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Why you should be worried if you have a Shopify and Squarespace Website

Posted by simon on Fri, Jan 22 2021 09:32:29

Over the past few years, Shopify and Squarespace have become leaders in providing hosted web services for a multitude of sites, with some pretty big players using these platforms to host websites and sell products. Shopify has been around since 2006 and Squarespace all the way back in 2003. They have their own custom  platforms and environments (for example Shopify uses Liquid). It’s pretty easy for any seasoned developer to pick up and work with these platforms, and you can do some pretty amazing stuff. However, they have recently run into a pretty big problem, and one that for now, they don’t have an answer for. I’ve spent many days browsing their community forums and other websites and so far, they have remained silent. I’ve seen and read so many posts from existing customers asking for feedback and solutions, with many stating that if a reply is not provided soon, they will leave. And that was just a reply to the issue, not even an answer as to what the solution will be. If you have a website with either of these platforms, you should be seriously worried.

Due this year (2021), probably some time in May, Google will be updating its algorithms to include Core Web Vitals as ranking signals for search results. If you are not aware of this, you can read more about it here https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2020/11/timing-for-page-experience but in a nutshell:

1: Loading - Largest contentful paint (LCP)
2: Interactivity - First input delay (FID)
3: Visual Stability - Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Why should you be worried? Because of how both of these platforms serve up pages and the inherent problems that exist with how the platforms work. Unlike some other systems out there, both Shopify and Squarespace limit access to their platform and control what you can and cannot change. This is the core of the issue. They both inject a whole bunch of scripts and style sheets that you have no control over. This is before you even get to any of the third party apps you have have installed in your theme. On some sites we have tested, there have been in excess of 70 java script files and over 60 CSS style sheets, for both a significant part of the code was not needed for the current theme - yet we can’t remove or change this. These files were picked up in an analysis of the site and were directly affecting the performance, specifically when measured against the three core web vitals listed above. This was before we even got on to analysing the third party plugins that were in use, and were vital to the functionality of the site.

This is deeply worrying, as not only do most Shopify and Squarespace users have to wait for both platforms to update the code and provide a suitable solution to this problem, website owners will also have to wait for all the third party developers to do the same for any apps purchased and installed.

Without a suitable reply as to how and when these platforms will be updated to tackle this problem, we can see many website users losing hard earned position in Google Search results )possibly disappearing completely), and their only option may well be to move to a new, more suitable platform. Either way, it’s going to be really painfully to those affected.