Why I Chose to Build My Website on Squarespace

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By Sara Stuart

When you dive into the world of entrepreneurism, you'll come face to face with a ton of decisions right off the bat. One of my earlier decisions consisted of finding a reliable website builder that I could easily use as a designer with limited coding skills. I had worked with WordPress sites in the past for client blogs, but the user interface and overall experience had left a sour taste in my mouth.

It wasn't until I joined the Freelancer’s Union, that I then discovered Squarespace. I found myself signing up to use their free 14-day trial and I haven't looked back since. Today, I'd like to talk about this decision in detail and explain why I recommend this website builder to my clients.

Why I chose to build my website on Squarespace

First, let me explain what these two website builders have in common and how they differ.

Squarespace and WordPress are both solutions to a problem. They provide easy to make websites that are as equally easy to manage for DIY business owners, like myself. Each platform is pretty blog friendly, includes metrics for tracking visits made to your site, and have decent content management systems (more popularly known as CMS). If you can't afford to hire a talented web developer or designer, there’s no need to worry. These two platforms have you covered.

The only downside is that they both have their own set of limitations. Before we run a comparison between the two, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions to determine whether their shortcomings could deeply affect you and your business:

  • Who will be updating your website? If you're prepared to manage your website by yourself, you're going to need a CMS that’s simple and time efficient.

  • What is your overall budget? When you're just starting out, you’ll need to keep costs as low as possible. Consider every service you’ll need in order to keep your day to day business operations going and see which platform will give you the most bang for your buck.

  • Do you need a company email address? (i.e. hello@yoururl.com.) This is an example of a separately paid service found on Google Apps. It’s a great tool that keeps your office email separate from your personal gmail account and leaves you looking mighty professional to your clients.

  • What other tools do you need to integrate into your website? Google Apps. shouldn’t be the only thing to consider. Take some time to research what you'll need integrated on your website before you look for website builders.

  • Will you be selling products on your website? If you plan on selling products, you'll need a platform that supports an e-commerce website and makes it easy for you to manage your inventory.

  • How tech-savvy are you? If you're new to the internet or social media, I'd suggest starting out with the simplest CMS and website builder possible. It also wouldn't hurt to hire an assistant or take a class on managing an online business.

Once you've taken the time to answer these questions and have a grasp on what you'll need out of a website builder, it’s time to research and compare. Here’s my general analysis on each:


WordPress vs Squarespace


WordPress

WordPress is best known as a haven for bloggers. Built on an open source platform, this allows you to completely customize and enhance the functionalities of just about every aspect of your website. If you want to connect a WordPress blog to a custom designed website, you got it. Some even go as far to say that the website and blog SEO optimizations are more advanced than other website creators thanks to WordPress’s endless supply of plugins (source). These functions are just a few reasons why there are so many supporters of this platform. 

Unfortunately for WordPress, they have their fair share of flaws. Like any open sourced platform, everyone can submit a plugin. This can be both a good and bad thing. I personally see this as more of a risk because your website will be subjected to every type of developer once you download multiple plugins. If you get a freebie for example, developers are not required to fix this plugin for you if things turn ugly. Faulty plugins can affect the performance of your website and will require more work from you in order to fix it. Another issue lies in their customization capabilities. In order to create the website of your dreams, you'd have to know a good deal of HTML, CSS, and PHP. After that, you'll need to learn their CMS if you're a first time user. Just be aware that there’s a definite learning curve.

 

Squarespace

Squarespace is a conventional website builder that liberates users from having to write code by providing a handful of quality, responsive website design templates to choose from and customize. Everything you see is created, tested, and managed by their in-house staff, so integrations between special tools flow beautifully. You’re able to connect social media icons, your Google Analytics account, MailChimp, business email through Google Apps., Stripe, and more with just a click of a mouse. This builder even has a drag and drop function that makes customizing and updating your website a simple and enjoyable process. Throw in an automatic mobile layout and you’re as good as done!

By comparison to WordPress, Squarespace is not an open sourced website, so your design and functional capabilities are a bit more restrictive. For some people, this cookie-cutter look isn't as desirable as a custom-built website, but Squarespace does feature a developer mode where users can input their own CSS styles, HTML, and PHP code. However, you'll need to know your way around these coding languages in order to make minor changes. Another flaw for Squarespace users amounts to support for new tool integrations. In other words, we can't very well use PayPal as an online payment processor over Stripe because Squarespace does not support this integration just yet.

