Squarespace bills itself as a site-building platform where you can make your site look exactly the way you want it to. Unfortunately, this is bullshit.
The first obstacle came very quickly when I moved to this platform. The design I had created in Photoshop included a border around the content of each page. A vine growing around the main content, that’s all. A trivially easy thing to accomplish with HTML and tables. But Squarespace doesn’t allow you to add a border to just the content. You can sloppily add a solid color (non-image) border around the entire page, including the header and footer, but not around the main body itself.
“Well, okay,” I thought to myself. “I don’t NEED the border, I can just tweak my design a bit and ignore that design element.”
Then came the social block. This is the little set of icons at the bottom of the page that link to my accounts on other sites. It currently includes my email, my Twitter, and my YouTube accounts. But you can only include websites that Squarespace already has listed. DeviantArt? No. Steam? Nope. LiveJournal? No way. And there’s no way to add custom icons and URLs. If it’s not in the list, you can’t put it in the social block. I could recreate my own version of the social block in the footer of every page I create, but that’s obnoxious. There’s no other way to add these links to every page on my site.
So I thought “Well, okay, I guess I don’t have to link to my other pages right away.” I contacted Squarespace help, asked them to consider adding DA and LJ, and/or allow custom icons and URLs to be included. That was two years ago. Clearly this isn’t a priority for them.
Another issue I ran into is feature removal. For example, Squarespace allows fairly complex editing of uploaded image files: crop, rotate, adjust contrast & brightness, and so on. But pertinent here is their ability to add borders to images. I used this functionality on the images that I uploaded to represent different pages on my site. But about a year after I started using their service, they removed all of the old borders, and added new ones. Now, I don’t mind that they added more borders. More is better! But they removed the old ones I had been using, which mean that there was no longer any way to make my new thumbnails look like the old thumbnails. I had been relying on a service that I had no way to replicate after they took it away.
More recently, I was browsing my Nail Design gallery, and noticed that it was taking several minutes for the high-rez version of photos to load. After doing some research, it turns out that Squarespace recommends putting no more than 20 images in a single gallery. Any more than that, and it slows the page down. “Why is that?” I thought. “I’m not asking you to load the entire gallery at once, I’m only asking you to load this ONE image right now.” But there’s no way around that.
“Sigh. Okay, I will split my nail design gallery by year. It will still be more than 20 images per gallery, but it will be fewer, at least, and will hopefully load the images faster.”
So now we come to last week. I decided I wanted to upload images of all of my nail polish bottles. This would let me see what colors I already have when I’m out and about, so I don’t accidentally buy a color I already have. I had all kinds of ideas on how this would work. I’d tag each image by color, brand, and texture, so I could easily see exactly the groups I wanted to see.
But no. Squarespace has thwarted my plans at every step of the way.
First, no gallery can contain more than 250 images. “This makes the page slow, and can break mobile browsers” a tech support person told me. I have 295 individual colors of nail polish (with three more on the way). Tech support told me I could split the bottles into multiple galleries.
I said “But if I tag images in different galleries with the same tag, can I display all the images associated with that tag, even across multiple galleries?” No. The “search” function will bring up all of the images with a given tag, but there’s no way to display images from separate galleries with the same tag within the same block.
Hm. Okay, I will put all my striping polishes in their own gallery. It’s not ideal, but at least there’s a solid, non-arbitrary line between striping and not-striping polishes. I can then create one page with two gallery blocks (one from each gallery) for a given tag. So I kept working.
Next monkey wrench: You can’t insert a gallery block on a page and use images corresponding only to a given tag. You can insert an existing gallery into a gallery block on a page, but you can’t limit it to a specific tag.
Grr. Okay, let’s use the summary block. I can make a grid-style image gallery with the summary block, and include only certain tagged images from an existing gallery.
Next monkey wrench: Summary blocks are limited to a max of 30 items. If a given tag has more than 30 items, this doesn’t work.
Fine. I’ll link directly to the gallery’s tag page. Just display the gallery subset that is tagged with a specific word. I know I can’t really customize this page (I’d want to add links to other tags, etc.) but this will do for now.
But wait, it’s showing the “carousel” version of the gallery. How do I get it to display as the “grid”, so you can see all the thumbnails at once? Oh, I CAN’T, because I’m using the “Avenue” template, which ONLY allows the carousel version when looking at individual gallery pages. I can swap to a different template, but then I have to re-enter all of my options: fonts, background image, colors, etc. It’s basically starting over from scratch with the entire site. Or I can just tolerate the “carousel” gallery, but that totally defeats the purpose of being able to see all of the nail polish with a given tag AT THE SAME TIME. This is the WHOLE POINT of this project!
So this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I have spent literally 95% of my free time in the last 6 days working on this project. We’re talking 40-60 hours of work, for NOTHING. There is no way I can get this project to work in a way that satisfies its fundamental needs.
I am deflated and disheartened. I have no energy remaining to do anything but cry. Those hours would’ve been better spent redesigning my site from the ground up and moving it to a new host. That in and of itself will be a total nightmare, because of the amount of content I have. But it’s going to have to happen soon. Because I just can’t handle Squarespace telling me once again “You can’t do that.” It’s MY site, goddamit, I’m supposed to be able to make it look MY WAY. But Squarespace is a LIAR. And so, my days remaining on this platform are now numbered.
(Update: as of the end of July 2017, my site is no longer hosted on squarespace. I’ve been wholly converted to a WordPress evangelist.)