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Square Online review: Create your online store for less

Our Rating :

Square Online is a brilliant online store builder for new and smaller businesses, though others give you more control


  • Easy to set up and use
  • Stylish and effective templates
  • Free plan
  • Integrates with Square’s physical store systems


  • Limited creative options
  • Not the most comprehensive marketing, inventory or SEO tools

Square is best known as a leading digital payments and ecommerce brand. If you haven’t seen the name before, you’ve almost certainly seen one of its handheld point-of-sale terminals somewhere. However, in 2018 it acquired the website builder, Weebly, with a view to using its technology to launch a service for building online stores.

Weebly still operates as a website builder for personal sites, but its business and ecommerce plans have been moved to a new service, Square Online. This doesn’t have the same levels of flexibility or customisation that made Weebly such a hit with its users, but it’s a slick operation, built for business, and ready to take on the likes of Squarespace and Shopify.

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Square Online review: What do you get for the money?

Square Online is unusual for an ecommerce-focused builder in that it offers a completely free option. This doesn’t even have the restrictions on product catalogs you’ll see on, say, BigCommerce’s low-end plans, and still has most of the features of the paid-for plans.

Of course, Square isn’t going to go broke over this; you’ll still pay transaction fees of 1.4% plus 25p on UK card payments and 2.5% plus 25p on non-UK card payments. What’s more, your site will showcase Square ads. Otherwise there doesn’t appear to be a catch.

Move up to the £9 per month Professional plan and you pay the same transaction fees, but you get free domain registration for one year, custom domain and password protection options as well as the ability to upload your own custom fonts. What’s more, the Square ads disappear. The £19 per month Performance plan still has the same fees, but adds PayPal support, reporting features, product reviews, gifting options and features to reach customers who’ve abandoned their baskets before checkout – a big issue in the ecommerce world.

Finally, the £54 per month Premium plan has the same features, but with lower rates of 1.4% and 15p per sale or 2.5% plus 15p per sale. Obviously this makes sense if you’re making over 540 sales per month, as the £54 will be absorbed within the reduced fees.

All these plans are billed annually, but you can start on a Free or Professional plan and switch to a higher plan later if you’re worried about the commitment.

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Square Online review: How easy is it to set up?

Square does a solid job of removing any friction from the initial setup. Create an account, and the process walks you through basic questions about what you’re selling, how you plan to sell it and how you plan to fulfill orders. It then takes you through a six-step checklist to design your website, start building your inventory, set up your domain, shipping rates and taxes and – finally – take your website live and publish it. Some of the steps are relatively complex by nature and may involve a little research, but Square Online makes things easier by explaining what specific terms or features mean and pointing you towards the right tools.

Some steps might not be appropriate for your business, depending on its nature and size, but by covering back-end steps like setting shipping rates early on, Square Online gives you a logical process to work within. In this respect, it’s every bit as good as Shopify or Squarespace.

Square Online review: What’s it like to use?

When it comes to building your digital storefront, Square Online has its benefits and drawbacks. On the plus side, it has a good range of built-in themes or styles, with ready-to-go designs that can get you up and running within a few hours.

The styles are modular, with a range of sections already in place and the option to add more if you want to add, for instance, extra text, a video, embedded widgets, customer testimonials or an image gallery. Individual sections can then be customised with different layouts, different colour treatments or a change of image size or text size. If you have limited experience of design and you don’t want to go too in-depth with your tweaks, then you’re going to find it all straightforward.

On the minus side, there’s sometimes a sense that you’re not given much creative control. For instance, fonts are pre-set for each style, and when adjusting a section you can only choose between small, medium and large sizes. Head to the Site design section and you can sometimes select between different pairs of fonts, but some styles only support one pair and there’s no way to incorporate three or more fonts.

What’s more, you can only set a global base font size and a type scale. In many ways, this isn’t a bad thing; Square Online is prioritising design discipline, consistency and accessibility over choice, and choice leads a lot of non-designers to use hideous combinations of fonts, visual elements and colours. At the same time, you are a little constrained in what you can do.

Given its focus on ecommerce, you might not expect Square Online to feature blogs, but it actually has a Stories tool where you can add and showcase posts. Again, there’s not much control over the layout, but for simple blogs to support a business, it’s perfectly adequate.

One interesting thing about Square Online as a website builder is that it takes a mobile-first approach. Sites are responsive and can be viewed and edited in either desktop or mobile formats, but where some builders make the mobile site a sort of offshoot of the desktop version, Square Online keeps it at the forefront, recognising that it’s often now a bigger channel for sales.

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Square Online review: Is it good for ecommerce?

As you’d hope, Square Online is a great website builder for online stores, and in particular, new, small or medium-sized businesses. It’s simple to add products to your catalogue and organise them into categories, and the process hits a good balance between making sure you have all the essential info and options in there, without feeling overloaded with tools or settings that only larger businesses are going to use.

There is some room for improvement. While it’s always good to have a feature to add variations for size or colour to an item, with independent pricing, it’s a slight shame that you have to set these up for each and every item. The mass customisation, sorting, tagging and filtering options aren’t quite as strong as they are with Shopify or BigCommerce, and businesses might find this an issue if they grow to handle thousands of products rather than hundreds.

Square Online is also better set up to handle physical and digital products rather than services. You can set-up and sell events or appointments as items, but Square Online doesn’t go as far as Squarespace or GoDaddy Website Builder in terms of making bookings or supporting online consultations and classes.

The basic ecommerce features are supported by some decent marketing tools, including promotional emails with their own ready-made, customisable templates (old-time weebly users will recognise the interface) and automated emails to cover different interactions. Users of the paid plans also get in-depth reporting features and tools to define and communicate with specific groups of customers. Again, Shopify and BigCommerce go further on this stuff, but Square Online is more approachable for those new to running online stores.

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Square Online review: What other features does it have?

Square Online doesn’t go as big on social media integration as Squarespace or Shopify, but you can get your online store working in sync with Facebook and Instagram shops, or set up food ordering through Facebook if you’re in that line of business. You can also add live chat through Facebook Messenger and create a range of pop-ups and alerts to appear on the site, offering vouchers or announcing an upcoming sale.

Perhaps Square Online’s biggest selling point is that it works with Square’s existing products and services for bricks-and-mortar stores. You can share inventories, which makes it a natural option for anyone who already uses Square in their business and wants to expand into online sales.

Square Online review: Is there anything it could do better?

There are times when the user-interface feels ‘bitty’, with you needing to jump back into the Home screen if you want to switch from editing the storefront to checking information on an item in your catalogue, and it can be frustrating when you can’t make a load of changes in bulk. If you want to move a range of products from one category to another, for example, then you have to do it individually from each item page.

The SEO tools are also on the weak side.GoDaddy Website Builder and Squarespace both offer more in the way of features and suggestions on good practice.

Square Online review: Should you sign up?

Square Online is definitely worth considering, particularly if you want to start your online business with minimal costs, but with room to grow should sales take off. It’s not the most versatile of the ecommerce-focused website builders, or the most customisable, but you can get something up and running for free and build a good-looking, functional store in an afternoon.

Squarespace offers better design and Shopify more advanced store management tools, but both are more expensive and not quite as easy to use. Square Online isn’t great in every respect, but it’s a good service with serious potential.

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