Now that you have your site map you’re ready to create your Squarespace account and choose a template, which can be the hardest part for me sometimes, there are a lot of great templates to choose from!
When you set up your Squarespace account you’ll be asked to choose a template as part of the account creation process. You aren’t stuck with this template forever, so you could easily choose any random template and then change it once your account is set up. But since the account creation takes less than two minutes we’re going to go ahead and learn how to choose a template before you even start. Once you’ve worked through the groundwork in this lesson you’ll be able to choose a template and finish your account setup.
I’m going to walk you through the steps I take when choosing templates for my own client’s sites, starting with deciding on your layout dealbreakers.
Decide on your layout deal breakers
This step is so important! Squarespace templates are built to be functional, search engine friendly, and mobile responsive right out of the proverbial box, but they all have a different set of features. You could fall completely in love with a theme and then realize as you’re working on it that it doesn’t have blog sidebars, which is super important for you. To avoid that we’re going to figure out what elements you can’t live without before you ever start digging through templates.
For example, I recently finished a site with an extensive blog that covered multiple subjects and a lot of subcategories within those. I knew I needed a place on the blog page for people to browse by category instead of having to scroll through every post or my client was going to lose readers. A blog sidebar was non-negotiable for the function of this site. The same site needed to showcase some gorgeous photography, so I wanted to make sure I had large header images to display those photos. Knowing ahead of time that these were my dealbreakers kept me from getting distracted by themes that couldn’t fill that need, or worse - choosing a theme and realizing later it wouldn’t work.
Taking a few minutes now to think about your deal breakers will save you time in the long run. So what types of things do you need to be thinking about?
Will you need a sidebar on your blog? What about other site pages? Do you care which side it’s on?
Banner images are large areas at the top of each page that show up when you add a photo background to them. Not every theme has them, but if you have beautiful photography you want to showcase they’re a great way to do sprinkle that in. You can also use these to create call to actions with buttons and headline text in certain themes.
Do you want your main menu and site logo to sit at the top of the site or down one side?
Will a portfolio be a large part of your site? Do a little thinking about how you’d like that to look. Some portfolios focus more on photography, while others will have more areas for text. On the other hand, you can choose any template and use the Gallery block to create your own portfolio out of images, which is what I use on my own site.
ACTION STEP: Spend a few minutes thinking about what aspects of your website are uber important to you. Try to keep your non-negotiables list to one or two things to simplify the template picking process, and don’t get hung up on this step! Jot down your necessities and move on.
Choose based on features, not demo content
Each template will have a preview full of demo content you can look at to help you make your choice, and they’re all going to look amazing, obviously. You know what features you need though, so make sure you’re making your choice based on whether the template meets your needs, not how nice the demo site’s front page looks. Pages are flexible and most layouts can be created later using Content Blocks.
Start by eliminating templates that don’t have the features you know you’ll need. As of right now Squarespace doesn’t offer a table showing the features of each template, but you can do a quick Google search for “Squarespace template comparison chart” and find several, and Squarespace does have a few helpful articles in their knowledge base. I’ve provided links to several in the PDF download below. Use these resources to narrow your choices down to only what will work for you based on your dealbreakers. We’ll get to the visual stuff in a minute.
Check out the visuals
Now that you’ve narrowed your choices down you’re finally ready tohit up that template page with all the overwhelmingly attractive choices. You’re prepared. You’ve done the research and know what you want. Just keep your eye on the prize. You do not need that fancy portfolio template if the purpose of your site is to share your Game of Thrones fan fiction. I don’t care how sexy those case study pages are, you have nothing to put there, take a breath and keep on scrolling. Your goal here is to narrow down to one or two choices and compare the demo sites to make your decision.
Read the Read Me
A lot of template demos have a Read Me page that gives you valuable information like what’s included and how to use it. Not all the demo sites have this, but enough to be super useful. If you don’t see a Read Me link on the menu try typing it at the end of the address using /read-me or /read-me-templatename (replacing “templatename” with your template name... obviously). For example, here’s where you can find the Bedford Read Me - https://bedford-demo.squarespace.com/read-me-bedford/.
Try it on first
One of the nice things about Squarespace is you can preview a theme before you start using it, and while you’re previewing you can go ahead and make all your customizations to see how they’ll work. Your visitors will continue to see the active template, so nothing will be disrupted from their end, but you’ll be viewing and changing the new template behind the scenes. If you need to switch back and forth between the active and preview templates just cancel the preview and your changes will be saved until you preview the template again. When you’re happy with how everything looks you can activate the new template seamlessly.
Finish Setting Up Your Account
Now that you’ve chosen your template you can finish the account setup. Click the thumbnail of the template you’re using and open up the full info page, then click Start with (Your Template Name). This will bring up a window asking for your first and last name, email address, and password. Fill this in and click the checkbox acknowledging the terms of service, then click Sign Up and Create Site.
Congratulations! You have a Squarespace account! After all the work we put into choosing the right template the account setup feels like a breeze, right?