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I’ve been a Squarespace user since 2014 when I created my first Squarespace website for local community fitness meetups I was hosting. I was hooked. The Squarespace platform was incredibly user-friendly and I was able to design a website in no time. And as someone who was using various website CMS platforms in my corporate career, it was much less clunky and old-school feeling.
I had the opportunity to beta test the new Squarespace Fluid Engine editor and in my honest opinion, it has more issues than Vogue and is not ready for the public to use.
I’ve always applauded Squarespace for continuing to improve their platform and rolling out new features and integrations to really make Squarespace an all-in-one platform. They became known for their grid system, which made it hard for DIYers to really screw things up when it came to the design of their site.
Keep reading for an honest Squarespace Fluid Engine review and why I’m not designing websites on it at this time.
So what is Squarespace Fluid Engine? Squarespace Fluid Engine is the new Squarespace editor and website builder for Squarespace 7.1 websites. If your website is built on Squarespace 7.0 or an earlier version—don’t worry—you will continue using the Classic Editor.
Fluid Engine offers immense design flexibility and opportunity for unique, creative layouts by introducing drag-and-drop capabilities to Squarespace. Fluid Engine allows you to intuitively position and resize blocks on a grid.
Intuitively position…on a grid.
I know, slightly confusing, but let me explain.
The new Squarespace editor, Fluid Engine, introduces drag-and-drop capabilities that mimic that of other website platforms like Showit. The main difference is that the Squarespace drag-and-drop editor is built on top of a grid system. So although you can move elements wherever you want to, they will still “snap” to align with the grid and axis management system.
It’s drag-and-drop with boundaries and restrictions.
In 2019, Squarespace 7.1 was released and though it had some bugs to start, the platform quickly became a crowd favorite. There was more flexibility, with product additions to give non-website designers access to unique features like a scrolling marquee, for example.
As of July 7, 2022, Squarespace released a new drag-and-drop editor experience called Fluid Engine. This new editor is a HUGE change from the Classic Editor that you’ve come to know and love and will be the new editor for all Squarespace 7.1 websites.
The drag-and-drop capabilities of Fluid Engine allow Squarespace DIYers to get unique layouts, like full-bleed sections and overlapping elements, without having to use CSS code. With the new Squarespace Fluid Engine editor, you can…
Drag and drop elements anywhere…on a grid system
Edit mobile layouts independently from the desktop layout
Move blocks without disrupting the layout of the section
Resize content to make it bigger or smaller by dragging corner handles
Layer or overlap blocks and site elements
Select multiple blocks and move them as a group in the section
Have full-bleed, edge-to-edge content
Add a background fill to text boxes for improved legibility
Set images to fill or fit their block container, or to retain their original dimensions
While the thought of drag-and-drop capabilities and the list of improvements to the Squarespace editor above sound exciting, I say it all with caution and a large asterisk. After beta testing Fluid Engine earlier this year, I would not recommend it — and won’t be using it for my website or client websites as of yet.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Squarespace Fluid Engine editor has A TON of potential! But the current list of issues and bugs is too large for me to feel confident in the platform. My job is to set my client’s digital dream home (aka their website) up for success both now and in the long run. The current Fluid Engine Squarespace editor is not built to stand the test of time right now.
As a Squarespace web designer who has been a user of the platform for 8+ years, it saddens me to see Squarespace release a product that is maybe 30% of the way there.
It’s like going out to eat at your favorite local restaurant and ordering a cheeseburger with bacon, caramelized onions, and sweet potato fries but getting served a salad with dressing on the side and the waiter/chef says, “Ehh, you’ll figure it out. And we won’t be selling burgers in a few weeks from now anyway, this salad is better…”
So let’s get to it. Here’s my honest opinion and review of the new Squarespace Fluid Engine editor.
The Squarespace team gave Squarespace Circle Members (think Squarespace designers, trainers, and educators) less than a 3-week notice about the shift from the Classic Editor to the new Fluid Engine editor. They also were not allowing Circle Members and those who beta-tested Fluid Engine to release any information, social media posts, blog content, products, etc about the Fluid Engine until weeks after it had been released to the public.
So we’re made aware of this HUGE change to the platform but can’t say anything to our clients or to the public.
After many complaints, the Squarespace team did give Circle Members the green light to mention the editor change to clients but only at a high level, without giving away too much detail.
During the rollout of Fluid Engine, Squarespace could also not confirm that current websites built on the Classic Editor would not be affected since the editor rollout was a forced change vs optional. As a Squarespace web designer, it was (and is) terrifying to hear that websites you built for clients could potentially break with the release of this new editor.
