The Benefits & FAQs About Squarespace's Developer Platform

The Benefits & FAQs About Squarespace's Developer Platform

The Brad Good team has noticed during our time at developing Squarespace websites that a lot of designers and coders are intimidated by Squarespace's Developer Platform. That is why we have compiled their FAQ about the platform and added some of our own commentary to explain the added benefits of the enabling this tool.

Read on below to see Squarespace's developer platform FAQ and why we think this platform is beneficial to some coders.

About the platform

The Squarespace Developer Platform gives complete access to the underlying code of your site's template. Some of the world's top brands, artists, and creative agencies trust the Squarespace Developer Platform to run their websites.

When you click on Advanced Settings, you’ll see the option to enable Developer Mode. This places your site on the Developer Platform. However, you should only enable it with certain coding knowledge and only if you need it. 

What is the Developer Platform?

While most Squarespace users only touch the built-in templates to design sites there are some advanced users need more flexibility. That is why Squarespace created the Developer Platform so developers and design agencies could modify their existing templates and even create templates from scratch.

By enabling Developer Mode, you’ll get:

  • Full control over your template's HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • A JSON API to output content from the CMS for use in the developer environment.
  • Complete access to your template's markup, style sheets, scripts, and template design assets.
  • Ability to use and modify the Base Template.
  • Access to use (but not modify) our existing editing tools, like blocks.

FAQs

What do I need before getting started?

Technical skills

HTML, LESS CSS and JSONT

Technical tools

An SFTP client and a plain text editor of your choice.

  • You'll upload template files via SFTP or Git. For SFTP clients, Squarespace recommends Cyberduck or FileZilla. Dreamweaver isn't compatible with the Developer Platform.
  • Squarespace recommends Sublime Text, Coda, or Atom.
     

The right billing plan

The Developer Platform is available in these plans:

  • Legacy Website Personal
  • Website Business
  • Commerce Basic
  • Commerce Advanced

How do I get started?

Here’s how to enable Developer Mode from an existing Squarespace site. (You can also start from a blank Base Template or create a trial site. For details, visit Get Started - Developers.)

In the Home Menu, click Settings, click Advanced, and then click Developer Mode.

Switch the toggle in the panel to On.

Read the warning message and click Yes, I understand to confirm. Your site will refresh with Developer Mode enabled. The Developer Mode panel will expand. From here, you’ll need to set up your file management (SFTP or Git). For next steps, visit Squarespace's Developer Docs.

Will my site automatically change after enabling Developer Mode?

If you are still designing your website with demo content, then that content will disappear after enabling Developer Mode. Other than that, not much will change to your live site. The changes will appear once you update your code.

Please note that once you enable Developer Mode, you can no longer switch templates.

You also won’t receive template updates from Squarespace’s internal developers. All usual content and Style Editor options will be available in Developer Mode.

Does Developer Mode look visually different?

Nothing visually different, you can still add content such as images, text, blocks, and gallery media in Squarespace's WYSIWYG interface. One of the benefits of the developer platform is when you are designing a website for a non-tech savy client. The reason being, you can build a custom website and then hand the site over to the client for smaller content edits.

The only change is in how you can make style and structural changes. This is done with code using your plain text editor and your SFTP client or Git.

If you started with a Squarespace template, you'll notice that you still have the Style Editor. You can still make changes in the Style Editor, but Squarespace recommends that you use the Developer tools and use code to style your site.

What code can I tweak in the Developer Mode?

You can use code to build and modify structural elements of your site. While the platform is a robust option for experienced developers, it doesn’t replace core editing functions. It also isn’t possible to use SFTP or Git to manage media files, modify blocks, or run server-side code.

Can I customize blocks and Cover Pages in the Developer Platform?

Unfortunately, this isn't possible. The Developer Platform allows changes to the structure and style of your site, but it doesn’t allow changes to HTML markup of Squarespace's blocks or Cover Pages. While you can’t modify these features, you’ll still be able to use them when editing your site.

What about contacting Squarespace's customer support if I get stuck?

Squarespace provides 24/7 email and live chat support for the main Squarespace platform, including their editing tools and templates. However, they don’t provide support for any custom code. For this reason, they only recommend the Developer Platform if you have advanced knowledge of coding languages and can troubleshoot code issues independently.

If you have questions about custom code, there are some places you can go for help. Your first line of defense is Squarespace Answers, which if you haven't discovered yet is their peer-to-peer developer forum. It’s a great resource for reaching out to the developer community. You can also visit their developer documentation or attend a developer meetup.

Do I still receive updates and new features?

That depends. You won’t receive updates specific to Squarespace's templates (for example, new sidebar or style options), but you’ll receive new system-wide enhancements which include features like blocks, Analytics updates, and store management tools in Commerce.

For example, if you start with the Bedford template and enable Developer Mode, you’ll no longer receive updates to the Bedford template (for example, a new sidebar or Index feature in Bedford). However, if Squarespace adds a new block to the system, you’ll receive that update.

What if I disable Developer Mode?

If you started Developer Mode from a Squarespace template, you can disable it at any time. Doing this will affect your live site. Most notably, custom code changes will be permanently deleted.

Proceed with caution and back up your files first so you can re-add them if you restart Developer Mode later. 

What stays on your site after disabling Developer Mode

  • Pages added using default collections
  • Content added to collections before or after Developer mode was enabled. For example, images to a Gallery Page and posts to a Blog Page.
  • Custom CSS

Content you’ll lose after disabling Developer Mode

  • Content added to sidebars, footers, and headers
  • Style changes made in the Style Editor (i.e. font, color, and background changes)
  • Custom modifications to your template code
  • Custom code and scripts added via Code Injection

Other changes

  • Any updates that were made to the Squarespace template since you enabled Developer Mode will be applied to your site.

The benefits of Squarespace's Developer Platform

Often times finding a creative hack to a simple problem can cause more problem that its worth. Enabling Developer Mode definitely has its advantages, but as this article mentions several times... you need to be familiar with coding. And definitely, don't "try it" on your live site. I recommend creating a brand new Squarespace site of the same template, enable developer mode, then begin to look around and tinker. This will ensure you don’t accidentally destroy your production site ; )

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