Keep in mind that these are very general comparisons between WordPress and Squarespace. If you're interested in knowing more about these two platforms, I recommend looking at this side by side comparison chart for further capabilities and limitations.


4 Reasons Why I Chose Squarespace


Now that I’ve briefly compared WordPress to Squarespace, allow me to show you my personal reasons for choosing Squarespace to build Sarasure.

 

1. It’s Easy to Use

My ultimate goal was to find a website builder and CMS platform that was easy enough to use and update. I knew that I would be writing blogs at least once a week, so scheduling content was another tool I absolutely needed. Then, I considered customization options and found the drag and drop interface with module build-outs to be super innovative. Overall, when I dug into Squarespace’s free trial, I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy (and fun) it was to accomplish each task.

 

2. Templates are Thoughtfully Designed

To be honest, my initial attraction to Squarespace began when I saw their magnificent template design collection. I was enticed by the modern, flat aesthetic and thought it would mesh well with my own for Sarasure. After I looked through their website content, I was very pleased that each of their templates were designed to be responsive because mobile websites are such a necessity for any business owner. I was a little concerned with their SEO capabilities, but these worries were resolved once I read through their forums and found this page.

 

3. It’s Worth the Investment

Squarespace’s pricing plans fall into three different tiers and range from $8 - $26 per month. Each plan includes a responsive site with access to all template designs, hosting, a custom domain name, ecommerce integration capabilities, unlimited bandwidth and storage, and 24/7 customer support. With all of these benefits, I thought it was well worth the investment.

 

4. Customer Service is Quick and Updates are a Breeze

Squarespace’s customer service team has a 24/7 customer support staff, a live chat, a community forum, and plenty of tutorial videos to guide you if you lose your way. If you send them an email, they make it their policy of responding back to you within a hour of submission. As if that wasn't enough, their development team handles all of your site and tool updates themselves. It’s really never been easier to create and maintain a website.


In conclusion, I chose Squarespace because it fit my business model and has served as a tool for my website design services. I no longer need to charge my clients extra to contract out a web developer because Squarespace does everything for me and more.

Are you looking for a new website builder? What are your thoughts on using Squarespace? Let me know in the comments below!

My Simple Method for Naming A Business

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By Sara Stuart

When you first start a business, the struggle to come up with the perfect name that’s agreeable to you and your audience is certainly real. This name will mark the beginning of your company's culture, your brand, and it will follow you into the foreseeable future, so no pressure right? Believe me, I've been there and I have put forth my time in research, brainstorming sessions, list making, and multiple elimination processes, so I can tell you that it’s no easy feat.

So if you feel overwhelmed with research or lost with no clue on where to begin, here’s my simple method for naming a business.

My simple method for naming a business

 

1. Get to Know Yourself and Your Business

In order to come up with a great name that communicates who you are and what you do as a business, you need to dig deep and brainstorm some initial keywords. To begin, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do you want to communicate to your potential customers?
  2. What are some of the main keywords in your industry? (Think about what you do and some of the services you offer.)
  3. What makes you valuable and different from your competitors?
  4. Who is your ideal audience? (Be as specific as possible. Include age range, gender, salary range, industry, etc.)
  5. What are some of your business’s main personality traits? (Examples: social, easygoing, smart, multifaceted, loyal, etc.)
  6. What are 4 descriptive words that you want others to associate with your brand? (Examples: cheerful, classic, friendly, adorable, witty, modern, timeless, industrious, sincere, energetic, etc.)

 

2. Brainstorm Your Root Words

Take a look at your answers to the questions above and develop a list of words. This initial list will be considered your root words and are determined by two factors: literal and figurative

Literal: Literal words are the basic, straight-forward terms that are associated with your industry, like products and services. So if I had coffee shop in Seattle, mine would most likely be: bistro, cafe, coffee, and espresso.

Figurative: The figurative words would stem from the descriptions of the literal. This means that they could be names, objects, phrases, moments, feelings, etc. Anything is possible in this category, as long as it makes sense to your targeted audience. Using the same example above, some of my descriptive words for my coffee shop would be: aquatic, wired, mellow, and zest.

