Squarespace is one of the most popular website builders in the market and is used by thousands of creators to build their online presence.
Naturally, a lot of people who use the platform (or are interested in using it) for their website want to know whether they can also use it to host their memberships/online courses or not.
Now Squarespace doesn’t have inbuilt support for membership sites but you can build one on the platform by using an external plugin like MemberSpace.
Now I don't recommend using a Squarespace membership site! Because in my opinion, Squarespace works great for building your front-end website but no so much for online courses or memberships.
So, let me explain why that’s the case and I’ll also share some better alternatives for your consideration.
1. Squarespace membership plugins are at best a workaround
As mentioned at the start, Squarespace doesn’t support the creation of a protected membership area on the platform and you’ll need to use an external membership plugin for that.
There are a few plugins that let you create a members-only area on Squarespace but none of them including the most popular one — MemberSpace have a native integration with the platform.
The first issue with this type of integration is that when a user tries to visit one of the protected pages, they will see the page contents for a second or so before they’re redirected to the signup/login page.
More importantly, it’ll look really unprofessional on your part if a potential customer were to access the membership area without logging in or signing up.
Now some of these plugins have additional features to blackout page content and add your content as links in your membership in order to provide more security but at the end of the day, these are nothing but workarounds.
2. Building a Squarespace membership site is a lot of unnecessary work
With all the Squarespace membership plugins, what you get primarily is the ability to protect your content and put it behind a paywall.
They don’t have pre-built themes or templates for your membership area which means you’ll need to create the layout and design it from scratch. You even need to make sure that all your pages are mobile responsive.
Plus none of these plugins have an inbuilt Learning Management System. So, if you want to offer online courses, you’ll need to first create the lesson pages, the course dashboard and then manually link the pages to one another to create the structure.
Finally, you need to input the URL of every single page you want to protect in your plugin which can be painful if you have a large number of course lessons or membership pages.
Now the way it works with a specialized course platform like Kajabi is that you just need to create a product, define its structure in the backend and add content to your lessons.
While you will need to do some settings here and there, the platform will take care of the rest including creating course pages, linking them together, course area design as well as restricting access.
So, creating a membership website on Squarespace requires much more work which can be avoided by using a good membership platform.
3. It Lacks Essential Features like Quizzes, Community, etc.
One of the most essential features that you don’t get with Squarespace membership plugins is the ability to create quizzes and test your students.
Similarly, Squarespace or these plugins don’t have an inbuilt forum feature which means you’ll need to use an external forum plugin like Muut to build a community and facilitate user discussions.
In addition, there are other features like content locking, certificates, progress tracking, etc. which you don’t get with any of these plugins.
So, if you'll be mainly selling online courses or even offering them as part of your membership, you’ll need these essential learning tools and in this case, you’ll find the Squarespace option too limiting.
4. It Doesn’t Allow You to Host Videos and Other Content
Squarespace allows you to upload files which are smaller than 25MB in size. So, it is good for hosting only smaller PDF files or Word files.
If you want to use videos or audio files or even bigger PDF files in your membership, you’ll need to use an external host for that. So, you have to subscribe to a video platform like Vimeo or Wistia to host your membership’s video content.
In this case, you’ll have to pay separately for video hosting but then you also have to manually embed the videos on to your Squarespace website pages which is additional work.
Plus content management will become a big pain once your membership grows in size and you have a lot of content inside it.
Now compare this to any popular online course platform including Kajabi, Teachable or Podia, and you’ll find that they all offer you unlimited content hosting (including videos) as part of their subscription.
5. The Overall User Experience is Bad
One of the biggest downsides of using Squarespace for memberships is the bad user experience and there are several things that contribute to it.
The first issue is that since you can’t track your members’ progress, you don't know where a student left off during their last session and you can't bring him/her to that point the next time automatically.
You can also not offer them any kind of rewards or certificates based on their progress.
Secondly, you don't get a lot of essential features like quizzes, community, etc. which results in a not so great learning experience.
Another issue is related to how these plugins integrate with Squarespace. As mentioned previously, when someone tries to access a protected page, he/she first sees the page content before being redirected which doesn't look professional at all.
Even the checkout experience with all these plugins is bad. So in order to enroll in one of your programs, a user first needs to create an account before he/she can make the payment which isn't optimal.
Overall, the user experience if you use Squarespace membership site is pretty bad and it is one of the main reasons why I recommend you to stay away from it.
