Change is always so hard. Fear of the unknown can get in the way of progress. But, in business, fear can be stifling. I was feeling suffocated by my web site and tired of the battle to get it to work for my growing company with a platform I had trusted and used for so many years. I found myself constantly looking for new Plugins or asking my developer to do things for me that I wanted to be able to make happen on my own, but couldn’t. Creativity is a big part of my daily process, but creating code was not where I wanted to focus my time and energy.
My Wordpress site was beautiful, and I do still love the platform. With Wordpress, you have complete and utter control of your site and the possibilities of customization are endless. But, with that comes having to know coding, or have a developer on hand to make changes for you. Squarespace, on the other hand, is more controlled, has the ability to customize with custom CSS, and a very intuitive drag and drop interface, which I really love. Many of the bloggers I follow were using Squarespace, and I would see glimpses of how their platform functioned in their blog posts and video tutorials.
WHY I MADE THE SWITCH
At the end of last year, like many business owners, I outlined my goals for the new year. Site traffic is essential to growth for an online business. I also felt it was equally important that, while generating more traffic to my site, I also had a system in place that allowed visitors to opt-in to content they find valuable. My first idea was to create a free library full of fun downloadables that I would update seasonally, so users could access them all in one place. The plan was to engage with my audience in a meaningful way, and to do this meant developing a library that would be user friendly and easy to maintain on my end. At the beginning of 2016, I set out to do this within Wordpress. I attended online webinars to see exactly how to create a library, and thought about how to organize, display, and allow users to retrieve the files.
But, when I went to create the library within Wordpress, I was hit with a frustrating choice. Buy yet another Plugin for my Wordpress website, or code it all by hand in the editor. So, I did the latter and coded it all with some help from a developer. I released the library to my list of subscribers, but the backend setup of coding everything was not ideal. I knew I needed a long term solution. Adding a downloadable product shop to my site this year was also on my list, and I realized there would, potentially, be more issues like this when it was time to add products. So, I decided enough was enough. It was time to find a new solution for my business.
“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction”. - Winston Churchill
Squarespace was one of the top solutions we had looked at before getting a new theme last year, but decided to stay with Wordpress because it was a system we knew and had used for a long time. We decided to give Squarespace another look, and I really liked how their system worked. Everything I could see showed it would be a good solution for my business needs. I signed up for their free trial, and got to play around with building a site from scratch. I tried doing some of the things I wanted to be able to do in my Wordpress site using Squarespace’s drag and drop interface. Within a few days, I was hooked.
RESOURCES I USED TO GET MY SQUARESPACE SITE SET UP
One of my favorite blogs is Elle & Company. Lauren Hooker is the blogger and brand designer behind Elle & Company, and she designs new brands and Squarespace sites. Since she is an expert on the platform, I went to her blog for information on building my new Squarespace site. Her post for that day was this one, A Step By Step Guide for Choosing the Right Squarespace Template. Lauren had also posted about her new site redesign, changing her Squarespace template, and navigation to meet the goals of her business. This post really resonated with me when I read it - that change is good.
“Change is the nature of a creative business.” - Elle & Company
Lauren was also doing a live workshop where she would go over her site redesign, content organization, in-depth discussion on choosing Squarespace templates, and setting up opt-ins and automated emails with MailChimp - something I really wanted to learn how to do. I signed up for the workshop, and it was soooooo worth it!
Prior to the workshop, I really poured through the different Squarespace templates and features specific to the templates I liked, and chose Montauk. It seemed to be the right fit for what I wanted to be able to do with my site, now and in the future. After completing her workshop that Saturday, I felt confident I could build a site using Squarespace that would meet the goals of my business and showcase my design work in an engaging way.
PLANNING OUT AND IMPLEMENTING MY SITE MAP
The workbook provided in the workshop became my map for building the new web site. I used it to plan my navigation, content, features, and sections for all pages, fine tuned my blog categories for new posts, developed opt-ins, and sketched icons to represent key actions I wanted visitors to take on each and every page of my site. Once I had a plan in place, I decided to give myself a very tight deadline - just one week to get the new site up. My reasoning for doing this was to keep myself on track with my blogging and work schedule.