 

My Resources For Root Word Research

  • The Thesaurus: I use a Thesaurus for practically everything and root word research is no exception. This tool is awesome for developing figurative words from literal ones. Don’t forget to check out the synonyms!
  • A Latin Dictionary: Have you ever noticed that most of the spell names from Harry Potter are based from Latin terms? Take a cue from J.K. Rowling and look into an online Latin dictionary.
  • Music Lyrics: Music is a powerful thing. It has a way of making people feel things they wouldn't normally feel through cleverly arranged phrases, descriptive words, and cryptic song titles.
  • Geography: Are there any specific places that you're inspired by, have lived in, or are marketing your business in? If so, try researching some names within that area and see what you find.
  • Historical References: Look up the history of your profession and see if you can uncover any leads. Better yet, look up the history of every root word you like.
  • Personal and Professional Influences: Explore and research your other interests. Whether it’s a specific person or company, philosophy/idea, movement, era, etc., it will give you a fresh perspective.
  • Google & Wikipedia: For definitions or pop culture references on root words, these are two great sources.
  • Glossaries: Hit the books at your local library and browse through the glossary of terms for ideas.
  • Image Searches: Sometimes inspiration can strike just by looking at a bunch of photos relating to your theme or concept. Take a look at Pinterest, Google Images, and stock image sites.

 

Naming Rules of Thumb

  • Make it meaningful and positive. The right name should evoke an idea of what your business stands for and the emotional meaning you'd like to convey. Think of something that conjures up positive memories and images.
  • Keep it simple and as short as possible. If it’s too complicated, no one’s going to understand it except for you. Stay away from using industry terms that only you will know.
  • Stay away from trends. It’s okay to research your competition, but it’s also important to fight the temptation of creating a similar name and fall prey to naming trends. Ask yourself, do you want to fit in or stand out and gain a competitive advantage?
  • Provide a clue to what you do. Consider a tagline to go along with your main business name so your line of work is clear to others. Whether it’s the main name or the tagline, you should include a name that conveys the purpose of your business to others. (ex. Sarasure Design Co.) The more it communicates about your business, the less you'll have to explain.
  • Don't limit yourself. Think about the future and where you'd like your business to be. It’s okay use descriptive words, but don't go too far and box yourself in.
  • Remember your targeted audience. Refer back to your business’s goals and vision and aim at reinforcing those key elements when you think of names. Will your audience understand a name if it’s misspelled or from a foreign origin? Will they be able to pronounce it easily?
  • Research, research, research! This is especially important because it can save you from potential language pitfalls. For example, in 1995 Reebok redirected their targeted audience to women and named one of their shoes “Incubus.” This term has been known to mean “a mythical demon who has intercourse with women in their sleep.” Don't let a similar mistake like this happen to you and your business!
  • Avoid: Annoying, random words with an absence of meaning, awkward puns, and double entendres.
  • Don't get too attached to names. During the brainstorming process, it’s important to be open to new ideas and not to get hung up on certain names in particular. It’s often harder to tell if a name fits your business if you're too attached to it.
  • Make sure the name is available. You can do so through three different steps:
    1. Run a Trademark search.
    2. Secure a .com domain by making sure it’s available through who.is.
    3. Secure your social media profiles (once you've finalized a name).

 

3. Mix & Match Words

Next, take your list of root words and start combining them to form a new list of possible business names. Using my previous example about the coffee shop, here are some possible combinations: The Aquatic Bistro, Mellow Espresso, Zest & Savor Coffee, and The Wired Cafe.

This stage of the process should be fun and unlimiting. Think about each word and rearrange them with words that flow together and make sense for your business’s goals and vision. If you need a reminder of this, reference the answers to the six questions you answered about your business at the first stage.

If you need more ideas on how you can mix and match your root words, The Name Inspector has a fantastic article on 11 different types of names and the pros and cons of each.

 

4. Categorize Your Names

If you've done the second and third stage correctly, you should have a bunch of terms that reflect multiple themes, tones, and feelings. Once you have a wide variety of options, the following step is to organize your findings by separating these into categories. This will result in your third and final list. 

Like the mix and match stage, there is no right or wrong way to organize your list of words. Some could be arranged by key themes, while others could be arranged by name types (outlined by The Name Inspector). Personally, I like to outline by theme. For example, my fictional coffee shop’s would look like this:

5. The Elimination Process

Take a look at your newly organized list of ideas and start highlighting your favorites. Before you show anyone else your top choices, take a minute and ask yourself these questions:

  • Which one fits your company’s description the best?
  • Which one best fits your long and short-term goals?
  • Does it accurately tell your company’s story?
  • Does the imagery associated with the name seem appropriate?
  • Will it attract your ideal audience?
  • Does the URL look weird?

