So Nick approached me the other day and asked if I'd be interested in contributing to the Software Niagara website, of course I was interested and asked what I could do. The plan was to build out the website to be more of a community and to stop using MeetUp since it was a platform that had a cost associated without a lot of benefit, including having an audience but one you couldn't export or use for other communications.
Nick suggested we give SquareSpace a shot, he's had some limited experience with it, I've played with it a bit and had a positive experience and have recommended it to a few others. The main upside here was a lot of built in functionality, with nice looking starter themes and very little coding to get an attractive platform up and running. Given we're both busy, and this isn't a paid gig it seemed an ideal solution.
So Nick set up an account, invited me and away we went. SquareSpace takes a bit of getting used to, but overall the experience was nice. A lot of point and click functionality to do things that would otherwise be tedious and/or difficult to build from scratch, like the Event Calendar. In a couple of hours we had a pretty well fleshed out starting point, with some basic content and functionality.
I won't lie, there are limitations. Some because of unfamiliarity with the platform, some just flat out limitations of a web based site creation tool. There were times we discussed just dropping it and building a bespoke site, but each time that happened we compared the limitation we were facing to the time and effort to build the other things, such as the calendar, or a solid blogging platform and realized we could figure out other ways to work around those limitations instead.
There are some future ideas we have for the site, which will probably require bringing in something like React and building a micro-service or two, but in less than 36 hours we managed to go from nothing, to a fully functioning and attractive (at least we think so) community. A site that we hope attracts users interested in technology and software in the greater Niagara area and gives them a one stop resource for events, news and collaboration.
Would I suggest using SquareSpace for a commercial project with the requirements we had? No, probably not, there are some technical limitations in doing more complex tasks. The site looks good and performs well, but I certainly wouldn't call the code optimized. But the time savings, some of the excellent built in functionality, the fact it has HTTPS and HTTP/2.0 right out of the box made it a fairly painless tool to use and one I would whole-heartedly recommend for brochure and basic e-commerce sites. It's certainly far superior to WordPress.com or any of the other online site builders I've had experience with!
We hope you enjoy the new site, and if you have any suggestions, are hosting an event, want to contribute to the site or the community or even write a tech blog or two be sure to drop us a note!