This weekend, I was driving around town catching up on my politics podcasts, when the crew at Pod Save America started chuckling as they read a Squarespace ad. The tagline is, “A dream is just an idea that doesn’t have a website yet.” It made them giggle, but I was like, “SO TRUE IT HURTS, GUYS.” Because of course, in my world, a dream is literally an idea that doesn’t have a website yet. And historically I’ve really hated building websites.
I know that these days, us #bossbabes are supposed to brag about all the things we’re good at. And full disclosure, I’m good at a lot of things. But sadly, as a person who lives for creating businesses on the internet, I’m truly terrible at creating websites. You know how some people don’t really have any technical or coding background, but if they fool around and push buttons and Google things, they’re actually pretty good at it? (H/T Maddie.) I’m not that person. I’m just fundamentally not very gifted at internet tech, end of story. (I mean, and fair, I have other talents. But the trouble is that a lot of those talents pair well with a nice website.)
That means that ten years ago, when I set out to create APW, it was more than a little challenging. We had, blessedly, moved past the point where all websites had to be hand coded, but the options we had were never very… good. They allowed minimal modifications (did you want a sidebar on the right AND the left?), and a few tiny places where you could upload your own designs (header?). But the end result always looked super basic and allowed you to do exactly one thing: publish posts in reverse chronological order. But a decade ago, that’s what we had, so it’s how I built the original APW, and it’s how I built my wedding website. And frankly, neither of them looked that great, or did that much.
Fast forward to last month, when we decided to launch The Compact summer camp, and gave ourselves exactly one month to get the whole thing off the ground. Because in our world, a dream really swear to god is just an idea that doesn’t have a website, so the first thing we had to do was create a website. And totally separately from our long time partnership with Squarespace, we knew that Squarespace was going to be the best possible platform on which to build our new site. In fact, we paid for our subscription out of pocket, and were reminded that Squarespace is really damn affordable. But what I did not fully realize is just how amazing the Squarespace platform has become and how different it is from the janky tools I had to use ten years ago.
So let’s talk about how Squarespace is dream fulfillment… if your dream is to launch a project on the internet with minimal cost, no developers, and lots of style. Because y’all? That is always my dream.
Designer Templates for When You Need to Fake It Till You Make It
One of the reasons we picked Squarespace for our launch of The Compact is that we wanted the website to look cool. As in, not just functional, but professionally designed and of-the-moment. And sadly for us, no one on the APW staff is actually a graphic designer, so the website had to be cool out of the box. But there’s a reason we’ve been talking up Squarespace’s designer templates for years: they make it easy for you to fake it until you make it. AKA you can build the kind of website that makes people think you hired a professional, even if you have no design or tech skills. In fact, when we were researching other event websites prior to our launch, Maddie peeked into the code of each of them, and lo and behold, the vast majority had been built on Squarespace. (No surprise there!)
Pro-tip: If you’ve tried Squarespace in the past, it’s worth noting that their platform has continually changed for the better over the last few years. You make live edits to your site and see those edits in the very same place, and every editable element is annotated so you know exactly what you can change and how. Plus thanks to professionally designed starter page layouts, there’s no longer the intimidation of staring down a blank webpage and wondering what should go where. Basically it’s a whole other level of intuitive and user friendly.
Integrations That Can Read Your Mind (Almost)
The single best thing about Squarespace is that they’ve packed a ton of features into their platform, so you don’t have to go scouring the internet to answer the question, “What if The Compact wants to sell t-shirts?” We’ve already talked extensively about their wedding website integrations (built-in RSVP forms and Zola registry pages that load on the page so you never have to leave your site), but it wasn’t until we started working on The Compact that we discovered just how much Squarespace takes things that seem like they’re gonna be really hard, and makes them super easy.
