Squarespace has made a name for itself by helping people build their own websites. Now, almost 20 years after its launch, it’s unlocking the template that made it famous, giving users unprecedented control over the screen.
The company has just launched Fluid Engine, a web design platform with advanced drag-and-drop technology: think fully customizable grids, full-blooded content, and a unique view that lets you build a custom look for the mobile web. Fluid Engine is the first radical update to the company’s website builder in 10 years.
Squarespace was created because founder Anthony Casalena wanted an easy way to build a website for himself. With Fluid Engine, his company is now reinforcing the idea that everyone, even the amateur, deserves a fully customizable, easy-to-use website.
Before the Fluid Engine, there was the Layout Engine—a 12-column grid that lets you drag and drop widgets and resize each one by dragging a corner. It was flexible but “had some things that people found challenging,” Casalena says. This is because the screen is divided into 12 columns, so your widget (whether it’s an image, text, or button) has no choice but to fit into one of those columns.
Liquid Engine’s grid is highly customizable and you can even control the spacing between each cell, allowing you to space your screen however you want. The resulting experience can be better described as “fluid” (hence the name): after choosing a widget from the menu, you can drop it anywhere you want and increase its size. A light-gray grid appears as you hover over the blank screen to guide you. Meanwhile, it will show you what the widget list you’re holding looks like and where it will be placed if you drop it there.
“It’s a more intuitive classification,” Casalena said. (Current Squarespace customers can convert existing pages to Fluid Engine by clicking the “Upgrade” button that appears when hovering over the section.)
For the first time, Squarespace users can create overlays, opening up more possibilities for a flexible interface. In another first, users can now stretch images all the way to the edge of the screen for full bleed placement.
“Images are the most compelling things you can put on screen, and the bigger they are, the more impactful they are,” said senior product manager Jeff Aldrich during a live demo. (Squarespace’s main competitor, Wix, also offers a full-bleed layout, but it’s only available in Editor X, an advanced creation platform geared more toward professional web designers.)
Liquid Engine is the result of several additional updates that have occurred over the years. But the basic idea behind such a major overhaul was to make web design more accessible to those who don’t know anything, and more efficient to those who do. Amateurs can choose from thousands of templates and make their own, but the pros don’t have much reason to learn custom coding.
“A lot of professionals use Squarespace and build sites for other people,” says Casalena. “And I think this tool will benefit them as much as it will benefit people because they have so many effects.”