PSA: You need a (beautiful) portfolio site.
You would not believe how many resumes I comb through of designers who have gorgeous work and a horrible website. Your website matters! If you were presenting physical copies of your designs, you wouldn’t hole punch them and throw them in a three ring binder you used ten years ago in college! You're a designer so you know that PRESENTATION MATTERS. Choose a content management system that’s the BEST at presenting your designs. Not only does it need to flex your artistic skills, it should communicate to your future clients that everything about you is easy to work with.
My very first portfolio site was on Tumblr. Remember Tumblr? Those were the days. As I started freelancing more I needed something a little more professional (and with a custom domain) so I moved to Squarespace. At the time this was the best (and most popular) site option because it had a nice variety of gorgeous themes and it was easy to use (no coding needed).
Last year I was working with a developer on a project and he built it in Webflow. I was obsessed with the platform. We were using HUGE images and videos and they loaded super quick. I wanted to move my site right away, but when I poked around the backend it looked a little overwhelming tbh.
So....Squarespace vs. Webflow. Both are great options, but let’s walk through their features to see which one is going to really help your work sparkle. (Spoiler alert: I recommend one way over the other.)
Squarespace has a large number of modern layouts, which is definitely part of its appeal. The problem is, there’s only so much you can do with those layouts. Unless you also know how to code (or want to fork out your money to pay someone else) you’re pretty limited with how you can use those layouts. With Webflow, everything is completely customizable, so you end up with a totally unique online portfolio. It’s easy to find a webflow designer to help bring to life any website you’re dreaming up. Do you really want to use a CMS that results in you looking like every other designer out there?
While Webflow may look intimidating at first (I was scared 🧐), it’s easy to get the hang of. Not gonna lie, the template aspect of Squarespace makes it really easy to use. You have to ask yourself if you’re willing to sacrifice your individuality for the sake of saving yourself just a little time and frustration. Webflow requires more hands-on design work, but the intuitive visual design tools make the process less of a headache.
SEO is the million dollar word that everyone focuses on these days. The good news (at least for me) is that Webflow wins the SEO competition. Squarespace offers the basics: page titles, descriptions, and some limited semantic element markup tools. Just like with its template options, it's designed to make the process really straightforward. Straightforward doesn't always get your page found, though. Webflow has so many SEO features it’ll make your head spin: incredible mobile friendliness, fast load time, auto generated sitemaps, support in creating great meta titles, and lots of other technical tools! It optimizes images so they load quickly, a huge plus, especially if you have a large portfolio. Btw, don't do your SEO yourself if you can avoid it. Invest in a pro to strategize and set it up for you. SEO is an ever evolving beast and it changes ALL THE TIME.
If you’re committed to a beautiful CMS, you need to make sure the buyer experience is unceasingly beautiful, from start to finish. It'll be a little jarring to browse through a nicely designed portfolio page, only to end up on a very basic cart and checkout page. Catastrophic? Probably not. But why not make the buying experience seamless for your clients? Squarespace comes with a cart and checkout page, so that’s covered, but unless you’re prepared to customize those pages, you get what you get (and you don’t get upset.) Webflow allows you to completely customize both pages AND offer payment customization options. Both accept payments through Stripe and Paypal.
PS - Webflow charges a 2% transaction fee on e-commerce vs Squarespace at 3%
Store owner experience
You deserve to enjoy using your own website, don’t you think? Squarespace and Webflow are both designed to make it easy for you to update your content. Since Squarespace was built to be user-friendly, that ease of use extends to managing your products and look. Webflow makes it simple by allowing on-page editing. Both sites also have a dashboard that makes it easy to manage orders and shipping.
47% of your visitors expect your site to load within TWO seconds, and 40% of them will leave if it takes more than three seconds. Squarespace can be SO SLOW if you don't over optimize your images. And who wants to optimize their portfolio images?! If they aren't crispy and retina-y and beautiful it's just a waste. On Webflow all new images “lazy load” by default, so they load when they appear on the screen — instead of when the site is first opened.
There you have it friends. When you’re choosing what CMS to use, you have to weigh what matters most to you: customizability vs. ease of use. Personally, I’ve chosen to invest my time and energy into a website that reflects on my creativity and originality. I encourage you to do what is best for you and your business!
If you need help setting up your site or have questions feel free to reach out!