To meet this deadline, I needed to be very calculated with what had to be in place at my 1 week site launch. My blog posts needed to be imported from my Wordpress site, so I did that first to get the content I already had brought into Squarespace since I was worried about this particular step. I was pleasantly surprised it was very easy and straightforward. Once I had some content to work with on the blog page, I began using the style editor to get the headings, navigation, and colors down. Then, I worked on SEO details and linked social accounts for the social follow icons. Next, I focused on each page at a time, fine tuning the main navigation pages first. My imported blog posts needed a lot of work to get them formatted right, so I spent a big chunk of time getting those posts correct. Once I got the Illustration gallery, Blog, and Say Hello pages done, I focused on my opt-ins.
CREATING THE OPT-INS
I decided on, 4 opt-ins to go on the pages of my site that would garner the most site traffic, my home page and blog. My list of opt-ins:
- Creative Library
- Watercolor Palette Guide
- Vector Artwork Set
- Pattern Workbook
My creative library was already an Opt-In on my Wordpress site, and the pattern workbook I created for a previous blog post was originally planned to be an Opt-In. A big part of what I create are vector and watercolor illustrations, and I thought it would be a helpful resource to my audience to develop Opt-Ins focused around illustration work. As my tubed watercolor collection continues to grow every month (nope, I can’t help myself), I wanted to create something to become more organized and intentional when watercolor painting.
My Watercolor Palette Guide includes an email guide with insightful tips, a downloadable PDF with two printable palette swatch templates, instructions, and a reference color wheel for selecting color harmonies. The Vector Artwork Set was simple to put together, and I assembled a nice set with varying designs for the final Opt-In.
DESIGNING THE ICONS
I had so much fun designing the icons to represent, not only the Opt-Ins, but also the key areas of my web site. The icons gave me a chance to really pull together the look and feel of my site in an inviting way. I thought through the details of each icon, sketched them out on paper, and then designed them in Adobe Illustrator. My southern aesthetic and love of long-established techniques shows through in the icon designs. This is what defines me, and is probably why I enjoyed designing the icons. I was beginning to see my brand website become a true reflection of my creative style.
Originally I did not plan to change my logo at all when I decided to create the Squarespace site. But, as I finished up the icons my logo was just not sitting right with me. I wanted to keep the same fonts and colors, but bring the logo more in line with the direction I was going with everything else on my site. I did not change my brand colors, but just incorporated illustration elements into the logo. One of my favorite pieces of my blog sidebar is the photo at the very top. My design inspiration comes from my family, and the story of our lives together - the moments of us. The shape of my photo used on the blog sidebar would be perfect to incorporate into a new logo - almost as if, when you come to the blog page you get a glimpse into our lives. My work tells the story of many moments inspired by family, and my blog in many ways is a reflection of those stories. It all fit and just felt right.
DESIGNING THE HOME PAGE
For the home page photo, I wanted to do something dramatic for the focal point of the page to showcase my illustrations. I decided on a flat lay photo mockup and featured design work that shows how versatile my illustrations are on different products. I accomplished this with an art print, watercolor print, gift wrapped box, and folded fabric swatches for my surface pattern designs.
CHALLENGES OF MAKING THE SWITCH
With any change, you can always encounter challenges. In life and business, nothing ever goes perfectly smooth. But, you must react, rise to the challenge, and not let it control your progress. When we set up our Wordpress theme, we had also set up full, site wide, SSL certification. This was good on Wordpress, but Squarespace currently only supports SSL on specific pages, not site wide, which presented a problem when it was time to switch the site over to Squarespace. Unfortunately, all links to my site with https in the URL would get a warning stating that the site you were trying to visit was unsecure.This meant I needed to update all important links to my web site, so, I contacted as many referring sites as possible and asked them to update their links. This included updating pinterest pins, and getting google to index my site as http, not https. We updated as much information as we could, but I am sure it will take time for my site to be reindexed properly.
The 1 week deadline I implemented forced me to focus and really prioritize work, which was very demanding, but fun too. With such a tight deadline, I did have to put off many things I would have liked to have in place, but you have to start somewhere. There was also lots and lots of coffee involved (which I don't reccommend - definitely not healthy), and working until 1 or 2 in the morning, which did make it hard to get up and get my kids off to school the next day. But, I will say I did sleep in until 11am on the weekend (thanks to my super sweet husband)! Meeting this deadline, and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment, is something I will never forget. Now I have a Squarespace site that will help make it easier to build my brand. And, I am no longer apprehensive of change; I now embrace it, and see each change as a new possibility.
Are you thinking of switching to Squarespace? Or have you made the switch already?