If a name does not pass all of these questions, eliminate your idea right away. Use the names that surpass these questions, and try some of these additional ideas:

  • Ask someone you trust. Start off by asking for a first impression from someone you can count on giving an honest answer. Once they provide you with an opinion, inform them on what your business does and what you're trying to accomplish and ask if that name conveys this message.
  • Take a poll from your ideal audience or a small, select group of friends and family. Look at online discussion groups, forums, or select social media networks. Just don’t include too many people since this tends to hold up the process and will have you rethinking all of your ideas. There’s a reason why the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” exists.
  • Say it aloud. Practice saying your name as if you're introducing yourself to a client or contact. Sometimes the sound of a name can feel suggestive or tough to say.
  • See what it will look like on business stationery and signs. Type out your name ideas onto a design template or ask a friend to create a mock-up. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a visual.

Deciding on a business name can be just as trying as coming up with ideas for one. However, once you select one, it’s important to give yourself some time to adjust. You may have second thoughts or feel like you should go back to the drawing board, but you must remember to resist this urge and wait for it to sink in. If you're worried that your name is too unique and varies greatly from your competitor’s, have no fear. I'm sure Google had a similar feeling and look how well that worked out for them.

How did you arrive at your business name? I'd love to hear your story!

The Importance of Being Branded

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By Sara Stuart

There are so many articles that go in-depth about the definition and basics of branding. In this post I'd like to expand upon that and explain why it's important and why you should consider branding your business. With that said, let's venture down this rabbit hole!

The importance of branding

First, let me provide you with an obligatory definition:

What is Branding?

To paraphrase Entrepreneur, consider your brand as an image that symbolizes a promise to your audience. It tells them exactly what to expect and reminds them why you're different from your competitors. It's not just a logo and not just for larger companies that have been around for a while like Coca-Cola or Nike.

Now that we've defined branding, let's get back on topic. Why is it important? Here are a few answers:


It's a direct reflection on your business

Just another example of first impressions. I bought this book solely for the awesome book cover.

Just another example of first impressions. I bought this book solely for the awesome book cover.

When you go in for a job interview think about how much you put into your appearance and how cautious you are with your application materials. I remember adjusting multiple cover letters and resumes to match a company's mission, tone, and job description. Perhaps you've done this too in hope that this would set you apart from the other candidates. Just like the process of applying for a job, branding is all about first impressions. What is your audience going to expect, see, or feel before you work with them? The answer involves the visual aspects of your brand like your logo and marketing materials.

This is why branding must be one of the first things you invest in before your business is seen by others. Cheap, inaccurate branding can lead to confusion. Think about your name, industry, and the message you want to send out to your customers. Your brand should reflect that and more. For example, if you sell tacos from a food truck and your tagline is "made with love and spicy goodness" and your logo is the Tasmanian Devil cartoon demolishing a taco, your brand is not only infringing on copyrights from Warner Bros., but it's downright confusing. (How does the Tasmanian Devil represent quality?) 

The key is to be memorable. Even if your brand is seen by people and they don't do business with you right away, you'll want them to think of you first and foremost when they need your services. You might have amazing skills to offer or a really nice product ready to sell, but it won't mean a thing until you've been properly branded.


IT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE COMPETITION

Every business is unique and has something different to offer. Take a brief look at your competition and think about what you do best, then use that to attract customers and let them be a part of your brand. From there, consider your ideal audience and create visuals and wording that will lure them in. As time goes by, your audience may shift a little, so it's important to adjust accordingly. In other words, give the people what they want!

Case in point, let's a take a look at the competition for women's designer purses. For a while the hottest brand near my area was Coach. Everywhere I went, I saw women sporting their line of handbags, shoes, and watches. Now, I've noticed that Michael Kors has become the next big thing. It may be because of their "jet-set luxury" look or the fact that their brand appeals more to Millennials. At any rate, they have been credited for taking a large chunk out of Coach's sales. Of course Coach may have been the cause of their own distress by adding too many outlet stores throughout the U.S. Consequently, this has diluted the image they once held with wealthier woman. (Source.) Just by looking at a poll from Weddingbee, I think this may prove to be true.

