As you may know, Unretrofied is a site powered by Squarespace 6. There are a whole lot of things to like about the service, but it's certainly not without its faults. Considering the way Squarespace seems to be keeping the entire podcasting industry afloat with all those ad-spots and sign-up offers, it would appear that a lot of people are still switching to the service in droves.
I think it's only fair that they know what to expect after signing up, don't you? So what I've done below is write something of an open letter to Squarespace, asking them to fix these basic issues that have been lingering around for months and months.
Now, I should note that I have absolutely zero information about what the developers are working on behind the scenes. For all I know, they could already be ironing out at least some of the issues I'm about to list. This is just my list of complaints as it stands right now.
Please Fix the Text Editor
One of the big selling points of SS6 is that it's ridiculously easy to set up and run a blog. You'd think that editing text would be a solved problem at this point in computing, but SS6's back-end text editor is a little too buggy for that.
Nearly every time the text editor is opened and clicked on, the cursor appears in the completely wrong place. It's usually not even on any line where text exists, opting instead to linger in some random spot of its own choosing. The best way to fix it is by hitting the spacebar and immediately backspacing — only then will it choose a sane place amongst the text so you can begin typing like a civilized person.
Please Add Support for MultiMarkdown
SS6's text editor uses "blocks" to insert and rearrange content within blog posts. There are text blocks, image blocks, code blocks, all kinds of blocky-blocks. One of the text blocks is for Markdown, which is what I've set as the default block for new posts. It's nice enough I suppose, especially with its real-time syntax highlighting, but unfortunately it doesn't support MultiMarkdown.
What's the difference, you ask? Well, basic Markdown is what you'd use to format your text (bold/italics) and assign simple elements (headers, links, images, blockquotes, lists, code snippets, that sort of thing). MultiMarkdown expands on the syntax, allowing you to create tables, footnotes, citations, and other goodies within your text.
This creates functional footnotes in the technical sense, but even then they don't work quite right. Rather than displaying the footnote links as if they were using the
<super> HTML tag, like so:
Yadda yadda², blah blah blah³.
they appear in brackets instead:
Yadda yadda, blah blah blah.
Also, as I've mentioned in the past, I use a Chrome extension called Footnotify that displays a little pop-up dialog when footnote links are clicked. This is much nicer than the typical behavior of footnotes on the web, where the site will jarringly bounce the reader to the bottom of the screen and make them click to return.
Here's what that looks like, using an example footnote from a post by Marco Arment:
See how nice that is?
If I click footnotes on my own site, the extension fails to pick up on them at all — I mean, I'm not a scientist, but I get this feeling that the overall way SS6 handles footnote code is a little below par.
Please Give Us Better RSS and Visitor Stats
The lack of any RSS subscriber tracking has been a gripe for so many people across the web, I'm not even sure it's worth going into detail about in this post. Squarespace 5 had it, and it was included in the SS6 beta, but as soon as the beta was over and the platform went public, the RSS tracking feature went away for some reason. I've heard they're "considering" releasing it back to the public, but who knows when that will be.
As for visitor stats, three quick things:
- It'd be nice to view the total number of all-time visitors to a specific article.
- Trying to view visitor stats by month generates a "server is busy" error about 95% of the time.
- One thing I've never understood is...how come the visitor numbers shown by Squarespace differ so much from what Google Analytics says? They're almost always higher, so I'm not sure if SS6 is padding the numbers or if Google Analytics just doesn't have full access to the stats like it should.
Please Add Link-List Delineation
One of my favorite little design features about Shawn Blanc's website is the way it separates link-posts from Shawn's original articles. Between each article, the link-posts are grouped together by date — when he publishes a full article, it's clearly marked as such with a larger headline and with his trademark 'plus' symbol between the article and the group of link-posts:
I'd absolutely love to have this on my site, but SS6 doesn't make it easy. There's a way to set it up at a basic level, but apparently it doesn't work with my particular template because link-posts aren't designated by their own
<div>. If any HTML/CSS gurus out there have an answer to this, I'm all ears.