If you’re more of a data type of person, here’s a loose timeline of this rollout plan and the Fluid Engine release date…
Call me crazy, but releasing a huge change to the website editor system with no resources or information available for people is a terrible rollout plan. If a new Squarespace user tried to Google something or search on YouTube, all of the resources were for the Classic Editor. Creators were receiving harsh and negative comments because their content didn’t match the editor that Squarespace had. It was outdated but there was nothing they could do about it until July 21.
Though the main editor for Squarespace 7.1 websites is now Fluid Engine, collection pages such as blog, shop, portfolio, and events will remain in the Classic Editor. So anyone with a Squarespace 7.1 website, web designer or not, needs to know and understand both editing systems.
If you already have your website built on Squarespace 7.1, sections and pages built with the Classic Editor will remain in the Classic Editor until further notice. Any new pages or sections added will be in the Fluid Engine editor.
You can access a backdoor link…but only until August 31 (tentatively) for non-Squarespace Circle Members. So to keep the Classic Editor throughout your Squarespace 7.1 website, for the time being, you’ll need to duplicate existing Classic Editor sections and/or pages.
The thought of being able to independently design and edit the mobile version of your website separate from desktop is a dream for any Squarespace user. But it comes with a caveat…
Though it is great you are able to customize the mobile layout independently from desktop with the Squarespace Fluid Engine editor, you essentially have to build your website twice AND know custom CSS code.
You cannot simply delete an element on the mobile version as it also deletes it on desktop. If you don’t want an element to appear on mobile, you need to know custom CSS code to hide the element(s).
Also on mobile editing with Squarespace Fluid Engine, the blocks are not responsive to the desktop layout like they were with the Classic Editor. Instead, they are placed in the order that they were added to the section on desktop.
Meaning, that if you first added a button then paragraph text then your H1, and then arranged them accordingly on desktop, they would appear in the order you added them (button, paragraph, H1) on mobile, vs the layout you designed on desktop of H1, paragraph, button.
I know, it makes absolutely no sense. This takes me to my next point…
Tagging off of the issue above with the order of elements, this creates a huge issue when it comes to accessibility and SEO. Screen readers and Google will read websites incorrectly.
To avoid accessibility and SEO issues when building a website with Squarespace Fluid Engine, you need to add elements in the exact order they should be read by screen readers and Google. Which takes extra time and attention, and is a techy aspect that DIYers aren’t going to be familiar with.
Then the question becomes what happens when you need to add to a section or a page — do you rebuild the entire section and/or page? I can see this causing so many headaches.
A breakpoint is where the screen size gets bigger or smaller and adjusts the layout of a website accordingly for a seamless user experience. With Squarespace Fluid Engine, there is no tablet breakpoint and some pretty odd and non-user-friendly layout issues are happening. Many users are experiencing significant space between elements on tablet because the breakpoint has not been established.
In Squarespace Fluid Engine, you can adjust the height of the grid cells as well as the grid-gap, or space between the grid cells. You can’t adjust the height of the grid cells, which leads to some wonky spacing when overlapping elements or section spacing in general because the grid cells are wider than they are tall.
Yes, the more you use something new the easier it gets. But with Fluid Engine, blocks that many designers and DIYers used, like image card blocks for example, no longer exist in Fluid Engine. In order to get this design, you have to add an image, a text block, add a background fill to the text block, a button block and edit them accordingly in the section…versus selecting the image card option in the Classic Editor.
Now if you want to have that same image card design style used later on the page or on a different page of your website, you have to start from scratch. You can’t apply design settings universally across Fluid Engine.
And although you can make full-bleed, edge-to-edge content and overlap elements in a section, you cannot overlap elements between sections. To overlap elements between sections in Squarespace Fluid Engine you once again have to know CSS code. Not a problem for a web designer like me, but it’s not ideal for the DIYer who envisions design freedom with a drag-and-drop website editor.
And sadly, the list goes on. I know this is a downer of a post but as someone who prioritizes honesty and education, it’s my job to give you the facts about the new Squarespace editor, Squarespace Fluid Engine. I understand things in the technology space move fast, but releasing a product update to the public that has so many bugs and issues seems like a very poor business decision in my opinion.
I’ll continue to update this Squarespace Fluid Engine review as they make improvements to the website editor, so stay tuned!
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Through strategic Showit website design and done-for-you search engine optimization, I work with innovative and creative business owners like you to build magazine-worthy websites that effortlessly attract your ideal client—so much so that they’ll never want to leave.
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