Most recently, however, I've noticed that Coach has shifted their brand in effort to win back their younger audience. Just take a look at this snapshot of their website below:

Image source: http://www.coach.com/

Image source: http://www.coach.com/

Note the skateboard, green energy drink, yoga mat, coffee cup, etc. Not only are their bags significantly simpler in design, but they're projecting a message of modern diversity. Who knows, maybe they will bounce back and retake the throne as the #1 modern luxury brand for women.

The point is, we live in a very brand-aware society and the impression that is placed on your brand will stay with people for a while. In the case of Michael Kors vs. Coach, which ever you choose I bet it's because you associate one or the other with quality and refinement.


IT'S MORE THAN WHAT YOU SEE

Design is subjective and will always be perceived differently. Subjective is a fancy term that evokes emotion, personal opinion, and jogs individual thought.

If you're a visual person like me, you might find it hard to believe that there is more to branding than just the design portion, especially if that's what initially attracts you. The fact is, a lot of what seems attractive to us should also appeal to our senses and create an experience. Even if we're not aware of it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 2.02.33 AM.png
Image source: https://www.jcrew.com/womens-clothing.jsp

Image source: https://www.jcrew.com/womens-clothing.jsp

An example of a successfully branded business marketed to women is J. Crew. Under the direction of CEO, Jenna Lyons, and Tom Mora (the head of women's design), they have recently transformed this brand to appeal to a younger audience. When you walk into one of their stores, you instantly get the feeling that they're offering refined, timeless, and feminine pieces. They're known for selling quality clothing and long-time customers expect a great fit, an innovative selection of designs, and durability. It helps that they heavily focus on all of these things while consciously maintaining their integrity and style. (Source.)

How does the subjective experience come into play here? I'll show you. I recently came across this wonderfully entertaining blog post from Tess Yocom, a writer for Bustle's Fashion and Beauty column. Throughout this article she makes remarks about the emotional experiences she has associated with the J. Crew brand. For example, here's her description of the store: "walking in a J. Crew store is basically like stepping foot on your rich relative's yacht. Everything is so perfect and color coordinated and lovely. It's heaven." To read more, here's the source.

If one person can feel this way about the J. Crew brand, it's safe to say that their customer experience is pretty successful.


IT'S A part of a strategy

When you first start a business, you'll probably create a business name, develop a business plan, and decide on a business model that's suitable for your size. In the midst of all of this, it's easy to forget that you should also establish a brand strategy.

brand strategy is a game plan for your business's message and the goal is to figure out how this will be communicated and effectively delivered to your targeted audience. In a nutshell, it's the what, where, how, when, and to whom.

For example, if this were a football team making a play, here's a breakdown of what they'd do:

WHAT

Make a touchdown and win the game.

WHERE

On the football field in the Red Zone.

HOW

Try to trick the opposing team with a fake field goal.

TO WHOM

Point the ball at the goal posts, then quickly throw the ball to an offensive tackle.

WHEN

When it counts.

How does a branding campaign contribute to this strategy? The answer is simple. A branding campaign is another contributing factor to the subjective experience. It serves as a visual for the what, where, how, when, and to whom. Consider your name, logo, color scheme, slogan, message, and branding experience (i.e. sounds, smells, feelings, associations, adjectives, etc.) In a nutshell, your brand should strategically address all of these things and leave your audience wanting more.


It leads to Customer Loyalty

If you take a look at the soft drink industry, you're probably familiar with the Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi consumer divide. I know first hand how powerful this is because my mother has always been an avid Coca-Cola supporter while my aunt prefers the taste of Pepsi. Throughout my life this has been a repeated argument between my two family members even though neither of them have had a soft drink in years. So why do they feel so strongly about these two brands? It's the power of customer loyalty at work ladies and gents.

In a nutshell, a strong brand is the result of a successful message. Focus on your long-term branding goals and make it your mission to be an authority for your industry or niche. The more you practice this, the more depth it will create for your brand and you'll find that people will be willing to take the time to listen to what you have to say.

When you first start out and want to attract your ideal audience, it's also important to keep your message and image crystal clear and consistent. For example, your visuals should use the same logo, colors, fonts, illustrations, etc. If you change it up every five years, it might hinder customer recognition and diminish your identity.

If you do both of these things well, over time you'll establish trust. Your audience will not only like you, but they'll form bonds with your brand and that only leads to growth and a loyal following.


Do you have anything else to add? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject matter.