6 minute read

Choosing a Squarespace template is a big part of what controls how your website looks. However, it’s only part of the equation. The template only sets things such as the position of the logo and navigation, display style of image galleries or blogs, and relative size/shape or display of certain other page elements. YOU control the fonts, colours, photos and other content – all of which play a much greater role in how the website looks.

In order to demonstrate the way different templates display things, Squarespace have created a demo site for each template, which you can see on the Squarespace template chooser. When starting a new Squarespace website, most people click around and look at a few of these demo sites and then choose a template. However:

The single biggest mistake people make when choosing a template is getting too hung up on the demo site examples.


1. It’s not easy to tell what is controlled by the template, and what is controlled by your design choices.

For example, people look at the Moksha template demo site and notice that it has a white strip at the top where the navigation goes, and they assume that this means they can’t have a transparent navigation (floating on top of the yoga banner image). Or they see that the logo is in the middle, and think it can’t be moved to the left. On some templates, it is possible to move things around like this. On others, these positions and styles are “hard-baked” into the template, meaning you can’t do it. You can’t tell this when initially browsing templates (and in fact you need some serious digging to understand it). More on this later…

2. It’s not immediately clear that templates don’t control site functionality, and that all templates can have all Squarespace functions.

For example, people look at the Fairfield template demo site and they don’t see a blog or image gallery, so they think they can’t have a blog or image gallery if they use that template. Or, they see the Cart in the top right and think this template is only for eCommerce sites. Not true. All websites built using any Squarespace template can choose whether or not to have a blog, image/video gallery, eCommerce shop, event calendar, audio album, feedback form, Google map, and any other type of content block that comes with Squarespace.

3. Most importantly, it’s really difficult for people to get past what I call “the shag carpet effect”.

Image courtesy of LovelyListing.com

Image courtesy of LovelyListing.com

Think about it this way: when people go to look at houses with their real estate agent, most people can't see past the decor that's already in the house. They can't visualise the overall structure of the building without the flowery wallpaper and 1970s shag pile carpets. They can't imagine how their own belongings would fit in the space and how different it would look after a coat of paint and some new floors. It's the same with websites.

When looking at Squarespace demo sites, most people get distracted by the content (pictures & words) and/or branding (fonts & colours) of the demo site, and can’t imagine what their own content and branding would look like there – especially if the demo site is showing something very different from their own business.

This causes people to limit their template selections to those that have demo sites in the same industry as their own business. For example, fashion designers tend to go for Marta or Mercer, and never consider templates such as Fairfield or Moksha because those demo sites have such different types of content.

Remember that all templates can have your colours, logo and font choices, and that the images and words you put into the site will be likely to have the biggest impact on the overall feeling the site conveys. Bottom line: any type of business can use any of the Squarespace templates.

Under the Brine-y sea…

Want a pro secret? The templates that I use for nearly all my client websites are the Brine family of templates.

There are 45 templates in the Brine family, and they all share the same underlying DNA. In fact, all of the above examples (Moksha, Fairfield, Marta and Mercer) are part of the Brine family, but they look very different.

Think of it like a bunch of identical twins (or whatever 45 “twins” is!). One twin dresses like a goth, another dresses like a preppie. If you swap their clothing and makeup, they would be indistinguishable from each other, right? This means that you could start with the Moksha template, and with enough fiddling around in the style tools, you could end up making a website that looks exactly like the Marta template demo site (once you add the Marta demo content).

For this reason, it almost doesn’t matter which of the Brine templates you use for your website. The only difference will be in the amount of time you need to spend tinkering with settings in the Site Styles editor. So my top tip is to choose whichever Brine template looks the closest to what you want in terms of aesthetics. IGNORE THE ACTUAL CONTENT! Remember, your words and pictures will go in there, so don’t pay any mind to the words & pictures on the demo site.

Quickly see & compare all Brine templates

To make it quicker & easier to examine each of the Brine templates, I have made a handy comparison table that includes links to each of the template demo sites, along with some notes about how they are set up & what they include in the demo site:

Why use the Brine family?

Remember how I mentioned in Point 1 above that some templates allow you to move things around, and others don’t? Well, templates in the Brine family offer the most flexibility. The Brine family of templates are also among the newest templates from Squarespace, so you won’t waste time by starting with an old template that might be retired soon.

Why are there so many Brine family members?

It all boils down to the shag carpet effect. Squarespace realised that people were having a hard time imagining their own content in a limited number of templates, so they rolled out these template variants to help get past this.

Although this is a bonus just for my subscribers, do feel free to share this with your friends if you think they might find it useful!