Please Implement a 'Full Archive' Block
Have you ever looked at the full archive for this site? A few of my fellow SS6 users have asked me how I set this up, because there is no "full archive" block provided by the service for us to use. There are other archive blocks, such as one for displaying up to 20 recent articles, but nothing like what I'm looking for.
The answer is that I maintain this archive myself. A while back, I exchanged emails with the SS6 support team and asked if they were going to add a "full archive" feature. The response I got was something along the lines of: "not any time soon," so I went back through every single one of my posts and manually created the archive entries, and continue to maintain the list myself today.
It's all done in Markdown and I've got a TextExpander snippet to make the process a bit quicker, but still, it'd be nice to eliminate this extra step from my publishing process.
Please Stop Reordering the Template List!
One of the nice things about SS6 is how easy it is to test and/or deploy their various templates. What's not nice is that they display the template list in a different order every single time you view the page. Pretty annoying.
Just put them in alphabetical order or something, that's all I'm asking here .
Please Add Stripe Subscriptions
One of the big features raved about on all those podcast ad-spots is Squarespace's integration with Stripe. And it is pretty cool. Unfortunately, it doesn't do the one thing I have any use for at the moment: payment subscriptions. Until they implement such a thing, I'm forced to go through a third-party service like Helium.
Please Give Us More Export Options Than WordPress
Not much more to say than that.
Please Add a Built-In 'Device Preview'
When editing a template, it would sure be nice to see how the site is going to appear (read: see if my CSS is broken) on a mobile device like an iPad or iPhone without having to actually publish my changes or open the site on those devices. Maybe it's a stretch to ask for this, but I'd rather just click a button and have the page temporarily switch to a particular device's resolution on the fly.
Please Open Up a Public API (Or At Least Update the iOS App)
As someone who does most of their writing from an iPad, nothing would make me happier than to be able to publish from my iPad just like I can from a desktop machine. And technically I kind of can, but it's janky thanks to SS6's lame iOS app that doesn't work right half the time and is more of a glorified stats-checker than anything else.
If Squarespace isn't going to update its own app – it's been 25 weeks (!) since the last iPad update – they should open up some kind of public API for 3rd-party apps to use. If I could just publish directly from Byword or Editorial, it would change my entire game.
Please Fix Post Editing
Sometimes, when I go back and edit a previous post, even if it's just to fix a typo, Squarespace will "republish" it to Twitter and App.net as if it were a new post. It's not every time, but very irritating when it does happen.
I put out a call to my fellow Squarespacers (yeah, I'm using that term, deal with it) on Twitter and App.net, asking them to send me their complaints about the service. I got a few interesting responses, which I'll list below:
“Get me an iPad app that doesn’t think any article with more than a single image is too damn “complicated.””
“[The lack of] Autosaving drafts.”
“The way blocks just won’t go where I want them to sometimes. Only fixed by refreshing the page. (cont.) blocks always snap into place at fixed spots and many templates are missing features like block quote styles and some typefaces.”
Ben Brooks (probably my favorite answer):
“it's laggy as shit to use and design in. I can't just down load the fucking template, edit it and upload it.”
“Markdown editing in browser is horrible, cursor jumps around, text won't select etc.
Editing a post in the iOS app gives it today's date and time, jumping it to the top of a blog.
Crippled iOS app generally. No ability to do link posts etc.”
“text placement bug”
“Lack of proper RSS stats, super janky post composer, broken iOS app, and no CSS element documentation were the biggies for me.”
“Post excerpts are kinda crappy right now because you can’t use Markdown in them. I’d also like to see some kind of automatic excerpt that would provide a nice excerpted view without you having to edit the excerpt manually.”
Sid also has his own method for creating a full archive that is a lot geekier than mine.
“unable to create excerpts in RSS”
There may be some bugs or other issues not discussed in this piece, but I think we've covered all the major ones for the moment.
If anyone at Squarespace is reading this, I hope you don't take offense to anything said here. I really want your product to be great, and I believe it has the potential to be, but there are just so many little things holding it back (like that damn text editor bug!) that should have been fixed or implemented a loooooong time ago, and I'm hesitant to recommend it to any of my friends and family as a result.
Sigh...I'm never going to get a Squarespace podcast sponsorship after this.