Squarespace: Interview with Anthony Casalena, founder

sq-badge In molti mi hanno spesso domandato come mai avessi deciso di utilizzare una piattaforma a codice sostanzialmente chiuso e, sopratutto, a pagamento.

Del resto le piattaforme più conosciute e utilizzate al mondo sono Wordpress, Blogger e Typepad, ma già due anni fa decisi di seguire una strada sconosciuta ai più.

La motivazione è piuttosto semplice, con pochi dollari al mese non solo ti garantisci l’hosting, ma anche un potente editor che permette di avere un controllo preciso su Template e CSS non sostanzialmente nulla di HTML. Questo perchè il punto di forza di Squarespace è la modifica di ogni suo elemento con il solo WYSIWYG che consente di andare in profondità con la personalizzazione soltanto con un click del mouse.

L’unica cosa sulla quale si può abbozzare una critica è un limitato utilizzo di add-on che tanto fanno la fortuna di altre piattaforme. Ma pare che si stia lavorando in tal senso.

Duro da far passare il messaggio del pagamanto, probabilmente perchè lo si percepisce come un disturbo più legato alla piattaforma senza pensare che è compreso anche l’hosting.

Ho deciso quindi di rivolgermi direttamente a chi Squarespace lo ha pensato e creato, il suo fondatore Anthony Casalena, che è stato così gentile da rilasciarmi questa breve intervista via email.

Breve sunto per chi non è avvezzo alla lingua inglese. Anthony racconta di essere stato da sempre appassionato di computer e software design. Nel 2003, non trovando un tool adatto a soddisfare le sue esigenze per modificare il suo sito, decidedi scrivere da solo un tool che assolvesse il compito. Nasce così nel 2004 Squarespace con l’idea di supportare la user experience nella creazione di un sito Internet.

Funzionalità, Design e Integrazione i punti di forza di una piattaforma che oggi ha raggiunto la sua quinta versione e che si appresta a realizzare oltre 250 miglioramenti nel prossimo futuro. Con un minimo comun denominatore sempre presente: reinventare il modo in cui le persone interagiscono con le applicazioni web.

A seguire l’intervista completa ad Anthony. Cliccate qui se volete provare gratuitamente per 15 giorni Squarespace

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

A: I’ve been designing and programming software since I was about 15, and using computers in general since I was probably 4 or 5. I’m very hands on with software design, and I like being heavily involved in design and how verything fits together to form a final result.

I moved to New York from Maryland (where I grew up) about 3 years ago. I’ve always loved New York and the experience of moving here has been life changing. I live in the East Village, and Squarespace is headquartered in Soho.

Q: What drove you to create a new blogging platform?

A: I created Squarespace for the same reason that many developers write software -- I wanted to solve a problem for myself. In 2003 I sat down to update my personal website and didn’t really find a compelling tool to help me do this. There were all of these disparate tools that seemed to solve very narrow problems -- there was an OK blogging tool, or an OK photo gallery tool, but nothing that did everything with a unified interface. I wanted something cleaner and more integrated.

After I had created the initial prototype for my site and launched it, I showed a couple of friends. One of them actually offered to buy the website from me in hopes of commercializing it; this is when I realized that I might have something really good on my hands. Instead of selling the code, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could make my personal site into a platform that could be used by others. I realized that there was a huge need for a tool that would allow users to easily create and maintain feature-rich, multi-page websites in a user-friendly way. After all, if I faced this problem myself, there must be many other people out there with the same issues.

The result of my efforts was the first version of Squarespace, released in January of 2004. Building upon my initial goals, Squarespace was founded to improve the user experience of website creation and we’re still uncompromisingly focused on that goal today. Last year’s release of version 5 of our software redefined the way that people can build websites and we’re working on even more impressive features today within the current platform.


Q: What makes Squarespace so different from other blogging platforms?
A: As a company, there are a few major things:

  1. Function. The fact that we’ve written absolutely all of the code ourselves means we have a really tight platform. We spend a massive amount of time on our interface in order to ensure that we get every little detail right. In fact, we’re one of the only hosted publishing platforms that actually uses our own service for our own front website. Squarespace is powered by Squarespace. Since we’re the ultimate users -- we’re always using and improving upon the platform ourselves and deeply care about its success.
  2. Design. We’re constantly in a process of refining our interface to ensure it stays up-to-date. We’re really trying to get to a point where parts of our interface begin to feel timeless. We see some companies achieving this in industrial design, and we really want to bring this to the web.
  3. Integration. We want to replace the endless sea of random plugins, hacks, and other hard to maintain tools with a single unified, hosted platform. We really think this integration is critical. Towards this goal, every Squarespace account includes a well thought out and comprehensive set of core modules usable right from the start.

Q: What is Squarespace’s business model?

A: Quite straightforward: We charge for a premium service. Squarespace accounts cost between $8-50 per month, depending mostly on features used. Charging for our accounts economically aligns our incentives with our customers. It allows us to do things like providing 24x7 support in which almost all support requests are responded to by a live Squarespace expert within 15 minutes. We’re also extremely focused on reliability. Our business model gives us the ability to pay for the required infrastructure that has allowed us to achieve 99.99% uptime over the past year. We’re proud of these achievements; they far surpass similar metrics at other companies within our industry. I
think that this level of service is well worth the $8 / month we charge.

Q: Where is Squarespace headed?

A: In essence, we want to continue to keep refining our core product. We have a list of over 250 improvements we’re prioritizing and putting into the system as we grow. We're always balancing these incremental improvements against larger, game-changing product shifts that have worked so well for us in the past, and we try to stay focusing on achieving a balance of both.

The past 5 years have allowed our design aesthetic to evolve very naturally -- and we are really thrilled with where our interfaces are going. We want to continue moving toward ensuring that a timeless design is in place, and are working towards that with each improvement we make. Instead of looking at what we’ve got and thinking “we're finished”, we try to always look back, learn from our successes, and get all the small details right. We want the interface to move even faster and than it already does, and we're always looking toward how we can get there. We call this ongoing process “iteration on fundamentals” and it’s a primary part of our process. As our company continues to grow things keep getting more and more exciting. While all organizations strive to keep their focus as they become more mainstream, our ability to attract top-tier talent helps us to provide the new ideas and creative energy that's so crucial to keeping us focused on our fundamental larger mission: to reinvent the way people interact with web applications.