Don't Even Bother with Code, Learn Squarespace

If Time is Money - Codecademy Drools and Squarespace Rules

Written by Dylan Langei

VS.

So you're about to build your first website. You have no prior coding or web development background, and you need to make a decision. Do you begin the basic coding lessons on Codecademy and build a website from complete scratch? Or do you use a service like Squarespace with existing web templates? 

Let me bring you back to my junior year of college. I was a young motivated entrepreneur, excited to start my first business and learn the "ropes". A friend and I founded Fuhgedaboudit Supply Co., an eCommerce clothing business that designed and sold snapbacks, shirts, sweatshirts, socks, and various other accessories tailored to the 18-24 year old male demographic. Considering we were strictly online with no brick-and-mortar location (lower overhead), we needed to build a website. I had an acquaintance whom I had met through some friends, that owned his own small web design & development business. So I thought, cool, a small business helping another small business. Maybe even a friend discount thrown in there. When my business partner and I met with him, he quoted us $3,000 for a fairly simple eCommerce website. Our business account currently had $2,700 in it, and we hadn't even manufactured any clothing. I thought my days as an entrepreneur were over. 

I went home that night pondering other options. Do I ask my parents for money? Do we forego building a website and just sell through retailers? I began researching services that allowed inexperienced web developers to build websites. At that time I stumbled upon Shopify, a very well known eCommerce building service. I began the free trial, and ended up building our business a fully functioning eCommerce site in 10 hours for around $30 a month. This was no Diamond Supply Co. website, but it got us online and able to receive orders.

Our first, very rudimentary website:

I would no longer advise using Shopify, as we were eventually not satisfied with the templates and options available. But, the point of this story is, I built a fully functioning website without having to pay $3,000 upfront. If it was not for Shopify, we never would have been able to start Fuhgedaboudit.

A few Fuhgedaboudit products:

Better options to Shopify are Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress. Although, be warned, WordPress does take a little more coding background than the former two. To see the pros and cons of Wix and WordPress, go to this really cool search engine. Squarespace, I'll talk about later on, because I am a full blow Squarespace proponent.

Why is Coding a Good Skill for a Beginning Digital Marketer?

This question may be a bit deceiving, because I do not believe it is a necessary skill for a beginning digital marketer to possess, but it is a concept that is vital for them to understand. Because digital marketing is, well, digital - it is imperative for a digital marketer to understand the framework of how a website is built. Why is this? Let's say you've identified a product page that many customers are leaving without completing a purchase. You've attributed this bounce rate to a landing page that is promoting a price that is too high. Instead of having to bother the web engineers, with a basic understanding of HTML, you could jump into that product page, locate the code <body><p>$19.99</p><body> and lower the price to <body><p>$14.99</p><body>. You've successfully dodged a migraine which would have been caused by the web engineers taking five hours to respond to your maintenance request, and you've built a bit of credibility. 

My Experience Using Codecademy:

I spent two hours on Codecademy going through the HTML Basics training. I completed HTML Basics I and got to step 4/16 on HTML Basics II. I am 14% through the HTML & CSS course, and Codecademy estimates this full lesson takes around 7 hours. Through these lessons I've learned how to add headings, body text, pictures, links, ordered lists, and a few other skills. The "website" I have created in those two hours looks like a 5-year-old's coloring book, I'll be honest. But, I have learned some valuable terminology. Here is proof I spent two hours learning "code":

Beginning:

End:

Now, if someone came up to me and said create an image with a link to another website. I would say, can I look it up on Google? It might just be a personal battle of mine, but online programs like Codecademy are not propitious to my ability to retain information.  For example, you first learn how to link an image to a separate domain, then the next lesson asks you to do it again without any instructions. I still had to look back at the previous lesson to remember the exact code. All in all, this was a waste of my time. However, this is not a waste of everyone's time. My method of learning is more conducive to the "on campus" crash course where an instructor is present to answer any questions and guide me through tutorials. It is important to figure out your personal learning style, and taking on code that way. If you can, start young. 

Pros and Cons of Using Squarespace:

OK, let me start off by saying that I am a full blown Squarespace advocate. This website that you are currently on, was made using Squarespace. I have built a wholesale distribution company a website using Squarespace, along with my second business venture called Cheative. Squarespace kicks ass, but as any other platform providing site, it has it's limitations:

Pros:

  • Cost-effective.
  • Free 14-day trial with no credit card required.
  • Sleek and user-friendly templates.
  • Responsive to mobile devices.
  • Customization and maintenance is simple.
  • Built-in online store.
  • Free URL and hosting is done by Squarespace.
  • Available widgets.
  • SEO capabilities.

Cons:

  • Squarespace Commerce only has one payment option.
  • Not open-source - making quantity of templates and extensions limited.
  • Built in analytics is a bit weak, but you can inject your Google Analytics code into a simple box that integrates it across your entire website.

Recommended Users:

  • Small business owner (coffee shop, restaurant, fashion lines, boutiques, etc.).
  • Person who desires to have an online portfolio to showcase their work (recent graduate, photographers, artists, etc.).

Not Recommended Users:

  • Large organizations (banks, retailers, etc.).

 As I said before I have been an advocate and user of Squarespace for about two years now. I have ran a small business using Squarespace, a personal portfolio (this website), and am starting another small business. The greatest part about Squarespace, is once you get the hang of it, everything is simple and quick. Remember the screenshots above? Those lessons that took me two hours on Codecademy to add a few headings and pictures? I built an entire eCommerce page on Squarespace in 15 minutes. 15 MINUTES PEOPLE. I'm sorry, but time is money and I don't have time for Codecademy. Unless you're a large organization that needs a very secure and customizable website, and you have the means to pay thousands of dollars for a website, Squarespace cannot be touched. 

Before:

After: