focus on growing your business. Before you know it, that side hustle will become your main gig.
Ready to refresh your web presence, but don’t have a Squarespace site yet? Try it out 14-days free! When you’re ready to subscribe be sure to use code “DESIGNMILK” for 10% off your first purchase.