10 Step Guide to Setting Up a Squarespace Website from Scratch

Creating a new Squarespace website - or any website - is so chicken and eggy - I almost don’t know where to begin - and possibly that’s why you’re here too.

You’re wondering where to begin?

Let me make a couple of assumptions.

  • You’ve decided on Squarespace
  • You want to share something with the world and that something needs a home, aka a website.

Yes?

Good. Keep reading.

Let’s start from the very beginning. (Oh, Gawd, now that song’s going to be in my head all day long!)

 

 
10 Step Guide to Setting Up Your Own Squarespace Website.
 
 

Step 1 - Sign up for a FREE trial with Squarespace.

 

https://www.squarespace.com/


Squarespace changes the design of its homepage frequently, so look for a stand out call to action button that says GET STARTED or START A FREE TRIAL.

Sample Sign Up for Squarespace Account

 

Once you've signed up, all you have to do is follow the prompts.

 

TIP - Don’t worry right now about the template, the site description and even the site title.  

Just pick whatever template you want and type whatever text you want.

You can change all these sections - and I will show you how to do that later in the blog post - let’s stick to the steps. If you want to write Poopity Poop for your site title and site description, that’s ok (for now.)

(You know, I just googled poopitypoop dot com and, hey, it’s available if you want.)

Once you’re all set up - go check your inbox or spam folder and read the email that Squarespace sent you and follow the instructions.

Step 2 - Prep for your Squarespace Website.

 

You may be surprised by what you should consider before you even go poking around the backend of Squarespace.

So no, choosing (or switching) your Squarespace template is NOT step 2. That comes next.

What do you need to consider? Things like -

 

It’s THINKING TIME!

 

Once you’ve thought about all that - and written your thoughts down so you don’t forget, then you’re ready to choose a Squarespace template. Not before.

 

Honestly, this was my #1 Mistake. Don’t let it be yours!

 

In early 2017, I wrote a 4 part series on Prepping for your Squarespace Website that walks you through what you need to plan BEFORE you choose a template.

Step 3 - Choose a Squarespace Template

Ok, this one’s a doozy but if you’ve read the 4 Part Series in Step 2, you’re good to go. It should be a slightly easier decision.

If you followed Step 1 - you will have already picked a random template, so now it’s time to think about a template you actually want to have and that suits your website goals.

How do you decide which template you should use?

The advice my Design in a Day partner and Sarah Moon gives, is to choose your template by functionality, not by design. (Sarah's a Squarespace specialist too, just sayin'!)

As of this post, Squarespace has 84 templates! (When I first started, I had a choice of about 12 or something and I remember loving the lack of choice. I had been so overwhelmed by WordPress.)

 

84 Squarespace Templates to Choose from

 

 

TIP - Remember: many of the templates are from the same family of templates which means they have same underlying structure.

If you choose a template by function and features, not by the design of the demos, then, for example, it doesn’t matter if you choose the Rally or the Mentor or the Hatch Templates - they’re all part of the Brine family and you can pretty much design them all the same.

I even tested this out in the How to Choose a Squarespace Template blog post and video.

Another typical situation is designing a simple bilingual website. If you choose design first, it might be harder to set up the bilingual navigation unless you use a ton of code. So, which template is best for that? (Hint: one in the Brine family.)
 

Tip - Find inspiration from website styles that match what you want to achieve for your biz website. Do you want to create a lifestyle blog or a magazine style website like Apartment Therapy or Martha Stewart? Then which Squarespace template is most suitable. (Hint: one in the Brine Family. ;) 

Ok, so now you’ve decided the best Squarespace template for your business or project?

Next, you’ll need to switch templates unless you’ve already set it up with the one you want.


 
 
 
 

Step 4 - Read All About your Squarespace Template or your Template Family

Once you’ve picked (or switched) your Squarespace template, read up on it. Squarespace has tutorials for each parent template.

 

I simply Google “Name of template + Squarespace” to find the correct template documentation and tutorials.

 

That’s it. That’s all.

Here are some of the popular template families.

Step 5 - Prepare your Website’s Written Content

You didn’t think you’d be able to start laying out pages quite yet, did you?

Oh no! Stay away from your Squarespace account right now, as tempting as it to get started.
 

It’s time to ‘Content Wrangle.’
 

In short, you need to write your page copy based on the pages you want on your website. (And that’s just to start…)

Pay attention to word counts. If you’ve got a lot to say, move some of it over to your blog. Don’t bombard your reader with too much copy on your main web pages.

