How To Pick The Right Template For Your Squarespace Site
One of the beautiful things about Squarespace that attracts a lot of creatives is the fact that most Squarespace templates look great right out of the box.
You can pick a nice looking template, add your own logo, and boom you have an attractive (but maybe kinda generic) website.
On the downside of those great looking templates is the fact that they tend to be pretty restrictive. You either have a blog sidebar or you don't. You have banner images or you don't. There's not as many opportunities to customize the structure as there are with WordPress. And if you start working with a new template and then find out it doesn't have something you need it can be super frustrating to start over.
Picking a template doesn't have to be that hard though if you do your research up front and know where to look. I thought I'd share some tips I use when I'm picking out templates for clients.
Organize your content first
You wouldn't build a house without having a plan, or at least a pretty good idea of how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need. The same goes for a website. How many pages do you need? What type of content will be prevalent? Write out a basic list of the pages your site needs to have and quickly establish how the site will flow. If you're more artistic try sketching out what you want on your front page. Will your site focus more on showing off your goods and services, selling products online, or just providing a single informational landing page?
Decide on your non-negotiables
This is the most important step in my opinion. Before you even start digging through templates you need to know what you can't live without. For example, I just finished a site with an extensive blog that covered 3-4 different 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 the 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. What can't you live without?
Once you know what you're looking for you can start narrowing down your options by eliminating those that don't have the functionality you need. Sadly, Squarespace doesn't offer a table showing the features of each template. Luckily 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. Use this one to quickly see which templates have the blog features you'll need. Or this one if you want to look at each template's guide. Use these resources to narrow your choices down to only what will work for you functionally. We'll get to the visual stuff in a minute.
Don't choose based on the front page!
Squarespace home pages are super flexible. They're just pages. You decide what content goes there and how it's laid out, just like you would any other page. So don't base your decision on the demo site's front page layout, base it on whether the template has the right features to meet your needs.
Check out the visuals
Once you've narrowed your choices down you can finally hit up the 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 info 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). Here's the Bedford template demo for example.
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.