6. Creating a Membership on Squarespace Can Get Pretty Expensive
Building a membership site on Squarespace isn’t really an inexpensive option and there are a few costs that you need to consider.
Let’s start with this MemberSpace plugin. Its pricing starts from $25/month and it charges a 4% transaction fee on top of Stripe/PayPal processing fee on its lowest tier.
If you want to lower the transaction fee, you’ll need to upgrade to their Growing Business plan ($50/month + 2% transaction fee) or Thriving Business plan ($100/month + 1% transaction fee).
On top of the cost for MemberSpace plugin, you’ll also be paying for video hosting, a community forum solution, affiliate marketing solution, etc. depending on your requirements.
So, you can easily end up spending 100+ dollars a month and this is much more than what you would spend with some of the more popular membership site platforms like Teachable and Thinkific.
At the same time, these platforms have a lot more to offer and are much better solutions. So, it doesn’t make sense even cost-wise to build a membership site on Squarespace.
So, these are some of the most important reasons why you should not build a membership on Squarespace and we'll discuss the alternatives next.
What Online Course Platform Should I Use?
Are you struggling to choose the right online course platform for your business? Do you feel confused about all the options out there? Just answer a handful of questions and we'll tell you which one is right for you.
Squarespace Membership Site Alternatives
There are a number of online platforms in the market that make it really easy to host and deliver an engaging online program and here are the top three options for you to consider:
Kajabi is an all-in-one platform that allows you to run your entire online course or membership site business from a single place.
So, you can't just create and sell your online course but you can also build a website, run your blog, build marketing funnels, create webinars and even do email marketing.
Even in terms of course creation, Kajabi is the most feature-rich platform out there. Apart from all the essential features, it offers some powerful tools like Course Player Themes, Mobile App, Community, Assessments, Content Locking, etc. which will help you deliver a great learning experience.
However, one area where Kajabi has a massive lead over its competitors is sales and marketing tools. Some of its features — Sales Pipeline Builder and Automations are game-changers and no other course platform offers anything similar at this point.
When it comes to pricing, the Basic Plan costs $149/month while the Growth Plan costs $199/month. So, Kajabi's starting price is steep and it won't work for you if you're new to online business.
However, if you want to have everything under one roof, you can easily justify its cost and Kajabi will be a great Squarespace alternative in that case.
If you want to explore Kajabi further and would like to see a complete breakdown of the platform and its features, you should check this Kajabi review guide.
Teachable is the most popular online course platform in the market that allows you to create and deliver an engaging online course with ease.
So, you can host all your content including videos, PDFs, etc., easily structure your content into modules and lessons, create quizzes, deliver the content professionally through the inbuilt course player, ensure course compliance, offer certificates, etc.
In addition, you can create a good-looking sales page, accept payment through a well-optimized checkout page, create coupons, add 1-click upsells and even collect EU VAT for your courses.
Unlike Kajabi, Teachable is focused on offering only the core features and it doesn't offer a pipeline builder or email marketing suite. So, if you want to use Squarespace for your website/funnels, Teachable should work well in this case.
Finally, Teachable is very reasonably priced (starts from $0/month) and their pay as you grow model works well for almost all creators.
If you wish to explore the Teachable platform further, you should check this in-depth Teachable review guide.
Thinkific is another popular online course platform which like Teachable offers only the core features for hosting and selling online courses.
So, you can host all your content including videos, PDFs, etc., organize your content into modules and lessons, create advanced quizzes, create a standalone community area, include assignments, create pre-requisite lessons, etc.
In addition, you can create a beautiful website for your online school, create sales pages, price your course as one-time payment, recurring subscription or even payment plans, etc.
Compared to Teachable, Thinkific has better site building capabilities but then it's not as good on sales and marketing front.
Now Thinkific has a freemium pricing model as well and you can either start on their free plan or upgrade to one of their paid plans, starting from $49/month.
If you wish to explore Thinkific in greater detail, you should check this comprehensive Thinkific review guide.
We’ve discussed in detail the reasons why I recommend not to use a Squarespace membership site. Whether it's the security aspect, user experience, lack of features or even the cost aspect, it just doesn't make sense to go this way.
You’ll be much better off using one of the specialized platforms that we've discussed in the previous section. So, you have a couple of options:
The first option is to go with an all-in-one platform like Kajabi and use that for everything including hosting your courses, your website, blog, funnels, email marketing.
I hope this guide was helpful and if you have any questions about any of these solutions, please let me know in the comments below.
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