For example, we were able to set up a product page to sell tickets to summer camp and connect it to our existing PayPal account in a matter of minutes. (I don’t even think I could do that on APW if I wanted to. At least, not for less than a few thousand dollars.) Then when we sold out and needed a way to let people know, we remembered that Squarespace has a built-in announcement bar for just such an occasion. (Again, our fancy, hand-coded, very expensive website does not.) We were able to password protect the site before it went live, connect sign ups directly to our newsletter, and track visits through Squarespace’s own analytics. Every time we had something else we needed to add to our website, Squarespace had a built-in solution for it. (Again, that’s stuff that in my real life involves lots of meetings, approving project plans, writing significant developer checks, and then waiting around for someone else to execute.) So if you’ve been putting off, say, selling some of your handmade scarves online, or launching your consulting business because the technology seemed too inaccessible, I’m here to tell you that Squarespace means you need to stop listening to your own excuses and get going. You might be surprised at just how capable you really are once you get started.
Because as it turns out, having an easy way to execute so many of our ideas gave us just enough of a confidence boost to wonder what else we could do with The Compact…
Photos That Make You Look Like a Pro
There are a few things that set a professional website apart from the one you made in college when you were exploring online journaling (or that one I made when I was creating this whole business). The first is a domain that doesn’t have your host’s name in it (which Squarespace gives you with every paid subscription). The other thing is photography. I can’t tell you how much time we spend scouring stock photo companies and our own private Flickr pool for the photos you see everyday on APW. Because y’all, good photography, with diverse subjects, that doesn’t cost thousands of dollars to license can be shockingly hard to come by.
But Squarespace has a special deal with Getty Images that lets you download images for just $10 a pop with a paid subscription. And since it’s Getty, they have a photo of… literally anything you can imagine. A vintage camper for your travel blog? Yeah, they have that. Bright, fun pictures of technology for your budding social media consulting business? Got that too. While we ended up doing a photo shoot for The Compact in-house, we could have just as easily created a super profesh website using nothing but stock images from Getty, and I’d still be proud to show it to y’all. Also, if you’re trying to get a project off the ground and don’t already employ an in-house team of creatives (AKA, basically everyone) take my advice and don’t play around with your own photo shoot. They get time consuming and expensive and stressful fast. And with Squarespace, you really don’t need to bother.
Pro-tip: There’s no risk to try out some stock images in your design: You can add any photo as a placeholder with a watermark, and you don’t have to purchase it until you’re positive it’s the one.
Modifications for Overachievers
You and I both know that the APW staff is made up of a bunch of Hermione Grangers. Which means that if there is any issue we had working with Squarespace, it’s that sometimes they make it a little too easy to go above and beyond on your website. For example, we really wanted to use an old-school label maker font on The Compact. And even though Squarespace offers a ton of fonts with their templates, that wasn’t one of them. So Maddie did a tiny bit of Googling one night while catching up on Netflix, and within twenty minutes, had figured out how to custom install font codes on a Squarespace website. (Spoiler alert: Squarespace has been around long enough that if you have a question, someone has probably already answered it. With a video.) So if you’re a creative overachiever looking for a playground, Squarespace might be just the outlet you’re looking for. (Also, shout out to Squarespace’s 24/7 chat support team, for fielding all of our oddball questions, and helping us manage glitches we managed to create and not notice till tickets were in the middle of selling out.)
So if you’ve been pushing aside a dream because the idea of creating a website felt like too daunting of a task, my best advice is to sign up for Squarespace and then dig in and do it. Because ten years later, it may actually, finally be easy to build a really cool website from scratch with nothing more than the will to do it. And if your dream has just been waiting for a website? It’s go time.
And that’s how we were able to bring you summer camp. Thanks, Squarespace! You really are the best.
what’s holding you back from turning your dream into reality? What parts of BUILDING A WEBSITE do you find daunting? We’d love to put together a special APW tutorial to help push you past your roadblocks.
This post was sponsored by Squarespace. We are thrilled to be continuing our partnership with Squarespace talking about what it means to be a woman with #goals in 2018. No matter what kind of creative project you’re looking to launch, Squarespace provides the creative and tech tools that make it fast and easy to turn your dreams into websites, even if you’ve never made a website before and have no idea where to start. Click Squarespace to get your website started today with a free 14-day trial from Squarespace. APW readers get 10% off your first Squarespace purchase when you use the code APW18 at checkout.