Starting a blog or website can be difficult. There are seemingly countless options for where to host your site, what kind of publishing system you should use, how you’ll get things to the site; the amount of options can be freeing but also paralyzing, as it’s hard to find one that will work “just right” for what you have in mind.
Enter Squarespace. Squarespace is a hosting and publishing system designed to make running a weblog or website incredibly easy. Outside of being such a well-integrated service, the part of the deal that really sweetened the pot for me was the fact that they had a native iPhone app, titled appropriately enough, Squarespace. Read on to find out why this was such a big deal!
Before we begin, it’s important to note that Squarespace is not a free service. Their iPhone (and iPad) apps are free, but the rest of what they provide is not. This will stop some of you from reading any further; if you’re still interested, continue on.
Beginning with the App
On first launch, the Squarspace app will ask you for your account information and, if you don’t already have an account, prompt you to sign up for their free trial. Since I already have a website that is run using Squarespace, getting the app to work was as easy as plugging my login credentials in and waiting for the app to populate.
The app aims to be an integrated solution for all of your mobile needs. There are options to create a post, manage existing posts and comments, preview your site, and viewing specific statistics about your site. Each of these views has been extensively thought out, aiming to provide an intuitive experience to make your life easier.
I tend to harp on the interface in my reviews, but it’s because I believe that unless an app makes you want to use it, especially by looking nice (or, at least, not being offensive to the eyes) you, well, won’t want to use it. Fortunately, the Squarespace app doesn’t disappoint; they make the best of a simple color palette, using just the right amount of textures and chrome to look nice without being distracting.
Posting to your Site
Posting is made simple with the Squarespace app. All you need to do is hit the little Post tab, populate the title and body text, and begin writing. Posting can be done in different ways: by default, Squarespace supports WYSIWYG, Textile, HTML and Markdown editing. Personally, I prefer Markdown; it’s lightweight, easy to use, and easy to read when it’s time to edit.
Say, though, that you would like to post a picture. Squarespace makes that easy: underneath the default view there’s a camera pane, where you can choose to take a new photo or choose from the photos already on your phone. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to just post a photo, as the app requires that some form of text be entered before it gives the option of posting to your site.
Those looking for more granular control can also find it in the Settings pane beneath the main posting window. There you can assign a category and/or tags to your post, making sure that any Archive that you have stays up to date. You can also, in a rather bizarre way, change the date that is attached to the post.
The main reason I absolutely love the Squarespace app is its statistics view. I don’t post to my site from my iPhone very often, but I do check on it very frequently. Luckily, Squarespace knows exactly what information I want to see when I’m on the go, and presents it with a set of easy-to-navigate bar graphs representing different data sets.
Site statistics aren’t complete without the number of pageviews you’ve gotten on a certain day. In my experience this graph updates fairly frequently, so you’re not left wondering whether you’re getting the latest information. Beyond simple pageviews, though, this graph does some pretty neat things when you swipe through its different views.
Take, for example, the case that I want to see how many unique visitors I have. This gives me a feel for how many actual people are viewing my site and, in conjuction with the overall pageviews, gives me a rough idea at how many different pages they decided to poke around during their stay. This information is one swipe away, and one swipe beyond that I can see how many robots have crawled my site — an interesting, if slightly unusual, view.
Other useful information is conveyed on the same page. Subscribers counts the number of people that have subscribed to your site’s RSS feed. Handy information for when you’re trying to see if you’re gaining or losing people.
For some, though, the most useful views will be Search and Referrers. This allows you to see what Google (or other search engine) queries led to someone finding your site. Handy information that also shows just how well the site’s built-in SEO (search engine optimization) works. Referrers shows who has been linking to your site; this way, you know that some people arrived from Twitter, others from Digg and some others from a different writer.
Managing your Site
Another handy feature that will be more or less useful depending on your specific use case is the Manage pane. From there, you can view, edit, or delete posts and comments. I don’t have comments enabled on my site so that particular feature doesn’t help me at all, but I imagine it’s helpful when the Internet, without fail, leads to some nasty comments on your site.
My favorite use of the Manage pane is to check and make sure that my posts were properly formatted. There’s often a mix of human error and technical difficulties when you’re trying something new in a post, so it’s nice to be able to check and see that using footnotes didn’t turn your post into a horrible mess.
How the Squarespace app is used depends on how you choose to use it. For someone that would like to create shorter posts, or upload pictures to their site quickly, the app makes it easy to make sure your site gets updated. Unfortunately, during my time with the app I have noticed that there are times when the posting will fail, uploading a title and nothing else. Be wary, if you intend to use this app as a primary posting method.
Where this app really shines, though, is with its site statistics. It may be because every online writer wants to check in on how popular they are to soothe their ego, or it may be because you’re trying to see if a new strategy to get noticed has worked or not. For me, when I’m on the move, it’s nice to be able to check in and see what’s going on without feeling obligated to post something.
As I said above, this app was instrumental in me choosing Squarespace as a blogging platform. I recommend using the free trial offered by the service, if only for an excuse to play around with their excellent iOS app.