Squarespace has been around the block (pun intended) as a DIY website-building platform. It features beautiful templates and links up with Adobe Typekit (major plus). Sadly, I find it one of the most unintuitive site-building platforms out there. Part of that is caused by the design of the editing portal. But as much, if not even more, it’s caused by the UX writing.
Unlike flashy, charming marketing headlines, UX writing is best when it seems invisible. Except for when it delights, sympathizes, reassures, and apologizes—in those occasions, it speaks with the voice of the brand. No matter what, though, great UX writing is always clear and concise. It’s there to guide your experience, looking out for your next step like a humble, quiet, wise sherpa. And like any skilled mountaineer, it doesn’t pack any unhelpful baggage.
So let’s take a look at Squarespace’s UX writing. When you set up a trial page, you’re greeted by a pop-up, asking for your site title. Here’s Squarespace:
Picking a site title feels like a big step in this relationship I’ve barely begun. (We’re picking baby names already?!) What if I can’t decide right now? Should I brainstorm titles before I proceed?
Of course, you can change your mind about the site title later. But to a first timer, this isn’t clear. Rather than the redundancy currently in the copy, what if Squarespace reassured users that the title can be changed anytime? My suggestion:
The next step invites you to add a site description, but it’s not clear what this is; a description of a site can be very different from a bio. And if some templates “surface” this (What does that mean? Pop-ups? Random ghostly appearances?), while others presumably don’t, then why is having a description useful? To make matters worse, the “Write here…” is uninspiring. Here’s Squarespace:
Here’s my suggested re-write. Explain what the site description does, so that even though some templates hide it from view (notice the reframing of templates that might “surface” it), users know that it is still useful. As with the site title, the user isn’t in an editing portal, so they don’t know if they will ever have an opportunity to revise this again. Reassure them that this text can be changed later, and add a prompt to help them get started. I added an arrow on the back button so it is clearer at a glance, and swapped in some cheer for the intimidating-sounding DONE button. (Because you’re not done; you’re about to begin building your site.)
Once you move forward, you enter the editing portal. There’s a “design” section, where you can customize the visual branding for your site.
But it’s wordy and the descriptions may be too technical for the average user of this kind of platform (URL, PNG, ICO, IE might be alphabet soup to some). Squarespace seems worried that we don’t know what a browser icon is, since it calls it one, then parenthetically switches to “favicon,” then returns to “browser icon,” and finally calls it a “favicon” in the upload section. And it’s confusing. If a social sharing logo is “OPTIONAL,” then does that mean that uploading a browser icon is required? (Hint: It’s not; you get a little black block by default.)
Here’s my suggestion. Show us what a browser icon is, if you’re worried we don’t know. Tell us the file types to upload when we’re in the upload zone, and if we upload a .png, immediately send us a “toast” warning that .pngs are not supported by Internet Explorer. (And yes, do type out Internet Explorer.) Trim the social sharing section copy and remove Squarespace from the subject of the phrase. As my piano coach once said, “It’s not about you; it’s about the music.” Let the user focus on their site for now.
As I fiddled around with styles (and who wouldn’t?), I decided that I wanted to reset everything to the original template. When I hit the button for that, a confirmation pop-up appeared:
At a glance, this is energy-intensive to read and so confusing. Squarespace will save my changes, but then restore the original styles? Or do I have to save my site? Grammatically, it’s saying that my template’s original styles will save my changes, which makes no sense. And most importantly, will my content get lost?
My suggestion is to simplify and reassure. Trim down the question. Then imply that our content will be safe by telling us it will be restyled upon our confirmation.
I’ll stop here for now, though there are many more examples of well-intended pieces of UX writing on Squarespace that could use some revisions. (For instance, a demo page link mysteriously entitled “Read Me”…which leads to a page filled with important tips on building a site. But only Alice in Wonderland might click on such a vaguely named link.)
UX writing demands empathy and curiosity. Empathy for who the user is, what they need, what they fear, and what they may not know. Curiosity for what words resonate, how the human brain works, and what you may not know. Test, test, test—experiment and analyze.
This is the intersection of design, writing, and science. An exciting place to play. But the experience of a user (or a million) is at stake.