I’ve been playing around with Squarespace’s cover pages recently. First introduced in October 2014, and enhanced slightly in October this year (with the the addition of some new layouts and typefaces) the goal behind their introduction was to allow users to create impressive-looking one-page sites, splash pages and landing pages. I was very excited when I first got wind of them. But what are they like to use in practice?
There’s no question that Squarespace cover pages score highly on the ‘impressive-looking’ front. When used as splash pages, and in conjunction with good photography, they provide visitors to your website with an incredibly strong first impression. They are also very useful for allowing you to put a simple one-page site together to showcase a brand, event or piece of content; providing you’ve got the right text and visuals handy, cover pages allow you to create a web presence with serious wow factor in less than five minutes.
However, as things stand, Squarespace cover pages fail very badly as landing pages that you might wish to use for a serious online advertising campaign. The key reason for this boils down to the fact that, unlike regular Squarespace pages, adding code blocks is not possible - which in turn means that Squarespace users cannot easily embed any forms onto the page (and as we all know, getting a user to complete a form is usually one of the key goals behind any online advertising campaign).
Yes, it is possible to add a button which links to a form that sends data to Mailchimp, Google Sheets or a good old fashioned email address – but this is nowhere near flexible enough, and neglects any users who use products like Getresponse, Aweber, Mad Mimi and Campaign Monitor (to name just a few). Besides that, from a usability point of view it is a very bad idea to present a website visitor who has just (for example) clicked on a Google Ad with a page where he/she then has to click a button in order to submit contact details. It sends the poor visitor 'round the houses', and reduces the likelihood of them converting into a lead.
This situation doesn't just prevent the addition of data capture forms of course: by not permitting the addition of code blocks to cover pages, the Squarespace user is shut out from using them for a whole host of other useful applications – if you want to allow visitors to stream a particular type of file, click a Paypal button or make use of an embeded widget…you can largely forget about it.
It’s a shame really, because Squarespace cover pages have huge potential to be gorgeous, highly functional beasts. At the moment they’re just gorgeous – a complete triumph of form over function. Squarespace’s “walled garden" approach to its platform does at times have its merits, but here it’s just incredibly frustrating. Let's hope that the company reviews their approach to cover pages and allows them to flourish into something that provides a lot more value to their users. To be fair, Squarespace describe their cover pages as 'ever-evolving', so fingers crossed.