Squarespace Plugins: The Good the Bad and the Ugly
It goes without saying, those who have known me throughout my Squarespace career know that I do not purchase “plugins” lightly for my clients or myself. I have been someone who even says “no, don’t purchase that. Instead, learn how to do it yourself” many times over to followers, friends etc. And to the most part, that still rings true, for designers. But the field of who is using plugins, has changed dramatically. It’s not just an avid DIY-er or a designer, but the world has opened up to the normal/average small business person looking for a specific change.
Why the new series about Squarespace Resources?
I get questions constantly, and people ask about the validity or usability of plugins all the time. I will do some research, figure out what the best solution is and help someone find something that will not just solve a problem, but be a good solution. Over the years, I have changed my outlook (slightly) on these things, while I think that some complex css solutions are great to purchase for those new to CSS, I do highly suggest the ones the maximize your functionality or give you a feature you didn’t have before. Those are the kind of code snippets or “plugins” we will be focusing on in this journey.
A journey? What journey? Yeah, so I let that one just slip out there. This journey, my dear Squarespacers isn’t going to be a formal REVIEW with stars and stripes and all the kit and kaboodle, but instead a sharing of knowledge. When I find one I love, I am going to tell you about it. Something I know that most of you probably are saying - “Yes, share with me, just not on a public blog!” Yeah, well I’ve always done things that way, sharing a bit too much. But I wanted to have specific examples of usage, a keen review and examples of using that for a creative solution in your design work. I am going to be adding a - did you use any purchased code on your site - for site showcases, so we can discuss HOW to use the tools of our trade, not just that they are there.
One of the BIGGEST things you will see me focus on during these so called “reviews” will be usability. It comes in three major pillars - each important to the end use, from installation to editing and flexibility of use.
Usability part 1 - Editable for Client or User without Code
Usability comes in MANY forms, but the most important is that you can make edits, changes, and be able to pass down that responsibility of making changes to someone else. If the entire solution is code based, then it’s not a good one. If the end result makes it easy for the client to switch out an image, update a new menu item, and be able to access their content without code, then we have ourselves a winner.
Usability part 2 - Flexibility of Use and Style
The second thing that makes a plugin have great usability is the flexibility of the output. Can it be changed up, is it malleable, moldable and editable in a design sense to fit more than one need, or more than one style.
Usability part 3 - Easy Install/Application
If I, Meg - a designer who is “learning scripts” but not a full fledge developer in any way, find something annoying/difficult to install/use, then we have an issue. I will tell you about it, because if there’s an issue for me, I cannot see your friend with a restaurant who wants “x feature” to be happy figuring out the usage and installation of said feature. Does the plugin come with instructions outside just text instructions? Is it a website with a password or a pdf? Are there 15 steps that could have been distilled? Do you have to edit code to make adjustments?
Other Notes About What to Expect
We are going to touch on any other points that might come with certain code - is it affordable for what it does? Is it have a one-time-use license or can you buy a designer/business license. Is it a good solution to the problem at hand? Does it solve the problem elegantly?
We are going to take the designer’s approach to this - understanding we are not going to criticize or judge the scripts/code themselves, but whether or not we find them as a useful solution to a problem. Hint - we aren’t going to post hateful reviews just because, we are going to show you ones we love, why we love them, and give a little insight to any drawbacks they could have or competitors doing the same thing.