Here’s a list of most hidden and visible ‘copy’ or text you’ll probably have to write.

Yep, you’ve got to start thinking about it now. And writing it down.

  • Site Title
     
  • Site description
     
  • SEO description
     
  • Business Information including office or store hours (yep, write it allllll down).
     
  • Page descriptions for EACH PAGE.
 
Page Configuration Section of Squarespace

Huh? Page Descriptions.

Yes, page descriptions surface in Google search results and are necessary for SEO.  Write a tweet-length (160 characters), keyword-rich summary for each page.

Then there’s copy for:

  • Page titles
     
  • Page navigation
     
  • URL slug

In Squarespace, these can be all be different. Or the same, your choice. But write it down somewhere and then add it to the Page Configuration Section.

 

Wait! There’s more writing to prep.

Alright. Don’t panic!

Yes, it's a lot. And it’s ok if your writing isn’t perfect at this stage or if you can’t be arsed to figure out all your page titles just yet.

Simply be aware of all the ‘text’ or ‘copy’ that you’ll need add to your Squarespace website so you’re not confused or surprised (or burned out) when you’re setting it all up in the backend.

 

Step 6 - Make Design Choices and Source Images

Not a graphic or web designer?

That’s ok.

Keep your design choices simple.

 

TIP - Choose 2 - 3 fonts max and a simple colour palette that will be easy to fix if / when you decide to hire a designer.

 

You’ve got grand plans, right? Surely, branding and design is on your wishlist! (It’s on mine - says the chronic DIYer).

Squarespace forces you to keep your design choices simple.

For example - in the Design → Style Editor section of Squarespace, you have a choice of 3 headings plus Body text. That’s it.

(Of course, if you know code, you can add new heading fonts but let’s save that for another post).  

Once you set a font and a colour for Heading 1, this will be the exact font and colour sitewide. Same goes for Heading 2 and 3.

Here’s the thing - before you pick these design-y styles, look for inspiration based on your niche or industry.

Start a Pinterest Board.

Think about why you like the websites you've picked for your Pinterest board and then think about why your ideal client or customer will like this style?

How will they feel when they land on your website based on the colours, fonts and layout you select.

Design Advice and Inspiration List

And…

 

TIP: Keep this information and these 'assets' ALL IN ONE PLACE.

 

Yep! So much to think about before you even touch your site, eh. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did all this prep before you start designing because, frankly, content comes before design - not the other way around.

 

 
 
 


Step 7 - Do All the Boring Back End Stuff First

(Quick note - from this step on, I’m basically spilling secrets on exactly how my Design in a Day partner Sarah and I organize our super efficient Squarespace web design process. And yes, we get it all done in a day + training!)

Here goes.

You’re probably thinking, finally, I can start playing around in my Squarespace website.

Well, Yes. And No.

I have no proof of this - except my own experience and that of everyone I’ve ever worked with - but the LAST thing you’re going to want to do after you’ve read this 10 Step Guide, watched every tutorial under the sun, uploaded all your copy and images and designed your whole site is do all the piddly, but necessary bits that boost your SEO and help you get found online.

That’s right. These piddly bits count.

 


Time to head for the Settings section in the menu.

In Squarespace settings, you’ll add your Site and SEO descriptions, connect your social accounts, enable or disable your blog comments, check your security settings, and do a whole ton of other things.

Go through each section step by step and if you’re not sure if it’s important or what the heck it is, leave it for the time being, then ask someone (see Step 8) or Squarespace Customer Care.

Squarespace has a handy Settings Cheat Sheet to get you started.

Squarespace Main Menu

After you’ve configured your Settings, click into the Design → Logo and Title section and add your favicon and social share icon.


Favicon? What the heck….?

 

Squarespace Favicon

 

 

Don’t worry. I have a blog post all about the wee favicon and social share icon.
 

Step 8 - Add your content to your Squarespace Website and Layout Your Pages

Yay, FINALLY!

Before you get started, learn all about Squarespace content blocks first, so you understand how to add and layout various elements such as text, buttons, video and more on a page.

TIP - What I do, in this order - YMMV. (Um, I think that means your method may vary.)

 

Step A

Create a README page to the Unlinked Section (then disable it).
 

Step B

In the README page, add many different content blocks such as headings, text, buttons, forms, and more so you can style the fonts and colours all in one place.  Remember, most styles you set are site wide, unless you use code.
 

