ProPhoto verses Squarespace: Which One Is Best for You?
A question I've been asked a lot lately is about deciding between a ProPhoto website, or a Squarespace one. Both have pros and cons, and there are definitely things I like about each.
- incredibly customizable
- you can create a site that truly doesn't look like anyone else
- or you can purchase a pre-designed template and customize it as much or as little as you'd like
- works on the Wordpress platform - the gold standard in blogging
- has easier to access SEO options
- you can fake the look of multiple sites on one domain using one ProPhoto install - which is super awesome if you have lots of individual projects, or if you offer multiple services (like photography, mentoring, editing, workshops, etc)
- has the tiles feature - which is like simple-to-use integrated design software for adding graphics and other flourishes
- it's very easy to incorporate custom fonts (providing you have the right files and licenses) and custom social media icons
- once you've paid the initial fees, there aren't any ongoing fees that you are tied to
- you can host through anyone, giving you a touch more control over your domain name
- the fonts editor (how you change the look of fonts across the whole site) is very simple and easy to use
- it has a giant, scary learning curve to figure out. Once you are past it it's intuitive and makes sense, but getting to that point is incredibly frustrating and can take a long time.
- it can be a steep upfront cost
- you have to pay hosting fees on top of the ProPhoto fees, which usually aren't much, but do add to the cost
- they lack a good shop option - there are plug-ins and third party solutions, but any time you add more moving parts it gets hard to manage
- sometimes having too many customization options can be overwhelming
- even once you know how to use it, it's time consuming to make large adjustments
- the upfront costs are minimal, depending on how you set up your account
- they host for you - which means if you have a problem, you only have one company to work with
- it's easy to use and intuitive. I was able to confidently start making adjustments to the first Squarespace site I worked on within a few minutes of gaining access.
- they have a ton of free templates that are designed with various needs and businesses in mind
- their designs tend to be very clean and look great
- you can have a professional looking site within a few days
- they have an awesome integrated shopping cart option that is super easy to use
- it's very difficult to customize things like fonts and social media icons - you have to use CSS code to do so, which can put your whole template at risk if it's not done properly
- the fonts (style) editor isn't as intuitive. With ProPhoto you see examples all on the same page. With Squarespace, you have to go in and out of each category, which if you are visual (like me!) can be annoying
- if you want to change templates, you have to set up a second template as a trial, and then you only have 14 days to work on it.
- I personally don't care for the blogging platform as much - there aren't as many places to customize for things like SEO
- each template isn't terribly easy to customize - it's possible, but I feel like they aren't really meant to be customized. They are meant to be an out-of-the-box-and-use sort of service.
I think each platform does different things well, and I think the right choice for you likely comes down to this: is it more important to you that you have a website that's highly customizable, or is more important to you that you have something up and running quickly?
I think if you want something that really makes your writing and brand shine, then a ProPhoto site is a good choice - but don't expect to be up and running quickly. Or if you offering things other than just photography services, the customizability of ProPhoto is awesome if you also offering mentoring, workshops, or other things and need to have separate areas for each part of your business. A giant pro for ProPhoto is that if you do have multiple things you offer, you can actually create a website that looks like multiple sites in one - so you could have your photography pages using one color scheme and design look, and have your mentoring use a completely different look. That gets complicated, but that's one place where ProPhoto 6 shines.
If you want something that is simple, clean, and let's your photographs be the star - then a Squarespace site might be right for you. I also really like their integrated shopping cart option. There isn't an easy way to integrate a shop through Prophoto, but Squarespace has a great one built in.
Personally, I've been with ProPhoto since 2009, so I clearly have some brand loyalty. That said, they almost lost me with the ProPhoto 6 update - it was SO hard to figure out, and so different than previous updates. I'm very glad that I worked through that and learned to use it, because now I really love how versatile and customizable I can make things. But it is something to keep in mind. I will likely keep this, my main site, on ProPhoto indefinitely, although I think if I needed a separate site for a personal project or collaborative, and it was a project that I felt warranted a monthly fee, I would go with Squarespace because it's so easy to set up.
I think either option is one I would recommend with complete confidence - but I do think that the ultimate choice comes down to which one matters most to you.
This post isn't sponsored by either company in any way - just 100% my opinion and experiences. I'm also aware that these are just two of many website options out there - but they are the two I have the most experience with, find relatively easy to use, look professional , and that have excellent customer service and support.