[Update: Starting in July 2018, Google is nudging website owners to secure their sites. People using a Google Chrome browser will see an alarming notice that your website is not secure if you haven't enabled SSL. For the two website platforms I specialize in (Squarespace and Weebly), switching your site to a secure site is free (even for free Weebly sites).]
Enabling SSL security for your website ensures an encrypted connection between a visitor's website browser and your website. It also has the added bonus of giving your website a boost in Google search results.
Why do you need SSL?
Using SSL connections for your site protects information as it is transmitted between your website and your visitors. It assures users that they are visiting the genuine site and that information won't be stolen or changed as it travels between their computers and your website. To encourage webmasters to protect their sites with SSL security and make the internet more secure overall, Google announced in 2014 that it would give a boost in search results to sites that were protected with SSL security. That marketing bonus was enough for large companies to make the switch very quickly and now small businesses are making the change too.
I help small businesses and nonprofits design websites on Squarespace and Weebly. A few years ago, it was expensive to purchase the SSL option for your website and many small businesses didn't have the budget to make the change. But in the past couple of years, first Squarespace and then Weebly started providing SSL for free. There is no longer any reason to balk at making the switch. I did it for my own websites just a few weeks ago to test it out and then converted all my clients' websites when I saw how easy it was to enable SSL.
How do you enable SSL for your website?
In Squarespace, you'll find the option in Settings - Security & SSL. I suggest setting both Secure and HSTS Secure to give your visitors the most protection. Click Save to enable the option.
In Weebly, you'll find the option in Settings - General. Click the Enable button in the SSL section to set it up for the first time. Weebly will verify that it's confirming the change. Publish the site to initiate the change and in a short time, SSL security will be in place. When you go back to the site, you will see confirmation that the option has been enabled.
Pro tip: Since late 2017, SSL has been free for all Weebly plans, even the free plan, but the Enable Option hasn't yet shown up for all website editors. If you don't see an Enable SSL button and instead see an Upgrade button, call Weebly Support and ask them to provision your site for SSL. They will set up the option for you while you're on the phone, so you can enable SSL. On the websites I converted last week, those with Pro plans had the Enable SSL button, but those with Starter and free plans did not.
How do you know that your site is secure?
Use your browser to visit your website. SSL is enabled if you see a padlock next to the website name. The full website address now starts with https:// instead of http://.
Are there any special issues?
The Squarespace websites worked as expected, but I did discover one issue with Weebly's implementation of SSL and their Support team confirms that it has no plans to fix the issue.
Generally you create Google Search properties to make Google aware of all forms of your website name so it can find your website in every way a user might type the address. Without SSL, a website has two versions: http://www.mywebsite.com and http://mywebsite.com. When you enable SSL, you now have the possibility of including additional properties for your site.
With a Squarespace site enabled with SSL, you can add properties and have Google index all four versions of your site's address, such as:
http://www.mysquarespacesite.com, http://mysquarespacesite.com, https://www.mysquarespacesite.com, and https://mysquarespacesite.com.
With a Weebly site enabled with SSL, do not add the shortened https:// property that omits the www. In other words, add only three Google search properties for your site (for example: http://www.myweeblysite.com, http://myweeblysite.com, and https://www.myweeblysite.com). Weebly doesn't recognize the shortened version of the https:// address as a secure website. If users go to your site with the shortened https://myweeblysite.com address, they'll get a scary-looking warning that the site may not be authentic. It's possible to eventually click through the warnings to open the site, but you don't want users to be confronted with a choice that looks frightening. Just avoid creating that version as a Google search property. You should also use the longer version (https://www.myweeblysite.com) anywhere you provide an explicit link to your website in social media, in blogs, or in email. You don't want anyone to get to your website through the shortened https://myweeblysite.com address. Taking these precautions allows you to skirt around the issue so users are never faced with the scary, but harmless, warning.
More information for your website platform
You'll find more information online for your website platform.