Squarespace Style Editor Font and Color Styles


 

Step C

Set up all the pages you’ve listed in your Visual Site Map (or Page List). Some pages will go in the main navigation section (which are linked in the website navigation) and some pages will go in the unlinked section (which are interior or sub pages that people can link to learn more about your biz, your services, your portfolio, etc).

 

TIP - If you know that a couple of pages will have the exact same layout, create one page and after laying it out, duplicate it.

 

Why duplicate a page? As of this writing, Squarespace form blocks cannot be duplicated, so if you know you’ll be using the same form, with the same fields and the same thank you message on different pages, then you’ll thank me for this tip.


Step D

After each page is created, rename the Page Title and Navigation Title (if required) and check the URL slug to remove articles and unnecessary words. Then copy and paste in the page description.

TIP - Avoid straight up copying and pasting. Instead, remove Google or Word doc formatting by using the “Paste as Text” Clipboard first.

 

Step E - THE FUN PART


Now, add all copy and images to each page and start designing.

On the rare occasion, I use Squarespace starter layouts - which you’ll notice when you create a new page.

Or, my preference is to start with a blank slate and get creative with the layout, using design inspiration from similar industry websites.

(Be careful! Never copy! Check out other sites for inspiration and ideas. Figure out why you like the user experience of a certain website. What are the features that make you want to click around?)

Here are a few more tutorials on laying out Squarespace Pages. 

And a couple of my favourite hacks for laying out and editing a Squarespace page.

 

Step F

Proofread, check your links, and test your forms. Then do it again. Or get someone else to do it for you!

 

TIP - Do NOT Skip the testing and proofreading step!

 

Test, test test and then test again.

And you know what - here's the beauty of a website - if you realize you've got a big ole typo front and centre after proudly sharing it with everyone in Internetland, all you have to do is go into the backend and fix it.

We have short-term memories. Seriously, no big deal. So test and proofread like crazy, but forgive yourself if you let something slip.

 

Step G

Check how your site looks on mobile and tablet.

Step 9 - It’s {almost} LAUNCH TIME 


Ok! A couple more things you need to do.

This section depends on what you already have - did you already buy a domain name with Squarespace?

Do you need to connect your domain from another registrar?

Start here with Squarespace on Understanding Domains and go from there. If you’re really lost, reach out to customer care because they are awesome!

Have you paid for your Squarespace account yet?

After you’ve paid, you can now index your site with Google and Bing. Let those search engines crawl your site like the evil-looking spider bots they are. Now they know you exist. Yay!

TIP - It's worth it to get an Outlook and Gmail account so you can access webmaster tools for this step in the web design process.)


And test how your site social sharing logo looks when you link to it on Facebook using the Facebook Debugger Tool.

Step 10 - Join Free FB groups dedicated to Squarespace

You are now officially a Squarespace-r!

Congratulations!

Here are 3 of my favourite Squarespace Facebook Groups with newbies and experts mingling and sharing tips and tricks.

**Speaking of blogs, which is a giant topic all on its lonesome, read Squarespace’s documentation on Blogging with Squarespace to find out how best to use the platform to blog.

TIP - if you plan to blog with your new Squarespace website, write 3 draft posts so you can copy and paste them once you know how to set up a blog on Squarespace.

 

And lastly but not leastly - here are some extra posts on blogging with Squarespace.

 
 
 

 
 

Need to launch a website
RIGHT NOW
& no time to learn Squarespace?

Try out Design-in-a-Day, my collaboration with Squarespace expert and web designer Sarah Moon. We'll snap together a polished website based on a Squarespace template that you choose or we recommend. 

This is a quick and efficient process to get you online in time for that big opportunity that demands a solid online presence.

 
 

 
 
Kath O'Malley Squarespace Web Designer Partner

 

Hi, I’m Kath - author of this blog post (and others like it) and copywriter, editor, keyword researcher and website setter upper for Squarespace web designers and service-based entrepreneurs and freelancers. Team up with me to get your web design projects done, like yesterday.

Click the button below to get in touch.

 
 

 
 

 
 
 

Kath O'Malley

Hi, I’m Kath - author of this blog post (and others like it) and copywriter, editor, keyword researcher and website setter upper for Squarespace web designers and service-based entrepreneurs and freelancers. Team up with me to get your web design projects done, like yesterday.