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Squarespace vs SmugMug (2021): Which Website Builder Is Better For Photographers?

For photographers, websites are a crucial part of the profession. Not only does having a website lend credibility, but it’s also the easiest way to build one’s brand and attract prospective clients. Website builders like Squarespace have made it easy for people โ€” including photographers โ€” to cultivate an online presence. The platform is popular for its stunning templates that put an emphasis on visual elements. It’s also fairly easy to use.

SmugMug, on the other hand, is a dedicated platform for creating a photography portfolio, selling prints, or simply hosting images. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Squarespace, you still get plenty of features designed specifically to support photographers. But is that enough to choose it over Squarespace? Here, we take a closer look at two website builders to see which one is better for photographers.

Squarespace vs SmugMug Comparison Chart

NameSquarespaceSmugMug
 
PriceCheck Squarespace plans hereCheck SmugMug plans here
Best Known ForProfessionally-designed templates and intuitive interfaceDedicated website builder for photography website or portfolio
HostingYesYes
SEOYesYes
Custom DomainSupportedSupported
Drag and Drop FunctionalityYesYes
Templates60+ templates20+ templates
Optional CustomizationYes, through built-in CSS editorYes, through HTML and CSS
Sales FeaturesExtensiveFocused on selling photographs, prints
Transaction Fees3% fee applicable only to Business plan15% fee inclusive of credit card fees, customer service, and administrative costs
Customer Support24/7 email support and live chat, help center, community answers24/7 support, live chat, video tutorials, community forums, SmugMug training events

User Interface

Squarespace has a more user-friendly interface compared to SmugMug.

Here’s a look at Squarespace guided prompts when starting a website.

Starting a website on either Squarespace or SmugMug is easy. Both platforms guide users with prompts as they start the website-building process. SmugMug asks fewer questions compared to Squarespace. The latter, however, makes good use of the data you provide, immediately turning them into meaningful recommendations. Once you’ve answered all the prompts, Squarespace gives you a list of suggested themes based on your product, service, and goals.

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When it comes to the actual interface, Squarespace also has a decisive advantage over SmugMug. Although both platforms provide a drag-and-drop experience, Squarespace’s workspace looks more sophisticated. Navigating between features on the left-side panel and the actual editing board is fairly easy. It’s not as straightforward as Wix, for instance. But once you get the hang of it, Squarespace’s interface makes sense given what it can do. It’s intuitive, dynamic, and uncluttered.

Users can opt for different templates before starting a SmugMug website.

SmugMug’s website editor, on the other hand, looks plain. Yes, customization tools are within easy reach. Moving between features is pretty straightforward, too. But adding content, editing a page, and even resizing content blocks can be tricky. Clicking a page element, for instance, automatically shows a pop-up menu of customization options. While it’s nice to have that accessibility, it feels more natural to be able to drag a content block when using point and click actions.

Customization

Customizing a template is easier and more satisfying in Squarespace than in SmugMug.

SmugMug’s website editing interface

Despite a fiddly interface, you can still get plenty done using SmugMug. The platform allows a number of customizations to your page. From headers and footers to page texture and colors, you can always modify a template to suit your design preferences. Of course, you’ll find the standard features are also available including the ability to resize content blocks, change font styles, or update your favicon.

The themes, however, are quite basic, with most selections sporting a grid layout. It’s expected for a platform that’s designed to showcase photographs. But one senses SmugMug could have been more inspired with their templates. Deco, Duke, and Sierra are the few themes that really stand out. If you have the technical skills, however, you can carry out deeper customizations through CSS and HTML.

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Customizing elements in Squarespace

Squarespace has arguably better-designed templates. They’re organized by category, too, including four specifically made for photography websites. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, Squarespace shares you can adapt other templates to suit your needs. To do this, the platform offers a wide range of customizations across different elements and page configurations.

Like SmugMug, Squarespace allows users to change the color theme of any given template. Font styles, section width, and page alignments are all editable, too, with plenty of styles and layout options between them. Users will also find an extensive list of sections you can add, with each element also modifiable. It’s not as “free” to play around compared to the likes of Wix or even HostGator. But it certainly affords more creative control compared to SmugMug.

Features

Although Squarespace has more features, managing images and selling photos is better with SmugMug.

To build your website, Squarespace uses a section-based approach when adding elements.

Squarespace markets itself as an all-in-one solution, so its features aren’t as specialized as SmugMug’s. All of its plans, however, do give you a core set of features, including unlimited bandwidth and storage, SEO tools, as well as access to third-party extensions. Blogging on Squarespace is also more manageable compared to the cumbersome text boxes you get on SmugMug.

On Squarespace, users can sell products and services, including digital photographs and prints. But the accompanying features are standard for all its online stores. For instance, Squarespace doesn’t support bulk product uploads. This is particularly useful for photography websites where plenty of files need to be uploaded. You won’t be able to set print sizes, too โ€” an important option for photographers.

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As expected, both features are available on SmugMug. The platform comes with bulk image management and easy file organization. When it comes to selling, the site builder allows custom pricing, supports multiple currencies, and offers a variety of branding opportunities. Users also enjoy partnerships with select print labs for high-quality printing of your works.

Pricing and Fees

SmugMug plans are cheaper compared to Squarespace’s.

Both platforms offer four plans.

Squarespace and SmugMug both offer several plans. For Squarespace, users can choose between Personal ($16/month), Business ($26/month), Basic Commerce ($30/month), and Advanced Commerce ($46/month). All four plans come with a free custom domain and SSL certificate.

SmugMug similarly offers four plans. Users can choose between Basic ($7/month), Power ($11/month), Portfolio ($27/month), and Pro ($41.99/month). Standard features across all subscriptions include unlimited photo and video uploads, website analytics, and ad-free and spam-free websites. Commerce features, however, are only available on Portfolio and Pro plans.

When it comes to transaction fees, Squarespace only applies a 3% fee on its Business Plan. On SmugMug, you’ll have to contend with a 15% transaction fee on each product sold. Both site builders don’t offer a free plan. However, you can try them out for a similar 14-day period free trial.

Verdict

Squarespace offers a better website building and management interface. However, tech-savvy photographers might prefer SmugMug’s dedicated features better.

Squarespace

Better value for money and customization features

SmugMug

Better image hosting service and online selling of photographs

While they’re both website builders, Squarespace and SmugMug target quite different users. SmugMug’s dedicated tools for photography websites seem better suited for those with the technical know-how to fully exploit the platform’s features. And since SmugMug also charges a considerable 15% transaction fee, more established users with an existing customer base are less likely to be intimidated by the cost. Otherwise, the site builder’s interface will simply come across as cumbersome and expensive.

Squarespace, on the other hand, appeals to a broader audience, not just photographers. Artists, musicians, creative professionals, and businesses might be drawn to the platform’s stunning templates. Beginners will also find the easy-to-use interface a welcoming sight. Squarespace plans, however, are more expensive than SmugMug’s. But transaction fees are lower, and the platform’s robust SEO and blogging features should help you create fresh content to drive traffic to your site.

FAQs

๐Ÿ“Œ Can I use custom code to edit my Squarespace website?

Yes, Squarespace comes with a built-in CSS editor for deeper customizations.

๐Ÿ“Œ Does SmugMug offer discounts on its plans?

Users can save up to 38% on SmugMug plans if they opt to be billed annually.

๐Ÿ“Œ Does Squarespace offer abandoned cart recovery features?

Yes, Squarespace offers abandoned cart recovery for online stores. However, this feature is only available with the Advanced Commerce plan.

๐Ÿ“Œ What are some SmugMug alternatives?

Creative professionals and photographers can look into Adobe Portfolio and Zenfolio as SmugMug alternatives.

Mari Bassig